Motorola A780 - My Shiny New Linux-Based Smartphone

Motorola A780
Motorola A780 Accessories

TuxMobil - Linux on Laptops, Notebooks, PDAs and Mobile Phones

It seems that I have become quite a gadget-whore lately. I'm spending all my money buying one gadget after the other, no end in sight...

Anyways, I finally got one of those fabulous Motorola A780, a Linux-based smartphone. Getting one turned out to be way more complicated (and expensive!) than what I thought it would be.

In the beginning, all sounded quite good: my cell phone contract with o2 is two years old soon, so I can get a new (cheap) cell phone. Stupidly enough, o2 doesn't offer the A780 in their shops and there seems to be no way to order one either (they do offer other Motorola phones, though). After asking the same questions in different o2 shops multiple times (and almost giving up), I accidentally saw the A780 in the local Saturn (a German electronics store).

And indeed, they sell the phone, and they can even prolong my contract with o2 (there's a dedicated o2 employee working in the Saturn store), so that I can profit in the form of a cheaper phone. Or at least that's the theory... In practive, however, I have a student-contract (saves me some bucks) which has the stupid "feature" that it can only be prolonged in o2 shops. Guess what, the Saturn guys cannot give me the A780 as they can't prolong my contract, and the o2 shop simply doesn't have the A780 at all. Argh!

After grumbling, asking around, googling, and even more grumbling, I finally decided to do the following: I got a new "dummy" o2 contract in the Saturn (yes, I'll have to pay that for 2 years) which enables me to get the A780 and to get it cheaper. I'll keep using my old contract and my old SIM card for simplicity and leave the new one untouched. If you take into account the money I'll spend on the new contract it doesn't save me too much money, but at least it's distributed across two years... I'll terminate my (new) o2 contract tomorrow, to make sure I don't forget about it (I don't want to have it any longer than the 2 years I'm forced to live with)... Stupid, stupid world we live in. Nobody should be required to perform such "hacks" in order to get the phone he/she wants...

Enough ranting now, here's some juicy details about the phone:

  • ARM CPU (at 400 MHz, I think)
  • 48 MB RAM, 48 MB on-chip flash memory, 256 MB Transflash card
  • 240x320 touchscreen
  • 1280x1024 built-in digital camera (can record videos, too!)
  • USB (device, host, OTG)
  • Bluetooth
  • GPS (+ it comes with CDs with maps of Europe)
  • Plays MP3s and videos
  • Can send SMS, MMS, emails, and has an IM client
  • and lots more great stuff...

For details on the hardware see this wiki page.

The only thing which I'm missing is WLAN, but once USB host support works (the hardware does support it), you can easily use a WLAN USB dongle...

I'm pretty sure I'll be having lots of fun with this thing, and I'll quite probably be contributing to the OpenEZX project, which was started by Harald Welte (of fame) and tries to create the first 100% Free Software GSM-phone using the Motorola A780 and similar phones. Judging from these blog posts by Harald, running your own 2.6 kernel on the phone is not too unrealistic anymore, and telnetting into the phone (via USBnet) seems to work fine already...

Expect more spammingblog posts about the A780 in future...


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i take into account the money I'll spend on the new contract it doesn't save me too much money, but at least it's distributed across two years... I'll terminate my o2 contract tomorrow, to make sure I don't forget about it

Looking for A780 w/ GPS to program

Hi Uwe,
I saw your post about the Motorola A780 you got.

I wrote the October 2007 Linux Journal cover article about the Trolltech Greenphone, and wish I had asked them to keep it.

I want to find an unlocked A780 with GPS feature enabled, but have not had any luck on eBay for the last year or so.
Have you heard of anyone wanting to get rid of theirs?

I want to create an application that creates a NULL zone map by putting the phone into diagnostic mode, and whenever the coverage goes to NIL, or the tower strength is low, I will remember it via GPS and record it as a dark area. Sounds boring but could have potential for pedestrians that like to talk.



i have an a780 if you want one still

if you are still looking to purchase an a780 i have one that is unlocked with gps running fine (co-pilot at present) make me an offer if interested regards shane

Motorola a780 console, but how?

I've bought the motorola a780 an it's great. But I want to have an console on it, well for the future to have an ssh-connection or something like that. But how to install the console? Where I can get it? And how can I have a Transfair between my phone and my notebook with an usb-cable? Have I mount it?
Regards Mike J.


