New Phone, New ADB 2.0?

Believe it or not, I’m abandoning my Droid 2. Yes, I know tearful. But it had to happen. Why? To be perfectly blunt, Motorola is royally messing (like to use another word…) their phones with this locked down bootloader bologna. Samsung and HTC have taken the stance of being open to development and it was Motorola that even got this ball rolling! I don’t know what got into their heads (I’m looking at you Verizon) but I don’t like it. The inability to access core functions of a phone at the kernel level is crippling the ROMs available for the Droid 2/x. In all honestly, the fact that they have the incredibly customizable (Froyo) ROMs at all is amazing considering what they’re working with. I’ll still keep on the development side of things from time to time (a la Twitter) and post some significant things to happen here. But it will be significantly less, I’m sorry.

But then again I’m really not because my new phone is…

…Drum insert drum roll here… Continue reading

Not How to Do It: HTC Won’t be Bringing Sense 3.0 to “older” devices

Caught a look at that shiny new Sense 3.0 from HTC and thought, “damn that’s gonna look good on my Incredible or Desire HD”? HTC apparently doesn’t think so. Although both of those devices (and any other HTC device that came out before the Evo 3D, Sensation, and Flyer) will be getting an official update to Gingerbread, that software roll out will be running the (dated, in my opinion) Sense 2.0 that they came with. Yes, speed and battery life improvement are sure to abound, as well as enhanced gaming API support and all that, but really? Is the new skin that intensive that it requires a dual core? Hear more of my opinion and what devices will be getting Sense 3.0 after the break. Continue reading

Official: HTC Sensation for T-Mobile

Rise of the superphones! With the HTC Evo 3D set to release on the Now Network, just (yesterday) HTC has announced their GSM (two dimensional) alternative. Dubbed the Sensation, it brings a similar 1.2ghz dual core, a 540×960 (qHD) resolution 4.3″ screen and dual cameras to T-Mobile in the U.S. and Vodaphone in the U.K. It beats out its CDMA cousin sporting an 8MP camera in the back capable of 1080p recording at 30FPS. It also brings with it the new Sense 3.0 software skin from HTC. All of this running on top of an Android 2.3.3 base and the same sexy stylings that have made HTC so popular (for better or for worse). It’s coming sometime this summer to the US but will launch in Europe mid-May. Till then you’ll just have to watch this promo vid and read Engadget’s hands on here. I’ll be doing a post later on about my opinions on Sense 3.0 and the improvements/changes HTC has made.

Video after the break.

You stay classy, World Wide Web.

Source: Engadget Continue reading

Leaked: Get some Skype Video on that Tbolt!

While originally promised to be shipped with the Thunderbolt stock, Verizon backed out at the last minute on an Android first: video calling via Skype. Well, someone at Skype apparently goofed and Droid-Life.com wasable to pick up the apk and host it for download. Install is like normal with every other Android package, and it looks to be darn near perfectly stable according to early responders. I’m sure many early adopters will be thrilled to see that ridiculous 4G bandwidth be put to good use. Also of note: the app does NOT enable the feature on any other phone than the Thunderbolt right now, but hackers are working on it. So if you’ve got an Android device with a front facing camera you’ll just have to wait. Also of note is that it is functional for video over 3G on the Thunderbolt, put bless your heart if you can even make out the person on the other end with that kind of connection. The future is here, ladies and gentlemen, it just needs a little more bandwidth. Get the download now for your Thunderbolt here.

Image and Source: Engadget

Droid 2 GingerBlur Day Testing: Bugs and the Long Run

Here we are just over a week into my testing of the GingerBlur leaked build for the Motorola Droid 2 and Droid X. Bringing Android’s latest to some beastly phones on Verizon networks promised better battery life, performance increase, and a smoother innovative interface from Motorola. Did it live up to the hype? Let’s dive under the surface and let me dig up some more info on how Motorola’s latest stands up.

You’re also probably wondering exactly why I’m starting my post like that. Why all this doom and gloom? Well, to be blunt it’s because I’m probably not going to be using this software for all that much longer. Sure Gingerbread is great and brings a LOT of improvement to the original Blur interface, but it’s just not quite there. If this is in fact the build that Motorola submitted to Verizon for testing I would understand why it was rejected. Minor bugs, some major annoyances of Motorola’s software are probably not up to snuff with Big Red’s notoriously brutal testing regime. I’ll be going through why I’m not using this build any longer and what I plan on running in the following breakdown.

