Dr. Ketan or How I Learned to Stop Waiting & Flash the ROM

The Lollipop update rollouts bombed. This shouldn’t be news to those of you who have been tracking the progress of many Android devices, but for the most part, Lollipop adoption has been a rollercoaster of broken promises and disappointment for many Android users. This is not to say that many of you didn’t get Lollipop early, however. At XDA we are typically knowledgeable with flashing custom ROMs and, in Lollipop’s case, leaked ROMs – and both of these brought 5.0 to many devices way ahead official rollouts.

I was one of the lucky ones. Shortly after Lollipop, I had both a Nexus 5 and a Note 3. The Nexus 5 also got Lollipop a little later than we had expected, but it was nevertheless one of the first ones in line. As for my Exynos Note 3 (daily driver), I knew that I wouldn’t see Lollipop anytime soon, especially since AOSP ROMs do not have a huge presence on said chipset line. I was pleasantly surprised when I read that there was an early leak of Lollipop for the Note 3 that was stable enough to be used all day, and I proceeded to flash Dr. Ketan’s ROM to stop the wait.

There were more leaks for the Note 3, and eventually it released in Russia with an official and final firmware. Other devices weren’t so lucky, however. We did a Lollipop update roundup back in early February, and back then things didn’t look that bad. Two and a half months later, the Lollipop rollout for major flagships is still not fully done, and the developments have shown that this was probably one of the most hurtful update races for Android. We’ll look at a few particular cases, but first we must ask: why does this update matter so much?

Not Just Materialism

We all wanted Lollipop because it was pretty, but the update was much bigger than that in many respects. The plethora of new APIs (over 5,000) are an integral part of the developing Android experience that we are seeing today and that we’ll see later on, and without these new options a lot of possibilities are closed off to both users and developers. This is not only limited to functionality, however, as Material Design relies on a lot of Lollipop-exclusive software bits to render its beauty. Google did manage to make many Material elements available on older versions, but a lot of menu animations and subtle shadows are completely lost on KitKat and back. The animations on Material apps are also significantly choppier on some KitKat devices, especially those with heavy OEM skins.

Most importantly, though, Lollipop is paving the way for the future of Android in design and functionality yet the terribly slow rollout further increments fragmentation. This has always been an issue in Android, particularly with OEM skins. Now, developers and users are seeing twice as many bridges between the KitKat and Lollipop for AOSP/Stock ROMs and each OEM skin. SD Times ingeniously called this a “pain the app” for developers, and published some of the reason as to why the recent fragmentation can be hurtful for software creators (I strongly suggest reading it as it also contains some neat advice and insight). And if this wasn’t enough, the early versions of Lollipop contain a lot of issues, with bugs such as the infamous memory leak which many OEMs failed to eliminate completely.

The Culprits

It’s been known that factory unlocked devices (or carrier-less, for that matter) are typically the ones to get the updates faster, and many enthusiasts refuse to buy devices from carriers strictly because of this issue. While it is true that carriers usually drop the ball on updates, Lollipop has had many broken promises and missed deadlines from manufacturers themselves. More importantly, a huge issue with the rollout was the absolute lack of consistency within regions, something that led to worldwide frustration as many saw that some regions got the update way ahead of time.

Screen Shot 2015-04-16 at 1.17.29 PMTake the case of Samsung, for example: they are known to have soak tests for major updates, and Poland was a privileged region that got Lollipop for the S5 as early as December. Samsung was one of the few that were implicitly bound to deliver quick Lollipop updates, and the early previews that we had suggested very early releases for the S5 and Note 4. Was this the case? No, at least not for the most part. While Poland got the S5 update really early, many regions didn’t follow until much later. And while the leaks for the Note 3 also came in december, the official rollout also didn’t follow until much later. In both cases, the deployments were extremely limited to certain regions. When it comes to Samsung, they make it even harder for themselves by having several hardware variants with substantially different software for many regions, but even then international variants with the same Snapdragon chipset saw very different update times.

Screen Shot 2015-04-16 at 1.18.42 PMThe Korean Giant was never the fastest with updates, however, while Google’s (and now Lenovo’s) Motorola was. For the most part, Motorola did a good job, even bringing Lollipop to their mid-ranger Moto G before a lot of other OEMs did for their flagships… but only to India and Brazil. The localized update drama hit once again, and while XDA users were quick to flash the firmware on their Moto G’s, the rest of the world was left in angst. Their strongest (but arguably not best) flagship, the Droid Turbo, was left waiting in the blue for a long time until we finally learned that it’d skip straight to 5.1. The fact that they have so many Moto G variants (1st Gen, 2nd Gen, LTE, Forte, Ferrari, etc) also hurt the update rollout to an extent, and thus the fastest and supposedly “most committed” player had Lollipop issues.

Screen Shot 2015-04-16 at 1.20.24 PMHTC was perhaps one of the most disappointing players in the race: they had promised Lollipop for their M8 within 90 days of receiving the source code, but the promise was not met for all of their handsets, as only their developer unlocked versions had gotten the update. The M7 also didn’t see the goal, and most importantly, HTC had stated that the device would stay in an early Lollipop build and not receive 5.1 – meaning that it’ll keep many of the bugs Lollipop brought. Luckily, we recently learned that the M7 might receive 5.1 after all, but this was only due to the massive fan uproar that followed the announcement. The fact that XDA saw the first (unofficial) Sense 7 ROM from Skydragon so early is also a rather mind-boggling.

Screen Shot 2015-04-16 at 1.21.36 PMLG was reportedly on track to being one of the first players to get the update, and we had seen screenshot leaks of their Lollipop builds for the G2 really early on. As for the G3, LG was fast. Faster than Google, even. But, like with Samsung, the rollout was region-limited. While LG G3 users in Poland saw the update as early as November, other users didn’t see the candy goods until much, much later. In fact, it was not until the last week of January that LG teased about American G3 users getting Lollipop, and carrier variants saw an even longer while before they received it (some have gotten it within the past two weeks). So while they caught all sorts of headlines with their early bird release, in the end it was mostly that – a headline grabber, for the region limitations meant that users got even angrier.

