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Open J2ME Development Options? 32

loganb asks: "I'm currently holding in my hand a brand new Samsung A900 cell phone with a brand new EVDO data plan. I was initially excited about the OSS/free application development possibilities, as the J2ME stack on this phone supports the new Media, Location, and Messaging APIs. Much to my dismay, however, Sprint (my carrier) locks all the interesting APIs up tighter than a drum, and makes it nearly impossible to get an app to market. You need a $400/yr Verisign certificate just to download an app to a developer-enabled phone and you need a contract with Sprint to receive the certificate necessary to distribute the app (solely through Sprint's online store) to regular users. Of course that is not really an option for free/OSS programs, 'vertical' applications, or anything that doesn't neatly fit into Sprint's business plan. Thus, do any of the other national domestic cell providers allow unfettered access to the Java APIs on their phones? Is there any sort of hackery (such as buying an unlocked phone from Europe and using it on a domestic GSM network) that has an equivalent result?"
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Open J2ME Development Options?

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  • by antifoidulus ( 807088 ) on Saturday February 11, 2006 @11:02PM (#14697657) Homepage Journal
    if you got the thing less than 14 days ago. The law gives you 14 days to cancel if you don't like your service. As for unlocked phones, you don't have to import one from Europe, amazon sells them, as do a lot of other places.
    Personally i would recommend T-mobile(since they are actually a European company!) and have fun!
  • by johnjones ( 14274 ) on Saturday February 11, 2006 @11:10PM (#14697698) Homepage Journal
    plain and simple buy an unlocked gsm phone and buy a sim card

    dont put up with suppliers that will not allow you to run your app's you should at least be able to download your app to the phone via a usb cable

    the location and photo API's do seem very fun I have not tried them out and wonder how much is cross platform...


    John Jones
  • by CTachyon ( 412849 ) <chronos.chronos-tachyon@net> on Saturday February 11, 2006 @11:36PM (#14697811) Homepage

    Things might've changed since the merger with Nextel, but AFAIK there's nothing keeping you from distributing unsigned Java apps from your own company website. The user's phone will pop up a warning, of course, but it won't stop him/her from downloading and installing your app. Assuming you know all about JAD files and MIDlets, just point the user at the JAD file.

    My biggest beef with Sprint is their crappy API support, at least on their older phones (my Sanyo PM-8200 supports only MIDP-1.0, and very few of the optional J2ME APIs).

  • Sprint is an unusual case in that they use use J2ME for mobile applications on a CDMA network. Most network operators using CDMA use Qualcomm's BREW application environment. So you have less choice among handsets for J2ME software development if you choose the Sprint network.

    There is nothing second-rate about Sprint's handsets, but they may not be the best choice for individual developers getting into J2ME development.

    In my experience, Nokia, Motorola, and SonyEricsson have well-documented J2ME implementati
  • by Mr. Shiny And New ( 525071 ) on Sunday February 12, 2006 @12:05AM (#14697973) Homepage Journal
    It's my experience, after working on a mobile-phone app that uses SMS, that phone companies are paranoid control freaks.

    Some companies won't allow certain kinds of applications on their networks; for example, Verizon won't allow any applications where users can meet other users. Some companies won't allow any applications where users can chat (say, via WAP or SMS) with other users unless the chats are moderated. BY A PERSON. Some companies require that, if you plan to advertise your application, and your adviertising budget is over a certain ammount, you must disclose to the carrier your entire advertising budget and campaign.

    Frankly I'm not surprised that Sprint doesn't want you writing software for their phones unless you pay them big bucks. Telcos are almost worse than banks when it comes to new ideas (or software).

    I can't wait for the one telco that gets it right, and provides an environment where creativity can reign free; someone will develop a kick-ass application for that carrier's phones, everyone will flock to them, and the other carriers will finally get a clue.

    I understand that in most European countries the situation is very different. In Norway, I hear, you can basically write/distribute any app for a phone, and the telcos only bother you if they get complaints about you. That's what I'd like to see in North America.

