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Recover Freerunner with a dead battery

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It's one of those "bugs" that would put off any potential buyer of this "opensource mobile phone". That is, if he or she is not ready to go through a tutorial just to charge a battery...

The issue is that the battery can only be *properly* charged when a OS is running, thus not when the freerunner is powered off (see note below). If the battery is completely empty the phone will simply not start, not even with a charger plugged in (see note again). You need to start the phone in order to charge the battery but that is not possible unless the battery is already charged... nice loop.

The solution that worked for me is no. 6 here. It is also the simplest and does not involve connecting leads to the battery or the phone. All you have to do is use built-in NOR to boot from. Do the following:

  1. Plug in the USB charger and wait for a short blink of the AUX button LED (there might be repeated blinks, this means that there is not enough power to boot)
  2. Press and hold the AUX button (red square button on top left of the phone)
  3. While holding AUX press the POWER button (round button next to USB connector)

You may also do the following (alternative):

  1. Press and hold the AUX button (red square button on top left of the phone)
  2. While holding AUX connect the USB cable
  3. While still holding AUX press the POWER button (round button next to USB connector)

Note: The NOR memory is read-only and will only let you boot from phone memory or first partition in the SD card. If you have made changes to the boot loader (or maybe installed a different boot loader like Qi) they will not appear here, because those changes are saved into the NAND memory. The NOR copy of the boot loader cannot be modified. However this should let you boot *some* OS (in my case the built-in OM2008 which I never removed) so that you can charge the battery.

Note about charging when powered off

Actually I usually do recharge my freerunner when it is powered off, I usually plug in the USB charger when the OS is running, then I power it off. The phone will continue charging, the battery looks completely charged on next boot. But apparently this does not work when the battery is completely empty, or at least not all the time. Furthermore plugging the USB charger when the device is off causes automatically boot of the first partition, that is the reason why I use the above sequence (plug first, then switch off).

In a few occasions I was able to recover an empty battery by simply letting the phone plugged in when off. After an hour or so the phone can boot. This doesn't seem to happen regularly, perhaps not when the battery is really empty.


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