AnandTech Article Channel

Thursday, August 11, 2011

The Beginning Of The Global Tablet and Smartphone Wars

It seems that there is trouble brewing on the tablet front. While I was reading the tech and business news, I felt that there was something familiar about the conflict. Upon further reflection, I realized that it was something that seemed almost like World War II.

I am referring to the events surrounding the decision of Hitler to move East and fight a war in 2 fronts. He ended up fighting the Russians and the Allies. Whatever the reasons, it was the beginning of the end. In the books that I read, the analysis was that it was overconfidence on the part of Hitler. He thought that he could overwhelm the Russians with ease, a mistake that would prove fatal for his regime.

Today, we have Apple fighting wars on at least 4 fronts. It is fighting a war on the mobile phone market in the market itself and in court. It is also doing the same thing on the tablet pc front, where they are fighting in the market and in court. It would appear that all sides are gearing up for a battle royale, which could mark the beginning of Apples unraveling.

Some independent industry analysts are thinking that this multi-theater battle smacks of desperate moves on Apples part to regain market share. This scenario is further supported by what seems to be a concerted move on the part of publicists to paint an extremely rosy picture of Apple Inc.

Nearly every day, there is some article extolling the invincibility and financial success which Apple is enjoying. This is actually a move that can backfire. Some analysts are pointing out that Apple is even more valuable than the US and some other large companies. This a scenario that might not sit well with the general public, particularly Apples clients, in the aftermath of the downgrading of USA by Standard and Poor.

Why?

Well, if a company is making too much money, and can spend millions on court cases across the globe, then some people might think that they are making too much money from their customers. Some customers, particularly those who are feeling the crunch, might take a very serious look at the value for money rating of their machines. On the other hand, it could be that the company is losing market share and it is a desperate move on the part of the publicists to make the company seem more viable and attractive.

There is also another factor which could fast become the straw that broke the camels back. Many consumers are beginning to wake up to the fact that ultimately, they will be the ones to bear the burden of all these lawsuits. It costs money to file a suit and it will cost money when you lose one.

These consumers are smart enough to know that this will end up coming from their pockets. It’s ironic that these should come at a time when the competition has shown decisively that quality products can be produced at prices that are less astronomical. Samsung for one, has made the smartphone and the tablet pc immensely affordable putting it within the reach of average Joe.

But this may not last long because as the litigation costs pile up, and these companies lose money due to the inability to sell their products, the prices of these devices will go up once more.

There are many ways to interpret all these events, but one thing is certain. HTC, Samsung and all the other companies involved are not taking this sitting down. The public has also begun to back some players and their choice does not begin with the letter “A”.

Banning the sale of the Galaxy 10.1 in Europe is clearly the opening salvo in this battle which will definitely change the landscape of technology. An massive upset is imminent and that would pave the way for a new, and hopefully a more sober market place where competition will benefit the consumer, which is the way it should be.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

The Mobile Phone Patent Wars



I have been watching the flurry of patent related suits being bandied back and forth between major manufacturers. 
I'm sure most of you have heard about all these suits of Apple against Samsung, HTC and Google which were likewise reciprocated with countersuits by the manufacturers involved. Then there is the case of Kodak against Apple and RIM. 
In the midst of these patent wars, there are several thoughts that cross my mind. 
One is I wonder what the end result will be and how substantial would  be its effects. It is possible that one company will end up paying royalties to the other company. Should this be the case then the end user will be the ultimate loser, since it is almost a certainty that the additional cost will be passed on to them. While the foregoing scenario itself is quite an unpleasant and undesirable one, there is one another one that borders on the insidious, with sinister motives. 
I have noticed that some writers are having a heyday predicting the downfall of Android, HTC, Samsung or at least the very least a massive loss of revenue for them as a result of the suits filed by Apple. 
It is quite curious but wherever Apple is involved as a plaintiff, like clockwork, a study or article will crop up painting the equivalent of a doomsday scenario for the companies involved. Yet when Apple is the defendant, like in the case of Kodak, there are no articles that paint the same dismal scenario even though the case of Kodak could stop the importation of Iphones and Rim phones into the US. 
On the other hand again, articles are aplenty about how Android will lose gazillions of market share because it may have to pay $5 to $15 per phone should they lose the suit !?? 
I don't know where these figures came from, but it seems logical to assume that the inability to import your devices is tantamount to massive loss of revenue. But in this equation, a $15 fine spells a catastrophic market loss. Go figure. 
To my mind, it seems that someone is trying their very best to use unsavory methods to eat into a competitors market. Obviously someone is getting desperate and is now pulling out all stops to prevent what appears to be an impending if not current loss of market share. I would not be surprised if one of the players involved is incurring bigger losses than they are admitting. 
Then of course, one must also keep in mind that there is also the question of international politics since the current battle in this market is USA vs Taiwan vs Korea, at least in some areas. In the other area, its free vs paid....  the usual crusade of open source against the "for profit"giants. What is even more distressing is that the case of Kodak has been dragging on for quite a while, but the case of Apple has gone right to center stage, getting a lot of attention, from the agencies involved and the media... It's something with very serious implications.
On my part I believe that someone should at least try to level the field by putting all the facts on the table. So i am rising to that challenge. From this point onwards, I will write a sort of editorial type article for my blog as my contribution to fair and honest writing.