    If telcos had invented the Internet... well, it'd be AOL.
    • Just get a no-restrictions GSM phone (even in america, getting a non-carrier phone is easy enough I believe) and a SIM card from the carrier you want and then develop away. No need to sign anything. There are probobly still APIs that you cant talk to but generally those APIs are private for good reasons (do you really want arbitrary java apps being able to read your phone book or download images (e.g. porn) and store them in your phones picture storage area?)
      • Well, in my case, it's not about developing a java app for the phone itself, it's actually an application that uses SMS messages as its user interface. So the application runs on a server, and communicates with the user through SMS messages. I can develop it for free, using an emulator, but in order to be able to bill a user I need to sign a contract with the carriers, and the carriers have rule lists that make insurance contracts seem like children's stories.
    • I can't wait for the one telco that gets it right, and provides an environment where creativity can reign free; someone will develop a kick-ass application for that carrier's phones, everyone will flock to them, and the other carriers will finally get a clue.

      Have fun waiting. Here [] is a helpful link. The telcos in the US actually think they are hip deep in competition, even though all they pay attention to is talk time and price. Since telecom tends to be a closed system when it comes to employment (and edu

  • I've got this phone and I, too, would like to unlock some features. Namely the use of USB for anything besides mp3-player songs, images, and vcards. In order to place ringtones on the phone you must upload it to the internet and then redownload it to the phone. The phone comes with a USB cable and supports the mass storage device protocol, but is crippled. ARGH!
    • I use Sprint too, but I got the Sanyo MM-9000. It has all of the features of the A900 and the RAZR, plus it allows you to upload MP3, AAC, MPEG-4 video, and image files to its minisd port (which supports up to 2GB minisd cards) via the USB mass storage protocol, so it is driverless. Then you can move those files into the phones internal memory (through the phone's UI) for use as wallpapers, ringtones, etc.

      The only thing the 9000 doesn't have is the buttons on the front of the phone so that you can rewind
  • by Anonymous Coward
    A few of us keep saying users and developers should be concerned about things like Palladium and so called trusted computing. This is an example of the real-world effects. Today cell phones, tomorrow PCs.

  • Sprintusers has a utility for uploading your own applications, as well as a quite active userbase doing everything from development to featue discussions. Try your questions there, and utilize their utilities for uploading images, applications, and more to your phone, if you want. Just a huge forum board, nothing more.
  • by aschneid ( 145265 ) on Sunday February 12, 2006 @02:53AM (#14698594)
    As stated above, there are plenty of uploaders out there that will allow you to upload your own programs. [] is an uploader that will allow you to upload your own code (works with the A900...I've got one too). [] is the forum mentioned above that have a lot of Sprint phone user geeks...I'm sure a lot of people on there could help answer your questions. Here's a link to their page for alternate uploaders too: 83030 []

    Additionally, [] has a lot of good information too. Here's an actual [] Sprint-centric development site too.

    Although, most of this may be useless, because I see in this post 52772&page=1&pp=15 [] what you are talking about regarding the Verisign cert. You can run your own code, but to access the GPS stuff you are restricted. Hopefully someone in the above forums can help you out to bypass it. I'll keep an eye out, because that sounds like some pretty cool hacking to do.
    • As a matter of's a post on the forum discussing this... [] Looks like the Sprint implementation (or actually Qualcomm's QJAE) for midp 2.0 (what's on the EVDO A900) doesn't work right now anyway....Course it looks like that is an older discussion so it may be live (but I cannot get Garmin or TeleNav to work on my A900).
  • For most phones from most providers, there are techniques available (Google for them) which allow you to re-flash your phone with firmware which is not completely locked up by the carrier. The manufacturer provides a full suite of features, then builds custom firmware for each carrier, basically subtracting features from the overall set.

    I encountered this problem with SonyEricsson phones (first a K700, now K750), which were Vodafone branded, and wouldn't play the custom MP3 files I'd created to use as ring
  • by MCRocker ( 461060 ) on Sunday February 12, 2006 @11:02AM (#14699757) Homepage
    Well, you missed the deadline for making comments [] to the "Exemption to Prohibition on Circumvention of Copyright Protection Systems for Access Control Technologies []" proceedings that the Copyright Office is conducting. Too bad. I'm sure your comments on this issue would have been more useful than mine were.

    Perhaps you could still contact the Stanford Center for Internet and Society folks who were spearheading an effort to collect comments on cell phone locking [] and they could use your comments as an addendum or something.

