Friday, September 10, 2010

Becoming an Android

A few days ago I came across a forum thread discussing ham radio applications for smartphones in which someone claimed that they were using an HTC Touch Pro (the phone I have) dual booting into Windows Mobile and Google Android. I was interested, but imagined that achieving it would require the ability to follow exactly a lengthy sequence of obscure commands with a high probability of turning the phone into a brick. However I was unable to resist looking into it further and discovered that it should be easier than that. It should be simply a matter of extracting an image of the HTC Android port on to an SD card, copying a configuration file that matches your model of phone into the root folder and then running a program (under Windows Mobile) that reboots the phone into Android. Unfortunately I don't have an SD card of the type used by the Touch Pro so I haven't been able to try it yet.

I originally bought a smartphone running Windows Mobile specifically because it would run Lynn KJ4ERJ's APRSISCE, which is undoubtedly the best APRS client on any smartphone by several hundred miles. However, for me that is really about the only good reason for using that platform. I don't need the ability to sync with Outlook or use Pocket Office as I don't use any Microsoft applications on my PCs, and I find Windows Mobile to be too much like Windows itself - complicated to use - and not enough like a phone - easy to make phone calls and text messages. Plus, the fact that running APRSISCE all the time drains the battery in a couple of hours leaving you without a working phone has been a big disincentive to using it in the way I originally envisaged.

Whilst Windows Mobile 6.x is an undoubtedly powerful platform, as you can tell from the range of full-featured applications (not just "apps") available for it, it is also a dead end. I was surprised to find that Windows Mobile currently has just 5% of the market. Microsoft is hoping to reclaim some of its market share with the upcoming Windows Mobile 7. Personally I think it's too late and Microsoft has missed the boat on this one. I think Microsoft has an over-inflated opinion of the Windows "brand". People use Windows on PCs because they don't have much of an alternative, not because they think it's great. Smartphone users have lots of choices. People love Google because they are always giving us stuff for free, while Microsoft always makes you pay (and then keeps checking your receipt afterwards). So I think Windows Mobile 7 is doomed even if Microsoft hadn't decided to make it incompatible with earlier versions so that it won't run any legacy applications - including APRSISCE.

I really wished in the end I had bought an Android phone. Now this dual boot trick will allow me to try the Google OS out and see whether it is really is as good as the hype. More when I receive the SD card I ordered and am able to try it.

(Update: Just checked the status of my order placed on Wednesday with option for first class next day delivery and it is still shown as Pending. Grr! Clearly it wasn't a good idea to order from MyMemory.)
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