Screen Shot 2015-04-16 at 1.23.14 PMSony was perhaps one of the most quiet OEMs about Lollipop, and we really respect that they didn’t overpromise like most others did. In fact, at CES we learned that the update was coming when it was ready as they were taking their time, and the best part about Sony’s humbler approach is that we were told we’d get support for plenty of devices: the Xperia Z, Xperia ZL, Xperia ZR, Xperia Tablet Z, Xperia Z1, Xperia Z1S, Xperia Z Ultra, Xperia Z1 Compact, Xperia Z2, Xperia Z2 Tablet, Xperia Z3, Xperia Z3v, Xperia Z3 Compact, and the Xperia Z3 Tablet Compact. That’s a lot  of X’s and Z’s. And just a few weeks ago they added the original Xperia Z to that list. This commitment, alongside their development of AOSP branches, make us (and Xzibit) proud.

Screen Shot 2015-04-16 at 1.25.02 PMOnePlus, too, was committed to fast Lollipop updates. In fact, that was a major selling point for many people, and also a key aspect of their “Never Settle” campaign. And like many OnePlus promises, it simply didn’t come true. Granted, a lot of these issues were caused by the Cyanogen team who at that point had developed a kind of grudge with OnePlus. That being said, OnePlus’ OxygenOS was also promised to be delivered at a certain date, and it wasn’t met. Cyanogen’s Lollipop release came the just other day, but not without missing several implied deadlines, and also not without Cyanogen CEO Kirk McMaster telling users to “calm the f**k down” regarding the wait. Yeah, hardly the most cheerful of rollouts.

Nvidia did a surprisingly fast update to their Shield Tablet, and many were in joy… but Nvidia managed to screw it up with an update that messed up the color reproduction of the display. This is not to say they were the only ones – in fact, it seems that virtually all Lollipop releases contain bugs or issues here or there (and some persist post factory resets), sometimes minor (and harmless) but sometimes major ones like those in Verizon’s infamous update pulling drama which was reissued on a few instances.

And then there’s carriers. There’s little to say about this that isn’t known or expected, except for the fact that Verizon and AT&T actually put out updates faster than T-Mobile on many instances. The carrier updates for this major Android version were not only disjointed, but full of bugs. Some of them were delayed to the point of ridicule, like the T-Mobile Note 4 lollipop. The regular Note 4 started seeing the update way after its Note 3 predecessor, which is weird in itself, but while the Note 4’s Lollipop has been rolling out on carriers and variants all over the world for months now, T-Mobile is not delivering and will not deliver for another 3 to 4 weeks.

Android Is Our Profession

So, as you can see, the Lollipop rollout wasn’t as sweet as we hoped it would be. The notes for this article had a lot more information that I wish I could fit in here, but I hope that the editing shows just how almost every player failed in some way or another, and sometimes in downright offensive ways. For an update this big, this is not good for anyone. Software development gets stalled, users can’t enjoy new features, Android gets fragmented further, and people get very angry. While I was somewhat optimistic in February, the fact that we are still seeing Lollipop update news every day for some of the biggest devices in the history of mobile tells us that something is not right. KitKat didn’t have the fastest adoption either (in fact, most updates crawled on certain handsets), but Lollipop’s update drama has gone far and above in many regards.

Now, we obviously can’t wish for perfect rollouts for every player (nor every year), but the fact that Google itself put out such an unfinished OS update in the first place is perhaps what should worry us the most. Lollipop was pretty and functional, but it brought many bugs to the table, and some like the always-discussed memory leak can put tangible (and annoying) consequences into your user experience. Many suspect that OEMs spent so much time developing fixes for these bugs, and it makes sense. Under this light, Lollipop’s rollout is a communal mistake that trickles down to every level of the update process.

With Dr. Ketan’s ROM I experienced Lollipop ahead of time, and it shows a great virtue of XDA: region-limited rollouts mean little if you know how to flash the pulled ROMs or leaks, and even if you have a different variant, you might see a port for your device. I fell in love with Lollipop and the performance bump it offered, but when I had to get a Note 4 I went with a T-Mobile variant to enjoy its feature set as well as full coverage on their network (something which international/exynos variants lack). I also believed in their track record of relatively fast updates (for a carrier). But as previously stated, Lollipop is not coming to that carrier device for a while. As much as I’d love to enjoy the features on it, the ROM for the Canadian Note 4 (same hardware) is compatible with mine and proven to be stable. So I know exactly what I’m going to do now. See you on the sweeter side…

Screen Shot 2015-04-16 at 1.16.05 PM

“I don’t give a hoot in Hell how you do it, you just get me to the Lollipop, ya hear!”


 Credit to XDA Portal Editor Chris Gilliam for creating the feature image, and to XDA Recognized Contributor dr.ketan for creating a great ROM and having a name apt for a movie reference.

ICS Walkman Port for the 2011 Sony Xperia Lineup

In the past, we brought you news of the ICS Walkman app port to a couple of devices and the Walkman app ported to MDPI Xperia phones running Gingerbread. With the popularity of the Walkman port growing, so too is the number of devices it is ported to. With the Gingerbread port already solidly in place, the next step was porting the music application to Ice Cream Sandwich for the same devices.

The app is available for the Sony Xperia 2011 line running ICS, including the Mini, Mini Pro, Active, and Ray, and was posted by XDA Senior Member Rizal Lovins. The application installation process is rather simple. Download the recovery-flashable update.zip and flash in a custom recovery.

There are a few issues, however. A common problem is the Sound Enhancement forces closes for some, along with a few other bugs. For Sound Enhancement issues, users are instructed to clear data. It has also been suggested by some users to disable xLoud, as it’s known to interfere with the application. Otherwise, users are reporting that it works pretty well.

To learn more, head to the original thread.

Modded Xperia S Music Player Shows Up for Other Xperia Devices

It can be said without exaggeration that the Sony Xperia S has been one of the best Android devices ever when it comes to porting its software to other Android devices. Xperia S ports are simply everywhere, and range from a few applications to, in some cases, full blown ROMs. It seems as though nearly everyone wants a piece of Xperia S software love, and devs have been more than willing to hand it out.

The Xperia S ports to everywhere saga continues as XDA Forum Member Lasan has ported the Sony Xperia S proprietary music player, called MusicXS, to a range of Xperia devices including the Mini, Mini Pro, Active and Ray. The mod, which is a recovery-flashable update.zip, will install the music player along with all the libraries required for it to run properly. Says Lasan:

work fine with SoundEnhancement and Surround Effect. May be ported completed 99%

So not only are you getting the application, but also all the fun little options it comes with. As with Sony XLoud, users will be treated a modified music experience, and since the stock Android music player still doesn’t seem to understand that people want equalizers with their music, it’s definitely worth a shot for music lovers. However, there are some things users need to know before flashing. Says Lasan:

For devices other than WT19 (walkman), remove the default music files in /system/app/SemcMusic.apk with RootExplorer or Titanium Backup
For MIUI and GingerCruzt-XS, Music and all fix include to next update

Be sure that your device meets the requirements before flashing, and of course, make sure you have a Nandroid backup handy just in case.