Monday, July 18, 2011

FINALLY! The Smartphone Buyers Guide



A SHORT SMARTPHONE BUYERS GUIDE

This is probably the best time ever to be a new smartphone buyer. You have so many excellent phones to choose from with an extremely wide variety of features available.

Furthermore the phone choices of local phone companies in the Philippines is on the uptrend as well with competition pushing the prices lower and lower.

However, many of the companies have a high turnover rate as far as their frontline personnel are concerned. This leads to the presence of many customer service people who are ill-prepared to properly explain the phone choices to their customers. More often than not, the choices boil down to something as mundane as resale value. While this may be important for some, it is most certainly not the case for the overwhelming majority who buy phones to use them.

So with that in mind, and the fact that many phones require a 2 year lock in to give you the best deals, it is important for new smartphone buyers to do their homework and make choices based on their own specific needs,

All it requires is for you to ask yourself several questions, making sure that your answers are as honest as possible.

Here are the things you must ask yourself:

1. What functions are indispensable to me? (MUST HAVE)
Smartphones have some basic functions in common. But many of them, especially on the medium to high end, start to distinguish themselves with the inclusion of certain features. 

For some buyers, there are some functions that they absolutely must have, so your list should start with the must have features. That way, you will be able to trim down your list of choices substantially.
Examples of these include:
            - GPS
            - Sound processing like Dolby, SRS, etc
            - Ability to sync with desktop applications
            - Push email. This is no longer the sole territory of Blackberry. Gmail offers FREE push email on Android machines which in my opinion, is well suited for majority of the potential smartphone users.
             
2. What functions are not essentials, but are potential deal makers? (NICE TO HAVE)
Like computers, it is probably best to get a phone that has some room for your needs to grow into. This would be in the realm of processor speed, memory expansion and onboard program and user memory.

So faster processors, bigger ram and ability to take in the biggest memory cards are nice to have features which can pay dividends down the road.

3. What functions have little if any value to me? (NOT NEEDED)
While I mentioned above that processor speeds are some nice to have features, the same does not apply to the current crop of dual core phones.

Yes they are nice to have, but they put a big premium on the handsets and not all people are able to realize the benefits of dual processors. In reality, for at least half of the potential smartphone users, single core processors from 800 mhz upwards is sufficient for their needs. 

Aside from these, there are some other features that might not be needed at all, but add a big premium to the phones. 

One prime example of this is the Blackberry service. I for one, understand that in the corporate world, there are some users that NEED the Blackberry service. But the way that the telecom companies are pushing Blackberry units, it is clear that a large segment of Blackberry owners don’t use the Blackberry service at all. This is a big waste of their money and it is something that telecom companies should avoid. Sure, it seems to be the in-thing for some youths, but since many of them don’t know better, the telcos should endeavor to have a strong sense of social responsibility and avoid emulating the proverbial snake oil salesman.

4. Is connection to a computer essential?
This is very important because you need to make sure that your cables match the interface on your computer.

Also, many smartphone desktop software allow for connection via Bluetooth, infrared and Wifi. Make sure that your PC and smartphone are compatible in this sense.

I would advise searching the net also for potential connectivity issues between your desktop and smartphone. That way you can avoid the hassle of buying an uber-expensive smartphone, only to find out that you need to undergo a long complicated process just to get them to see each other.

I also want to share my bad experience regarding connectivity here, for the benefit of potential buyers.
Years ago, I needed to shift from Symbian (Nokia E71, SE P990i and SE P1i) to Windows Mobile 6.XX because of my work at that time. I had a need to sync Office and my phone seamlessly so I confidently went with an Omnia 2 and an HTC HD2. Everything was fine until I upgraded to Windows 7 64 bit Professional and Office 2010, just when Windows Phone 7 was released. This was when I found out that my MICROSOFT Windows phone would not sync with my MICROSOFT Office Outlook 2010. What made it worse was the declaration by Microsoft, that they would not be addressing the issue anymore. So they were in effect saying that if you want to sync Outlook 2010 on 64 but Windows 7, you have to buy a Windows Phone.

That, by itself was bad, but what made it worse, was when I realized that my HTC Desire, running on Android, could do synchronize seamlessly with Outlook 2010! How ironic is that?

This marked the end of my Windows mobile days and I swore never to buy ANY Windows phone again. It was a decision I really felt good about, when I learned that Microsoft was also discontinuing the Myphone support . Clearly, very little value was given to users like myself who needed support from the company.

So the lesson here is to read carefully about the end user support that is given by the manufacturer of your mobile OS of choice. It would also be good to check out the user groups because they will provide a backup support system in the event that the manufacturer should falter in their upgrades and system problem resolution.


5. What is my primary PC?
The connectivity software of phones are OS specific so make sure that your primary PC OS is supported by your phones desktop software.

This is something which Linux, Ubuntu and some legacy software users should be aware of. The same thing goes for users of Mac OSX and Windows. Don’t take it for granted that your software and phone is supported. 

Make sure you check both the manufacturers site and the user groups. I have seen cases where a known issue was not even addressed on the manufacturers website.

6. Do I travel a lot?
Some smartphones are more connected than others. If you travel outside your country frequently and you will be needing your phone, then make sure your phone has the necessary bands in your foreign destination. Some people think that a smartphone is automatically a global one. That is not always true, so check first.

7. Will I be mobile for more than 24 hours at a time?
This is a very important question because a lot of the good smartphones today, are so powerful and well equipped which means there is a herculean load placed on the battery. In other words, battery technology has yet to catch up with phone technology so at the moment.

