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title:    Last Steps To Prototype V2
slug:     2016-week-47
category: news
date:     2016-11-19
author:   hellekin
body_params: class="weekly news"

`proto_v2` schematics ready for peer review!  
Should you buy a new phone or wait for Neo900?
{: .lead}

## Neo900 Prototype version 2: Last Call for Review

On November 8, 2016, the [`proto_v2`
schematics](/stuff/kicad/proto_v2/2016-11-08/Neo900__proto_v2.pdf)
were updated to the current version.  We finished the last few
improvements and our layouter is scheduling the layout to start in one
week.  We repeat our invitation to give the schematics a peer review:
it's your last chance to peel your eyes on these schematics and be
picky about details that our engineering team might have missed.
Hopefully you won't find anything, but as Joerg says:

> I've learned to be humble and not do fortune telling.

We expect that during the layout phase more options for improvements
will be found (and integrated), and that some modifications will
happen that won't change the functionality but affect the schematics,
e.g., rearranging pins that turn out to be disadvantageous, and so on.

### Next Steps

The layout phase will begin next week, and should be ready in time to
start the production of about 10 boards before the end of the year.
Some of these prototypes will be handed to selected developers from
the community for testing.  We hope for this to happen before February
2017.  In parallel the engineering team will start with integrating
the CPU on the NeoN board itself for next (and - with luck - final)
prototype; during the testing phase, probably a month, they will
integrate fixes for any issues that may arise from testing the
`proto_v2` boards.

#### Layout Phase

The layout is the drawing that shows where components, copper (and
more) will go on the PCB.  This represents the exact geometry of the
result, and can be used to produce the board.  In KiCad, the layout
can be made using `pcbnew`.  Once the layout is ready, we can start
producing the PCBs.

#### PCB Production

PCB production comes in three phases: first the bare board
manufacture, without any components; then the assembly where the
components are soldered to the PCB.  Once the _cooking_ part is done,
each board needs to be tested for compliance with the design: booting,
flashing, automated runs of programs, etc.

#### Prototype Assembly

We're almost there: the boards come back to us from the _fab_ in
working condition, or so they say :).  We run a few more dozens of
tests, visual, and mechanical checks, before assembling them within
the case and connect the BB-xM that serves at _external CPU_ during
this prototype phase.  We run more tests, package them, and ship them
to our esteemed developers.

#### Developer Tests

Our volunteers run tests, install OSes and programs, boot, flash, and
use the prototype, and report to us anything that might come up at
this point.  Hopefully no or only minor defects are detected and can
be fixed.  Then after a month we know whether we can safely step to
the next prototype...

### Prototype Version 3

As soon as `proto_v2` is ready, we'll kickstart a Spring crowdfunding
to ramp up pre-orders to enter the "economic zone", that is the point
where we have enough orders to make the production doable without
running into debt.  Currently that's 800 units.  Get ready to share
the love: your help convincing others will help the project succeed
beyond expectations.

The third prototype is the release candidate.  If all goes well with
`proto_v2` and no unexpected delays occur until then, it will take us
about 3 months to follow the same process and produce `proto_v3`.  At
this point the final production is nigh, and we hope for the first run
of Neo900 to start in time for Fall 2017.

As always with delays, we cannot really set dates in stone (that's
what global corporations do because they have the workforce and
capital to bend time to their will.)

## Should I just buy a new phone or wait for Neo900?

The specifications were made two years ago and to some it may sound
old already, given the pace at which the industry offers new features.
That's certainly a valid point of view if you're looking for the
latest gizmos.  But Neo900 still has features you won't find in these
mainstream smartphones — nor any other phone that we know of
(see also the recent article by Tor developer Mike Perry on [Future
Work: Baseband Analysis (and
Isolation)](https://blog.torproject.org/blog/mission-improbable-hardening-android-security-and-privacy).)

If you want to compare Neo900 to anything else, you'd rather pick its
category of smartphones: like Hoox M2 or the Cryptophone 500.  Both
try to address similar issues with privacy and security, however, only
Neo900 combines both a free hardware design, and a hardware approach
to modem isolation, among other things.

If you need a smartphone right now, you might want to pick one up
readily, and sell it when we're ready.  But of course **we build to
order** and not for the shelf, so there won't probably be any devices
for sale on the free market anytime soon.  Hence we'd rather secure
your order now.

### Better Go For a NeoN Board!

A better solution than relinquishing your freedom to some shiny gizmo
would be to **get your hands on a refurbished (or new) N900, and order
a NeoN board for later update**.  Note that we can't accept send-in of
a single N900 for upgrade, this exceeds our logistics capabilities.
You should feel confident with the (relatively simple) upgrade
procedure that we will provide for you, only involving a screwdriver.
So if you have the cash and didn't pre-order one already, please, [go
ahead and support Neo900]: every pre-order reinforces the project,
every donation helps us and boosts our confidence that we can deliver
free hardware to free people.

[go ahead and support Neo900]: https://my.neo900.org/