So, these last two weeks, two phones have captivated the attention of the tech media, and that is two phones built upon open-source software and both attempting to be ground-breaking in terms of their innovation.
Google's MotoX is in some ways very cool but like all things Google also very creepy, the creepy factor is that your phone will always be listening to you, constantly attempting to hear a command, and so they even developed a whole new set of low-power processors that handle this constant surveillance. This also means that your phone will always be listening to you, and most likely piping this information to google and thus whatever government agencies are able to tap into the stream between you and google. So no longer will a wiretap be required but instead your phone is constantly surveilling you. And in Android 4.3 even when you have wifi off, your phone will be waking up periodically to check in with your surroundings and see what wifi hotspots are around so that google can build its location database. These options are of course "optional" but imagine if there was a way to remotely turn this "recording" option on, or a back-door to make it happen without your consent, or if you leave it on, listening to it, well you get the picture. This phone while technically innovative will further the paradigm of privacy being a quaint notion of victorian sensibilities.
The Ubuntu Edge on the other hand, is seeking innovation through cool new hardware that nobody really uses yet. And it is in some ways seeking a market for the Ubuntu phone an attempt at turning the phone into a reality through seeking the confirmation from thousands of geeks around the world that they'd be willing to pool together 23 million dollars to make it happen. It's still stuck at 8.25 million, and was at 8 million something yesterday. So it's very unlikely that it will meet it's goal in time, but who has 700$ to chip in for a super-phone that will also be a computer. Not enough people. There isn't really anything extra creepy about Ubuntu and in some ways a phone that runs a real Linux distribution is kind of cool. The hybrid android/ubuntu feature is still unproven but my guess is that they figure they would figure it out if the $ was their to pay the developers. Canonical has suggested that they would be doing Android stuff for quite some time but it never seems to really work out. Having an actual 4gb machine that fits in your phone is a "cool" idea but until we replace screens with either projectors or headsets or simply neural interfaces it'll be unlikely that a lot of people will embrace the concept.
So what's the point. Do we really need new phones ? More social networks, more means of communicating, and are they really solving any problems anymore or are they simply fueled by technolust that tugs are our imagination to think that this shiny brighter thing is somehow essential as we toss out devices that were at one time the "cutting edge" because they only have a single core that was faster than all of the desktop computers that were out before.
No the real innovation that should be happening is with building ad-hoc secure and private mesh networks to avoid the centralization of surveillance. Projects like https://commotionwireless.net/ are key and they don't "require" new hardware but instead for us to figure out how to use hardware that we already have in smarter ways. We can build a future were more of our actions are surveilled and databased or we can be smart about how we use technology and leverage it to reach out to our neighbors and build smarter communities.