Saturday, 16 April 2011

Rooting for the Underdog

I installed Cyanogen 7 onto my HTC Desire this week. Along the way I changed the partition table to free up some space for applications. I now have a phone running the very latest version of Android, and space for plenty more apps.

The ability to customize my phone in this way is very important to me. I will never buy a phone that does not allow me to have root access, or that prevents me from installing ROMs with mechanisms such as signed bootloaders. I didn't know about any of this stuff when I jumped from the good ship Apple (see Operation Bad Apple). I bought an HTC Desire because it seemed like the best Android phone at the time. Had I known about custom ROMs and rooting, I probably would have gone for the Nexus One, because for a while it wasn't possible to get full root access to the Desire. It was only when Alpharev came along that this became possible.

Which is why this link is so important - http://unrevoked.com/rootwiki/doku.php/public/root_friendly. It's a list of phones that are amenable to rooting. You'll notice all the newer HTC phones appear in the "poor choices" category. That's because HTC have started signing the boot partition, making it impossible to install custom ROMs. In my eyes, in the space of a year, HTC have move from being the plucky underdogs who need to be supported. to the dicks that need to be ignored. Although I am very impressed with my HTC Desire, there is no way I will be buying any of the newer HTC phones.

Meanwhile, Sony Ericsson have announced that all their new phones in the Xperia range will have unlockable bootloaders. They even provide a web-site to enable you to unlock the bootloader (see http://unlockbootloader.sonyericsson.com/). This is fantastic news, and is likely to win Sony Ericsson a lot of hardcore Android fans. You'll note that the new Sony phones appear in the "root friendly" section of the unrevoked list.

Hopefully this is a sign of things to come, and more manufacturers will follow Sony's lead. If I were in the market for a new phone right now, I'd probably go for the Sony Arc. This kind of enlightened behaviour from phone manufacturers needs to be encouraged.

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