So by experience I can tell you that the better smartphones can sometimes last barely a day if you their features a lot. Many users are happy to get through a single day on one charge.

This is of course dependent on your usage and it should not be the clincher as far as choosing a phone is concerned.

After all, the best phones are power hungry ones and if you want them, just be prepared to pack an extra battery or two and you’re good to go.


The 2011 Smartphone OS Choices and some comments

1. Android – This Mobile OS has grown in popularity in leaps and bounds and has effectively taken top position in Smartphone OS sales. There is a good reason for this. The Android OS is fast, extremely flexible and well supported by a very large community.

2. Apple IOS – The Iphone is certainly one of the more popular phones around and it would have been one of the must have devices had it not been for the entry of Android. The Iphone 4 was plagued with some issues and there is some talk that the expected release of the Iphone 5 on September might be delayed due to processor issues.
Nevertheless, the IOS ranks high up there in popularity and it is usually the phone of choice for Mac users.

3. Blackberry – This used to be the force to reckon with in the Smartphone arena but because the mobile phone market grew rapidly, Blackberry had difficulty dealing with the new systems. Hence it has dropped significantly in ratings. However, it has just announced the Blackberry OS 7 which they hope might help it regain some of the lost market share.

4. Windows Mobile – Unless you have a very good reason to go with the OS, I suggest going the Windows Phone 7 (if you really need to go MS). Otherwise, go for the other choices because Windows Mobile is essentially at the end of its days.

5. Windows Phone 7 – Microsoft has lost a lot of market share in the mobile market and it hopes to get back in the game by way of WP7. However, most comparisons show their units faltering in comparison to the other new mobile OS contenders. Study your choices very carefully before choosing this OS.

6. Symbian – The future of Symbian is a bit shaky at this point because of the migration of device manufacturers to other platforms. While the newest Symbian OS is a big improvement on its predecessors, it still falls below the mark when compared with the latest from Android and Apple.
The fact that Nokia is THE Symbian manufacturer, and it announced a partnership with Microsoft for WP7 is ominous and might mark the beginning of the end of Symbian as we know it. But having said that, the hardware that are running Symbian have unique features and if they alone, fulfill your needs now, then there is certainly no reason not to go for it.

So there you have it. A short buyers guide to smartphones. As always, take your time and study your options well. Be sure to get the latest price matrix from your telecom companies and run them through your spreadsheet as well to ensure that you get the best deal.

While there are some handsets that are associated strongly with telcos, like HTC, Samsung Galaxy and Iphone, most are not exclusive after a certain period of time. However, careful study of their price lists will show significant variance in phone prices so be meticulous.

Smartphone buying can be a fun process which will also enhance your knowledge a great deal. Don’t put yourself at the mercy of your telcos customer service. Empower yourself.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

HTC Sensation OTA update





Two important updates about the HTC SENSATION


1. HTC confirmed via Facebook page, that the SENSATION will be included in the system update that will unlock the BOOTLOADERS! This upgrade is expected in September.

2. The OTA update to the SENSATION that was rolled out in Europe a few days ago, is now available in the Philippines. Nothing fancy, according to HTC, just some system performance improvements.The new version after the update is 1.35.707.1

Here is a link to the page about the upgrade:

http://phandroid.com/2011/07/06/european-htc-sensation-receives-its-first-ota-update/

And here is the XDA thread about the update

http://forum.xda-developers.com/showthread.php?t=1142417

Friday, July 8, 2011

My Vision Board Strikes Again





I am in gadget nirvana right now.

Just a few posts ago, I was facing the unpleasant task of choosing between the Samsung Galaxy S2 and the HTC Sensation.

As I write this, I have in front of me ....drum roll please...

The SGS2 AND the Sensation!

YES! My vision board worked again! The universe somehow collaborated and created circumstances that made the appearance of these two powerhouses nearly painless and close to instantaneous. Two weeks ago, I would never have dreamed that I would have these gadgets at my disposal and yet they are now here.

So for all intents and purposes, I am a happy camper for at 1 year (I hope) or at least 6 months.

Prior to their arrival, I found good homes for my K810, W850, Omnia 2, HD2 and a newly arrived Galaxy Ace. 5 people are so much happier with their new acquisitions and so am I. I am becoming a believer in the saying that the more you give, the more you get back. At least for as long as you are not giving in order to get...
 
Hence, I will be preparing a couple of posts so I can share with my readers  my first impressions about these two new arrivals which are arguable, the 2 best phones in the world today.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Nokia C3 eating load because of packet data - solution



We got a Nokia C3-00 as a loyalty phone from SUN. It's a great phone for the price, looking like a baby brother of my E71 which remains as one of my favorite phones.

However, since this phone was on a fixed load plan, my partner who is using the phone was horrified that her load was being eaten up for unknown reasons. The reason became clear when I checked out the logs. The phone had been connected to packet data, doing so on its own.

So the first thing we did was call Nokia to ask about the settings. It's a bit embarrassing to admit, but I had a hard time navigating the menus and it was then I silently thanked the powers that be, for the usability of android.

After talking to Nokia Care, and setting the various permissions relative to the access point, etc, we were confident that the phone would no longer connect automatically,  So it was to our surprise that the phone continued to eat its load! Thankfully this was not a postpaid line otherwise, I was sure it would rack up thousands of pesos worth of data usage.

