The Advantages of Rooting Your Android Device

Do you know what the single greatest feature of Android is? It has quite a few, but the fact that it is based on the open-source Linux system makes it an absolute dream for hardware manufacturers, who have absolute freedom in how they design their products to utilize the Android platform most effectively. Even better than that fact, is that with a rooted Android device, it opens the door for anyone to customize their experience to better suit their needs. In a world where customization is key to success, Android certainly has an upper advantage to Apple, Microsoft, and RIM.

Of course, the hardware manufacturers do not want you to “root” your phone. “Rooting” is the term used to describe unlocking your bootloader and allowing you to control elements of your phone that you previously did not. The bootloader is what starts your phone and runs it. By exploiting a hole in the bootloader, developers can make it easy for you to unlock your device, and customize it in a way that your manufacturer may not necessarily want you to.

Just a word of warning, though: Rooting your device will void your warranty, should something happen and the phone become inoperable after tweaking. It’s not for the faint of heart, so if you do not have even the most basic knowledge of coding or programming, you probably should not consider rooting your phone.

Since rooting requires a different process on practically every different piece of Android hardware, I’m not going to show you how it’s done. It’s easy on some phones, and harder on others. If you want to proceed, after reading the advantages listed below, visit XDA Developers, go to the forums, and search for your device. There should be instructions somewhere in each phone’s set of forums that will provide you with a step by step rundown of how it works. For now though, let’s take a look at some of the top advantages of rooting your device:

1. Custom ROM support eliminates all of that bloatware
As mobile devices become more powerful and have more storage space on them–your carrier will likely fill them with more and more “bloatware.”. Bloatware is the term for applications that are put on your phone when you get it, that you may not necessarily ever use. For example, Sprint packs Blockbuster, it’s own GPS service, and a bunch of other apps onto the Evo 3D. Since I typically use both Netflix and Google Maps as alternatives for these apps, they become useless and unnecessary to have on my device. Unfortunately, unlike applications that you install, you cannot uninstall pre-installed software.

The ROM on your phone is the operating system. Developers, looking to get their foot in the door in the developing world, spend days, weeks, and months creating custom versions of the Android software that aim to increase performance over the stock ROM. These custom ROMs will install a fresh copy of Android, minus all of that bloatware garbage that you don’t want. The elimination of this software alone will help increase your storage space, and your available memory bank as well.

2. Superuser Privileges
What are “superuser” privileges? They allow an app that typically changes some kind of setting on your phone to do what you want it to. When you root your device, this application is typically installed with it, allowing you to download apps that would allow you to “tweak” your phone. Good examples would include–file managers, CPU adjusters, tethering apps (we don’t condone violating your carrier’s tethering policies. Just don’t do it), screenshot applications, and software tweaking apps.

3. Tweak your performance!
Performance is everything in today’s age of faster mobile devices. Everyone needs their information quicker, and by tweaking the performance levels on your phone, you can do just that! Through apps like SetCPU, where you can adjust the processor speed on your phone (be very cautious with this, as it can destroy your phone. Do not attempt if you do not know what you’re doing!!), and custom “kernels (custom CPU settings that will automatically tweak your processor for better battery life, speed, etc.),” you can make your performance better than a stock device.

Again, I cannot emphasize the danger of tweaking your CPU settings if you do not know what you’re doing. Custom kernels are the best way to avoid “bricking” your phone. On XDA Developers, you can find a whole selection of custom kernels for your device, which aim to either increase speed or battery life. Find what’s best for you, and flash it to your phone. It’s that simple.

4. Complete and total customization
Do you want to run stock Android 2.3.3 Gingerbread, with no software changes or tweaks? It exists in CyanogenMod. If you’re still rockin’ the T-Mobile G1, and you want to run HTC Sense on your ancient device? Its out there.

With the custom ROM support that Android receives, you can do practically anything you want to with your Android experience. There are ROMs out there that mimic the iOS experience, even. If you want to try creating your own ROM, the tools exist out there (though, just like everything else in this post, it’s not for those who don’t know what they are doing!). Whatever you want to do to make your phone YOUR phone, you can pretty much do by rooting your phone. By adding a custom ROM, maybe a custom theme to go with it, custom fonts, and other tweaks–you can really make the Android experience nothing short of spectacular.

