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Legacy Devices Article Series: hTC Blue Angel

Legacy Devices Article Series: hTC Blue Angel

On this series of articles, we will be talking about the Legacy devices, those early times great smartphones that marked the first steps and bases of the actual models. All Legacy Devices will be covered on the same order as threads are placed on XDA-Developers section.

Enter the Angel – hTC Blue Angel

This week we will talk about the powerhouse known as the hTC Blue Angel. Towards the end of 2004, hTC was enjoying the success of its innovative Wallaby, a mildly powerful device that provided some specs of the most commonly used PDAs, while giving the opportunity of using the device as a mobile phone. Other manufacturers were beginning to get into this game as well, including HP with its ipaq 6300 series. This device far surpassed the capabilities of the Wallaby as it came equipped with extras such as Bluetooth, Wifi, a camera, and even a detachable keyboard (just like the Wallaby). This was a wake up call for hTC, and they came up with a whole new concept, which actually bled down into the whole mobile industry. Right around December of that year, hTC released the hTC Blue Angel, which was a technological wonder packed with some of the following specs:

  • 400 MHz Intel XScale Processor PXA263
  • 128 MB RAM and 32 MB of ROM
  • 64 MB of ROM
  • SD Card Slot for non-SDHC cards (up to 4 GB)
  • 802.11 b Wifi
  • Bluetooth 1.1
  • GPRS capable
  • 0.3 MP camera
  • Slide Out QWERTY keyboard
  • QVGA TFT screen
  • and more…

It wasn’t just a matter of the specs being fantastic (even in comparison to some of the much more recent devices, the specs can be considered quite high), but the overall feel and functionality of the Blue Angel was as smooth as a device running WM 2003 SE would ever get. The device was released world wide to a whole bunch of different carriers, and the Blue Angel itself had a little brother for countries with CDMA networks, called the hTC Harrier. Moreover, there were variants of the device like the Siemens SX66, which came with no camera and was sold under Cingular Wireless in the US. Needless to say, the fact that the devices were carrier driven, a lot of features were locked, and tons of memory (rather scarce) was used by carrier apps. This was enough motivation for people to try and unlock the device to get rid of all the unneeded programs. In the process  of removing these apps, a few things were discovered:

  • Carriers had a reserved partition of the storage, safe from hard reset effects, where they stored all their cabs. This is why the specs call for 64 MB but only 42 MB accessible. This was known as the ExtRom.
  • Removing the apps and unlocking said ExtRom allowed the user to have access to the full 64 MB of storage.

Unfortunately, this device was not cheap, but boy did it pack a punch. The battery life on this device was astounding with a 1490 mAh battery pack. Extended packs were available (between 2400 mAh to even 3200 mAh), and this could allow a BA to survive for over a week without charging it (with moderate use). The major flaw was probably the fact that the stylus holder was not properly designed and as such, it would constantly fall off its socket.

At this point you are probably thinking, “looks like a nice device and all, but why all the fuzz?“. The Blue Angel was the first device to ever have had a version of WM ported to it with both Microsoft and hTC claiming that it couldn’t be done. By 2005/2006, the dawn of Magneto (code name for WM 5) was imminent, and our devs were running all over the world trying to get system dumps from demo devices equipped with this OS. It was finally done, and a few months later, we saw the birth of WM5 in a device not designed for it. After many rom revisions, fixes, troubleshooting, and intense testing by all of the community, WM5 finally became usable. Shortly after, Microsoft came up with WM 6.0, which was also ported first to the Blue Angel. The same story repeated for 6.1 and 6.5 as well and with them, also came finger friendly functionality.

You want to talk about versatility? The Blue Angel has full Linux based mobile OS systems capable of running on it (Openmoko, QTopia, and a few others).  To top things off, did you know that the first leaked video and screenshots of Android were taken out of a Blue Angel? Yup, the BA can run it, but since very little to no development was done to it, most drivers are missing.

To sum things up, the Blue Angel became the standard out of which many features for mobile devices were brought to the devices we use today. And even till this day, there are some people who still cook for the Blue Angel (which is a lost art… rather different from cooking for newer devices). If you own an Blue Angel or are curious about some of the roms, capabilities, or even more in the Blue Angel’s story, check out the device forums.

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