I am, and have always been, an early adopter of a lot of things, particularly when it comes to technology. My cell phone voyage started back in the year 2000 with a Nokia 5110. Back then, only a handful of people had phones, and seeing someone on the street with one was a somewhat rare sight. Nowadays, the same cannot be said. Cell phones have become a massive commodity—one that gets a lot of attention, and certainly one that is likely one of the most profitable industries in the world today (in the tech sector anyways).
Every Joe Schmuck and Jane Doe sport the latest Galaxy devices or one of Apple’s latest iconic iPhones (just to mention a few manufacturers). Sure, they all have a somewhat interesting appeal, and many of them are loaded with more unique functions and capabilities that (in theory) make life a lot easier. However, looking at the overall market and trying to overlay an innovation line through the timeline from the early 2000′s (when Nokia reigned supreme) ’til today, we can easily notice a few trends that are worrying and don’t necessarily correlate with what anyone would expect from “progress” or “development.”
Going back to the very beginning of my article, I mentioned owning a dinosaur of a phone, the Nokia 5110. The device was a jewel, and it did exactly what it needed to do (and far more). The device was relatively cheap to get with a 2-3 year agreement. So, the device manufacturer (again, in this particular case, Nokia) knew that in order to have a good customer base, the devices needed to last that long. After all, not everyone could spend $400-600 USD on a phone upgrade while still being locked in the middle of a contract, nor were they willing to do so either.
Nokia designed the 5100 series with a few crucial engineering concepts in mind: good battery, reliable, easy to service, and durable. I had my device for the length of my contract before I decided to upgrade (mainly due to swapping carriers). I have to admit that it must have been one of the best cell phones I have ever had the pleasure of using. Not because of the usage per se, but rather how the device gave me 0 issues in the course of 3 years of ownership. Needless to say, the thing was built to last, as the body was virtually indestructible (exaggerating a tad here, but it was a tough device). When I upgraded, I went with a Nokia 8210. They had done a good job because with their mindset, they created a device that prompted me to want to see what else they could come up a few years down the line—all that without compromising my ability to enjoy the one I currently had. Ah, those were the days.
Fast forward to 2007 (big jump, I know). The iPhone was released and the (back then) current king of smartphones, Windows Mobile HTC devices and Blackberry, were dethroned. Because of silly mistakes, loads of bugs, and a simple yet effective marketing strategy to get people to buy more, the iPhone 1G sees a successor not much later down the line. Seeing how many other manufacturers were now jumping into the bandwagon, stable and decent cell phone manufacturers saw themselves in dire need to release more products in a shorter timespan. This was primarily done to keep up with their competitors, who were quickly gaining market share due to shorter intervals between new products. The next thing that happened (and still does to this day), new models are released every 6-9 months, each one promising to be “better” than their predecessor(s). This last statement is the cornerstone of this entire article. Why are manufacturers releasing devices that are NOT designed to be the best they have to offer? It isn’t that they develop new tech for newer versions. Rather, they make enough (in)significant changes to the existing one, such that it can be labeled the “next best thing.”Does any of this sound familiar?
I myself am an engineer, as many of you are as well (or studying to become). It honestly makes my blood boil when I consider the engineering teams behind the product development of some of these devices. No longer are devices durable. Rather, they have gone entirely to the other end of the spectrum and have become practically disposable. I simply cannot believe that a $500-1000 USD item becomes “irreparable.” Product design basics dictate that any engineered product is designed to have a certain life expectancy under normal conditions, tear, and wear, and even leave some leeway for accidents. If products need repair, they should be perfectly serviceable by the manufacturer without having to charge the consumer exorbitant amounts of money to get the product back in working order. Needless to say, whenever a phone does break this day and age, sending it in for repairs is a fruitless ordeal due to the fact that more often than not, the device will be deemed as “not repairable” due to directions coming from engineering design teams.
Make the world a better place through the application of science? That is what product engineering should be about. Squeezing every last drop of sweat over your own design and making sure that you put your very best efforts into making something that people will have for years (not months) to come is what every engineering company should strive for. Unfortunately, this was quickly replaced with “ooh, look how shiny this new toy is,” which is then followed by “oh, your old one? pfft That is so 3 months ago…. you won’t get two pennies for it on eBay, and don’t even think about repairing it.”