If you’re the type that really likes to break free of locked hardware and make your phone completely “yours,” go to XDA and work on rooting your device. Most devices are rootable. You’ll need a PC (Windows, or even easier, Mac and Linux make the process a lot smoother), a data cable, and a good how-to guide, along with some software you would download from XDA. Ater you are rooted, the gateway to mobile freedom is open!

Disclaimer (again): If you do not know what you are doing beforehand, or if the process looks too difficult for you to attempt, DO NOT ATTEMPT IT! Digital Lust takes no responsibility for you turning your phone into a paperweight if you mess it up!

The Post-PC World: Is It Here?

If there’s only one reason why I love Apple, it is their dedication to morphing the landscape for the post-PC world. Apple has made great strides in innovating technology to get people away from their PCs and more in-line with the mobile generation. Other companies are following suit, releasing new products and services to help end the home computer era.

In 2007, Apple unleashed the original iPhone, a device unlike any other, that changed the game for the the mobile world. It launched along with the App Store, a new service, similar to iTunes, where owners of the iPhone could purchase and download apps and games directly onto their devices. Fast forward a few years, and Apple announces and releases the iPad, a new tablet computer running iOS, that became an affordable, lightweight alternative to the laptop. With it’s 9.1″ screen, the iPad seemed like a viable solution for the on-the-go person. Featuring everything that made the iPhone so great on a much larger screen, the iPad became an instant success. Accessories like keyboards have become available for the iPad, which further makes it more of an option against the laptop.

One appealing feature about the iPad is how well it replaces the PC experience. For example, applications, such as Pages on the iPad, are a much cheaper and very functional replacement to your current word processing application. These apps feature the same functionality that you would find a PC version, at an extremely significant fraction of the price. Gaming has become even more significantly easy on the iPad than it ever was on a PC–no lag, no having to change out graphic cards or memory to support a game, and better control scheme. The user experience of a PC becomes irrelevant and unnecessary compared to what you see on a tablet.

Others have tried to emulate the experience. Google, which released the first version of it’s popular Android operating system in October 2008, has been working to perfect their open-source project into something that will help further shape the mobile landscape to its highest potential. Microsoft, too, has worked to perfect the new Windows Phone experience, where everything is more easily available by simple tiles on the home screen. The amount of mobile usage is at it’s highest point ever, with some users, myself included, completely abandoning the home computer in favor of smartphones and tablets.

Last month, Apple held a press conference to announce iCloud, their new online storage product that allows users to store practically everything “in the cloud.” Word documents, music, photos, applications, and other files will soon have the capability to be stored in your own virtual hard drive, powered by Apple, and accessible across all of your devices, with no wires or syncing required. The cloud concept is not new of course, with companies like Amazon and Google already offering these services for music. Apple is ultimately looking to keep users from using their PCs even more, by backing everything up to the cloud and turning the computer off. Apple is also eliminating the need to sync to iTunes to activate or update your iPad or other iDevice. All updates, starting with iOS 5 when it releases in September, will be handled over-the-air. The need for a physical hard drive is diminishing. The need for wires is diminishing. An era is ending.

What does this mean for companies like Microsoft, who have strived to maintain their Windows operating system? Microsoft is hard at work on Windows 8, which is a complete and total revamp of anything that you have ever seen on the platform. Windows 8 takes the tile concept first seen in the new Windows Phone 7, and evolves it into a desktop experience that promises to be unique and revolutionary. Windows 8 is designed specifically with tablets in mind, as Microsoft is well aware of this new revolution.

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Microsoft’s upcoming Windows 8 utilizes the MetroUI look first seen on Windows Phone 7.

It will be interesting to see where this new mobile generation takes us. With cords disappearing, syncing becoming a thing of the past, and tablets becoming more and more affordable and easier to use, it may be time to retire your ol’ PC. It’s something that I have recently done, and couldn’t be happier with. What do you think?

Digital Lust Daily Feed: July 1st, 2011

I hope you’re enjoying our grand opening day celebrations! It’s now time to take a look at the top stories dominating the tech world today:

Google in Talks to buy Hulu?
Various media are reporting today that Google is in preliminary talks with Hulu in an effort to add them to the unstoppable Internet empire’s already sterling portfolio of services. Hulu, the top online distributor of television shows on the Internet, has prepared itself for sale by working with creators of the content that is shown on it’s website. The media is also reporting that Yahoo is a potential buyer for the company. Who will win the war? Only time will tell!

