Well, I’ve had my Android G1 phone for a little over two months now and thought I’d write up my findings, and also put together a few tutorials on what I’ve done to my phone.
From day one, I’ve been impressed with my phone. I can’t comment on how different the cupcake (1.5) software is different from previous releases as mine came pre-upgraded, but from all accounts it was a major step forward. I have since rooted my phone and put some experimental builds of the operating system on it with fantastic results.
Once I’d uploaded my contacts to gmail, the phone automatically synced up with my account so all my contacts were available within a couple of minutes. I would’ve liked to stay using my own syncml server in egroupware, but google does make things a whole lot easier, as well as being a little more reliable than my home broadband! Also included in this sync was any calendar entries.
The general feel of the phone is quite nice, with the smooth touch screen interface working well. Not as slick as the iphones that I have seen, but then it is a lot cheaper. About the only criticism I have had with the phone is the abysmal battery life, this however has been fixed as I will mention below.
After using it for a few days, trying various applications from the market, and generally doing the usual new phone things, I decided it was time to break it! First on the agenda was rooting it. Underlying everything it is a Linux distribution, with all the geek fun that that entails. Rooting gives you access to the internal flash and allows you to do all sorts of fun things with your phone, most important to me was the ability to upload custom ROM images. A good guide to rooting your G1 (along with a lot of useful information) can be found at the xda developers forums.
After a bit of hunting around, I found what seemed to be one of the best ROM images to try buy a guy known as JesusFreke. Putting a custom ROM on your G1 once it has been rooted is a piece of cake. Simply drop the ROM image (update.zip) onto the root of an SD card, boot up the phone whilst pressing home and power which will drop you into a boot loader from which you can flash with the new ROM. Occasionally you will have to wipe all information from the phone, but that’s what backups are for!
Custom ROM images tend to have a few extra applications built in, and little tweaks here and there. Most importantly they do tend to improve the poor battery life. I ran with the JesusFreke ROM for a few weeks quite happily, until I came across another ROM image that seemed even more fun.
Whilst looking for info on the Android Donut release, I came across a guy called Cyanogen who had been back porting a lot of the new experimental Donut code, back into Cupcake. This included things like extra widgets, speed improvements, updated apps, and battery tweaks. I downloaded the latest experimental ROM and flashed my device with it. I’m glad I did. Battery life for me had started around the 5-6 hour mark when I was being conservative with phone usage and things being turned on. With JesusFreke that had extended to maybe 7-8 hours. Putting Cyanogen’s new ROM on has just about doubled the battery life. I’m easily getting a full days usage out of the phone without having to power save by turning wifi and bluetooth off constantly.
I’ve just put the latest version on (184.108.40.206) which now includes the global search function demoed at the Google IO conference earlier this year. One search bar will now search the internet, contacts, market and applications, with more applications tieing in as they are updated. Also included by default is apps2sd which installs apps to your SD card to save phone memory (if you partition your SD card correctly), linux swap on SD (again if your SD card is partitioned), compcache which greatly increases cached items performance, as well as so many performance increases you won’t believe the speed difference from the standard ROM.
All in all, the standard G1 is a great phone, just let down by poor battery life. A rooted/modded G1 using Cyanogen’s experimental ROM is probably the best phone I have ever had. If you have a G1 still running the stock ROM, all I can say is it is worth biting the bullet and getting a custom image put on it. Yes, there is a risk of turning your phone into a rather expensive plastic brick, but in my opinion it is worth it.
Hopefully I will write up a guide to how I’ve updated my phone incase anyone wants to do something similar. Also, I’ll probably have to do the obligatory list of apps that you should need!
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