For additional info, hit up the original thread.

Workaround For Flash’s Low FPS on Asus Transformer

Quite possibly, one of the only annoyances that plagues the Honeycomb stock browser is its inability to properly use its full 30 fps potential on flash videos. At least, this seems to be the case for a few custom roms in certain devices like the Asus Transformer. After doing a bit of looking around, XDA member Roach2010 found something interesting regarding a file that does not get installed after updating Flash Player versions. Discuss, decided to experiment a bit with this file and found that placing it back where it belongs allows the stock browser to play any flash video at 30 fps.

So far, the results seem to be promising, but not a whole lot of people have tested this. The dev has put it in a flashable package, so please drop by the thread, download it, and leave some feedback behind. One last thing, in case you are wondering how to determine if you are indeed running at 30 fps, the dev has added a link to a YouTube video used to determine this.

The problem is that some devices somehow end up with a missing file that the Browser uses to talk to Flash Player. In my case if I clear the Browser data and reinstall the latest version of Flash Player from the market the config file does not get recreated.

You can find more information in the original thread.

Want something published in the Portal? Contact any News Writer.

BBC iPlayer for Android

XDA member ADeadlySpoon let us know about the release of the BBC iPlayer for Android devices. The player will allow streaming of BBC TV and radio content and include many of the features from the desktop version, which include series stacking, live TV, and radio streaming. The player is working on Android 2.2 and up and it´s recommended to be run on a device with a good processor, flash, and 3G -data plan- or WIFI connection to ensure a smooth viewing experience. Get it for free on the market.
Please leave feedback or report any bug found.

Originally posted by ADeadlySpoon
[APP] BBC iPlayer for Android (and iPhone/iPad)



The BBC have released an iPlayer app free on the market, it does exactly as the mobile site for Android does, it streams programs to our phones.

It only works for Android 2.2+ because of the need for flash player.
Try it out!

Continue to the original thread.

myPlayer – Live TV / On Demand streaming updated WM/Android

XDA member FryWalker presents an updated version of myPlayer for Windows Mobile devices, with it you can have access to Live TV and On Demand content directly without using your browser. The new version 2.0 lets you choose your own media player (CorePlayer v1.3.6 is recommended) and includes features like full streaming integration, live TV channels and live international radio stations amongst many others.
Working on WM 6 and up on resolutions QVGA, VGA or WVGA.
The developer also includes a version for Android devices.

Originally posted by FryWalker
> Choose your own media player – define how each stream is played (CorePlayer v1.3.6 is recommended‡)
> Full streaming integration – browse the content as you would from any other supported device
> Live TV channels – watch the popular terrestrial channels live (ITV, Channel 4, Five, etc.)*
> SBS Australia – content from the Special Broadcasting Service**
> Extensive TV feed index – hundreds of live TV feeds from around the globe
> Live Radio stations – a selection of International broadcasts
> Custom TV / Radio stations – add your favourites

* CorePlayer is required to watch the high quality live TV channels (please use this config.xml for the best experience)

** The SBS channel requires a Flash player, the Adobe Flash Lite application is recommended

> A media player that supports RTSP streaming and the mpeg4 codec (CorePlayer v1.3.6 is recommended‡)
> The .NET 2.0 Compact Framework (which is bundled with Windows Mobile Professional 6.0 and above)
> An internet connection that is based within the UK (for the terrestrial TV feeds)

‡ HTC’s bundled StreamingPlayer and Windows Media Player should also work for users with faster devices (for example the HTC HD2)

Continue to the application thread.

MyPlayer Updated To V.88b For UKians

MyPlayer was one of my favorite application back in the days of Hulu support, but even without this, users can still enjoy some BBC shows. The popular Windows Mobile application has now gone Android thanks to XDA member FryWalker, and it still keeps some of the good features we all love, without the bugs we all have grown to hate.

This is a light-weight application that provides access to the BBC iPlayer service directly – eliminating the requirement for a (flash-enabled) mobile browser.
myPlayer is also available on the Windows Mobile platform
** This application requires an Internet connection based within the UK **

> Extensive BBC iPlayer integration
> Fully featured programme search
> High quality downloads for offline viewing?
> Live TV and Radio
> Browse by iPlayer category
> Automatic stream quality (3G or wifi)
> Manual stream quality by preference

The application link can be found in the MyPlayer thread.

BBC iPlayer Updated

If you´ve been following development of BBC iPlayer, this major update will be of your liking. XDA member FryWalker incorporated the option to watch all the latest Soccer highlights from World Cup. The dev also added an option to keep the device awake while downloading. CorePlayer v1.3.6 is recommended as default player.
As in previous versions, QVGA, VGA or WVGA are supported on devices running WM6 and up.
An Android version is available too.

Originally posted by FryWalker
A light-weight application that provides access to BBC iPlayer, Four On Demand, Five On Demand, MSN Video and SBS directly – eliminating the requirement for a (flash-enabled) mobile browser.

Requires a QVGA, VGA or WVGA device running Windows Mobile Professional (Pocket PC) 6.0 or higher
myPlayer is also available on the Android platform


  • Fixed BBC iPlayer live TV streams
  • Added option to keep device awake whilst downloading
  • Fixed a bug relating to stream player preferences
  • All radio content should now be downloaded as mp3
  • TV and radio searches are now segregated.

You can find more information in the application thread.

myPlayer – BBC iPlayer / Hulu / 5OD / MSN / SBS

For those who want to have access to BBC player among others without using flash player, this is a good option to watch videos and content. Member FryWalker presents his updated latest version: 1.280.

Originally posted by FryWalker
A light-weight application that provides access to BBC iPlayer, Hulu, Four On Demand, Five On Demand, MSN Video and SBS directly – eliminating the requirement for a (flash-enabled) mobile browser.