Facebook to Launch Video Chat Service?
Facebook sent out an invitation to the media today inviting them to an announcement that they will be making next week. Popular tech site TechCrunch has reported that the social media giant will announce a video chatting service, similar to the Google+ Hangouts feature on Google+. Furthermore, TechCrunch is reporting that the video chat service will be created in a partnership with Skype. If not a video chat service that will be announced, another possibility is the long-awaited iPad app.

Twitter hits 200,000,000 tweets per day!
Lots of milestones hit this week. Twitter announced that their popular microblogging service has surpassed 200 million tweets per day. This is up from 65 million tweets per day around a year ago. It makes you wonder, though–how many of these tweets are considered spam? To put this into perspective: Digital Lust’s new Twitter account was just launched today and has already turned away a few prosti-twits from following it.

Windows Phone Marketplace hits 25,000 apps
Windows Phone 7 launched late last year, and already has hit 25,000 apps. Of course, this is nowhere near the amount of apps that are present on the Android Market or the Apple App Store. Windows Phone 7 is quickly gaining steam, however, and it will certainly be interesting to see how it is performing this time next year.

App Store hits 100,000 iPad apps
It seems that all of the major mobile corporations with the exception of RIM have great milestones to celebrate this week. The Apple App Store hit 100,000 iPad-optimized apps today, which is a number several times greater than other tablet app providers. Now if only Hanging with Friends HD would hurry up and come out…

Android hits 500,000 activations per day!
Finally in milestones, perhaps even the most impressive: Android has achieved over 500,000 activations per day worldwide. This is significant, folks. At this rate, Android is poised to take over all other mobile operating systems in a very short amount of time. It will certainly be interesting to see how long this growth continues before slowing down, and also what other developers will do to try and steal some of that growth away from Google.

Google+ Invites Invade eBay
Google+ launched this week for a very limited beta. Shortly after the beta began, Google opened up invites for it’s users to begin handing out to their friends. These invites were unlimited, and it became insanely popular very quickly–even to the point where they had to shut down invites to alleviate traffic issues that they began having on the new service. On eBay, various Google+ users are posting new auctions for invites, with prices ranging right around $75. Is it worth it? Probably not. But seriously, if someone wants to toss a Google+ invite my way, I’ll totally understand.

Playstation Network Welcome Back Package Ends This Sunday
After the Playstation Network relaunched late last month after being hacked and shut down for 4 weeks, Sony released a comprehensive Welcome Back package that included 2 free games (inFamous and Dead Nation, FTW!), a 30 day free subscription to Playstation Plus, movie rentals, and other free content. This Sunday, the plug will be pulled on the package, so if you haven’t already, make sure to go and get your free stuff!

And that about does it for today’s installment of Digital Lust Daily. Be sure to check back every weekday for a quick summation of all of the latest news in the digital world.

Review: HTC Evo 3D

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Whenever we review gadgets here on Digital Lust, it will likely be a quick review based on a store visit where I play with a new phone (this blog is brand new, remember…). But just a week ago, I traded in my trusty HTC Evo 4G in favor of the newer, faster Evo 3D, so that gives me an opportunity to give a full blown review based on a few days of experience using the phone.

Lets start with the quick and dirty specs of the phone. The new Evo 3D packs a 1.2 gHz Snapdragon processor, a 4.3″ qHD display, dual 5.0 megapixel cameras, and a 1730 mAh battery. It runs Android 2.3.3, with the beautiful new Sense 3.0 overlay. For owners of the original Evo 4G, you should be excited, because this phone clears up many of the issues you may or may not have had with the original device. The phone itself is roughly the same size as the Evo 4G, just slightly taller and thinner. It also feels lighter and easier to hold. The mini-USB jack has been moved to the side of the device (thank you, HTC!!!), and the only other new hardware addition is the camera button on the side. Overall, the phone looks and feels much more refined.

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The phone features a textured backing that gives it much better grip. Also note the giant cameras and lack of kickstand.

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The phone is lighter and feels thinner than the original Evo.