You can telnet into your phone, for example. See for details.


A780 Voice Dialing

I got an A780 off ebay SIM free and stuck in my Pay as you go Vodafone SIM. No problems then. Well actually loads but I've soved them all so if anybody is stuck with settings for Vodafone get in touch ( I also got it dialing as a Bluetooth modem from my 12" Mac Powerbook. Also, if anybody is having problems with that I can point you at a website that really helped me.
Surfing the web seems to reveal a few different kinds of A780. Some with GPS (as is mine) and some with a voice dial feature (apparently not that good) which mine has not. Does anybody know if you can download this application. It is a standalone application as I've read the manual that describes it.



getting the a780 working as a modem

Hey, Bob, Uwe -

I got my a780 off eBay as well for $230. Problem is, I've been struggling to get it work under Ubuntu Linux for weeks. I know I've got the basic settings right (dialing number, APN, init string) because the Morola Connectivity software works with them - but GnomePPP dials, connects, and hangs up after a few seconds.

Have you got this Linux phone working as a modem under Linux? Could I see your settings? Could you give me that website that helped you, Bob?


getting the a780 working as a modem

Hi Uwe,

This is the website that helped me.
This article is for OSX but it can't be too different for Linux.
I had the same problem as you but my problem (after doing all the stuff in the article) was that Vodafone UK distinguishes between pay as you go customers and contact customers. The APN name is different but passwords and dial in numbers are the same for both.
The connect scripts need to have the following lines edited:

for phones on a contract
write "AT+CGDCONT=1,\34IP\34,\34internet\34,,0,0\13"

for phones on pay as you go
write "AT+CGDCONT=1,\34IP\34,\\34,,0,0\13"

If you get the wrong one you apparently connect but don't (if you know what I mean).

The number to dial is *99#

Username: web
Password: web

I hope that helps you.


HELP!! MMS Setup

Hey there guys. I need help. I have just gotten the Motorola A780 and im using my O2 Pay as you go card, does anyone know how i can get the mms settings from O2 for this phone? Any help will be greatly appreciated.

spreadsheet on a780

hi Uwe:

I'm thinking about bying one of this, but I need a spreadsheet working on it. right now with my panasonic X700 I'm using quickoffice under symbian. and I dont want to use the microcalc under java(too poor).
as I readed this a780 comes with a .doc, .slx viewer, but without the possibility of editing them, I want to ask you if there is any other way to use a spreadsheet(if posible compatible with openofice or excel).
thanks very much in advance.

there is some spreadsheet

there is some spreadsheet application in the motorolafans download forum. Haven't tried yet.

Sorry, I don't know of any

Sorry, I don't know of any such applications, yet. Maybe you can cross-compile OpenOffice (could be hard, and the result will be huge) or any of the smaller spreadsheet applications, e.g. Gnumeric.


O2 and the Motorola A780

Hi Uwe, thanks for your article.

I also have a O2 contract, which was extended in december. But I am still looking for a new mobile phone.

I saw the Motorola A780 a few days ago in a Mediamarkt shop. For my sensation it does not look very pretty but all these features like Linux OS, touchscreen, USB host and GPS are great.

O2 really should sell this smartphone!

I hope you will write about your experiences with the A780.


Oh, I will write about it, don't worry ;)

So far I really like the A780, it's great! I've been playing with various things now, e.g. telnet to the phone, login as root, install "qonsole" which basically gives me an xterm on the phone's touchscreen etc. etc.

See for more information and fun stuff...

There's more to come, and I will surely blog about it. Stay tuned!


Hmm... you mentioned terminating your new O2 contract may I ask.

May be you can help me. I got an O2 2 yrs contract as a student bec my plan was to stay that long. I went home for vacation had a family emergency never made it back to Munich. I have a huge problem trying to figure out how to terminate the contract since I left my docs in Germany. So, if I may ask can u tell me how to terminate aN o2 2 YRS Contract? I tried speaking w a rep over the phone but apparently my English and their English are not working well together LOL

O2 contract

Hm, I don't have any details either at the moment, sorry.

A short written notice saying that you want to terminate your contract at the earliest possible date should suffice.

The address where to send this should be available somewhere on their webiste...

HTH, Uwe.