The next thing I asked her to do was to call SUN and while the customer support painstakingly went through the settings, the conclusion was that the Nokia people had provided what they deemed to be the proper solution. Hence they were left scratching their heads, while we were also scratching ours.

Despite a huge backlog of work, I could not accept that ME, a tech blogger at that, could not find a solution to this problem.

So I proceeded to attack the problem. Now to the best of my knowledge, I knew that the best way to prevent data charges was through the access point. Some judicious surfing provided me with what appeared to be the answer. I found this on the NOKIA Canada website and so far it seems to be working. The phone is able to access the internet through the WLAN and it has not attempted to connect to packet yet.

My other move was supposed to be creating a dummy APN to ensure that the phone does not attempt to connect behind my back while the WLAN network is unavailable. However, it seems that because the phone is locked to SUN, the settings for the default APN are unavailable to me.

In the meantime, those having the same problems with data usage might want to try the NOKIA solution below:

**************************************
How can i use always WLAN connection on my Nokia C3-00 phone for Internet instead of GPRS?

 Select Menu > Settings > Connectivity > WLAN > Available WLANs > Check the WLAN name you wish to connect.

Select Menu > Settings > Configuration >Personal settings  > Add new > Access Point > Write the name of the WLAN access point you check before.
Select Menu > Settings and Configuration > Preferred access point — View the saved access points and choose the preferred WLAN access point.

Menu > Settings > Connectivity > WLAN > Internet Connection :Ask first
you are asked for the connection method every time you open an application that requires an Internet connection such as Browser or Mail.


 *************************************

Monday, June 27, 2011

Cyanogen Mod 7.1.0 RC 1 is here!




Good news for Cyanogen Mod 7 users. The CM7 7.1.0 RC1 is available already. Early reports indicate that it is a very well received version.

If you have ROM Manager installed, it will be available as one of the options under the Cyanogen option.

I installed this last night on my Desire and Desire Z (no I wasn’t overeager, just stumbling all over myself). 

I just wiped the Dalvik cache, not the data and everything is running fine.

You can view the official changelog here:

I’ll post my subjective changelog at a later time, but in the meantime here’s one of the best parts about it: you get the 2.3.4 software so that alone is pretty awesome.

By the way, the whole process took less than 20 minutes and it’s pretty much straightforward.

Here is the link to the main Cyanogen Mod site:

And the link to the 7.1.0 is here:
Have fun!

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Sidetracked by the Samsung Galaxy 2 and HTC Sensation


SAMSUNG GALAXY S II




 




 

HTC SENSATION


 



 

Forgive me for the delay in posting the buyers guide. I was sidetracked this week by the announcement by two telecom companies about the Samsung Galaxy 2 and the HTC Sensation. I have been waiting for these two phones and now that they are here, I am faced with the unpleasant task of selecting one….for now ;)

A few details:

Globe Telecom announced that it was taking pre-orders for the Samsung Galaxy 2. Thankfully, it is available to early birds at a much lower price point, the MySuperSurf 2499 or MySuperPlan 2499. The new MySuperSurf plan looks tailor made for my needs and the price point is fair.
Interested readers can view the Globe page here: 

http://site.globe.com.ph/galaxy_s2?sid=TgQs1MuxpRYAACgdhfYAAAGde


Smart Communications, not wanting to be left behind, also announced the availability of the HTC Sensation for pre-order. The details on the page are a bit skimpy but the price point is a bit higher than the Galaxy 2 which most reviewers consider to be the better machine, though by a small margin. 

The pre-order page states the availability of the HTC Sensation under the Unli Data Plan 3000 which is not as a good a deal as the Globe one. It might be a matter of suppliers because the Sony Xperia Arc is available from Smart under the consumable plan 2500 which should have been par for the HTC Sensation.

Anyway, readers who want to preorder the HTC Sensation OR the HTC Wildfire S can go here: http://smart.com.ph/htc1/


 It's great to see that the telecom companies are getting more into the high end units. However, the plans are starting to get too blown up in proportion and the plans hitting 2500 to 4000 pesos are a bit too much. In my experience, P999 seems to be the sweet spot and 1,500 and 2,500 are acceptable for plans like Sun Cellular's Elite Plans


http://suncellular.com.ph/post_plan_elite.php

Sun Cellular just has to rethink the pricing of the triple unlimited because they appear a bit overpriced as far as the landline service is concerned. The units also have to be rethought because the Sun Elite 2,500 offers the Galaxy Tab as a free phone, but when you consider that the Galaxy 2 is also available at the 2.500 price point from Globe then that is a nearly 10,000 peso difference staring them in the face...


Globe's MySuperSurf is "almost" a really great deal. If they include Super Duo in the deal, it could threaten the dominance of Sun as the value leader.


Competition is always good for the consumer and with the cellular wars starting to heat up again, it looks like the next few months will be good ones for the new phone buyers. 


So the buyers guide is coming next.




Thursday, June 16, 2011

Advice For Upgraders From The School Of Hard Knocks : The Desire Z Experience



Being a go-getter is normally a good thing, but one must always keep the saying “fools rush in where angels fear to tread”. This applies most specially to gadget junkies who are stumbling all over themselves to unwrap and power on their latest acquisition. In fact, being one of these junkies, I have nothing but the highest admiration for those people who are able to control themselves in order to painstakingly film the unpacking of their newest gadget. 

