Some of my non-technical friends mentioned that all this Android stuff sounds great but they don’t understand any of it. So here is a very brief introduction. Android is a (mostly) Open Source operating system initially developed by Google and subsequently taken over by the Open Handset Alliance (OHA). This means that instead of every phone manufacturer working on building their own operating systems in isolation, the members of the OHA all work together to make Android better, fixing bugs and writing new apps.
This does mean that a relatively unknown manufacturer like Huawei could build a phone to Android specifications, install Android on it and reap the rewards of work that HTC employees had done. Phone manufacturers can chose to keep applications to themselves, like HTC has done with the user interface app called TouchFlo that they released on their new Hero Android phone. However the Open Source license states that if HTC makes any changes to the core Android system (ie, fixing a bug or adding a new feature) those changes have to be shared with the rest of the the Android community.
While all the OHA members, (Google, Intel, Nvidia, HTC, LG, Motorolla, Samsung, Asus, Garmin, Huawei, Sony Ericsson, Toshiba, Acer and more) work together to build a better phone operating system, there are also a bunch of independent nerds in their nerd rooms building cool apps and fixing bugs for free. (Some developers can charge for their apps)
This is great for the consumer because not only do you get a great operating system and great apps but you also get well priced phones because there is always pressure from the little known phone manufacturers in China etc bringing out a really cheap Android phone. This also means that phone manufacturers can focus on building good quality phones with great cameras etc instead of wasting time with the OS.
While Apple’s iPhone does have a more mature ecosystem, the speed at which Android is currently moving makes me think that their lead will only last for a few more months. Case in point is the ridiculous speed at which new ROMs (A ROM is basically a big file containing the entire operating system) are being released by the Android community. I don’t think I’d be exaggerating if I said there was a new ROM available ever second day.
Which brings me to the part that my nerd friends want to hear about. Running the HERO Rom on my Magic. To clear this up for the non-nerds, what I’m doing here is running an Operating System theoretically built for HTC’s newest phone, the Hero, on my HTC Magic. The fact that this is even possible is entirely due to the fact that these phones run Android. While it may have been possible to do it with other phones in the past, the process would have been exceedingly complicated and probably impossible.
The Process: It was easy, I put the update.zip on my phones’ SD card, booted into fastboot mode, fastbooted the recovery image and applied the update.zip. It took about 2 minutes in total.
The OS: There are a few new things:
- New keyboard with longpress for things like numbers and symbols ($%#()!) etc. This is great.
- New Social Networking integration. When you’re setting it up it asks for your twitter, facebook and flickr details. From then on uploading a picture to any of those is a one “click” process. The built in Twitter client, Peep, is pretty nice too.
- TouchFLO is very pretty but it really needs to be equated to Vista… It is CPU intensive and therefore your battery life is decreased. I used Touch Flo for a few days and then turned it off, which essentially makes the phone look like the traditional Android interface and increase the battery life. TouchFLO does have some nice widgets that are not available once you disable TouchFLO.
- There are some new non-TouchFLO widgets that come bundled with the image (A neater calendar widget is one) but I think these are probably all available on Android Martket.
Now that I’m back to running the standard Android UI, I do believe that the Hero ROM has increased my battery live compared to the stock image that the phone came with.
All in all I’m very happy with the Hero ROM and I certainly won’t be going back.