    Shout out to Lessig for his blog entry [] that pointed these folks out to me.
  • You can distribute the binaries yourself. All of the hurdles you spoke of just allow users to purchase the program from Sprint's website that is pre-bookmarked in all new phones.

    If you ask me, its not worth it. People still have the ability to access other websites, so it becomse a matter of informing them about your software. I have a Treo 650 and just about no one goes through Sprint to download new software.

  • by happynut ( 123278 ) on Sunday February 12, 2006 @04:01PM (#14701080)
    I've read through the comments; I thought I would put in my 2 cents.

    Several folks pointed out that you could get the midlet (the term for the type of app sprint runs) on the phone by hosting it yourself or downloading via a cable, and bypassing Sprint's site and the need for a developer's certificate.

    They are correct, but they are also missing part of the story.

    They part they are missing is: in order to use some of the APIs on the phone, your midlet must be "blessed" by the operator. Technically it has to say the protected features it wants access to and be signed by the manufacturer or operator. All this is covered in the MIDP2.0 (JSR-118) spec []. I was a member of the committee that wrote that spec.

    So, if you want to write a local game you don't need any of that magic: you can do everything you want via the "untrusted" (that is: unsigned) profile. But to do some of the more advanced features (like using GPS data, or being able to be woken up when not running - push registry) you have to be signed by the manufacturer or operator.

    Anyone who's read to this point will probably have noticed that the folks who make the phone or sell the phone (manufacturer or operator) are able to bless applications, but the folks who bought the phone cannot. This wasn't an accident.

    When the committee was working out the details of the protection model manufacturers and operators were well represented. The only third party developers present were companies that were beholden to operators. There were no end users or corporations represented, so their interests didn't get a lot of weight.

    I don't think it was evil intent by any of the parties. Its just that went these standard committees meet each representitive makes sure their interests are protected, and those who aren't present don't get a voice. This is a very common problem for most standard committees; its not unique to the JCP or MIDP. But it does help to explain why you, an 3rd party developer is a second class citizen even for your own phone, let alone your customer's phones.

    • This leaves only one question to be asked:

      Were you a voice for the end user?

      If not you are as culpable as the rest -- more, in fact, because you have demonstrated a clear understanding of the situation -- in working to circumvent the rights of the customer to use their own property.

      If not you are an enslaver of your fellow man and a traitor.

      Those of us in positions to advocate against the encroachment on fundamental freedoms have a sacred duty to do so. Technical knowledge and its associated power

      • I see what you're saying here and doubtless would've said the same myself ten years ago.

        The reality is that Java mobile standards are horribly mired in politics. Whilst you might think that sidestepping all that nonsense would be a good thing, the bizarre truth is that experience has proved that to be wrong. Look at the original MIDP-1 standard. It was a pretty simple thing, even underpowered, yet still a great many devices shipped with MIDP-1 implementations which were not properly compliant. Almost as b
  • Buy a hackable phone (Score:2, Interesting)

    by a1291762 ( 155874 )
    I got a Motorola V220. The V-series is very hackable. In fact, even though it's not supposed to work, I can upload Java games directly from my Mac using some open source software (moto4lin). It's much simpler than the official way Motorola wants you to do it. I can even "backup" any Java apps I choose to purchase.

    I do my J2ME compiles against the Motorola SDK (I had to borrow a Windows machine to get the jars) using mpowerplayer for the preverify/local testing. Then I just upload the .jar file, reboot the p
  • When shopping around for a mobile phone, my #1 priority was that I have control over the device, not the company. I'm fairly happy with my combination of an unlocked Nokia 6682 and a separately purchased unlimited data plan from T-Mobile. The phone itself runs the Symbian OS and supports J2ME applications as well as native ones, but most importantly lets me do whatever I want on it, without having to jump through hoops and being trapped in a walled garden that charges you $2 for a stupid GIF or a MIDI fil
  • I manage Developer Platforms and Support for Sprint so I think I may have something to add here. (Apologies for the length, but there are a lot of very valid points raised in this thread that I'd like to address.)

    Preamble: My personal philosophy or Where I'm coming from or My Role At Sprint

    I've posted on the general topic of openness to developers [] before. I've been a software developer, both as a dabbler and as an employee for both startups and established companies. I've been involved in wireless deve

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