Such excitement tends accompany the upgrade of the software as well. Because of the internet, upgrading a device requires little more than clicking a link, installing software, downloading the updates and you have the newest software onboard.

The updates are always a good thing right?

Well for a lot of people, it is. But for many others, it can lead them to a harrowing experience like one that I just had. So here’s my story:

When my Desire Z was new, my first impulse was to update it and lucky for me, one was available right off. This is usually the case when you buy a new device because the equipment on the market is usually a few months old and there is likely to be some sort of update in the wings. 

So I updated my DZ and the problem was that it was not so much that there were niggling things in the phone that were bothering me. It's more of I tend to go over the tech sites and forums every day and of course I would be passing some Desire Z specific forums like this: 


So I would read about some problems which other people have encountered and even if it was not a problem I was likely to encounter, once I was able to re-create the problem is my machine, it left me hungry for an update to my own device.

So embarrassing as it may be to admit it, I would generally check for updates most of my devices at least three times a week and as usual, once it's released I would be one of the first to apply them to my devices.


The good news is that being able to do so gives me something to write about on this blog. Regular readers will notice that one of the things I usually make it a point to post here have to do with upgrades and updates which I just happened to run into. That's actually a half-truth because I go searching for those updates 

Anyway that was the good news.

The bad news is that if you have such a propensity to update like I do, it would be fine if your intention is to stay with the factory updates. Meaning if it's not an official HTC, Samsung or other manufacturers update then you're not applying it to your phone. However like for my original Desire, there have been conflicting reports about the upgrade to gingerbread and while I was able to update to Froyo already, I've spent the better part of several months waiting for Gingerbread to appear while watching Desire HD owners getting their upgrades. 

Moreover the statements of HTC about the Desire (the Bravo) have not been reassuring regarding the GB release. They are referring to the problem of low memory on the Desire which might lead to the abandoning of the update altogether. So this is what led me to upgrade my Desire to the Cyanogen mod rom which was an eye-opener and has given my Desire an new lease on life. 

However, while the original Desire already had some form of protection against the third party rom installations via the S-ON protection, it was a fairly easy thing to hack. The Desire Z was a totally different story because looking at the wiki on XDA, one would notice that the last two updates where what really sealed the fate for most Desire Z owners that time. 


There was one update around December which introduced several patches which provided a higher form of protection against third-party roms and exploits. But some bypass was created by the wizards at XDA, however the 2011 update was such that it made it extremely difficult to bypass the protection in order to root and S-OFF the phone. 

Consequently, anyone who would have taken the time to read the XDA forums about Desire Z would've seen this a warning about not updating to that particular OTA update and saved themselves from unnecessary woe. Of course given my excitement, I did not bother to wait for any feedback from the forum at all and proceeded to apply the update as soon as I saw the notification on the site and on my favorite mobile phone site:


Little did I know that I was putting my DZ in what would be the equivalent of a maximum security prison. So it was updated to the 1.84 software and to make things worse, the CID on my device was one of those that could not be readily downgraded or S-OFFed.

At that point it looked like I was probably destined to stay with the stock HTC rom for the life my DZ. I was able to take such a fate lightly for the next couple of months but when I went to Cyanogen Mod CM7 and observed my HTC desire getting much better battery life than the Desire Z I began to feel this uncontrollable urge to change my rom. At this point my Desire Z was running 2.2.1 while my original Desire was running 2.3.3 so you can imagine how difficult it was for a compulsive upgrader like myself to be in such a situation.

So there that's when my three-day saga began where I had to alternate between working and researching for the solution to downgrade my Desire Z in order to get root,  after which I was going to upgrade to the latest rom which incorporated the 2.3.3 update.

I went through no less than six gold card creation and countless sessions using ADB trying to push different software to get temporary root in order to get my Desire Z to recognize a lower rom version as the upgrade version. 

However each attempt only ended up in my DZ ignoring the zip file on the SD card which was supposed to provide the update. No amount of tinkering with the files in the SD card could make it recognize the image file. At this point it was now keeping me up at night because I just don't understand why the downgrade wasn't working.

Finally I ran into this tool for Desire Z on the XDA forum which offered to downgrade, S-off, root and change to super CID all in one sweep. Basically all the things I wanted to do to my phone without having to go through ADB!! 

Moreover, the feedback about the tool was most promising but the only problem that confronted me was overwhelming. I must be able to downgrade my software before I could use the tool.

Here is the link to the AMT tool:


Somehow, in the middle of burning midnight oil, I was able to figure out a solution that utilized AMT and an original factory Asian ROM which I found on XDA too. These two provided the key for me to be able to downgrade my DZ easily.

The procedure went like this:

I used AMT to alter something on the DZ to make it believe that the current rom was a much lower one, a 1.08 to enable me to flash an upgrade which was actually a downgrade to the 1.40 something version. This was the one which would allow AMT to work its magic. So since it was my third day of tinkering with the DZ, I decided to go for broke and said to myself well if it's going to get bricked then so be it. Because I wasn't going to leave this thing hanging over my head much longer. So I fired up AMT, set it up and proceeded to upgrade/downgrade my rom. Thankfully and to my amazement, it was able to go through without a hitch.

It's hard to describe the elation that overcame me when this happened. Finally I was able to proceed and root my device, install an engineering H-boot and remove the S-ON, making it S off. In retrospect, it was an extremely lucky break for me that I was able to find that particular piece of software as well as the rom for the Asian version of my phone. 

