Wednesday, May 9, 2012

There's no perfect phone, so I made one!

Galaxy Note was born to run Android 4.0. Don't believe me? Witness the difference below!

BEFORE:                                                                      AFTER:

Tech review sites these days are, to put it mildly, chicken shit. They review phones and other gadgets, yet shy away from conclusions. Is this phone/tablet/computer perfect for me? "It depends", "Yes, but ALSO consider these other options [insert relevant iGadget here]", "No single answer is possible", "Not easy to conclude" - those are the weasel words reviewers typically employ. Result? More confusion for the consumer.

It is no secret that my all-time favorite phone is Samsung Galaxy Nexus. While using it for several months, I kept finding myself wishing, "Oh, I wish it had a better GPU, a larger battery, and external storage". I loved the software, but the hardware left something to be desired.

A few days back a friend brought me his Galaxy Note and asked me to flash Ice Cream Sandwich on it. The Note, in case you didn't know, is a phone/tablet hybrid with 5.3 inches HD screen, 2500 mAh battery, 1.4 Ghz dual core processor and an extremely fast graphics processor. The trouble is, it runs Android 2.3, made uglier by Samsung's TouchWiz interface.

So I took his phone and performed an open-brain surgery. Rooted (hacked) it and installed an Android 4.0 ROM on it, and viola! Suddenly his phone had all the goodies of Android 4.0 with all the hardware goodness of the Note. In effect, his phone had become a Galaxy Nexus with a better screen, battery, storage and processor. Behold:

I went out the next day and exchanged my Nexus for the Note.

"Rooting" is the word for "hacking" or "jailbreaking" in Android parlance. In layman terms, rooting opens the phone's file system for editing. Here are the steps I took:

1) Installed a software called "Odin" on my PC and also downloaded something called a ' rooted kernel'
2) Made sure that it had all the required Samsung drivers
3) Rebooted the phone into 'download mode' (a mode which connects phone's internal NAND memory to the PC directly)
4) Fired up Odin and made it copy the rooted kernel onto the phone
5) Rebooted the phone into 'Clockwork Mod Recovery' (a Recovery can be thought of as broadly similar to the BIOS interface of a PC)
6) Made a backup of my existing data
7) Installed the ROM called ICS Stunner (search XDA Developers for
8) Rebooted

Magically, my new phone had dropped all the ugliness and become the ultimate cutting edge device, running the latest software.

The next thing I did was enable tablet mode on the phone. Android 4.0 has both phone and tablet interfaces built in. In fact they are not separate interfaces at all - most things are shared, the main points of difference being some apps having multi-pane split view and the desktop, which combines the notification bar and the navigation bar. The only step that needs to be taken to do this is to edit a file in system to change the 'virtual resolution'. In this case, the magic number is 213 pixels per inch. Anything above, the OS assumes it's running on a phone. Anything below, and it sees the device as a tablet.

The rest, they say, is history. While Samsung sit on their ass making users wait for the much-needed upgrade to Android 4.0, the amazingly talented guys at XDA-Developers actually went out and prepared the necessary ROMs and hacks to make the Note infinitely more elegant and useful.

There are risks to this process, and some users have reported 'bricking' of their devices as a result. A 'brick' is a device that is dead - doesn't turn on, doesn't do anything. However, that is a tiny proportion of users and a vast majority has upgraded their device without spending a penny.

Here are the advantages I have seen upgrading from my Galaxy Nexus:
1) Perfectly usable tablet mode thanks to the larger screen
2) Extra, expandable storage
3) Better battery life
4) Amazing graphics performance. Live wallpapers run perfectly on this thing, and they don't slow rest of the phone down. I haven't seen this in ANY other Android set I have used, including Galaxy S2
5) The screen is amazing for all computing tasks

The biggest advantage of Android, in my humble opinion, is that it has got the best development community of any damned platform. Don't believe me? Check out

No comments:

Post a Comment