Requires a QVGA, VGA or WVGA device running Windows Mobile Professional (Pocket PC) 6.0 or higher.
> Choose your own media player – define how each stream is played (CorePlayer v1.3.6 is recommended‡)
> Full iPlayer integration – browse the Mobile content as you would from any other supported device (including the search feature)
> Browse BBC iPlayer by category (Comedy, Drama, Entertainment, Films, etc.)
> Download high quality BBC iPlayer episodes to your device for offline viewing
> Hulu – watch a selection of your favourite US shows (Family Guy, Scrubs, etc.)
> Watch all the latest football highlights from around Europe
> Five On Demand – catch up with the latest content from Channel Five
> MSN Video – a further selection of streaming content to watch
> SBS Australia – content from the Special Broadcasting Service*
> Live TV channels – watch the popular terrestrial channels live (BBC1, ESPN, Sky News, etc.)
> Extensive TV feed index – hundreds of live TV feeds from around the globe
> Live Radio stations – a selection of BBC broadcasts
> Custom TV / Radio stations – add your favourites
> Search History – tracks the most recent searches for easy access

* The SBS channel requires a Flash player, the Adobe Flash Lite application is recommended

> A media player that supports RTSP streaming and the mpeg4 codec (CorePlayer v1.3.6 is recommended‡)
> The .NET 2.0 Compact Framework (which is bundled with Windows Mobile Professional 6.0 and above)
> An internet connection that is UK based (or a connection via the myPlayer server)

‡ HTC’s bundled StreamingPlayer and Windows Media Player should also work for users with faster devices (for example the HTC HD2)

*** Whilst streaming video this application will use a considerable amount of bandwidth – please ensure you use it via an unlimited data policy ***

User feedback is always appreciated and should help to improve the usability of future releases.

All of the content streamed via this application is copyright of the BBC, Hulu, Channel Five, MSN and SBS respectively.

Disclaimer: you should only watch the BBC iPlayer content if you are owner of a TV licence within the UK.

Latest version: 1.280

For help regarding installation and use of the application please consult the dedicated myPlayer Support page.

> Added Four on Demand channel to Catch Up view
> GPRS data usage warning is now displayed
> Various other minor bug fixes

Continue to thread

New ROM upgrade WM6.1 21127 v2.0 for Universal

Member thingonaspring made an important upgrade to his WM6.1_21127 v2.0 ROM for Universal

A lot has changed for this version, that’s why it’s jumped a bit to v2.0.

The kitchen’s been rebuilt extensively to support bepe’s platformrebuilder. The new kitchen adds the following handy features :-

– includes a proper XIP kitchen that re-cooks the XIP section on each build, allowing for more flexibility in the rom layout, if you’re into that kind of thing.
– relocation code is much improved, meaning modules are now stripped of useless sections and better allocated to WM6.1’s available virtual memory slots. Smaller, faster, better.
– suports newer “EXT” type kitchen addons, just place them in EXT folder and build.
– can support WM6.5. Which is nice.
– support for XPR compression as well as the Unis default LZX. XPR is a lot quicker to decompress, so it’s especially handy on 64mb machines that swap stuff in and out of pagepool a lot. It doesn’t compress as well as LZX though, that’s why the roms look bigger. XPR compresion was adapted from TPC’s Kaiser kitchen, so props to him.
– when building a rom with the kitchen you will now make 2 choices, memory size and compression type. After that the kitchen builds automatically up to the usual encoding app.

Changes for v2.0 :-
– both 64 and 128 roms use XPR compression – much faster than Uni’s default LZX
– all modular exe/dll/cpl/mui/tfx/plg components have useless sections stripped thanks to bepe’s platformrebuilder. This saves ram, virtual memory and other resources
– mp3dmod and msdmo dlls included to allow support for apps that use them (pocketplayer and google’s youtube app, probably others too).
– AKU bug fixed to make Market work properly (thanks responderman)
– Drivers completely rebuilt. I had no choice, PlatformRebuilder crashed while building the old driverset as most of the modules were pre-stripped. I’ve also made an attempt to fix some audio choppiness in A2DP, but it’s difficult to test as my A2DP headset is very bad at A2DP. Handsfree is definitely working fine.
– Smaller wince.nls used to save ROM+RAM
– Yet more unused files and modules removed.
– Opera Mini 5 added. This version runs native, unlike previous java-based opera minis. It’s a very fast browser with low memory footprint (about 6mb with a single tab).
– yet more memory freed up for 64mb users

64mb versiom has 4.0mb Pagepool. 33 Mb free RAM on clean boot with 200+contacts and appointments synced)
128mb version has pagepooling disabled
Flash Disk enabled
Extended ROM enabled

Removed :-
– Windows Media Player (TCPMP integrated to replace WMP)
– Office OneNote
– Customer Satisfaction (SQM)
– FirmwareUpdate
– Catalog
– Entertainment (games)
– Transcriber
– Getting started
– Bootsplash/welcome images
– MP3 ringtones not supported.
HTC’s ringtone extension takes up a lot of space in ROM and it’s very slow to load. Convert ringtones to wav instead

Included :-
– Opera Mini 5 native WM version
– TCPMP 0.72 recomp3 fully integrated to replace Windows Media. Suports WMA/WMV/FLV/FLAC/OGG/DIVX/MP3……. Uses hybrid plugins from 0.72 and 0.81 for best performance
– PocketNotepad
– PocketRAR
– AdobePDF Reader 2.5
– No2Chem’s USB to PC usb mass storage driver
– No2Chem’s neuPowerCpl replaces backlight settings, power control panel and adds some nice options.
Note that it won’t display advanced usage stats (batt temp etc) as no neuBattery driver exists for uni.
– Dutty’s SDHC driver package (tested with 2/4/8/16gb)
– PimBackup
– JWright’s Network Plugin (mount windows shared drives over wifi/activesync)
– TaskManager 3.1
– TotalCommander 2.5.1
– Windows Live 10.7
– Remote Desktop Client
– Office Mobile
– PNG/GIF graphics optimised for size where possible.

This rom has no bootsplash screens, so you will see a black screen on boot, followed by a white screen.
Tap the white screen to begin using the device on 1st boot.

Drivers, XIP section, registry, pagepool and filesystem have all been optimised for speed and RAM.

Every single EXE, DLL, MUI, CPL and plugin has been made into a module – with the exception of .NET libs (can’t be modular) and one or two specific DLLs/EXEs that will not execute in modular form. Again this saves memory an 64mb machines and speeds up access to executables.

Continue to ROM thread


Open War for Open Android: Antitrust for Cyanogen?