The hard earned lesson here is to wait for feedback about updates before applying them to your device. Yes it's exciting to flash all the new updates that's true,  but undergoing 3 days of aggravation trying to look for a solution to undo my hasty upgrade that effectively locked in my phone is certainly not an enjoyable experience. 

So wait for the feedback from reputable forums like XDA and read before doing any updates to your machine. 

For my part, my purpose in this whole exercise was to be able to upgrade my phone which I was able to do. But I had to go through no less than four different roms. 

I ended up with Cyanogen mod 7.03 which is in an AOSP and the story about how I went from wanting to stay with a Sense enabled rom to dispensing with it altogether and going AOSP is one for another day. I'll be posting that story after I am able to put the continuation of my buyers guide to smart phones.

In the meantime gadget junkies, I know it's hard but try to wait it out for at least one week after update is released before flashing the machine. 

That way you will be able to get the feedback from early upgraders and not have to go through their difficulties.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

The Rapid Growth Of The Smartphone Market





For quite a long time, the smartphone was not that popular among mobile phone users. The high cost of the units, the perception that they were too complex and had features that were of little use to the average mobile phone user made them a specialty niche composed primarily of business users.
However all this change over the last decade and the smart phone market began to experience rapid growth. A large portion of this change can be directly attributable to the increase in the use of the Internet and the proliferation of relatively cheap mobile Internet plans. The entry and popularity of social media and its integration into mobile devices over these past 5 years propelled smartphone usage to all-time highs. Consequently, it's expected that the smart phone will soon be the unit of choice for majority of mobile users.

 

What is a smartphone?


 

Before anything else let's define what a smartphone is. In its most basic form, it's a device which combines the function of a phone and a PDA or personal digital assistant. They integrate some form of contact management, messaging, file management and other PDA functionalities. Most are capable of multitasking and task switching and have some form of connectivity. In the past this connectivity was purely by mobile WAP but this has been supplemented today with USB connectivity as well as Wi-Fi capability. These devices contain many applications that mimic those on PCs such as word processors and spreadsheets. Aside from this, they also allow installation of other applications by the user. Smartphones come with operating systems, not unlike those on desktop computers.

 

Early examples of smartphones




Some notable examples include the Sony Ericsson P800/P9xx series, Palm Treo and the Nokia 9000 Communicator series. 

 

These phones were considered essential tools for business persons specially since these phones had the ability to connect to corporate e-mail networks. Speaking of which another smart phone which rode to success on the wave of corporate connectivity is the RIM Blackberry which became popular because of the security inherent in its wireless system.

 

The big names enter the game




From then on device after device emerged in rapid succession in a game of corporate one-upmanship which benefited the consumer a great deal by bringing down the prices of the units. Eventually Microsoft entered the game and developed the Windows mobile system beginning with Windows CE. It was initially positioned to be a direct competitor to the PDAs from Palm and other operating systems.



As the devices slowly crept into the mainstream, the prices began to enter the mass appeal segment with the entry of cheaper smart phones which were repositioned by way of changing their feature set to appeal to the non-business segment. The main strategy was to focus more on multimedia and examples of this included the Nokia N series and the Samsung Omnia. 





This emerging market was not lost on Apple so they decided to get into the game by way of the iPhone. Of course, given the cult status of Apple, it came as no surprise that the iPhone became a runaway success. While there appears to be some marketing magic being done to create an impression of hysteric demand for its units, there is no denying that the iPhone is indeed a success in this market.








 

The entry of a maverick


 

In a manner that mimicked the PC world, the smart phone market now started to become a battle of operating systems. Where the PC world has Windows, OS/X and the different Unix/Linux flavors, the mobile OS world has Symbian, Windows Mobile, IOS, Blackberry OS and Android.
Google may have been the latecomer to the party but it made a huge impression because of its open source platform which was not unlike the Ubuntu platform. This was a development which soon changed the face of the mobile smart phone market in a large way. It soon became apparent that all the old favorites such as Windows Mobile, BlackBerry, Symbian system and even IOS were losing their market share to the android system.

 

The old guard fights back


 

2010 saw the beginning of some attempts by the old guard to regain or at least protect their market share. Pretty soon, several innovations began to emerge and there was talk of major revamps to the different operating systems. So Windows Mobile 7, the new IOS, new Blackberry and a new Symbian flavor were launched. Despite the innovations, all of them, with the possible exception of Apple, were one step behind Android. Because of its open source nature and the avid developers in the Android community, the OS was continually refined, tuned and optimize while waiting for Google to release the next version.

 

How to choose?

Graphic courtesy ofhttp://simplygetit.blogspot.com/2010/12/mobile-operating-systems.html



With at least 6 operating systems to choose from, the smartphone market has been transformed from a small niche market to the fastest growing segment of the market. Couple this with the number of manufacturers and there will definitely be a sea of choices in the smartphone arena.
With such a confusing scenario it is clear that buying a smart phone has become a very complicated process. There are so many factors to take into consideration and because of the competition, there are so many good units around. Perhaps the choice might be easier if you are primarily an Apple user where it might make sense to choose the iPhone if only because of its compatibility with your desktop applications. This however is not absolute because there are some tasks which other smart phones are better able to do than the iPhone and if majority of your smart phone needs revolve around those capabilities then it might make more sense for you to go for a non-Apple smartphone since there is very little problem anyway with inter-connectivity nowadays.

