November 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 I was preparing a humane burial since I did not want it to go the way the rest of my outdated tech toys: a lonely drawer, never to be heard from again.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.

  • http://twitter.com/GodsMoon @GodsMoon

    Its not exactly "No thanks to Google". Google open sourced Andorid allowing Cyanogen and others to create these mods.
    From what I've heard Google actually likes these mods (as long as you don't distribute their apps)

    • http://intensedebate.com/people/revray35 revray35

      Godsmoon thanks for the post,
      I see your point for sure, and you do have a point. However, for the g1 not to get some sort of official, "hey no love for you" sort of thing, it kinda sucks. We did have the "2.1 might not fit", but eh. Thanks for your post and time, let us know when you install it on your MT3G

  • http://twitter.com/GodsMoon @GodsMoon

    Oh, and I can't wait for the stable release to put on my MT3G! I'm excited.

  • http://twitter.com/Bulgaro @Bulgaro

    Great write up, good reading and I will passing it along to friends with the G1

  • http://www.daverea.com/ medicdave

    A more appropriate title might conclude "…no thanks to HTC!"

    • http://intensedebate.com/people/Davest010 Davest010

      Hmm…I don't think that HTC is in charge of developing the Android software that goes on the phone. Google puts out the versions of the Android software that will be available. While the carriers have processes that may delay the release on a phone, and have requirements that must be met, this seems like a different situation. The G1 is simply not up to the task of running the build that Google has distributed. It would be up to Google to produce a build of the ROM that's compatible with the older, lower-powered phones, and they've chosen not to.

      This is the question to me – why not? It's clear, based on Cyanogen's success, that it's certainly possible. Why is it that the ROM developers (Cyanogen, AdamZ, Pete, etc., etc.) are having so much more success wringing the last drop of performance out of these devices than the devs whom Google is paying to do the work? These guys are doing this on their own time, and their work is head and shoulders above what's coming out of the Googleplex. This is not just when it comes to legacy hardware – I've been running modded ROMs on my Droid ever since they became available.

  • http://twitter.com/nateanderson @nateanderson

    which mod is it? Do you have a link?

  • http://twitter.com/stoodi @stoodi

    One thing, on G1 Facebook Sync doesn't work but, as Cyanogen said, blame Facebook and stupid phone checking by app.

  • http://www.galacticslacker.com/ havoc

    Supporting old hardware, especially mobile devices, is extremely expensive. If you're surprised to not get OEM support for a 2-year old device, I'm guessing you haven't purchased as many devices as I have. I have never owned a mobile device (Palm V, Sony Clie, Sharp Zaurus, Nokia N810, phones, notebooks) that enjoyed support from more than 12-18 months. It's just the nature of an ever changing economy (CPU, memory, GPU, etc).

    With Sharp, you were pretty much orphaned after about 6 months — with ZERO support from Sharp. Palm platforms evolved so fast that 9 months was your limit. Nokia orphaned the n800/n810 devices long before the N900 was release — just because of the reality of hardware limitations and advancements.

    For this reason, I paid for my N1 outright so that I don't have to be chained to a contract before I can justify an upgrade. I'm just planning on having to lay down the cash in 12-18 months to upgrade. I have to say that I'm VERY impressed that the G1s are still completely viable after two years! That's awesome.

    • http://intensedebate.com/people/revray35 revray35

      Havoc, thanks for the post, I indeed have owned many devices, not as many as you it looks like! I agree with your comments about the abandonment, while I understand it, I don't like it. I feel like being an early adopter used to get you some love, but I know that economics makes that impossible. I do know that I was griping in my post some, but I still love my g1 even though it's ancient lol. Thanks for your post!

      • http://www.galacticslacker.com/ havoc

        I still envy your hardware keyboard. ;-)

  • servo

    just use his 4.11x mods they are stable.

  • http://twitter.com/TxAggieMichael @TxAggieMichael

    Where's a link to the ROM, and when will a stable version be available?

    • http://intensedebate.com/people/revray35 revray35

      I did not link right to the ROM since there are some steps you need to walk through to make sure you don't brick your phone. Go to cyanogenmod.com and check it out! As far as stability, hey this is a free sort of thing, so time is all loose, and we are ok with that!

  • zaphosal

    Does this enable multitouch in the G1 browser?

    • 94wolf

      Yes. Though to be honest I don't see the fascination. Multi-touch typing would be nice but pinch-zoom … meh

    • http://intensedebate.com/people/revray35 revray35

      It does! I have multitouch on my browser and i love it.

  • KirkT

    This does it. I've been on the fence about switching ROMs for a while now but this put me over the edge: I'm going to do it today.

