Open Source and Imitations–Samsung Releases ICS-Sprinkled Gingerbread SGS I9000, But Why?

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It seems that Samsung has made quite a stir recently thanks to several recently released updates and firmware leaks (albeit they are mostly coming from carriers) to most of their lineup, going back all the way to the original Galaxy S. Thanks to the efforts of XDA Forum Member Przekret and Recognized Developer Faryaab, we now have access to the very latest firmware that was released by Samsung for the original Samsung Galaxy S. The new firmware comes loaded with a ton of updates, bug fixes, a new kernel, a new radio, and most importantly, it will update your device to 2.3.6 (officially anyways).

To make this even more juicy, Faryaab has provided, in his own thread, a method to root this firmware before you even load it up by means of the legendary CF-Root Kernel, developed by XDA Recognized Developer Chainfire. This process requires you to place your device in download mode and by means of Odin to flash the root kernel .tar to the device. It is a quick, simple process that will yield you lots of happiness.

While writing this article in order to provide you with this interesting update from Samsung, I started thinking a little bit about how you will find projects like this or like this on XDA. Now, it is not something new that developers here can and normally will be able to release an update faster than most manufacturers. After all, xda-developers has been doing this for quite some time, keeping your devices alive and up to date, regardless of what your carrier or manufacturer tells you regarding the ability to  upgrade. The way I see this release by Samsung is that they are simply trying to release something new to keep the owners of this device mildly happy and content, keeping the complaints at bay. However, I just think that the technique that they are using to do this is not only wrong (both conceptually and the implementation), it is a waste of everyone’s time (including their own developers and engineers).

If you were to examine this new firmware, as stated earlier, it is a Gingerbread ROM on 2.3.6 and it is loaded with the following goodies:

  • Face Unlock (ICS)
  • Galaxy S II ICS Lockscreen (ICS)
  • Photo Editor (ICS)
  • Built-in TouchWiz 4 (normally loaded on ICS ROMs)

Essentially, in case you have not noticed by now, they are releasing an ICS sprinkled GB ROM to try and keep the people from complaining about the lack of ICS on the device. I mean, after all, most of the eye candy, appealing features of the newer OS are there right? Unlocking your device by just looking at it, a cooler lockscreen than TouchWiz’s stock, smoother and faster transitions, and more. Your average Joe will likely be content with such an “upgrade” because they now have all that they need for their device to look “kewl;” but in terms of functionality, it is the exact same as before–=minus bug fixes and a few tweaks and improvements, of course.

Do you not think that it would have taken the same amount of time (maybe even less considering Samsung’s vast resources in terms of workforce as well as source code, drivers, etc) to make an ICS build for this as opposed to porting applications to an older OS? Hey, I have an idea! Android is Open Source, right? What if they simply used preexisting firmware such as the two ROMs referenced above, fixed the missing pieces in the kernels and libraries, and released a full ICS update? As long as proper credits are provided, they could easily use the existing ports as a base, and go from there (assuming that they don’t feel like starting the ports from scratch).

If Samsung (and other OEMs) would get out of the corporate mentality for a second, they would understood that one of the main reasons people are flocking to Android devices and Open Source software is because collaborative efforts tend to yield MUCH better results in shorter periods of time. Unlike what they would probably do to developers, we are unlikely to send you C&D letters from using and modifying code generated by our developers. Why? Because we believe in the spirit of Open Source and sharing. We are all working towards a common goal, which is to improve the technology that we normally use.

I know that they will likely say that it is the carriers who prevent them from releasing updates, as it hurts sales to update an older device to the latest OS—something that becomes a major selling point for any electronic device. But if you just wrapped up all the goodies from the next OS into an approved update, do you honestly believe that the customer will even bother into looking for a replacement device with an OS that offers, in his or her eyes anyways, the same “kewl” stuff that is present in the newer ones? If you do, then congratulations as you are successfully shooting yourself in the foot twice with the same gun because: A) You will likely piss off tech savvy people who will see through this lame attempt at preventing complaints (and hence, losing part of your customer base); and B) because you will likely ensure that the not-so savvy customer is happy enough with their current device so that they will not buy another one for a while. And in the process of accomplishing the latter, you just spent tons of money on R&D and engineers porting apps from an OS that is Open Source and has already been ported to the target device(s).

To sum things up, Samsung, HTC, et al…. We are here to try and make the best out of these devices. Help us help you. In the name of the spirit of Open Source, lets try and work together so that you make better decisions than trying to calm the public with frankenbuilds like this, which are quite frankly, a waste of everyone’s time.

You can find the original firmware thread here and Faryaab’s thread with the rooting instructions here.

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[Thanks Faryaab for the tip!]
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