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.]
Another wonderful International CES has passed us by. The event was filled with many exciting displays, like the Intel Ultrabook Tree, but most important were the announcements made by many manufactures. Some announcements are still years out, embodying nothing more than an idea. Other announcements having working prototypes, while still others are in the final stages before release or have been released.
The morning started off with an LG press conference. They talked at length about “Touch[ing] the Smart Life.” They then talked about their “smart” products. This included everything from refrigerators and washing machines to televisions with more pixels than people in New York.
They spoke briefly about connected devices. They talked about a washing machine that you can start with your smartphone using NFC. You can control their robotic vacuum with your smartphone. They also covered standard device mirroring, or showing your mobile devices screen on your television. The talk included simplifying the setup for this, using a “one touch connection.”
They spoke about their advanced touch interface on their mobile devices. However, only three features of this UI were shown. One was the live zoom feature, which allows you to zoom in and out in a playing video, and another was called “Vu: Talk,” which from gather allows you to write on the screen while talking to someone.
Finally, they talked about their mobile device releases, but most of these devices are not new. They talked about the LG Intuition and its “genius” 4:3 aspect ratio, because that’s the aspect ratio of documents that you view on your phone. Also, they talked about the LG Optimus G—which they went on to call not just a smartphone, but a superphone—and the Google Nexus 4.
All in all, it doesn’t appear that there are currently any breakthrough devices coming from LG. Surprising, right? So developers need not salivate over anything on the LG mobile line up for a while. Judging from their presentation, they instead seem to be focusing on making televisions with more and more pixels at this time.
The LG P350, also known as the LG Optimus ME Titanium, is a mid range device that is pretty affordable. If that isn’t enough, it also has received CyanogenMod 7.
XDA Member pax0r has been kind enough to compile the mega popular ROM to this humble device and while the ROM is still a beta, it’s got enough features working to use as a daily driver for some people.
The list of features not working is very short and only includes a small break in the camera where users can’t see previews. However, the camera does still take pictures. This doesn’t mean there aren’t more, as pax0r states:
It’s testing and still WIP release so there still could be bugs.
Before installing, make sure you pick up the LG Optimus ME compatible custom recovery from the link and always take the proper precautions such as creating a full backup. Once you’ve got the proper prerequisites, though, it’s all a matter of installing the ROM.
For additional information, the installation instructions, download links and if you just want to keep updated on the progress, you can find all that and more in pax0r’s original thread.
January 9, 2012 By: liwen
If you’ve been following the LTE-wars, you know that Sprint has decided to diversify beyond WiMax by building a LTE network. Today, Sprint has announced its first two LTE devices, both of which run Android. The first ought to be familiar: the Samsung Galaxy Nexus. It’ll be the same Galaxy Nexus that we already know (with a 1.2GHz TI OMAP CPU, 1GB of RAM, and a 720p S-AMOLED HD display), except that it’ll come pre-loaded with Google Wallet. Then we have the new LG Viper, which will also ship with a 1.2GHz CPU and 1GB of RAM, but a lower-resolution 4″ WVGA Nova display. It also has Google Wallet pre-installed, and thus a NFC chip. The Viper is made from eco-friendly materials, like recycled plastic.
It’s always good news when a device gets MIUI. Along with CyanogenMod, it’s among the most popular ROMs out there and a “must have” for pretty much any Android device.
The features are pretty standard for an MIUI ROM and include a couple others:
*All features of Official MIUI
*Wi-Fi Calling (Yes it works!)
*Zipalign and Permission scrips by Team Kang
*Trinity Kernel by morfic
There is also a 2nd build with a different kernel in case you’re more into overclocking your CPU than you are saving on battery life so whichever fits your need better is available to you.
As with any ROM there is a few known issues. With this ROM there is a surprisingly low amount, just a few users getting an “invalid SIM” message when trying to use WiFi calling after a reboot. Nothing too bad and stormageddon has even taken the liberty to post patches that fix an annoying theming bug should anyone get it. Isn’t that just super nice of him?
So if you’re aching for some MIUI love, then you can head on over to the original thread for all the change log, shout outs, download links and discussion goodness. You can never go wrong running MIUI.
In this time of bleeding edge performance, older devices fall by the wayside as newer, better versions are released. The day a phone is sent to the low activity forum of XDA, is the day that the community officially aknowledges the end of a device’s useful life cycle; it means that development has slowed to a crawl and new ROM’s have all but stopped being produced.
The LG GT540 Optimus is one such device, however, developer mikegapinski refuses to let it die. You see not only did he build a custom ROM for the Optimus, but he built an ICS ROM. Your not reading that incorrectly. From his website:
USB/WIFI Tethering Working with alternative apps 80%
RIL Working 100%
Sound Working 100%
Headset Working 100%
Touchscreen Working 100%
HW/3D Little issues 80%
Screen Working 100%
ADB Working 100%
SDCard Working 100%
Vibration Working 100%
Sensors Working 100%
WiFi Working 100%
3G Working 100%
Bluetooth Working 100%
GPS Working 100%
Camera Not working 0%