Bugs: Not too many problems here, but enough to really “bug” me. For instance, I’ve been running this unmodified prerooted leak for nearly 5 days now. One bug I’ve been able to reproduce a couple times is when using the camera and then locking the phone, the lockscreen will have invisible sliders. It doesn’t always happen, but more than a couple times in my testing. Again, since this isn’t official software this can’t be too aggressive of a review. However, one major flaw that I cannot find a fix for is the inconsistent notification LED. It seems to work for my Plume Twitter mentions and my email, but I have yet to get one for new messages with either the stock messaging app or Handcent. I’ve double checked and it’s enabled in both apps. Not sure exactly what’s going on there, but it really seems like kind of a biggy. The keyboard and soft key’s backlights are also inconsistent. I’ve been having the display set to “auto” since I started running this software. It does work in very obvious situations, but it’s not reliable. Neither is screen brightening. The auto function from the ROM seems non existent. Even in the darkest of conditions it seems blinding. This is a big battery waste considering the screen is my main battery drain. More of an annoyance, the hardware keyboard does have a suggestion bar, but I have to press back once to put down the keyboard and then again to get out of the app. More clicking = less streamlined experience. I’ve only had about 4 random hot reboots, but this is about on par with some heavily customized setup on Froyo. That is really not that good a record, Motorola. That’s all I can find for bugs with the official unofficial software, let’s hope Motorola or the community finds some way to patch these up before too long.

Annoyances: These are all purely my opinion and how I feel about the stock software. This is the bad side of things and there honestly isn’t too much to say. The long pressing the Home button bringing me to the App drawer can be either a pro or a con to some, but I personally feel like it’s a waste. Maybe I’m just too much of an AOSP purist, but I see nothing wrong with the regular app switching in Android. Maybe a little more visual approach ala WebOS would be great, but Motorola didn’t do that this time around. The lockscreen still feels like a waste, but I’ve been spoiled with WidgetLocker (highly recommended). I wish more than the stock app would pull up lockscreen controls or like HTC’s player since 2.1 have album art support. HTC’s approach was great and I miss that. Motorola would do good to take a page from them in the UI alteration department. This isn’t a comparison post but considering these are 2 of the most prominent custom overlays out there there’s bound to be some crossover. I’m not sure if this counts as an annoyance, but could they make the social networking widgets even a little bit useful? They’re decent looking, but more or less worthless. Nobody thinks twice about dropping your software for AOSP, Motorola. Work on changing their minds with the next update. I did experience some incompatibilities with certain apps, specifically Weatherbug and WordPress. Seeing as the latter is more than a little important to me also helped influence my decision. I have yet to hear of any updates fixing these. On another note, if this software update had brought HDMI support, that would’ve been great. Oh well. Maybe OTA?

Pros: SPEED!!! This is one of the fastest stock ROM I’ve ever had the joy of using. I’ve played with a lot of Android phones on the market, nothing too exotic, but enough to get a good idea of the competition. Compared to the only other shipping Gingerbread phone, the Nexus S, this really brings our phone right up to par. Granted the Nexus S has a lot more features (minus the microsd slot), but overall UI speed and general performance game and browser wise this brings my Droid R2D2 right into the same realm. This phone has decently stellar hardware and more than enough RAM, the only thing really killing it was the software. I hardly ever had hiccups going to and from apps, browsing was almost as quick as my laptop over WiFi. It was just really really impressive. Even using it decently heavily this stud still lasted a whole 22 hours before hitting 15%. That’s pretty much the golden benchmark. A normal light days use will let me leave it off the charger all night and not have to plug it in till noon. Stability is great, but like above there were certain random force closing, but a vast majority of apps will work just fine. You’ve seen my benchmark posts in previous posts and I will reiterate here: I will miss the cajones this ROM had. No slowdowns ever and emulator performance was beyond awesome. Mario Kart 64 ran with sound almost flawlessly. That’s my gold standard for ROM testing now, by the way.

Overall: Not quite there yet, and lacking some favorite features from custom ROMs this leaked “official” update is great. Not perfect, not killer, but way better than good. It’s pretty great and I’d encourage any stock D2 or DX users to give it a shot. I can guarantee that you’ll be addicted to the speed and battery life, if not entirely in love with the new face of Blur. I have my own little issues with it, but nothing entirely deal breaking. I think the main reason I’m going back on it is just my love of custom ROMs. The ability to switch between them and my stock R2D2 experience (not an issue for a majority of users) is invaluable. I love all my Star Wars goodies, I’m a nerd! I can’t help it! Once custom ROMs based on either this build or the official OTA come out I’m sure I’ll be running one of them ASAP. Apex and Liberty are both confirmed to be working on updates to their respective ROMs with Gingerbread. There’s also been talk of the Ultimate Droid FINALLY coming to the DX/D2 scene. This software is in a little awkward position because it is slightly faster than custom 2.2 based ROMs, but it lacks some features I really love and missed.

Final Thoughts: Anyone running a stock D2/DX (probably isn’t reading this) should try this out. It is fast, it is 99% stable and will give you better battery life. If you’re like me and looking for a fully customizable interface (my main draw to Android as a platform) then I’d recommend flashing it to try, but you’ll probably end up waiting like me for custom ROMs with this base. It won’t be too long, but this great little update from Motorola will be enough of a bandaid for some I’m sure. It’s just not quite customizable enough for me yet. Who knows? Maybe Motorola’s OTA will unlock the bootloader and the update will be prerooted! And maybe pigs will fly out of my ass. Here’s to dreaming…

Till next time, you stay classy, World Wide Web.

HTC posts new Flyer Video

Well I honestly didn’t think I’d ever be intrigued by a tablet that wasn’t running iOS, stock Honeycomb, and MAYBE Windows 7, but HTC certainly puts up a fantastic case and I’m more than tempted to throw some cash at them. Most impressive I think from this video is their tight integration with the Calendar, your notes, and the audio. This is a real world solution to a very frustrating problem in college or the business world. That, plus the “more for work than play” Scribe Pen seems to brings some valid extra utility to having something running HTC’s Sense versus straight Honeycomb. I still think their home screen widgets (including that abomination of a clock/weather widget) are all a horrible waste of space, the rest of the UI seems to be really intelligently laid out. I hope the overlay on the video calling goes away, that was a little over bearing. Their notes app and the sketch app all seem to bring (dare I say it) an almost Apple like quality to the Android platform. It’s clean, refined and easy to use. It’s also a lot more integrated between Contacts, “People” (not like WP& thank God), Notes, and Social Networking it all seems to bring a very unique interface that has some desktop replacement qualities but remains far enough away that it’s finger friendly and just might take some buyers away from the iPad 1/2 (That’s 1 and/or 2 not half).

Any way, I’ll do more of run down of tablets/their respective OS’s when more come to market probably by late summer/early fall. Here’s the video:

Droid 2 GingerBlur Day 0/1: Initial Reactions

I’m gonna try and do a day by day check in with my experiences with the latest and greatest from Google and Motorola. Today was the first day flashing and it started out with a horrible panic filled morning. Mostly due to my apparent lack of experience with the stock recovery image. My story with this ROM began two days ago actually. I started following P3droid and was quickly rewarded with a tweet about a new Motorola leaked firmware for the Droid x and Droid 2. Both intrigued about the lack of the Droid 2 Global and over the moon about the prospect of receiving and official update to 2.3.3 I paid for the app. After installing I pulled it up to confirm my dreams had come true. I could have installed it that night, but downloading over 3G was less than desirable considering even in town I was barely pulling in 2mbps downlink. Waiting was definitely not a horrible prospect as I got to spend the night with my sweetheart but I have to admit I was really stoked to get home and install. I decided to forgo downloading through the app and instead hit up the forums. P3droid said the app’s servers were seriously strained, but I can attest that the MultiUpload servers must have also because I was only downloading at about 35kbps average. After waiting almost literally forever, I finally got it down. It was a simple update.zip install from Clockwork to get it started and it wasn’t long after the Team Black Hat logo went away that I was rebooting into glorious Gingerbread joy. After reactivating (it has a new radio) I was greeted by the pleasant new Blur home screen.

It’s impossible to describe how much a relief it was to see a new, truly useful UI mod from Motorola. The previous Blur was the bane of many developers and was no comparison to HTC’s Sense, but this new Blur is at least competitive. Does it beat Sense in terms of usefulness? No, but it’s a step in the right direction. There’s not the unifying experience I seem to feel when I had my HTC Eris, but it is definitely more helpful than harmful. If I were a first time Android buyer and were to use this on a Motorola I would probably prefer it over stock Android. As it is I’ve been running AOSP ROMs pretty much 90% of the time I’ve had an Android phone. The dock has been redone, there’s no more of that stupid delayed garbage swiping between screens. There’s also a Sense-esque home screen overlay when you press the home button from the main screen. There are four icons along the bottom instead of the original 3 fixed ones from before. The app drawer has also been redone with an option selection in the top left and a link to the Market in the top left. Long pressing an app inside the app drawer brings up a context menu with the options for: Add to Home or Add to Group for system apps and the addtion of Share and Uninstall for Market downloads. The Share option intrigued me, but alas it only lets you share a link to the Market for the selected app. Selecting Add to Home places a plus sign “+” over the 3 left icons on the dock and lets you drop any app over  the three stock ones. The social widgets all carried over to the new update with little changes on the exterior. Tapping the social networking widget, however, brings you to a new 3D carousel of floating “cards” that have the statuses (statusi?) and tweets (tweeti?) from your various contacts. Its a nifty interface, but crashes if you swipe too quickly, even over wifi.

All the quick contact widgets are also there, one of my personal favorites of Motorola’s Blur. Stock “bloatware” (not Android standard) apps include: 3G Mobile Hotspot, Amazon Kindle, Amazon MP3, BlockBuster, City ID, DLNA, Emergency Alerts, Files, Help Center, My Accounts, My Verizon Mobile, Quick Office, Skype Mobile (Verizon’s version), Social Networking, Task Manager, Voice Command, and for some reason VZ Navigator. Why you’d use a lot of these apps over the much improved freely available ones in the Market I really don’t know. There’s also the Super User app included in the latest Gingerbread as it is prerooted. Why you’d get the non-rooted ROM I’m not sure, but that’s an option I guess. Tapping the top left option button in the app drawer pulls up a little bubble where you can sort by groups. You can create a custom group but it comes with All Apps, Recent, and Downloaded groups by default. This leads me to my single beef with this Blur. Switching between open/recent apps in Android is controlled by long pressing the Home button. When you do this on the new Blur, it actually takes you to the Recent group in the app drawer. It’s actually remarkably quick to switch apps from it, and I’m sure it’s all a perceived slowdown. It is cool to access the rest of your apps right from that menu though.

This is actually the best improvement Motorola could have made going to Gingerbread for the new Blur. It’s FAST. App switching is my favorite example. Going back and forth between several apps all at once is instantaneous. There’s little to no delay opening apps and sliding between homescreens. This is such a relief coming from the abomination that was the original Blur. Performance in benchmarks brings excellent news as I’ve scored an average about 1800 with no overclocking. On my old Apex 1.4.1 ROM that’s based on Blur 2.2 it would only post past 1800 when I pushed it to 1.3ghz. This kind of performance improvement at stock speeds is very welcome. File browsing in both Astro and the Gallery is smooth as butter, almost no lag. I’ve been spoiled and impressed with running 2.3.3 on my Droid 1 for a while before this phone and couldn’t be happier I get on my shiny new astromech now too.

Which brings me to my next point so far: Star Wars mods. I’ve only got the R2D2 clock widget and the lock screen MetaMorph theme install right now, but it looks good for compatibility. This is good to know because I’ll be very surprised if Motorola bothers rereleasing this ROM with all the Star Wars goodies for the Special Edition. This isn’t too big a deal for someone like me who loves modding his phone to the max but is kinda a killjoy for anyone just cruising with their R2 unit. I’ll be posting a video later tonight of it all in action and probably an update when I get all the mods I can installed.

That’s pretty much it so far as the actual software installed runs, but I sure didn’t get to that point easily. Oh no, it was far from a peaceful morning here. After installing the ROM yesterday, I naturally fell in love with it. I figured root would probably be a few days out so I might as well install this version and root when it came out. Turns out, it barely took P3droid to get root and release a pre-rooted version of the same software. Hat’s off to P3droid and the Team Black Hat for both the speed and the simplicity of the ROM release. Problem was, it was anything but simple this morning. Well, simple isn’t the right word. It was simple, but it was horribly described how to get into the menu for the stock recovery. It was easy enough to go back to the SBF for the stock Droid 2 system dump, but it bootlooped instantly upon restarting. No problem, it says in the instructions to simply wipe data/cache and reboot and it’ll work. Yeah, there’s no explanation besides that. After 4 hours of helplessly flashing 3 different files from RSDlite and scouring the forums some angel from above posts that to get to the menu in the stock recovery you have to press the search key. The freaking SEARCH KEY! I suppose eventually you’d find that but it was infuriating to see all the responses to my posts saying “just wipe data/cache from recovery”. Gah. It’s all over now, but I was pretty much freaking out this morning with T-2 hours till a very important job interview. After realizing this trivial but absolutely crucial step, it booted right up. Had to reactivate (old 2.2 radio) and then re-root with z4root and install Kousch’s bootstrap installer. Rebooting into the bootstrapped clockworkmod recovery made it easy to install the new rooted Gingerbread Blur leak. Just selected the .zip and voila! Rebooted, reactivated and bam! I’m already rooted and ready to rock! MAJOR thanks to P3droid, TeamBlackHat, Kousch, Jrummy16 and yes, even Motorola for convincing me to stick with my little R2 unit. I have to admit, I was seriously considering selling this while I could but with a new Gingerbread update I’m excited to stick with the Droid 2 R2D2 for at least the next year. Props to the dev community for keeping our phones alive and customizable like they should be. Can’t wait to see what all the devs can cook up with this! And here’s to hoping Motorola follows HTC’s steps and releases the kernel source/bootloader keys for the Sholes family!

Stay tuned for screenshots, videos, and later impressions as I spend more time with software. And feel free to try it out for yourself on your Droid 2/x!!!