Android and openness is something we talk about all the time, but the recent developments in the industry point towards inherent flaws with this very premise. Be it from bloggers, political institutions or corporations, Android is seemingly not open enough. The “War on Openness” is ironically becoming an open war, where many players are increasing their stakes and scope to try and land a bigger hold – or at the very least, restrict Google’s – on what is the world’s most popular mobile OS. We don’t say this lightly, either, as Android’s 81 percent market share achieved through last year’s 1 billion shipped phones means business.

To us at XDA, Android is extremely open – I need to make this distinction before we go further – as those with knowledge on how to flash mods, tweaks or ROMs can have an even bigger say on what’s on their phone. To those who lack the skills, however, Android is very much pre-packaged. While users can access the Google Play Store to download a plethora of apps, the service is run by Google and it offers privileges (be it through Google Services software or actual services) with which other developers can not compete. This being said, even a Galaxy smartphone with all its prepackaged bloatware has more freedom than, say, an iPhone.

Another clarification I want to make before we go deeper in this is that when we talk about freedom in Android’s openness we don’t mean options. Sure, the decision space of a scenario can offer more or fewer options for you to follow. But ultimately, liberty comes from the ability to choose without constraints, not the amount of options given to you. A simple example would be iOS apps, particularly back when their App Store trumped Android’s – more, better apps meant more and better options to choose from but not necessarily more freedom within the decisions. With this said, the decision space is limited (be it by lack of knowledge or software obstacles) to the stock functionality of a given phone, unless there is knowledge of sideloading or disabling apps. For most Android handsets, however, the liberty to choose remains.

Antitrust & Google

Screen Shot 2015-04-17 at 10.40.28 PMThis week, headlines had it that Google was seeing some trouble with the European Union in regards to unfair market strategies. To be more specific, the EU’s Antitrust chief accused Google of manipulating its web search results for financial gains within the company and its partnerships. This is of utmost importance to the EU given that Google dominates web searches in the region with a hold of 90 percent of users. The European Commission’s investigation issued charges (Statements of Objections) that if objected would cost Google upwards of €6 billion. Mediation is not finished, and Google did try to defend itself in a blog post, but the black stain will remain.

While this made for global news, the direct impact on smartphone users is the Commission’s investigation of Android. They claim that Google used its dominant position to get OEMs to pre-install Google applications on smartphones, and that this represents unfair treatment to the rest of the market (especially given Android’s open-source nature). Google claims that smartphone makers do so voluntarily, and in many ways this is a believable statement given the predominance of Google services in mobile. But regardless, if it’s proven that Google does transgress the region’s regulations with antitrust practices the whole market could shift by allowing other players to have a much bigger presence of Android. Given the latest developments with Cyanogen, this is worth looking into. Did Google engage in anti-competitivity?

Defensive Google

With the Android investigation announcement, Google was quick (very quick) to issue yet another blogpost where it tries to defend itself. This post is significantly different, however, as rather than trying to convince readers that Google did no harm, it’s more of a praise of how open and diverse the Android ecosystem is. The post is also significantly less focused than the previous defense which rebutted claims convincingly. In this post, Google explains their mobile OS this way:

Keep in mind that all of these things are true, but none of them tackle the original claim that Google might be using anti-competitive coercion behind the scenes to get Google apps pre-installed in OEM devices. And in the past, we’ve seen a lot of drama regarding these Mobile Application Distribution Agreements (MADAs). In fact, a popular class-action lawsuit was filed last year in regards to how Google apps have special placement.  The basic idea is (supposedly) that if an OEM wants to package a Google app, they must include all of Google’s apps and Google Services. The lawsuit also suggested direct bidding taking place to “subsidize” OEM phones in exchange for pre-installing Google apps.

The Google-Samsung MADA originally published by re/code and effective as of January 2011 shows that there was something going on, and there might be still.. It reads:

“Unless otherwise approved by Google in writing: (1) Company will preload all Google Applications approved in the applicable Territory or Territories on each Device; (2) Google Phone-top Search and the Android Market Client icon must be placed at least on the panel immediately adjacent to the Default Home Screen; (3) all other Google Applications will be placed no more than one level below the Phone on the Device; and (4) Google Phone-top Search must be set as the default search provider for all search access points on the Device. Notwithstanding the foregoing, there are no placement requirements for Optional Google Applications,”

Cyanogen in an Open War

Cyanogen’s remarks against Google’s Android have circled Android headlines for a while now, and with the latest funding rounds that the company has gone through, the company is seemingly ready for prime-time. We’ve detailed the intricate war assets that make Cyanogen such a threat to the future of Google’s hold in a previous feature, where we talked about their investors, their OS, their users & developers and most importantly their vision. Cyanogen believes that Android in its present form is not open enough – they have the conception that Google is a sort of “tyrant” holding Android back with their proprietary services. Plenty of manufacturers do not allow you to uninstall Google apps – simply disable them, which ties in with the previously mentioned MADAs.

Screen Shot 2015-04-17 at 10.33.58 PMIn plenty of our previous coverage, we’ve held a skeptic position regarding Cyanogen and their claims. It is true that their solutions are typically more “open” than other OEMs’, and they are very committed to offering liberty and options in their CyanogenMod ROMs, be it through customization, support or simply contributing to the developer community. However, the corporation has had its fair share of questionable actions, and with the latest funding rounds and partnerships, they are getting “in bed” with some of the biggest corporations in key sectors of the industry like hardware (Qualcomm), telecommunications (Telefónica), social media (Twitter) and now Microsoft.

Patron Microsoft, Ally Boxer

This is where Cyanogen’s tales becomes a little dubitable: the deal specifies that Microsoft apps will come bundled within Cyanogen OS (manufacturer ROM, not the custom ROM we all love) and Cyanogen will allow deeper and “native” integration of Microsoft services in the operating system. The good news is reports have it that the bundled apps will be completely uninstallable if you so desire, and you can always put Google apps back in there too. But regardless, this shows that favoritisms will still exist within Cyanogen phones, and further on, they might develop into something different… especially considering Microsoft is involved. (As a side note, isn’t it “weird” how the partnership was announced so shortly after we learned that Google is in trouble for not opening up Android enough? Hmm, I wonder…)


I spy with my little eye

Microsoft is expanding inside of Android by bringing many of its services and applications to the platform as well as further (and blatantly) promoting them within them. Knowing Microsoft, this is not simply an attempt at better sales: their expansion is something we begun exploring a while ago, and we believe there’s something going on behind the scenes. But when it comes to tangible suspicions, Microsoft has been under the microscope for their software security, especially after the massive ‘vulnerabilities’ (one which included Microsoft servers being the middle-man to all private e-mail exchanges) found in their recent Outlook for Android & iOS release. Regarding the situation, here’s a quote on the matter from IBM developer Winkelmeyer:

“What I saw was breathtaking. A frequent scanning from an AWS IP to my mail account. Means Microsoft stores my personal credentials and server data (luckily I’ve used my private test account and not my company account) somewhere in the cloud! They haven’t asked me. They just scan. So they have in theory full access to my PIM data, (…)”


“Data is open too!”

