John Galea's Blog

My blog on Gadgets and the like

Android 2.2 on my G1

I’ve been using a Cyanogen 4.2.4 ROM on my G1 for a while now. I found it to be the fastest most stable of the releases. Even with this there were subtle things that didn’t work. Outbound email would occasionally stall. I couldn’t make play lists on the go (this was broken) and a few other little things. I’ve also been excited about the prospect of Android 2.2 So when it became available from Cyanogen I finally gave in and gave it a whirl. Now if you are on an official device this would be pushed to you over the air which is a pretty seamless process. You are however bound to decisions and customizations by your carrier. So it’s nice to have your own options.

Upgrade process
I’ll talk a bit about the upgrade process but if you don’t care then you can skip this. First of all given I was already on a Cyanogen ROM I didn’t have a lot to do. First off I discovered my recovery ROM was downlevel so I upgraded it. This is an amazing piece of code that allows you to totally snapshot your phone to your SD card. This means reverting back is painless. You can even keep multiple versions of backups. Brilliant. so there’s no downside to upgrading! I’m alreay using the Danger SPL so nothing to do here. I’m using a Rogers G1 which uses a different radio called an EBI1. I need a Kernel patch to make the ROM compatible with my Radio which for some reason the original post for the ROM didn’t mention. So this meant a few failed attempts to upgrade.

Given this is a major upgrade I decided to go for a full wipe. The downside of that is I need to reinstall all my aps. Oh well. A good chance for a cleanup!

Android 2.2
So now we have Android 2.2 installed and ready to go. This is nothing shy of earth shattering. The G1 was one of the first of the Android phones and it was severely limited in the amount of memory onboard. This has been a real challenge even for the 1.6 upgrade. My comments in this post are about a hacked ROM on a device it was never designed for. Keep this in mind when reading …

I moved to Apps2SD on 1.6 which creates a partition on the SD card and allows programs to be installed and run from it. This solved the limited memory issue but created new issues. First of all you could not remove the SD card and could not boot the phone without it. Both crashed the phone and not gently. Second it slowed the phone down.

On Android 2.2 Google recognized the error of their ways and went to a partial solution. Once installed an ap can be moved to the FAT SD card partition (settings, application, manage applications then go into the specific ap to move it)! Not a perfect solution in that there needs to be enough onboard memory to complete the installation. But it is a definite step forward. On my Cyanogen I can even set it so that aps go to the SD card by default. I did discover that you shouldn’t do this with aps that you are going to run as widgets. Its seems to cause problems. I also noticed that some programs can not be moved. They have cleverly included an undo to move it back to the phone! The programs get moved to a directory on the phone called .android_secure. By the way in case you didn’t know it anything with a . in front of it is ignored by most file explorers. Using this feature means more and more you will need to be sure you unmount the card before you remove it or risk corruption on the card. When the card is out of the phone icons for those programs that are on the phone will get messed up and those programs are (obviously) unavailable. So pick your programs wisely. If they are critical to the use of the device don’t put them on the card! I have also noticed that not all of the program gets moved to the SD card, some stays in the systems flash memory.

On my G1 memory is THE number one limitation. After an install of 2.2 I ended up with 54.7MB free. This is quite limiting so with some hacking I added back Apps2SD for Froyo so now I have three options. I can install to the EXT-SD card which stops it from taking any of the local storage (well mostly). I can then move it to local storage not on the SD card, or I can move it to the SD card but not in the ext partition (although I am not sure I see the point in this option …)

On initial power on the Cyanogen had no APNs set so I did a quick search to remind me of the settings for Fido and entered them. Magic online and downloading.

Android 2.2 has improved almost every area of the Operating system and the apps bundled into it. It’s also a speed improvement! They have also managed to get Flash running so browser support is even better than it was. Something Apple refuse to do.

Email is improved in that you can have more than one email account. You can also now control whether it informs you once for a new email or for every email. The ability to change ring tones for emails as well as turn vibrate on for emails is also there. So complete control over notification. The client now includes an easy next and previous button. You can click on phone numbers in emails to dial as well as email addresses to send an email. It does not however seem to recognize addresses for mapping. Reply is now a nice icon instead of a text field. They definitely are making progress on what was already a damn good email client. They have surpassed Microsoft in terms of reliable push email and are catching up fast with RIM. At least with Gmail accounts. Finally they have added the ability to change the font size in emails! There’s even an undo for deleted emails now!

The text message client is still very basic. They have however added the ability to have a different ring tone for a text message and an email now so that’s nice.