The newest feature to the Evo 3D is in it’s namesake–the phone features a new, stereoscopic 3D display not unlike what can be found on the Nintendo 3DS. The phone’s dual cameras are capable of producing high quality, 3D images, and displaying them through what is known as a parallax barrier. At first, viewing the 3D content may seem headache-inducing, but once you have grasped the concept of how to effectively take 3D photos, you’ll adjust to the new display. Aside from the 3D imaging, the phone also features a demo of Ultimate Spiderman 3D, as well as a copy of The Green Hornet 3D for your viewing pleasure.

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Once you have a good grasp on how to take 3D images, you’ll notice that the 3D effect is truly stunning.

Performance wise, the Evo 3D is the fastest phone that I have ever used. That is thanks to the dual-core processor that the phone uses. Everything on the phone runs extremely quickly–video playback is fantastic, gaming is faster than ever, and running your everyday tasks to fulfill your life has never been quicker. Call quality, despite what other reviewers of the phone might say, is quite spectacular. Every time I make a call, I can hear the person I’m speaking to quite clearly, with little interruption or distortion.

Data is also very snappy–if you’re using Sprint’s WiMax network. 3G speeds on the Evo 3D have yet to impress me, as they seem incredibly slow based on what I experienced on the original Evo. This, of course, could be issues with Sprint’s network in general, or maybe they need to update the radios on the phone. Whichever the case, it isn’t pretty yet. This seems to be my one gripe that I have with the phone thus far.

Battery life has always been something that has been significantly lacking on Android devices, and as these devices get seemingly more powerful, battery life has never really held up well. That changes with the Evo 3D. Many reviewers for the Evo 3D have been extremely critical of the battery on the phone, and I couldn’t disagree with them more. The 1730mAh battery seems sufficient enough to get through a day with heavy use. For example, I went to a concert last weekend. I charged the phone completely before leaving. I took about 50 pictures, about 15 minutes of 3D video, checked Facebook constantly, and uploaded a bunch of my pictures onto Facebook. After 6 hours of extremely heavy use, I was down to 45% battery, which means I would have made it maybe 11 hours if I had kept going at the same rate. The original Evo would have died probably about half way through that usage. I’m pretty impressed with the battery, and hope that it can only get better after the phone starts to see custom ROMs.

On a final note about performance, let’s talk about Sense 3.0. This is what everyone with an HTC device has been waiting for, and it is finally available through both the Evo 3D and the Sensation. This new version of Sense is nothing but pure sexy. The general concept of Sense is exactly the same, with the Rosie launcher being practically the same as it has been on previous Sense devices. The polishing, however, it what sets it apart. The widgets look better with their new 3D effects, Sense apps (messaging and email, specifically) are more functional and cleaner than ever before. My favorite part is the new lockscreen. It features a ring that you pull up to the center of the screen to unlock. You also have four icons that you can drag down into the ring to instantly launch your favorite and most used applications. On top of that, you can also choose from having weather, stocks, messages, photos, or your Friend Stream appear right on the screen. It’s a huge step up from previous versions of Sense, and is one of the best parts of the phone. All in all, Sense 3.0 is practically perfection for an Android device.

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The new Sense 3.0 lockscreen allows you to show weather, messages, stocks, or photos directly on the screen while unlocking your phone.

The final bit I’d like to touch up on is the photo quality on the Evo 3D. While the two 5.0 megapixel cameras are significantly lower quality than the original Evo, I can’t see too much of a difference in quality. For 2D pictures, it may appear somewhat lower quality. I have found that taking 3D pictures is more effective, and if I want to post them to Facebook or here on the blog, I simply have to convert them to 2D (and the phone will do it for you). I know some reviewers are disappointed with the quality of images, but it honestly isn’t something that I’m griping about.

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This was a shot that I originally took in 3D. The phone gives you the option of sharing the photo in 2D or 3D.

With all of that said, it would appear that the Evo 3D is a worthy successor to the Evo 4G. True statement. The new Evo has so many things going for it. With the new 18-month software upgrade program that Google has partnered with many manufacturers to create, the Evo 3D will be seeing the next version of Android (Ice Cream Sandwich), and possibly many more versions as they are created. The Evo 3D costs $199.99 for a new, 2-year contract. If you’re like me though, being a Sprint Premier customer, you may be eligible to trade your Evo 4G in and receive a $150 credit towards the Evo 3D. Worth it? Absolutely. This phone makes everything about Android so much more enticing.