This raised some eyebrows, and new concerns lay with a partnership between Cyanogen and Boxer, a company that is now powering up the default e-mail solution in Cyanogen OS. We took a look at their privacy policy and found that they may collect unspecified kinds of data by scanning your inbox contents… and then distribute them within the company, with affiliates or “trusted” third parties… so potentially Microsoft too. Like XDA Portal Editor Matthew pointed out, at least we know that Google collects our data, and we willingly agree to the notion. This is trying to fly under the radar undisclosed, which once again shows Cyanogen’s shady cloak & dagger tactics. Yet in Boxer’s open letter we find the following blatantly ironic excerpt:

The launch of our partnership with Cyanogen marks a major shift in the mobile landscape. No longer are users forced to use second-class software or services that further the agenda of the companies behind their platforms (…) Users now have a choice – an open operating system in Cyanogen that is bringing best in class products and services together to form a single cohesive platform.”

Open War

The war for an Open Android is not limited to Google and Cyanogen, and we can expect to see many other players hop in soon. But right now, the biggest armies in this battle are these two’s. I tried to objectively show that both companies are surrounded by tactics that do not really aspire one’s uttermost confidence in them, but while both claim to have or offer an “Open Android”, the truth is both of them don’t. Both Google and Cyanogen offer virtually identical decision spaces and almost equal liberty in their Android offerings, but this doesn’t quite mean that their Android’s are as “open” as they want it to be. Google’s Android is not open, and neither is Cyanogen’s Android. What is open is Android in itself, the platform, and not what the companies want it to be.

android-openThe foundations of Android allow for this liberty, decision space and openness, and it is only when the project is tainted with corporate agendas that it loses that last bit. Ultimately, both Google and Cyanogen constrict Android, but not necessarily negatively. Google’s Android is, to me, a brilliant piece of software largely because of Google services. While I know the difference between the purest of Android and the experience I am accustomed to, things like Google Now are intuitively and intrinsically Android in my mind now. I am sure many of you use Google services as much as we do, even on your custom ROMs that may not even come with them pre-installed. Cyanogen’s vision of Android is noble, but in a Theory of Forms sort of way… and like many ideas, the physical manifestation is subjected to corporate greed and vice, and it ultimately gets tainted. This is what might be happening to Cyanogen now that they are dependent (or rather, “lobbied”) by these huge companies.

Going back to the MADAs: Google is probably not playing fair. In fact, the behind-the-scenes and less-than-noble coercion shows that Google is not willing to battle in an open and fair landscape… or at the very least it shows paranoia and fear that manufacturers would abandon them. Both of these traits as well as the tactics displayed are typical of an authoritarian regime, so in this regard Cyanogen’s claim of a tyrannic Google might have some semblance of truth. However, it is undeniable that the Google experience on Android is one that people love, and while Google might not be the most trustworthy in regards to data mining and partnerships either, Cyanogen’s approach to business leaves too much to be desired.

To round things up: Google’s anti competitivity is neither justified nor noble, but neither is Cyanogen’s outspoken remarks about Google – not when they are effectively doing the same, just with a simpler “remove” button in their app manager menu. Moreover, Google’s best interests are on Android while we can’t say the thing about Microsoft which became Cyanogen’s most notable (and notorious) partner. The war for an open Android is now an open war, and nobody knows what will come out of it. The next few years will be full of interesting developments, especially if the Android investigation and further accusations manage to regulate Google’s Android and further open it up for a more leveraged playing field. This being said, I personally picked my side.

Did you?



Featured image by Aurich Lawson

Android 5.1 OTA for Nexus Round-Up

The beginning of April is dominated by April Fools. There are jokes and pranks everywhere, which are meant to fool people. This news is no joke though, as Google has pushed the shiny red button to send out over-the-air updates to supported devices. Well, sort of, as only a few of available Nexus devices got updates to Android 5.1. Here’s a list of OTAs that can be downloaded and flashed by stock recoveries. You can find guides on how to revert to stock recovery by visiting your home forum.

The newest flagship phone from Google, the Nexus 6, so far received updates to builds LMY47D, which is a global release. Country/carrier specific releases are LMY47M and LMY47I.

XDA Recognized Contributor oldblue910, as always, put all the links together. All you need to do is find your carrier and push the desired package via adb sideload. Links are available in the thread.

The same Archivist-in-Chief managed to provide links for the Nexus 5. An OTA for the phone manufactured by LG was pushed no longer than a few hours go. Builds LMY4&D and LMY47UI are available to download in this thread.

Last of the supported phones, the Nexus 4, hasn’t received an update yet. There are some unofficial builds available on the forum.

Google decided to continue the support for Nexus 7, Nexus 9 and Nexus 10. Not all updates are available, which leads to conclusion that there are some issues that need to be resolved. So far the images were released for Nexus 10 and Nexus 7 Wi-Fi (2012). You can get the OTAs by visiting the threads maintained by… oldblue910. Links for Nexus 7 are available here and for Nexus 10 here.

The last device that got updated was Nexus Player. OTA archive was captured by XDA Forum Member Zenofex. You can find it here.

Some devices are still waiting for the factory images to be released. We will inform you about updates once they are available to download.


The History of Flagships: Part III – HTC

A few months ago, we came up with the idea of presenting the history of flagship devices released by some of the major Android OEMs. In this, we’ve had the pleasure of bringing you the stories of Sony (Ericsson) and Samsung. Now, it’s time for our third and final installment. This is a very special episode, as the OEM I will talk about was heavily connected to Android and the beginnings of XDA as a whole. Yes, I’m talking about HTC, the Taiwanese manufacturer that brought the Android to the masses and still has millions of fans around the world.