We as consumers have allowed these companies to throw basic engineering practices out the window so that they can squeeze more juice out of us. Now, I have no issues with companies trying to make money. Hell, that is what they do after all. But when greed takes over your most basic principles, I simply have no sympathy. I still recall our friend XDA Senior Recognized Developer AdamOutler doing an unboxing of the new Droid Razr when it came out. His words have been stuck in my head ever since. “Motorola made this device to be disposable.” Why? What was the point of making the device “disposable?” Why did such an important part of engineering a new product (ease of service) gets tossed aside like this? Would it kill you to make your device fixable? Another example: I tried to fix the digitizer of my HTC Titan a few days ago, but ended up destroying the LCD entirely. Why would there be any need to superglue both LCD and digitizer and superglue that combo to the device’s body? To keep them in place you say? There are small, low profile screws that will do the job just as well without jeopardizing the serviceability of the device or its overall design (read: they will not make it any thicker).
The entire world has been sucked into a game that the companies play on a large scale. They are trying to see just how much they can shove down our throats, all while expending the least amount of effort in doing so. These practices not only have the effects mentioned earlier, but they can also have dangerous consequences (bulging exploding battery of SGS2 devices anyone?). The core activities here on XDA-Developers actually somewhat put a damper on this, as the allure of “a new OS version exclusive to a device” is now mitigated. But unfortunately, software is just but a small part of the overall equation.
Next time you are out there shopping for a cell phone, just think about a very important thing that goes beyond specs or pretty colors. Just think about how well the product you are about to purchase was engineered. Let that be your deciding factor, and don’t simply fall in line with the rest of the masses who will jump at anything shiny like fish in heat. There are manufacturers out there that still care about trying to keep their core engineering values. To these companies, kudos. To the ones like HTC, which used to be like this (my HTC Wallaby that I bought in 2003 and that has been through hell and back still works), look at your early years and try again. Get off the path you are in right now because you will lose this race. And to the companies that simply don’t give two flying feathers about engineering, progress, and making the world a better place (looking at you Apple), I sincerely hope that your lack of engineering values comes back with a vengeance and bites you where the sun doesn’t shine.
If I have to choose between a phone that is 0.0001 mm thick but that will break upon looking at it without any way to fix it or my old 5110, I’ll take my old Nokia any day of the week. At least, that has engineering at heart.
It should come as no surprise that here at XDA, we are always calling on the OEMs to do a better job of removing the bloat of their custom UIs (Samsung – we’re looking at you and your now insane TouchWiz size) and improving the overall user experience. What may come as a shock to some, though, is that a recent study by researchers at North Carolina State University says that those same OEMs, and their incessant need to have a custom UI as some sort of “branding,” are directly responsible for most of the security issues found with Android. Cue Home Alone face.
In all honesty, we really shouldn’t be all that surprised. XDA Elite Recognized Developer jcase gave a great talk at XDA:DevCon13 where he discussed “Android Security Vulnerabilites and Exploits.” There, he identified how OEMs (LG was his main example) are directly responsible for many of the vulnerabilities and exploits he finds.
The researchers at NC State found that 60% of the security issues were directly tied to changes OEMs had made to stock Android, specifically related to apps requesting more permissions than were necessary. They looked at 2 devices from each 4 different OEMs (Sony, Samsung, LG and HTC), with one running a version of Android 2.x and another running 4.x from each OEM, along with the Nexus S and Nexus 4 from Google.
Here are a few of the findings:
For the user, this should be a warning to pay attention to the permissions used when you install an app and take steps to protect yourself, like with the Xposed module XPrivacy. For OEMs, shame on you. Consumers place trust, no matter how unfounded and risky that is, on you. For you to be breaking that trust by not being responsible and open in your dealings and development is just plain careless.
The full study, presented yesterday at the ACM Conference on Computer and Communications Security in Berlin, is definitely a good read, with specific case studies done on the Samsung Galaxy S3 and LG Optimus P880.
Source: MIT Technology Review
[Thanks to XDA Elite Recognized Developer toastcfh for the tip.]
If you own or have owned an HTC device, chances are that you have come across a ROM Update Utility. RUUs are Windows-based utilities that do as their names suggest: They update your mobile device’s ROM. What do you do if instead of installing the ROM directly, you would rather extract the ROM contents from the RUU? Thankfully, XDA Recognized Contributor matt95 has created a series of guides aimed at doing exactly this.
Matt95′s first guide shows you how to build and use the required tool (created by Kenny Millington) to UnRUU your HTC ROM Update Utility. For those who would rather not bother with compiling the tool, matt95 has also included the executable in a later post. Once your ROM.zip has been extracted, you then need to decrypt it to be able to work with it. Thankfully, matt95 has also created a second guide aimed at doing exactly this. In other words, you take the ROM.zip generated by the previous guide, and you then apply a second tool (also created by Kenny Millington) to finish the job.