Wallpapers can now have active content. This is impressive but can bog down slower CPUs (like mine). A cute add though!

The Marketplace is largely unchanged but they do now allow you to tell the ap to automatically stay up to date or update all. Both are welcome additions.

Calendar Ap and Widget are also little changed but are as functional as always and integrate well with Google calendar. A while back I gave up fighting the inevitable and moved my calendar to Google. It’s been a happy place ever since. Except of course when I tried to go back to my iPhone only to have it mess up my Google calendar.

Music ap is only slight changed. Playlist on the go works, yay! I missed that. No idea why mine on 1.6 didn’t work, likely a “feature” 🙂 They’ve also added the ability to have the device unpause after a headset is plugged in. Nice add. They do not seem to have prioritized the music ap in the OS so it is quite common for aps to interrupt music playback. Something that should only rarely happen. Browse the web and your guranteed an interrupted music experience.

Flash has been hotly anticipated. Some devices already come with Flash loaded. Unfortunately Adobe have clarified the requirements and the processor on my G1 won’t handle flash. Pooh. Ah but an excuse to upgrade ! 🙂

Bluetooth has been something that has been problematic for years. Finally on Windows Mobile 6 after years of getting it wrong MS finally perfected it. On the iPhone OS4 I could not get Bluetooth to work properly with my car stereo. So I am always amazed when things actually work. I had a bit of difficulty getting my phone and car stereo paired but once paired it’s a thing of beauty. It actually works perfectly. Even better than on Android 1.6. So this means I can stream music to the car stereo (I must say I noticed this taking a whole lot more battery power than in the past), phone calls come in perfectly, and the music controls pause/play/forward and reverse all work. I am amazed. The phone even pauses when I turn the car off just the way it should!

Bluetooth file send and receive actually work but only for supported file types. I tried it with an APK and it would not allow it.

The bluetooth stack on Android has been only partially implemented limiting it’s use. In 2.2 Google have added serial port profiles meaning you can add devices like a Bluetooth heart rate monitors. A while back I bought a Zephyr only to discover it wouldn’t work on 1.6. So I got to try it out and sure enough it linked up perfect and just worked. Run GPS worked perfectly with it.

The browser on the Android has always been good. It uses the same webkits browser that the iPhone uses. Somehow the iPhone browser always seemed faster, better. Now on Android 2.2 that gap is closed. Pinch to zoom is there, pan and zoom and smooth. Zoom in and out is smooth and it seems much faster than in 1.6. It is a dramatic improvement over what was already good. All this comes at a price. You can see the hit on the battery. Browsing actively can kill the battery in no time short!

Microsoft need to take a page from Android. RIM have learned and are working at getting a webkits browser into their latest devices. The challenge RIM will face is that this browser needs horsepower and most RIM devices just don’t have it.

Lock screen
The new lock screen in 2.2 is simple, and functional. You can slide to unlock (kinda iphonish) or you can configure it to unlock with a double menu button just like 1.6 use to. On the home screen you can slide to silence the phone and you can place the music players controls on the lock screen as well. Very nice.

One of the things I have always loved about Android is the ability to place dynamic widgets on the home screen. Calendar at a glance, battery life, time weather whatever you want. Microsoft did a nice job of this with Windows Mobile Pro (although it was abysmal in Windows Mobile Standard non touch screen). I got use to it there and it is one of the MAJOR things still missing on the iPhone. Without calendar reminders I forget important stuff. This feature is a MUST for me. Again RIM are missing this too …

Battery life
All this new powerful functionality comes at a price. Battery life. This is where Google needs to focus. I can’t believe on a mobile device like this how little there are in terms of options for tweaking battery life. Before on 1.6 generally I could get until around 7-8 in the evening on a charge with 3G data running and some use of music and the like. That has taken quite hit. I’m currently at 2 in the afternoon and the battery is almost toast. Fortunately I have got use to carrying a spare battery anyway and have an extra life battery too. You can practically watch the battery life drain down. It’s scary how much power this thing now uses.

In summary …
In summary I have to say I am totally impressed with the moves forward Android 2.2 has brought about. Google are doing an impressive job at innovating. The downside is older hardware is being left behind in the dust. Applications are having trouble keeping pace. But this is a good problem to have. I would have to say at this point Android has gone from a “programmers phone” as my friend David referred to it, to a phone not quite up to the spit and polish of the iphone but giving it a run for it’s money in functionality. As an intelligent user, Android is my phone of choice!

September 14, 2010 - Posted by | Android

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