HTC’s original full name was High-Tech Computer Corporation, and it was founded in 1997. The company was later officially rebranded to HTC in 2011. HTC has been producing Android devices ever since this operating system was introduced to the public. Before the Android era, HTC released dozens of devices with almost every mobile OS. One of the very first devices released by our Taiwanese hero was the O2 Xda phone, which ran Windows Mobile. It was made under many names including HTC, Quanta and Enima. You might have not known this, but the O2 Xda was one of the main reasons the XDA forum was created back in 2003.

Ever since the launch of Windows Mobile, HTC announced and released dozens of devices running the OS’s various iterations. The strategy of the company changed dramatically in 2008, when Google released the first phone powered by a then-unknown operating system, Android. The birth of the HTC Dream, also known as the T-Mobile G1, was a milestone as the first mass market Android device.HTC-Dream-G1

Dream of Android

The HTC Dream G1 featured a 3.2” screen with an impressive (for the era) 320×480 pixel resolution. HTC loaded up the device with a single core 528 MHz Qualcomm MSM7201A processor. To complete the hardware specifications, the device had a 3.15 megapixel camera, 192 megabytes of RAM and 256 MB of internal storage expandable with microSD card. The phone had an Android navigation bar with physical buttons and a trackball for easier movement between and within fields. HTC added a slide-out keypad, which was standard equipment for many phones of the era.

The Dream G1 shipped with Android 1.0, which was later updated to version 1.5 Cupcake and 1.6 Donut. In 2008, Android was still at a very early stage and lacked some essential features. HTC didn’t sell too many units, but more OEMs decided to give Android a go. As a result, Google’s operating system is now the dominant mobile OS in the world.

The HTC Dream G1 was also known as T-Mobile G1 because it was released exclusively by T-Mobile. In many countries, the name of the phone differed but the hardware specification remained intact. The HTC Dream gave a glimpse of the Android’s potential. The open source operating system, based on the Linux kernel, gave the freedom for third party developers. Early versions of Android gave a birth to custom ROM development, which is now a major hobby for thousands of developers around the world.

Magic of design

The second flavodafone-htc-magic-guidegship device released by HTC was the Magic. The HTC Magic was launched in May 2009, and it had very similar specs to its predecessor. Among the few differences, it featured a whooping 288 MB of RAM, which is 96 MB more than the HTC Dream. A decent 512 MB of internal storage was available, and expandable through the use of a microSD card. Hardware buttons and trackball were still present to make navigation easier.

The HTC Magic shipped with Android 1.5, which brought support for a software keyboard. As such, HTC decided to ditch the slide-out hardware keyboard from the Dream. This move made the Magic a less bulky and lighter animal.

The HTC Magic was in direct competition with the Apple iPhone 3G, which dominated the market at the time. HTC sold one million units in the first three months of distribution. The Magic was the last device from HTC (aside from GPe variants) powered by pure Android. The Dream was supported to Android 2.2 Froyo.


A Modern Hero

The company’s third flagship was released two months later. The HTC Hero (T-Mobile G2 Touch) was the first phone by HTC to feature a 3.5 mm audio jack, a multi-touch display, the HTC Sense user interface, and a “Lite” version of Adobe Flash. The Hero was one of the most modern looking smartphones of the era.

HTC used the same hardware as in the Magic. The only element that was significantly upgraded was the camera, which received an upgrade to 5 megapixels. The Taiwanese manufacturer put lots of efforts into pushing out a really sleek design and providing an even more functional operating system. The original version of Sense was laggy, and it was something that HTC needed to soon address.

The Hero initially ran Android 1.5, but was updated to Android 1.6 and 2.1. HTC planned to release the Android 2.2, but corrected the statement later deciding to update the HTC Evo Design 4G, the direct successor to the Hero.

The Hero showed the direction for its upcoming smartphones. The device didn’t look like a plastic toy, and it featured an attractive new design. Thanks to this phone, HTC left a mark on the smartphone world.


HTC’s Desire to Conquer the World

The fourth flagship by HTC was the HTC Desire. Released in March 2010, it sported a 3.7” AMOLED at 480×800, a single core 1 GHz Qualcomm QSD8250 Snapdragon CPU, and an Adreno 200 GPU. It also featured 576 MB, with 150 MB available to the user. Storage could be expanded up to 32 GB thanks to its microSD card slot.

The Desire shipped running Android 2.1 with Sense 1.9 and Flash 10.1. The phone was officially updated to Android 2.2  and later Gingerbread. The little 250 MB system partition was a huge problem for the latter upgrade, as Android with Sense required more internal storage its limited capacity. On August 01, 2011, HTC finally removed some bloat from Sense and released the Gingerbread update. It was available only as an RUU.

The HTC Desire was often compared to its HTC-built cousin, the Nexus One. However, there were a few differences between these devices. Most noticeably, there was a different body shell, an optical trackpad, an FM Radio, and Sense UI rather than vanilla Android.


“HD” is Better!

The successor to the original Desire was the HTC Desire HD, which was released in October 2010. The Desire HD was a big step when compared to its predecessors. It was the first phone that used the new 1 GHz MSM8255 Scorpion CPU. The new processor used a lower-power 45-nm process technology for higher integration and efficiency. Its Adreno 205 GPU doubled the performance of the older Adreno 200. RAM, camera, and internal storage were upgraded too. The HTC Desire HD featured 768 MB of RAM and 1.5 GB of internal storage. The microSD slot allowed expansion to 32 GB. The screen got bigger, though it didn’t feature an HD resolution as its name might suggest. The 480×800 screen measured in at a rather large 4.3″. And rather than featuring an HD panel, the “HD” in the name stems from the device’s ability to record videos at 720p. With this device, HTC ditched HTC ditched classical physical buttons, replacing them with capacitive navigation keys below the screen.

The HTC Desire HD also featured new software with Dolby Mobile, Sound Retrieval System WOW Surround Sound, DLNA, Adobe Flash Player 10.2, and DivX/Xvid support. The Desire HD shipped with Android 2.2 Froyo and a new and more bloated version of HTC Sense. The device also featured a new fast boot feature, which allowed the device to partially boot up in less than 5 seconds. When the battery was removed and reinserted, the boot time increased to over a minute, highlighting the difference courtesy of this technology. In December of 2011, HTC updated the device to Android 2.3.5 and Sense 3.0. This was the last true flagship bearing the Desire name.


