Android modding gets just a little more mainstream

Infoworld published a piece on using Cyanogenmod to upgrade an orphan Android phone, the Motorola Cliq XT, beyond the officially supported Android 1.4.

It’s not a detailed how-to and has a lot of generalities, and someone wanting to do the same thing will still have to do a lot of Google searching, but we’re talking a short-ish (I’m guessing 1,500 words or less) Infoworld piece here. It’s a magazine that’s always been more about trends than details.

I haven’t ventured far into this world yet, but there’s certainly appeal. There are limitations to running new software on older, unsupported hardware, as anyone who’s ever tried to run Windows XP on Pentium II-era hardware can attest. Yes, you can do it. Yes, you’re going to have to live within certain limitations. And yes, the more you’re willing to tinker, the better experience you’re probably going to have.

Due to the way Android is developed, there’s more room to tinker than there is with, say, Windows XP.

And about that tinkering thing… I don’t think it’s totally undesirable. It’s not for everyone. But for some people, it’s everything. