October 23, 2014

The G1 is Relevant Again... No Thanks to Google

Lately I have been looking with envy on my Android Guy brethren who have some of the cooler Android based handsets out there. I almost jacked my friend’s Nexus One after letting me play with.  I thought about hitting him over the head with it and running. The cause for my madness was the recent realization that my G1 is officially obsolete. 

It started when the new Twitter App was released and I found that I could not download. For various reasons, Google gives no more love to the G1.  I was almost ready to admit defeat.

My arms have been twitching, waiting for November when my two year plan rolls over and I can upgrade to a new handset. I have been eulogizing my G1 in my head, thinking about all the good times we had, wishing we could have more. I was preparing a humane burial since I did not want it to go the way the rest of my outdated tech toys: a lonely drawer, never to be heard from again.

That was, until the beautiful, talented and amazing guys (guy?) over at cyanogenmod.com literally breathed new life into my “ancient” handset by releasing a 2.1 ROM for the G1.  I am now able to take part in all the recent Android goodness that I have been drooling over.  It honestly makes it feel like I have a whole new phone because of how well it runs on the G1.

I had been hesitating to root my phone and download the other mods that Cyanogen had released.  It seemed like he was doing good work and making the phone better than ever was, even at launch.  There are now more options and different functionality, but there never was a huge pressing reason to me to go through the hassle of getting root access.  The game changer came when I received the twitter from Cyanogen’s feed, asking us if we wanted a pretty pony to install.  Finally… Eclair.

Now up front, the mod itself is in test phase, or beta if you will.  It is not perfect, but honestly it is really close to the best phone experience I have ever had on an Android handset.  I will explain the few bugs I hit later on.

If you have been leery of the process of modding your Android phone, it is actually a pretty easy process. There are well laid out instructions on the Cyanogen site, and there is an active forum to help with anything you might get stuck with.  Once you do all your reading and learning, it literally is a process that takes about an hour from start to finish.

There IS a possibility of bricking your phone if you do not follow the instructions to the letter, so if you decide to take the process on, please make sure to educate yourself.  The risk is small compared to the benefits you get when you upgrade.

Here is the listing of what you get, and what you won’t, when you install this ROM, straight from the Cyanogen site:

What’s NOT included that you’d find on a Nexus One:

  • Launcher2 (too clunky for these devices)
  • Stock Live Wallpapers (LWP support is there, but may not work with all LWP apps and/or performance may be bad)
  • Facebook (install from the Market, contact sync works perfect)
  • Google Voice (install from Market, push notify works perfect)

What’s included:

  • Everything that goes with Eclair
  • 3D, video, camera, camcorder, BT, WiFi, etc are all of course working

CyanogenMod extras:

  • Can be used with or without Google applications
  • Kernel 2.6.33.3 with tethering support, Compcache, VPN/tun, and other modules (cifs, nfs, aufs, fuse)
  • New Apps2SD method implemented mostly by Chris Soyars.
  • Built in USB tether
  • Graphical enhancements, #boobs, and excellent wallpapers by Prash and SatanR1
  • Includes BusyBox, htop, nano, powertop, openvpn, bash, irssi, and all engineering commandline utilities
  • FLAC audio support from Kenny Root
  • Phone enhancements from Cytown
  • Contacts enhancements from Wysie
  • MMS enhancements from, well, everyone (see changelog)
  • Perform zipalign-on-install of applications
  • DeskClock tweaks- longer autosilence and “require unlock” option
  • Massive APN list
  • All available locales are included thanks to PsychoI3oy
  • 360-degree auto-orientation by Optedoblivion and Elanthis (enable in settings)
  • OpenVPN integration thanks to James Bottomley
  • Music app can respond to long-press on the volume buttons (from Metalhead)
  • Many other bugfixes and tweaks from AOSP contributors
  • Tons of work on the build system by Koush and Chris Soyars

Looking at this list, I can tell you that it is accurate.  Everything in the build works really well.  I have several Live Wallpapers working without a lag in performance.  There are some that do crash the handset, so it is a hit or miss thing installing them.  There are several new widgets that come with Eclair, including a native news widget that updates live, a YouTube widget that lets you post and browse, as well as a Facebook and twitter widget that come with the new builds of those applications.

Now, one of the things I was afraid of happening when I installed this ROM was that it was going to feel like I had installed Windows Vista on a x486 machine trying to make it work just to say that I did. But I can report to you that this ROM is fast, smooth and has VERY little performance issues.  Scrolling through the 5 panes is fluid with no lag at all.  Indeed it honestly feels smoother than it did on my stock ROM build from Google.  Originally I would have to be careful of what I installed on the desktop since it would bog my phone down.  Not so with the cyanogen mod; I have all the widgets my little heart desires running with no issues.

Now, there is one pretty big issue with this mod, and that is the fact that for some reason is sucks the G1’s battery dry in 4 hours.  This is a known bug which they are working on, there has already been a second release of the mod addressing this issue along with some other minor bugs. Also, when you take a picture with your phone, the preview image is screwed up.  However, the image has been taken and is stored on the phone.

I have installed several applications and all run perfect.  Google Voice, Maps, Places, the new Twitter app, Facebook, Nesoid all running like a top.  Having the latest enhancements to Voice and Maps has been amazing.  Since I use my G1 as a business phone that is hooked into a Google Apps account, I have struggled with Maps because I cannot access any kind of maps I create on my laptop.  Now, I can use multiple Google accounts allowing me to switch in and out on the Maps application.  I literally have the best of both worlds now.

An interesting thing that happened as well when I added another account to my phone, it triggered a congrats message from Google, thanking me for my Nexus One purchase. I found that pretty funny.

I can honestly say that I feel like I have a brand new handset because of this mod.  My G1 feels quick and relevant again. No thanks to Google. Being and early adopter with Google seems to get you the shaft a bit. I am thankful that Cyanogen took the time to spread the 2.1 love to us lowly people who have the G1.  Stay tuned for more details as this mod mover from Beta to stable release.