On January 28th I was stupid enough to forget my trusty HTC Hero on the train. I filled out the NMBS’ online lost luggage forms and mourned the loss of my faithful personal digital assistant for a couple of days. As my employer is supposed co-finance a new handset in July, I decided to look for a cheap temporary replacement for now. Main requirements: cheap, 3G+, tethering and optionally Android. The Acer beTouch e110 seemed to be a perfect match.
The e110 is a small and light touchscreen device, running Android 1.5 (Cupcake). It comes with 3G+ (HSDPA), Bluetooth, GPS and FM radio and it is one of the cheapest Android-based handset available. And when I say cheap, I mean cheap as in “you can’t even find a decent 2nd hand device for that price”-cheap.
So what’s not to like? Well, the CPU is pretty slow, there’s no WiFI and the touchscreen needs some tough love. Android 1.5 Cupcake isn’t exactly the latest and greatest Android around either. Although Acer did issue new ROM’s in 2010, those were all based on Android 1.5 and there are no plans for an Eclair or Froyo version. What’s more surprising (although some would consider this a plus) is that the e110 is not a Google-branded phone. This means, amongst other things, that there’s no Google Market and no Contacts synchronization. Add the lack of Exchange integration to the equation and you’ve got very empty contacts and calender, which is pretty frustrating if you want to use your phone for work purposes.
No, Acer’s beTouch e110 certainly is no Hero, but I’ve got my HSDPA, tethering and even Android for a very low price. So I’ll cope until my Hero comes home. And if that doesn’t happen, the unboxing of the Desire Z in July will be all the more exiting.
Did your HTC Hero get lost somewhere along the way, unable to fix GPS-location after upgrading to VillainRom, FroydVillan or another Hero ROM? The solution, which is mentioned in the hilarious release-notes for FroydVillain 1.5, is as simple as it is obscure; go to Settings -> Wireless & Networks -> Mobile networtks -> Access Point Names, click on the selected APN there, go to APN type (the last item in the list) and change the value to “default,supl”. I rebooted (with GPS on, didn’t want to jinx things) and voila, I’ll never get lost again.
After seeing FroydVillain run on the Hero of a daredevil colleague of mine (thanks Thomas!), I swiftly booted my HTC into recovery mode, made a backup of my Eclair-installation and effortlessly slapped FroydVillain on my handset. But now, only 2 days later, I’m back on HTC’s Eclair.
Why? Because of what HTC adds to the mix. Although Froyo + Cyanogen mods + LauncherPro is a fast & slick combination, there were a number of (mostly minor) annoyances which bugged me enough to do a rollback to VillainRom 12 (i.e. HTC’s Eclair).
Some of the quirks that irked me:
the keyboard seemed a tad more clunky, there’s no button to hide it (the keyboard tends to get in the way sometimes) but most importantly there’s no Dutch dictionary installed meaning no spelling correction and above all no text-prediction
So in spite of increased speed and an overall very nice package, I decided (after having had to run downstairs last night to move that accidentally deleted important mail back to my inbox on my PC) to abandon FroydVillain and switch back to VillainRom 12. I was a little upset with Nandroid spitting out that horrible “Run nandroid-mobile.sh via adb” error, but it turned out that it wisely doesn’t like to have to work on an almost empty battery. After recharging I successfully restored good ole HTC Eclair.
Froyo + LauncherPro is a great combination, but it’s not in the same league as HTC’s polished Eclair builds yet. Thanks for the great job HTC, I’m looking forward to your Desire HD with HTC Froyo (or Gingerbread?) which I’ll probably buy from you next year.
July 5th: Lox & co are working on a merged HTC Hero GSM and CDMA build based on the official kernel sources
So I flashed my Hero again, with VillainRom 12 (clearly more responsive then 10.3, a few bugs are solved as well) and I’m looking forward to flashing CyanogenMod 6 once that’s stabilized. Because, after all, Hero’s like their Androids fresh, don’t they?
I flashed my HTC Hero again, this time with an Android 2.1 image from Villainrom. Why not wait for the official update? Well, we’ve been waiting for quite some time now, the HTC-update might not even work on a rooted device and a colleague of mine was running Villainrom 10.1 for over a month now and was quite pleased with it.
So if you want to go rogue as well, go Villainrom using this installation guide. And in case things happen that aren’t described in that detailed howto, here are 5 things I had to learn the hard way;
I’m an impatient man, so although I heard rumors that Mobistar might be testing the HTC Hero update (which is Belgium-specific, as the YouTube application has to be removed because of privacy law concerns), I decided to go the “less official” way and root and flash the darn thing myself. The process was pretty easy (thanks for the info Thomas & Serge), the outcome is great; my phone is a better Hero for it!
So suppose you’re as impatient as I am, suppose you don’t care that this may void your warranty, suppose you’re not scared of bricking your brand new toy, suppose you’re a not entirely technically ignorant, then you could follow these steps:
Root your HTC: by using flashrec.apk to flash a new recovery image on your HTC as described here. If you get a “backup failed” error in step 10 as I did, you just need to power off and on and try again (the backup itself isn’t used anyway, that step is just needed to have flashrec allow you to continue).
Upgrade your rooted HTC: from the new recovery image menu flash MoDaCo custom ROM v2.x (I installed 2.2, 2.3 was released a couple of hours ago) to your system as described here. And don’t forget to wipe before flashing as I did.
Update to the latest radio package to version 63.18.55.06EU_6.35.06.18 from the recovery image menu (you should know the drill by this step) for optimal radio performance.
But you could also wait for the official update, off course …
So you bought this brand new HTC Hero and you tell everyone it’s on a par with the iPhone 3GS and its great browser? I mean, both are very recent Webkit-implementations aren’t they? Safari Mobile on iPhone OS3 is based on AppleWebKit/528.18, Chrome Mobile (or don’t they call it that?) for Android 1.5 on AppleWebKit/528.5+, and between 528.5+ and 528.18 there can only be minor differences? So HTML5-goodies (such as geolocation, localstorage and app cache) which Google is actively promoting, will work out of the box, just like on that dreaded iPhone 3GS, won’t they?
Sorry to bust your bubble, but Google seems to have decided otherwise; there’s no navigator.geolocation, no localstorage and no app cache on my HTC Hero (which is running Android 1.5 aka cupcake). You can access similarfunctionalities by calling the built-in Gears plugin, but mobile web-developers can’t assume that these HTML5-draft-specs are available on all modern high-end mobile handsets at all. Hell, even “big” Chrome 184.108.40.206 (which is based on Webkit 532!) does not seem to support these killer-features. Must be that Google is secretly pushing for Gears to become the default “rich internet enabler” instead of HTML5?