Thursday, September 13, 2012

Time to Hero Up!

Hey, remember this guy?

That's my old phone.  If you've been following my blog you'll remember that I recently shelved this for a Motorola XPRT.  Since then Hero here has been sitting in a box collecting dust.  So I figured since I'm stuck with it I might as well find a way to make it useful.

I searched for ways to breathe new life into this thing.  I learned a lot of things.  Did you know that by law even phones that have no carrier service still have to be able to call 911?  So emergency phone is on the list.  Turning it into a GPS device?  Um, no.  I live on an island.  GPS isn't very useful to me here.  Still, something to keep in mind as my device is indeed equipped with a GPS receiver.  Alarm clock?  My current phone is already on that.  Oooh, a wireless router...nah.  Right up this geek's alley but at the moment it's of no use to me. 

Right now I'm somewhere between portable media player or just using it for games.  I know, it doesn't sound very glamorous but I'm still working on this.  I might change my mind and do something else with it.

Step one, the OS had to go.  Don't get me wrong here.  Android is awesome.  But the Android that Sprint  foisted on me is full of bloatware that I don't need and can't get rid of.  My searches led me to discover the joys of modding the Android ROM.  I settled on CyanogenMod and got to work.
It's Android on a SKATEBOARD!  I was powerless to resist!

In order to even dream of modding the phone I had to root it first.  In layman's terms, I needed the master key that opens all the locks.  When you have root you have total control over Android.  Why isn't this a regular option you ask?  Well first the phone carriers frown upon it (hence the immediate voiding of your warranty should you choose to root your phone).  Secondly it's for your own safety.  That kind of access can be dangerous if you don't know what you're doing (as in totally bricking your phone dangerous).

CyanogenMod's instructions for rooting your phone is long, download intensive, and actually didn't work even after I followed all the instructions.  So I said poo on them and turned to Android Central who gave me an awesome 1-click rooting solution.  Rooted the phone: done. 

Now the first time I applied the CyanogenMod, it spent forever just trying to start up.  I had to pull the battery, wipe the ROM and then re-flash the ROM.  Yay!  That seemed to do the trick.

My first impression of CyanogenMod was how clean the interface looked.  The mod for my phone is CyanogenMod 7 so it's running based Android 2.3 Gingerbread.  I've never seen Android look so...simple.  Not a bad thing.  I've always though the Android packaged with my phones were kinda busy.  So time to do some tests.  Then the awful truth hit me: no Google Play.  A quick search showed that Google doesn't let modders package their stuff with the mods.  I'm making it sound worse than it actually was though because I just needed to re-flash CyanogenMod with a Gapps file (Google Apps) and boom there's Google Play.

So far I've only tried a couple things on it.  First I installed Netflix (I couldn't even install this app on the phone as it was before).  Unfortunately, the playback was terrible.  I tweaked the CPU performance to the max (yes, you can do that in CyanogenMod) and it helped playback only slightly.  It was still pretty much unwatchable.  Next I installed YouTube.  YouTube played very well; no complaints there.  Then I installed Angry Birds (another app I couldn't even install on the phone before).  It was a little jerky but not enough to be truly annoying.  Next I wanted to see how it would handle a standalone video file so I installed MX Player (it has support for more video formats).  It performed well there too.  Finally, Pandora.  Sound quality sounded ok too.  Overall it's preforming way better than the packaged OS did.

For now I've got it running as a portable media player (kinda like an iPod Touch).  I've put it on Airplane mode so it doesn't try to sneak any Sprint or roaming usage out of me.  I'm still trying to decide if that's the direction I want to take this in though.  At least now I have the flexibility to experiment and try different things with it.

No comments:

Post a Comment