Do you consider yourself a die hard HTC fan? If so, we can’t blame you. Their latest flagship, the HTC One, has been a great success, combining great build quality, snappy internals, and a remarkable screen.
If you’re a fan, we wouldn’t be surprised if you already have something in your forum signature displaying your patronage to Taiwan’s most prominent smartphone manufacturer. However, having more options is never a bad thing.
XDA Forum Member Sgt-Obst created and shared a collection of HTC-loving banners. Stylish and sleek, these 500 x 100 images are perfectly sized for use in your forum signature. Images for the HTC One, HTC One X, HTC One S, HTC One Mini, and HTC Sensation XE are included, as well as images showing love towards HTC Dev and Sense UI.
Sgt-Obst is also taking requests for future devices to be added to the banner list, so head over to the original thread to show your HTC love.
So it’s been a week since XDA:DevCon 13 passed, and I am still blown away by the excitement, energy, and community that flowed out of the event. With top-notch speakers and sponsors giving their all, and a hotel staff that was committed to making sure everything went smoothly, there was hardly a chance for Uncle Murphy (the bad luck icon, not our amazing opening speaker Mark Murphy) to make an appearance.
Going into this event I didn’t know what to expect—much like when you and your significant other find yourselves expecting a child, you spend months planning something, but you still don’t know what is really in store. Is it going to come out looking like this or more like this?
So many exciting things happened, some of which XDA TV Producer Jordan Keyes spoke about in his recap last week, while others will probably never see the light of day (but have something to do with a dancing video bomb, crazy developer drink shots, and a dancing penguin, to name a few). One thing’s for certain though: without the support of the XDA community, and willingness to take a risk and show up to a new conference, this would have never been a success. Also, a big thanks goes out to XDA Staff, Sponsors, and Speakers who made it possible for this baby to be born.
It’s with that in mind that I want to give a shout out to those sponsors below. Without each and every one of them, XDA:DevCon would not have had the amazing giveaways and allow us the ability to serve amazing food during the conference. We thank you for your commitment and willingness to join us at our first ever developer conference.
June 7, 2013 By: Pulser_G2
In light of HTC’s persistent refusal to give in, and stop wasting their customers’ money on their failed attempts to lock down bootloaders, it is rather pleasing to note that the Revolutionary team has made its return to the HTC One forums, to present their early-access developer preview of Revone.
Posted by XDA Recognized Developer ieftm, it appears the Revolutionary team have been busy once again. The current tool is clearly labelled as an early access preview, and it is worth heeding the warnings. That said, this appears ready to use if you have suitable experience in working with command line tools such as adb and fastboot.
The exploit takes the form of a single binary, which is pushed to /data/local/tmp (a location where the user has free access to write files to using the adb service, and execute them from within), and run the prepare command (revone -P) in order to prepare the device for the process of gaining S-OFF. The next step is arguably of most interest, where the bootloader can be unlocked, locked (without setting the re-locked flag), relocked (leaving the relocked flag in place), and the tamper flag can be reset.
With the ability to reset flags like the tamper flag, one really must question the usefulness of such a “security” feature. If it can be reset solely using software, does it offer much protection whatsoever? Bootloader locks are a useful security feature when they can only be removed by the legitimate owner, but unfortunately HTC continues to offer incomplete locks to developers, and the community has once again taken it upon itself to right this.
Do bootloader locks help with device security, or do they simply serve to satisfy controlling carriers’ thirst to exert control over devices on their network? Either way in this case, it is clear the Revolutionary team has shown they offer little in the way of security. Those looking to get started should head over to the development thread for more details.
April 24, 2013 By: Jimmy McGee
If you’ve seen XDA Developer TV Producer Steve’s video on switching from Windows Phone to Android, you know Steve has no problem sharing his thoughts. He has been reviewing apps on the different operating systems. He has been using Samsung Devices to represent Android and Windows Phone, the Samsung Galaxy Nexus and the Samsung ATIV S, respectively.
However, his satisfaction with his Samsung devices has waned and he is switching to HTC. Steve takes the time to explain why Samsung is not the brand for him. He shares the frustration and quirks he experienced with Samsung. Check this video out.
April 12, 2013 By: Jimmy McGee
HTC has released the source code for the HTC One and updated source for the Droid DNA. That story and more are covered by Jordan, as he reviews all the important stories from this week. Included in this week’s news is a discussion of the Firefox OS Port for the HTC Explorer and a bunch of forum additions.