  • Jim M

    This is something I'd love to try but just never had the guts. Wish there was someone or some place in the Tulsa area to take my G1 to give it a try.

  • Mitcheal

    I am soooo jealous! I have an HTC Dream (G1 equivalent in Canada's Rogers network). I got duped into a mandatory upgrade which makes the phone UN-rootable. Sigh…

    • Joerg Michael

      Hi! Have you tried the "goldcard" method? That should still work. Try googling for "HTC Dream Goldcard". That should get you started. I used a "goldcard" to root and mod my german G1 after the 1.6 Upgrade.

      • Mitcheal

        Hi Joerg. Thanks for the reply.
        The mandatory upgrade I was refering to is from Rogers Canada – there was a problem dialing 911 (emergency number) from the phone when GPS is turned on (it would crash and reboot the phone). The mandatory upgrade fixed that problem AND "fixed" the phone so that it can't be rooted. Bastards! I've searched and googled for the past few days and, so far, nothing works, even goldcard. So, I'm S.O.L.

  • Ted

    I feel like I could have written this article myself. I went through exactly the same process two weeks ago, and have been similarly thrilled. I have experienced a few bugs, but the end result is so worth it!

  • Jeff

    To Author:

    Dude, T mobile offers a full upgrade to a new smartphone after one year, not two. Get yourself a MyTouch slide. It had 2.1 and a headphone jack. I got the G1 when it came out. Upgraded to the Cliq and am waiting for the first “4G” tmob phone later this year. Should be awesome.

  • doom

    you might be one of the last people to still use an unmodded g1.

  • Jim M

    I could save it as a Museum piece. An unmodded G1, next to Bell's first phone.

  • Justin

    Maybe not everything…I dont have Speech to text on mine…anyone else?

  • gad

    Am waiting for the stable version before i install

  • Mark S

    You had me at #boobs

  • robert K

    This is a stable one. I downlaoded and using @HTCCLAY version of it. Very stable, goes fast and never ever lags. Some LWP do not work. I am using the ladybug one and its far out!

  • Mark S

    I need way better than 4 hours though, so I will wait.

  • http://www.jonnylam.com Jonathan

    Do you have to wipe if moving from cyanogenmod 4.x to 5.x? I already have the DangerSPL uploaded. I ask because I would like to install the new ROM, but I'm planning on switching to the EVO 4G when it comes out, and I don't really want to go through the trouble of setting up everything on my phone again if I'm only going to be using it for another month or so.

  • jones

    how about a link to the step by step instructions to go from a stock G1 to installing the Eclair Rom

  • aosp dev

    I have to second the first post – so please re-title this post!

    It took long because the bulk of the work is actually from AOSP so please do thank Google and not Cyablahblah… It's getting tiresome for people not to realize that one can go from stock G1 to some semblance of eclair oneself thanks to AOSP/Google, it's not that hard. These third party roms with their "tags" are so overrated folk!

    Anyway yes, it's more of a no thanks to HTC and closed source drivers, but as pointed out, that's to be expected. You've seen the live wallpaper crashes yourself for starters and the lacking of launcher2. So is it worth the effort for Google to retrofit the latest release for a 2 year old phone or to move ahead? Unfortunately us G1 owners (myself included) have to come to terms with irrelevancy as no rom at this point will give us a fully featured eclair release that will be stable. So please don't keep hoping for an eclair "stable" release for the G1.

  • http://gl0rify.com Stefing

    It is with some thanks to Google for developing a great open OS!

  • Anzid

    aosp dev, Of course the G1 is obsolete, and no amount of work is going to change that. This is just a kudo to some people that are working to give the G1 (and some other phones) abilities and performance that has not been given to us by ANY of the official sources. The newest ROM does run nicely and give us many features that wouldn't otherwise have. The people that do this extra work and it's not just Cyanogen. I thanked Google/HTC/T-Mobile 2 years ago when they gave me an alternative to the evil Apple iPhone. I don't have a problem with thanking the post-developers for keeping my phone "more" up to date than it would be, otherwise. When my 2 years is up I will thank the suppliers again for my newer more exciting Android phone, and a year later I'll thank the post-devs again.

  • http://twitter.com/tinabelmont @tinabelmont

    They still sell the G1, they should still support it. This isn't a cel phone, it is a general purpose computing device that happens to make phone calls. Why should maintenance of the OS be up to the cel service provider (a dumb pipe), the hardware manufacturer (just iron to run software on). No, that is the job of the OS developer.

  • http://ekas0615.student.ipb.ac.id doel

    nice info. thank you for sharing. like this :p

  • ed

    I just installed 2.2 froyo but can’t download apps like shop savvy onto my G1 anymore. Any tips? I used that bar code reader a lot!

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