New Android smartphone

Hans's picture
Sat, 2010-08-21 13:59 by Hans

HTC Nexus One
HTC Nexus One

My Nexus One has arrived, even an original American version from Google, and I'm pretty pleased, if not enthusiastic. Not only about the Nexus One in particular, but even more about the evolution of Android in general.

Those of you who want to buy an Android phone, my recommendation is to have a good look at the CyanogenMod web site first. The list of the devices supported by CyanogenMod ist here.

Why CyanogenMod? The reason is simple. If your budget doesn't take lightly to buying a new phone every two years, you want to upgrade the Android version on your phone whenever a new version becomes available, ideally for quite a few years. Since the manufacturers tend to provide upgrades only for an exceedingly short time, your best bet is CyanogenMod. And it is better than the plain Android.

Take the example of the HTC Magic in 2010. All these phones out there were equipped with the rather dysfunctional Android 1.6. HTC or the mobile phone network provider did not upgrade them. However, the phone comes into its own not before Android 2.2 (or CyanogenMod 6.0), where you can move applications out from the scarce main memory onto the SD memory card. Without that capability the phone is severely crippled, almost unusable for anything more than minimal functionality.

The HTC Magic became unsupported after CyanogenMod 6.0, because its small RAM could no longer hold the growing operating system. But CyanogenMod gave that phone a much prolonged lease of life.

And I don't even want to mention Samsung Android phones. Samsung is already notorious for their extremely poor after-sales support. You have been warned—buy an Android phone from Samsung (or perhaps any upgradeable phone) and watch it age quickly. It will not be upgraded. Not even well-known defects will be repaired. Quite a few people in my vicinity handed their Samsung Galaxy phones back to the dealer because of unfulfilled promises and forever broken functions. They got their money back.

The procedure to switch from the manufacturer's firmware to CyanogenMod's is not always simple. With some phones or some versions of certain phones it is rather involved, and with those not on the above list it is likely impossible. The reason is that the manufacturers keep trying to lock their phones, while the supporting community keeps breaking the locks. The first HTC Magic took 7 hours to upgrade here, with most of the time spent on searching for information, learning, and backing out of dead-end streets. To do it again with another phone now takes something around 30 to 45 minutes. Fortunately it is a one-time job: once unlocked—always unlocked. (And we are not just talking about SIM locks here. Those are simple to break in comparison.)

We already have two HTC Magic around the house, and I personally think that the Magic is a really neat phone. True, it is smaller and therefore not as sexy as the bigger screen phones, but as a used phone it also costs only 1/3 to 1/4 the price of a new one while performing the same functions, and not even that much slower since the advent of the just-in-time compiler in Android 2.2. The HTC Magic with CyanogenMod 6.0 is something of a performance/price sweet spot, because with its original Android 1.6 the device has become so weak that people sell it off for little money, because they don't know how to upgrade it.

And another general thought. If things go well for Google and Android, the platform will grow quickly and soon begin to eat not only Microsoft's Windows Mobile market, but in a few years will begin to nibble on the heels of Windows proper, if it isn't already doing that.

The optimistic scenario is that Android will start the tablet market that Windows failed to start.

How about the biggest competitor, the iPhone? In my personal view the iPhone is utterly uninteresting. Apple may experience severe difficulties in competing with Android. They have a whole range of companies against them. Apple alone cannot outcompete all of them on the hardware side, and the mostly open-source Android may well win over the closed, if not dictatorial Apple system.

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