A Dual-Core Sensation

The next flagship from HTC was the HTC Sensation. Released in May 2011, it was the last non-One series flagship phone from HTC. The Sensation was the company’s first dual-core flagship. The Taiwanese OEM gave the device a 1.2 GHz dual-core Qualcomm Scorpion in the basic model and 1.5 GHz dual-core Scorpion in Sensation XE variant. The phone featured 768 MB of RAM and 4 GB of internal storage. The user got 1 GB for personal data, whereas 3 GB was reserved to Android and Sense 3.0 UI. The phone initially shipped with Android 2.3 Gingerbread, but it was later upgraded to Android 4.0.3 Ice Cream Sandwich and Sense 3.6. HTC kept its predecessor’s size at 4.3″, but gave it a qHD display covered in Corning Gorilla Glass. The Sensation also featured an 8-megapixel rear camera and a 2-megapixel front shooter.

The HTC Sensation was HTC’s first device to have its bootloader ship locked. Due to overwhelming customer feedback, the bootloader was unlocked for the new devices. Since August 2011, HTC officially allows users to unlock the Sensation’s bootloaders via HTCdev.com.

Say Goodbye to the Sensation and Hello to the One (X)

One year later, HTC released the first phone from the current One line. The HTC One X sported an Nvidia Tegra 3 SoC, which featured a quad-core ARM Cortex-A9 CPU and an ULP GeForce GPU at 520 MHz. It also featured 1 GB of RAM, 16/32 GB of internal storage, and a 4.7” Super LCD 2 720p display. To avoid physical damage, the screen was covered with Corning Gorilla Glass 2.0. Finally, it featured an 8-megapixel rear camera and a 1.3-megapixel front shooter. The international version of the phone didn’t feature 4G connectivity like its American cousin.

The HTC One X shipped with Android 4.0.4 and Sense 4. HTC managed to update the software to Android 4.2.2 and Sense 5. The One X featured Beats Audio to improve the audio quality, though many would undoubtedly disagree with that assertion. HTC was never good at delivering updates to older phone, so like its predecessors, the HTC One X was abandoned after receiving just two Android updates.

In October 2012, HTC unveiled a refreshed version of One X, aptly named the One X+. Users could get the device in new colors, red and gray, as well as the older white color. Its internal storage was bumped to a whooping 64 GB. HTC also used a bigger, 2100 mAh battery and an Nvidia Tegra 3 clocked at 1.7 GHz SoC, though American variants got the Qualcomm MDM9215 SoC and LTE connectivity.

The HTC One X was a great device and still has lots of fans to this day. But despite its overall greatness and a warm reception by users and the media, HTC had no real chance in competing with the Samsung Galaxy S3 and Galaxy Note 2. Sales started to decline, which was the first sign of hard times to come for this Taiwanese OEM.

The One Branding Lives On

HTC-ProductDetail-Hero-slide-04In February of 2013, HTC announced what is undoubtedly one of its greatest phones to date, the HTC One. This model, which is now referred to as the M7 in order to avoid confusion with the latest flagship (M8), was undoubtedly a premium device. HTC used aluminum as its build material. They also put lots of efforts to make the One a unique device. The device featured a 4.7” at 1080p resolution. It was fast, thanks to its Qualcomm Snapdragon 600, which featured a quad-core Krait 300 clocked at 1.7 GHz and an Adreno 320 GPU. The One featured ample RAM and storage, at 2 GB and 32/64 GB, respectively. Surprisingly HTC decided to use a 4 megaultrapixel camera, which ditched a high resolution in favor of larger pixels. The new UltraPixel technology allowed users to capture great low light shots for a phone, but many found it disappointing in better lighting conditions.

The HTC One shipped with Android 4.1.2 and Sense 5.0. And with this device, HTC showed marked improvements in delivering up-to-date Android versions to its users. In fact, HTC One M7 users should be expecting an update to Lollipop quite soon.Google released a Google Play edition of the device, which was recently updated to Android 5.0.1. Despite various “Phone of the Year” awards, HTC undoubtedly lost to its rivals such as the Galaxy S4 in terms of sales.

One (M8) to Rule Them All

htc-one-m8-w8_storyHTC’s latest flagship phone is yet another device bearing the “One” moniker. This time, we have the HTC One (M8). The M8 was officially unveiled in March of 2014. The new model retains the same general design of the first generation One. However, the M8 features a bigger, 5” 1080p screen and Gorilla Glass 3.0. It also features a quad-core Snapdragon 801 running at 2.26 GHz, an Adreno 330 GPU, 2 GB of RAM, and 16/32 GB of internal storage expandable by microSD card. Once again, HTC decided to use a 4.0-UltraPixel camera. As with its predecessor, the device also featured BoomSound stereo speakers, but they were improved with deeper enclosures, a larger amplifier, and an updated DSP for improved sound quality. In addition, the M8 can be used with a unique Dot View Case that shows the clock and weather forecast without unlocking the phone.

The M8 shipped with Android 4.4.2 and Sense 6.0, but it has since been updated to Android 5.0.2 Lollipop. HTC Sense hasn’t been updated to a newer version. Just like M7, the M8 was also released in Google Play edition form.

In August of 2014, HTC and Verizon Wireless announced the HTC One for Windows, which is powered by Windows Phone 8.1. It’s the first Windows Phone device to be released by HTC since the HTC Windows Phone 8X from 2012. The device is only available in dark gray color.

Return to Nexus

unnamedIn October of 2014, Google announced its latest tablet. The Google Nexus 9 is the first flagship Android device featuring a 64-bit SoC and running a 64-bit version of Android. HTC loaded the device with the powerful Nvidia Tegra K1 SoC, featuring a dual-core 64-bit Denver CPU clocked at 2.3 GHz and 192-core Kepler graphics. The device also comes with 2 GB of RAM and either 16 or 32 GB of storage.

The Nexus 9 was widely criticized for its build quality. Many feel that the OEM’s return go the Nexus name should have been more noteworthy, or at least a better value for the price. However, it would be silly to not consider the Nexus 9 to be an amazing device in many ways.

HTC is a household name, and they’ve done quite a lot of good for Android as a whole. The OEM’s flagships generally always featured top-notch build quality and decent software. Now, HTC gives its users the option to unlock their devices, which opens the doors to custom ROMs and much more development.

Are you a fan of HTC? Do you have some old HTC flagships gathering dust, or is your current daily driver made by this Taiwanese OEM? Let us know in the comments below!