Several people have asked me which Android phone I would buy if I were to buy one right now. Until yesterday that was an easy choice. I would buy the G1. They are cheap and easy to root. But now that the DROID has been successfully rooted, the decision is harder. I guess it depends on your carrier. Why do I only care about rooted Android devices? Here is a short list of the things you can do once you root your Android device (there are many more):
1. Performance enhancements: Rooted G1s can run at the full 512MHz (Stock G1s are underclocked at 384MHz because of battery life, and possibly to market the myTouch as “faster.” They actually have the same CPU inside.)
2. Wireless tethering: Your G1 can basically act like a wireless router, allowing you and anyone you approve to connect to the Internet via your phone’s unlimited data plan. (This works best with 3G connections). Here is the free app you need (only works on rooted phones): http://code.google.com/p/android-wifi-tether/
3. Google Maps Navigation on G1 (no more DROID envy!): http://lifehacker.com/5402207/get-google-maps-navigation-on-your-g1 (easiest method here: http://digs.by/lxn)
More reasons to root your Android device: http://lifehacker.com/5342237/five-great-reasons-to-root-your-android-phone
The Best ROM currently available: CyanogenMod. Instructions for rooting: http://wiki.cyanogenmod.com/index.php/Main_Page
Back in October 2008 I started using Google’s first Android phone, the T-mobile G1. By the end of January 2009 there were 800 Android apps compared to over 15,000 iPhone apps. Of course, the iPhone had been around for well over a year at that point. But I think 2009 will be the year that Google Android really comes into its own as more than a dozen new models of Android phones are introduced. There are definite pros and cons to going with an open platform like Android, and I hope I can offer a realistic view of the good and the not-so-good that I have experienced with my Android G1 phone so far.
New Favorite Apps
I am still very happy overall with my G1. Especially now that I have root access to my phone I can do even more, like tether my laptop to my phone’s Internet connection via wifi. At the 1-month mark I made a list of my top 20 Android apps. That list has changed quite a bit, so here is my new list of top 20 Android apps. Interestingly, only 5 of these apps were on my first list 9 months ago. They are marked in bold. All the apps below are free unless marked otherwise.
- Where – Displays movies, weather, etc. based on your location. It also has voice recognition and Yellowbook search, which presents you with address and phone numbers of businesses based on your location which you can then call or look up on a GoogleMap with a click or two.
- BeyondPod ($2.99) – A Podcast app that allows you to manage podcasts and even update them over wifi. (So iPod Touch, why can’t you do this?)
- Sky Map – Allows you to see stars, planets, and constellations just by holding your G1 in the direction you want to look (including the ones beneath the horizon). The digital compass, accelerometer, and GPS to move your phone around and see different areas of the sky. A very cool example of what augmented reality (AR) apps can do.
- Wikitude – This is another great augmented reality app, but this one lets you “see” cities and landmarks close to you by holding the phone in front of you and turning in any direction. Selecting the names on the screen pulls up the web page for that city or point of interest in wikipedia.
- Places Directory – Google’s version of Where. I can’t decide which one I like best so I use them both. Places uses you location to look up restaurants, shops, parks, and other points of interest. You get addresses and phone numbers you can use to locate or call whatever it is you are trying to find.
UPDATE: Here is a different set of instructions that is specifically for beginners, including an app that does most of the work for you: http://androidandme.com/2009/08/news/how-to-root-a-t-mobile-g1-and-mytouch-3g-android-phone/
Please note: I have recently switched from JF 1.5.1 to the latest Cyanogen ROM (v.4.0.2). More details are available here: http://forum.xda-developers.com/showthread.php?t=537204
With the G2 out and a total of 18 Android phones expected by year’s end, I am happier than ever with my G1. Why? Because I have root access and a second battery There are lots of forums and blogs that describe how to root a G1 Android phone, but first I want to focus on why you might want actually want to do it.
Others have compiled lists of pros and cons for rooting the G1 phone, but I want to focus more on the specific apps that make rooting the G1 totally worth it to me. Normally, Android only lets you copy/paste links, but the rooted G1 (running JF 1.5.1) has a nifty feature that let’s me copy text from anywhere. (I do this a lot, so this is one less reason to bring the laptop.) With a rooted G1 you can hold Shift, scroll anywhere on the screen, click the scroll ball once to start selecting, and click it again to stop the selection — it automatically copies your selection to the clipboard. It also has a the iPhone’s multi-touch feature for the browser, if you care about that kind of stuff.
Here are a few of my favorite “root only” apps:
- Wifi tether (free here) — This is the single coolest reason to root your G1 phone. It allows your to use your G1′s data connection as a wifi access point. This is great alternative when staying in a hotel that charges for wifi. For those on a 3G network, this is actually pretty fast (a little less than DSL speeds). The G1 will prompt you when someone is trying to connect, so you can control who uses it. (It also works via Bluetooth, if you prefer that.) I’ve used wifi tether to create a mobile access point in the car. My wife used it to surf around on her iPod Touch on a recent road trip. Very cool.
- Backup for Root Users (free on Android market) — Backs/restores all your apps and settings to your micro SD card. Even compatible with App2SD.
- SetCPU (costs $0.99) — This app overclocks the G1 up to 528 MHz (384 is normal) when you are using it or when it’s plugged in, and can also “underclock” the processor down to 128 MHz when in sleep mode to save battery life. No reported problems with this level of overclocking. Very cool!