I’ve had my Google development phone, the g1, for some time now. I haven’t had the luxury of time to write anything for it, but I mainly wanted it to try out Android anyway. I’ve reviewed the phone before, and again after some canonical firmware upgrades.
I use the truly excellent K9 application for mail, it has good support for self signed certificates, now has IMAP push support and is generally excellent. However, it stores all the mail on the shockingly limited internal memory on the device. That, and upgrades to things like Google Maps, adding truly excellent new functionality, left me constantly looking for applications to remove.
This is why in the end I decided to try Cyanogen’s ROMs. Since I have a development phone, I didn’t need to root it, and just followed the relevant instructions (in truth, I couldn’t be bothered to downgrade the OS to root it first).
Here are some observations about the new ROM:
- Apps2sd is amazing.
I have the whole pleasure of trying different apps all over again, without sweating about every byte. I don’t have to worry about how much data is in my contacts (whether I assign them icons), my emails, and so on. I have plenty of room. I was delighted to be able to install DocumentsToGo. Which makes the phone much more useful for work emails. Loads of great apps I had to remove have been reinstated, and I can play with others, like the awesome Google Googles.
- Extra workspaces
There are five workspaces, making for more widget playroom. I now have a calendar app taking up a whole workspace with the events to come. Excellent.
- It fixes several problems I had with MMS functionality.
- It fakes a variety of user agents, meaning that a test video message I sent myself on o2 finally worked, for the first time ever.
- The stock ROM allows you to prevent data access when roaming, which is good. But it also doesn’t fetch MMS when roaming, which is (for me) a nuisance, and these are usually on a different tariff system. So when you receive an MMS on roaming, you end up enabling all data access to quickly receive the MMS, and then turn it off again. The Cyanogen ROM has an option to retrieve MMS on roaming.
- UI feels snappier
- USB tethering
can be enabled, which JustWorks (TM) with Debian. Excellent.
On the downside, I have had some reset problems, but admittedly I have sometimes been pushing the phone very hard indeed to test it. And the battery life on the g1 is still awful. I know Noodles has solved the problem by not actually using his phone :-), but I want to use mine.
Another minor problem I encountered some weeks ago was the accelerometer suddenly starting serious misreporting on one axis. This problem seems to be becoming less severe, but even reinstalling the stock and then cyanogen ROM did not fix it. However, note I did not wipe the user data.
Cyanogen has made my phone fun to have again. And I will still replace it when a new Android handset comes out that I really like, but a lot of the urgency has gone. I’ll certainly buy him a beer for Christmas.