As smartphone hardware is so similar from phone to phone, Android OS is so freely modifiable, and smartphone companies insist on loading their phones with useless bloat in a frantic attempt to differentiate an increasingly comoditiezed product, it is possible to take quite a cheap phone and turn it into something rather amazing. Made all the easier by the fact that others are willing to do all the complicated stuff and package it up for you.
A couple of months ago, my friend and neighbour Andrew, of 303s.com fame, gave me a Hauwei U8220 (More commonly re-branded as a T-Mobile Pulse, among other names.) on account of it being admittedly a bit on the slow side.
After about three months, a new microSD card and some extensive investigation into different firmware implementations, and I have an Android phone that runs light and smooth.
I’m not going to go in-depth with instructions, as most of the places you can download firmware will also provide the instructions for implementing them.
Major modifications include:
- FTB-Mod firmware from the guys over at Modaco’s T-Mobile Pulse forum.
- While not running the most up to date Android kernel, it is smooth and stable.
- Class 10 (Actually 8.) 16GB microSD card.
- Tested with H2TestW 1.4 and came out as being 8MB/s write with 15MB/s read.
- As 6MB/s is the minimum, it works alight.
- Pretty cheap from Ebay, can get an official Samsung 8GB class 10 for about the same.
Preparing the MicroSD card.
Downloading and installing firmware.
Once you have your SD card set up, plug it into your computer via an adapter or the phone itself and download the firmware file (Or do it directly from the phone, with the handy QR code on the right.). I am assuming you have already read one of the upteen rooting and installing Clockwork how-tos littered across the internet.
App it up!
- Launcher Pro: The fastest, lightest home-screen replacement around. No useless 3D transition effects.
- SetCPU*: The FTB mod kernel can be pushed up to 690MHz but also setting the CPU to 122-320MHz when the screen is off saves significant battery.
- Adfree Android: Removes adverts by way of the hosts file.
- SD Speed Increase: Increases the SD cache which helps things load faster and solves a problem I was having with the music player skipping.
- Multi Mount SD Card*: Allows you to mount to SD card to your computer without preventing the phone from reading it. Speeds will be slower, but it’s safer.
- VM Heap Tool: Setting VM Heap size to 32M seems to help.
- Wifi Reassociate: Great little program that periodically pings your access point and reconnects if it can’t get through (Phone Wifi can be suspect at times.). Not so stable, thinking of trying a re-write.