 

Upcoming guide


 

In the next blog post I will put together a small guide for smartphone buyers in the Philippines. Despite its developing country status, the Philippines has enjoyed one of the highest percentages of mobile phone usage in the world. In fact it has been considered by many to be the text messaging capital of the world.
This has led to more and more competition among mobile phone service providers in the Philippines Thus we have a continuing entry of the latest and the greatest smartphones being offered here. For instance, the Sony Xperia X12, the Nokia E7 and the HTC Desire S are all offered by the telecom companies here. The dual cores have arrived in the market spearheaded by the LG Optimus 2X. The Galaxy 2 is expected in June as well, etc etc, you get the picture…. Bottom line, there are so many choices and so many variables.





So having seen the confusion in my own social circle and experiencing it myself, I will provide some tips to try to help the average Filipino smartphone buyer in picking the devices the best devices for the needs. I will publish this in my post next week.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Presenting my new, improved HTC Desire!

In my last post, I mentioned that I was finally hacking my HTC Desire.

Well I went ahead and did it. But mind you, it was an extremely long process that saw me going through no less than 4 different ROMS (or was it 6??) and even more kernels! It was there that I realized that some custom kernels left some features out and others would have it all, albeit with limited functionalities. In other words, a great deal of them, if not all, were compromises.

This brings me to the most important step of hacking an Android to change its ROM. You must make a list of WHY you want to change it, and make another list of the FEATURES you MUST have. I cannot stress this enough mainly because I failed to do this and ended up wasting time. In my 4th attempt, I came equipped with a list which enabled me to do the second important step which is: If the ROM you want lacks certain functions, search for alternatives which you can install after hacking it.

So having said that, I finally found the best ROM for me which is ….drum roll please….. the Cyanogen Mod-7. Yes I mentioned in my previous post that this was my current ROM. At that time, I was a bit wary about the ROM because of bad experiences with the previous ones. However, I managed to get in all the functionalities I needed either within the ROM or through some third party free apps.

I suppose many would be asking at this point, what the end result is.

In a nutshell, it's like getting a brand new phone. It's not an exaggeration.

You see the Cyanogen mod or CM7 dispenses completely with HTC Sense. While others might bemoan this omission, it is one that I welcome because while Sense is an attractive interface, whenever I open the running applications section, I am dismayed at all the processes that need to run for Sense to do its job. That spells "battery eaters" to me and that is one commodity that is extremely scarce in most Android phones. In the Android world, gone are the days of a weekly charge because an "every two days" charge is cause for celebration.

Aside from the new interface, the CM7 ROM comes with so many tweaks that it's enough to make a grown geek cry. I know I almost did. There is nothing that makes phone geeks happier than to know that they can adjust things to their hearts content. Then given the fact that Cyanogen is one of the most popular 3rd party ROMS developer in the Android world, you can be sure that there is always help at hand if you manage to mess up your phone.

I originally thought that a compromise was the lack of tweaks to the camera interface which was something I was willing to live with. But after further research, I came across several excellent camera apps that came with even more tweaks than the original HTC camera so at this point in time I can state that there are no compromises in my CM7 setup compared to the original HTC sense.

The very best parts about this hack are twofold. One is that I no longer fear the low memory message because with close to 30 apps installed, my Desire still has 120 MB of space. Moreover, it is not likely to be used up because of the judicious transfer of apps to sd card. Second, whereas prior to the hack I was getting barely 24 hours of run time from my battery, today, I get about 2 ½ days! It's amazing that I was able to get this much additional battery life while using my phone just as much or even more. With wifi or mobile networks left on, I get a little over 2 days, like 50 hours.

Of course, these are my personal results and yours may vary. There are too many variables that can affect the ROMS performance but the important thing is to know the benefits that are achievable. Let me say again that hacking a phone is not for everyone and it will most likely, void your warranty. My phone is almost a year old so I had no problems losing the warranty.

Lastly, keep in mind that you must evaluate and select 3 important bits of software for your phone. These 3 determine the overall benefit you get from the hack. These are the Kernel, the main ROM and the Radio. Read up about your choices and select them very well.

Here again is the link to my CM7 ROM on XDA:

http://forum.xda-developers.com/showthread.php?t=957344


 


 


 


 


 

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Hacking my HTC Desire

It was bound to happen. The memory was running low and it seemed that my 1st Generation Desire was consuming it's battery at an alarming rate. I was lucky to make it through a full 24 hours on a single charge.

The Sun Elite Plan 1.5 is partly to blame. After all, with a trio of unlimited services, there was no reason not to stay connected to the internet even when I was away from my office / home wifi network. Then I would think age is a factor too since my Desire is pushing a year already. Time to upgrade maybe (wink wink).

However, its back to school time so there is no money for upgrade yet. The costless alternative is to hack it and see if some of the newer custom ROMs are better for power management.

So my saga began with rooting my phone, doing an S-off, messing around with the H Boot and flashing an endless stream of radios and ROMs.

My guide through all this was mainly the XDA site and rather than repeat what I went through, it would be easier to just post the links to the excellent resources I ran into.

So here are the resources. In my next post, I'll give some feedback about my adventures in ROM land.