Jordan talks about the other videos released this week on XDA Developer TV. XDA Developer TV Producer Steve had a cross-platform Instagram App Shootout and XDA Developer TV Producer Kevin gave us a demonstration of Dashclock. Pull up a chair and check out this video.
If you are an HTC user, you are more than likely be familiar with RUUs or ROM update utilities, the format in which HTC provides their stock ROMs and updates. For those unfamiliar, they are basically a ROM for a particular device, packaged inside an executable file that is to be run from a PC. While they do provide a safe and easy way for people to update their device, they are somewhat inflexible for anyone who might wish to modify the firmware before flashing it. There’s also the issue that .exe files aren’t all that much use to anyone not running Windows.
HTC ROM Extractor by XDA Senior Member as i9000 however, can help with the issues. It’s a Linux based tool that allows you to perform various different functions to make better use of the RUU in its original form. Some of the features include:
You’ll need to have a working installation of libunshield v0.7 or higher in order to proceed. Instructions on how to install that are provided in the thread. So if you’re looking to tinker with some RUUs on Linux, check out the original thread for more information.
In case you are waking up late today, HTC launched their new flagship phone this morning: the new HTC One. The device sets the bar for HTC’s 2013 lineup in many ways including hardware specifications, aesthetic design, build quality, camera image quality, and of course screen. Are you curious to see how it performs in some popular benchmarks? Read on to find out!
Update: Seeing is believing. I’ve added benchmark pictures past the break. I’ve also added in AnTuTu benchmark results below.
February 19, 2013 By: Will Verduzco
We’re here live at HTC’s press event in the lovely (and frigid) Manhattan, where we anticipate many important flagship products will be launched. Much speculation has been made regarding the possible official appearance of a certain highly anticipated device. At this point, it seems all but certain.
Update: That’s a wrap. The new HTC One has seen the light of day. Those interested should visit our preliminary benchmarks article. Also, those looking to watch the entire presentation themselves can do so courtesy of a rebroadcast care of commenter/reader siemz.
Update 2: Pictures taken with a real camera added after the break.
Let’s face it: HTC is far from being the model of the open source development world. While they still have a large following, their recent earnings statements are an indication that their followers are no longer following them. Their deliberate snubs at the development community, and the users who depend on them, have ranged from complete lack of required GPLv2 kernel source code to locked bootloaders and then allowing a pseudo-unlock which prohibits the flashing of partitions. With a net profit of only $33mil in Q4 2012 (down almost 90% from Q4 2011) and sales down 7% in January 2013 compared to January 2012, it’s obvious something needs to change. HTC’s CEO Peter Chou seems to think that marketing is the way to solve their problems though. Living in a different dimension, anyone?
Typically we would say that providing OS updates to devices is a great step to keeping the user happy, but this is another area in which HTC continues to falter. They have routinely promised updates to their phones and then delayed them or just flat out said they aren’t happening. Now, as luck would have it, the HTC Thunderbolt, a device launched in mid 2011, is finally getting the ICS update after being promised it would be released back in August of 2012. Verizon notified users a few days ago that an OTA update would be slowly rolling out to those still using this older device, with the software version upping the device to Android 4.04 (HTC Build 7.02.605.06710RD) and HTC Sense 3.6. What is interesting is Verizon has added a new application to the Thunderbolt, “Verizon Remote Diagnostics.” If you look at the description for this application, it sure seems like HTC and Verizon haven’t learned a thing from the CarrierIQ saga of late 2011.
New customer care solution to improve customer service experience. When a customer calls into Verizon Wireless customer care, this solution, with the customer’s permission, allows support personnel to remotely view the user’s device for device training, application demonstrations and troubleshooting.
There is currently a thread discussing the update, with development soon to follow once XDA’s developers get their hands on it.
As many of you know by now, last couple of weeks have been quite intense in terms of what is happening in this little underground world of ours. Just as a means of providing you with a brief tl;dr summary, essentially one of our own devs, who goes by the name of XDA Recognized Contributor and Developer jmztaylor was sent a take down request by HTC of North America. The issue/explanation for this request was two-fold. Part A involved the fact that our dev had his own personal website under the address htcruu.com. Now, Unless you have direct, explicit permission from someone with authority to grant it, you should never use a trade name for your own purposes, even if you are not using them with commercial intent. Part B came a little later, but with a much harsher and almost feared request by many on our site. Jmztaylor was being ordered to take down the RUUs present on his site, as well as any custom ROMs he may be hosting. This, of course, triggered the rage of many in our community whose voices were heard across the tech world.
