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Custom ROMs on Smartphones

I recently decided to start hacking my smartphone. I am not talking about the illegal type of hacking that everyone knows about, where someone steals people’s bank details and all their money. I am talking about simply making changes to my smartphone that will allow me to install different operating systems, or ROMs as they are generally referred to as on smartphones.

Installing, or flashing a custom ROM basically means installing an unofficial version of Andriod, such as MIUI or CyanogenMod. The good thing about flashing a custom ROM to my phone is that I can get features on my phone that are not included in the official ROM on my phone.

Flashing custom ROMs on a smartphone will generally void the warranty. This means that if you are unsure about taking risks that could potentially brick your phone if you make a mistake, it is probably not a good idea to take those risks. However, if you have a bit of experience, or if you are experimenting with an old phone you don’t care about, go ahead! You probably won’t screw up your phone anyway.

I use the MIUI ROM on my Desire S. MIUI is developed in China, in Chinese and English. It is then translated to many other languages by developers around the world. MIUI looks very different from any other Android ROM and in my opinion, it is the best looking ROM available. This ROM is very user friendly and when you start to get bored of the look and feel, you can install a fresh new theme quite easily.

If you want practically unlimited customisability with some great features added, and if do not care too much about looks, CyanogenMod is an excellent ROM to try out. It is not as pretty looking or as user friendly as MIUI, but the look and feel of it is a bit more like stock Android. This is a good thing because it will probably look right with a third party launcher that you might install. It is hard to explain it, but MIUI simply just isn’t made for third party launchers.

You may like the idea of installing a custom ROM on your Android phone. However, the steps involved in preparing your Android for custom ROMs are too complicated to fit in this blog post. It involves unlocking the ROM storage in your phone and in many cases, rooting your stock ROM to install a new recovery partition. Those steps also vary depending on which phone you use.

If you want to find out more about hacking your phone, check out the XDA Forums. This link will open as a new page in your Internet browser. When you go to that website, simply type the phone you use in the search bar and there will be loads of threads about that phone, nearly always including how to root it and install custom ROMs. If there are too many posts, just use Google.

Posted on Friday 6th July 2012 - Leave a comment

HTC Desire S Review

The HTC Desire S is a mid-range device by todays standards but on Amazon, it is a fair bit cheaper than the latest dual-core smartphones and it will still do most of the same stuff. This phone also has a high quality aluminium enclosure, so it feels really good in your hand. However, other manufacturers use aluminium to construct their products and aluminium isn’t always needed for a phone to feel good in the hand. Nokia managed to make a  high quality enclosure for the Nokia N9 and the Lumia 800 out of plastic and although I haven’t had a chance to play with the phone, reviews I have read say the phone feels great in the hand. The main reason I chose the HTC Desire S is because of the software on it. The phone is running Android 2.3.3 with HTC Sense 2.1 out of the box. HTC Sense is an overlay that HTC put over most of their Android phones to make the user interface of Android look better. Of course, most manufacturers install custom launchers and keyboards on their Android phones but in my opinion, HTC does the best job at that.

Like every other product, the HTC Desire S also has its share of faults and things I am not too happy with. One of those problems is that while the phone has great software, HTC keep releasing newer phones, usually with software updates. While HTC usually release the software updates for their older devices soon after, the HTC Sensation came out, with HTC Sense 3.0. According to the websites I have checked, The Desire S has already started getting the update and HTC say they are working on bringing the update out to their older devices. However, I haven’t received the update and I can’t find any evidence to prove that my phone actually will get the update so I can’t really give much information on that in this review. Another problem with the phone is the Wi-Fi antenna isn’t very good at getting  Wi-Fi signal over long distances. My bedroom is at the top of my house and the wireless router is at the bottom of the house, next to the only landline socket. I know this setup isn’t very good, but all my other devices are fine with connecting to the Wi-Fi, even over that distance.

While the Desire S has its problems and there are newer, better phones out, probably being sold at the same price, the Desire S is still a good phone to consider if you want to have the power of Android with a great user interface with great animations, in my opinion, better than what you get with iOS and great speed from what is still powerful hardware, even though it is a year old.


UPDATE 1: I sent HTC an email asking about the HTC Sense 3.0 update and I will be getting it, although it can take up to 8 weeks for all phones to get the update. I read that people started getting the update around 26th October so it shouldn’t take any longer than 6 weeks until it gets to my phone.

UPDATE 2: Another problem with this handset and the Desire S is that the buttons on the headset stop working after a few months and you have to buy another headset. They are quite cheap from Amazon, only a few quid, but they shouldn’t stop working anyway. I will email HTC about that and ask if there are any third party headsets that might work better.

Posted on Monday 19th December 2011 - Leave a comment

LG Optimus GT540 Review

While the LG Optimus GT540 isn’t sold in the Carphone Warehouse any more, it can be bought from Amazon for around £120 and it is a good phone for someone who wants to get to know the Android operating system. While it is a very cheap phone and doesn’t have very high specs, it has many of the features found in a higher end smartphone. It has access to the Android Market and it can also be upgraded to Android 2.1. While that is quite an old version of Android, it still makes a great phone, with support for live wallpapers. However, out of the box, it is running Android 1.6.

The LG Optimus GT540 isn’t perfect in every way. As mentioned in the first paragraph, it doesn’t have the power of a higher end smartphone. It has a 600MHz processor with 154MB RAM and very little internal storage, the only place where applications can be installed, a 3″ HVGA resistive touchscreen and a really cheap feeling body. The battery life is also not as good as I would like it to be, with the phone moaning about low battery before getting through a full day of usage. Another problem with this phone is that with the hardware, it is very slow and unstable. When I am scrolling through a news article in the browser, the scrolling is very jumpy. There is a delay when I unlock the phone before it shows the homescreen. It also doesn’t have a proximity sensor which means when I am making a phone call, I am able to accidentally press the on screen buttons with my face. I got a new phone within six months of getting this phone for Christmas.

However, the LG GT540 is a great phone for someone who can tolerate the delays and crashing on the phone or for someone who intends to do Internet browsing mostly in applications from the Android market or on websites specifically designed for smartphones. It has a great price tag and because it was my first Android phone, it was the phone that convinced me that Android phones are better than iPhones and convinced me to have a look at the phones made by HTC. It was the phone that convinced me to buy the HTC Desire S, which I plan to do a review on later.

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