 

Here is the link to the noob proof guide, with video to boot, from XDA:

http://forum.xda-developers.com/showthread.php?t=1016084


 

Did someone say rooting? These guys made rooting a painless experience:

http://unrevoked.com/#desire


 

You'll have to do something called S-OFF to your Desire. This group fearlessly went ahead into the unknown so that your Desire can be set free:

http://alpharev.nl/

http://forum.xda-developers.com/showthread.php?t=794314&page=247


 

Everything Desire is purported to be in this compilation. Very useful:

http://forum.xda-developers.com/showthread.php?t=809328


 

A more technical guide to Desire upgrades can be found here:

http://forum.xda-developers.com/showthread.php?t=696189


 

My current ROM can be seen here:

http://forum.xda-developers.com/showthread.php?t=957344

http://www.cyanogenmod.com/


 

Their Wiki is here:

http://wiki.cyanogenmod.com/index.php?title=HTC_Desire_%28GSM%29:_Full_Update_Guide


 

A pair of excellent tools that saved me from a lot of work:

S2E which is app2sd for the CM7

http://forum.xda-developers.com/showthread.php?t=917377

Fastboot Commander – made reflashing Hboot an easy process

http://forum.xda-developers.com/showthread.php?t=823315


 

You'll be needing the new radios so here is where you can get more info about them:

http://www.mofirouz.com/wordpress/2011/03/htc-desire-radios/


 

That's it for now.

Remember, you can easily brick your phone doing any of the stuff above.

READ AND UNDERSTAND THE MATERIAL BEFORE PROCEEDING.

I am not responsible if you end up bricking your precious Desire, so proceed with caution.


 


 

Friday, March 4, 2011

HTC Desire Z Update


 

Been making it a point to visit the HTC SEA support site ever since I got my HTC's.

Lately, I have been burning with anticipation over the statement by HTC that the Desire family will be getting Gingerbread.

So when I saw this FOTA update for the Desire Z today, I immediately downloaded it and I was all over myself trying to check the software version after the upgrade.

Unfortunately the software is still Froyo as the version is still 2.2.1.

That's the bad news. But the good news is that this upgrade is supposed to "improve system performance and Camera feature enhancements"

Oh well, I guess it will make the waiting for the official Gingerbread update more bearable…

Here is the link for those who wish to update their Desire Z's

http://www.htc.com/sea/support.aspx

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Here we go again…Samsung Galaxy S II




Guess it really is true that good things come to those who wait. I mentioned just a few posts down that I wasn't really keen on the Nexus S because I was expecting the dual core phones to be coming out.
This is way back in December 6 and at that time there were rumors of the LG dual core that was due to come out soon which did come to pass. It was released sometime in January and created quite a bit of excitement being the first dual core Android Smartphone. However the rest of the phone wasn't really much of an improvement over my current stable of phone so I wasn't really tempted into getting a new phone just yet.
I was given the chance to get an Iphone 4 at a really great price because our company is a good client of Globe, but I just couldn't get myself to want the Iphone 4 particularly when I know that the Iphone 5 is coming out soon. Let me say that contrary to what some people say, the HTC or the Galaxy are most certainly not the poor mans Iphone. I could have bought any of these phones but the usability of Android, particularly my HTC Desire is way beyond the capabilities of the Iphone 4. Am I an Apple basher? Most certainly not. In fact I have been pining for a 27 inch iMac with an I7 which I hope to get this year. I am just not blind to technology and price/performance. I don't mind paying premium price as long as I get value. I hate paying just for the name of a product, perhaps I've never been a label kind of guy.
Anyway, I digress. So there were rumors floating around about the second iteration of the Samsung Galaxy and sure enough, it was just released along with the Galaxy Tab II as well. While both of them are big news, the Galaxy S II is my primary interest (my family has to eat too) because it is quite an improvement over its predecessor. It's got a bigger screen, 4.3 inch, Gorilla glass super AMOLED Plus display which exceeds the display on the Desire HD. Furthermore it's got a 1 GHz DUAL CORE processor and it's quite thin as well at 8.49 mm which gives it bragging rights as the thinnest smartphone as of this date.
I did get a respite from gadget envy of about 3 months but its officially over and the biggest problem for me now is which phone will be replaced. You see I was able to get most of the bugs from my Galaxy S ironed out. I upgraded the software and am now using Doc Rom from Docs kitchen. I am using the Speedmod kernel which took care of a lot of the phones problems from lag of the phone all the way to some tweaks including backlight modification.
I have to admit that despite the upgrades in all my phones softwares, the most usable phone for me, hence my main phone, is still my HTC desire. I couldn't bring myself to purchase a Desire HD because technically it wasn't a better phone than my Desire. Secondly I was able to upgrade my HD2 to a NAND based android so for all intents and purposes it's like I have a Desire HD since I am running a Desire Z ROM with the new Sense interface.
So I guess I'll wait a little bit more and see what HTC has in store for us in the coming months. Personally though if I get an offer from my local telco about the Galaxy II I'm afraid I may just spring for it without thinking twice. After all, the dual core and the big display alone are enough to win me over, but on top of that, it's also got an eight megapixel snapper, an LED flash and it has a two megapixel front facing camera!
Obviously this is truly an endless parade of gadgets and it there will always be a new one coming. Yes it can be quite expensive but then it always gives you something to look forward to. Furthermore, it also gives you an incentive to save your hard earned cash. After all, you can spend 10 thousand pesos on a night out, or you can keep that and know that you are one third of the way to the cost of a new Galaxy. Then you get a new toy and someone will be happy to get your hardly used hand-me-down.
I am once again looking forward to this new phone and I can't wait for the Galaxy S II to make it to Philippine shores.

 

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