Now that the background has been taken care of, let us move onto more recent events. Late last week, HTC posted a little explanation in their dev blog. A letter from LEIGH MOMII was posted, which essentially explained how the letter was only meant to tackle the issues with the website’s name and HTC’s logo being used without permission. Furthermore, Ms. Momii explained how they would never do something like trying to shut down custom ROMs for any of their devices. This letter drew much skepticism from across the board, and one can easily spot it in the comments left by people in the article’s comments section. For those of you getting ready to grab pitchforks and torches thinking that this is a nightmare come true, you may want to hold off until the entire situation dies down a bit, and here is why. HTC is no stranger to shelling out take down requests whenever they think their IP is being put in jeopardy. Many of you will likely remember the case of XDA retired developer conflipper and his website www.shipped-roms.com. This site came under heavy legal fire, courtesy of HTC, for sharing virtually every RUU ever released (and not released) with the general public. Most of us were rather enraged about the whole scenario since his site was a unique source where people could look into to obtain RUU’s that were no longer available from either the carriers or even from HTC themselves.
After the involvement from many lawyers and tons of back and forth, the issue was resolved and the site was allowed to stay so as long as it was not sharing “private” or “unreleased” RUUs. Whether HTC agreed to this due to the extremely bad PR being generated or because of their “support to the custom ROM community” is something that we are not really privy to. However, if history has shown us anything regarding sending suits against developers, is that more often than not, thing don’t end well for the attacking party. It would be interesting, to say the least, to see if the statement about their support was coming from a “lesson learned” rather than because of actual support and care.
Having said this, jmztaylor did say that this statement from HTC is contradictory to the letter and subsequent communications by HTC where it is explicitly stated that the RUUs and custom ROMs must come down due to concerns about distribution of IP. So, who would you believe? Someone who has done similar things in the past, or a dev who is freely sharing his work and resources without really trying to annoy or be a nuisance to anyone? Needless to say, this was a rhetorical question. At this point in time, HTC is desperately trying to save face with the community. Developers once loyal to the brand are jumping ship front, right, and center because of the “games” played by the Taiwanese manufacturer (pseudo unlocked bootloaders, lack of kernel sources, etc) and HTC seems to be looking in a different direction or simply ignoring the situation altogether.
Luckily, just like it was the case with conflipper, the issue was peacefully resolved, and jmztaylor’s site is back up and running. HTC explained the entire case to the dev and also went on to elaborate that the reason why action was taken against the files was that they were (mistakenly) told that the RUUs and ROMs were being sold due to a Paypal link on the dev’s site. All the files are being shared as usual, with the exception of leaked RUUs, which HTC does not want to see floating around, mainly due to liability. Having said all this, we have a little something that is directed towards HTC. Something that we feel they should pay close attention to…
If you were really looking forward to working with the community and trying to support it, let me give you a few pointers. First and foremost, drop the bully attitude. Yes, you are the manufacturer, and we know and respect that. However, trying to assert dominance by roaring is simply not going to work with us. Our devs work on your manufactured products because you still have a dash of friendliness with us. However, and make no mistake, devs know each other, and word of mouth is one of the most devastating things in terms of making or breaking your image in a given market. Keep chasing and hunting people down, and it is likely that you won’t have many more devs to worry about.
Secondly, you need to open your eyes and understand that we are not here to steal your proprietary IP. We simply want to make our phones more functional, and ensure that our hard paid hardware gets to live a little longer than 6 months. Point in case, I personally own an EVO 3D running Sense 4.1 with bits and pieces of 4.5. However, due to your internal policies, I am currently unable to use its 3D camera or 4G because you are unable to provide the necessary code to get them going. (Well, 4G does work on a few AOSP Roms, but certainly not 3D, and DEFINITELY not on Sense ROMs). After many months, you decided to release the sources for the Amaze 4G camera. It is obviously possible since you did it, why not do it on a more timely manner? Life has shown me a few things in the professional world, but one of the most important ones is this: You can always sell a box once, but if you cannot/will not support it, you will not sell another one. Plain and simple.
Last but not least, next time you think that someone is using your stuff without permission, just consider your options. Instead of going in full force with lawyers and take down requests, how about trying to talk to the person? This ENTIRE thing could have been prevented if someone from your PR dept would have gotten in touch with jmztaylor and would have talked about a change of name and a different logo due to the reasons you state. Why do you need to prove that you are a bigger entity with deeper pockets than a regular hobbyist who is doing nothing more than sharing stuff on the Internet? Next time your lawyers decide that you have to do something, please take a step back and look at the possible consequences. We don’t want to cut ties with you, but you are certainly making strides for that to happen.
Just something to think about.
Thank you for reading.
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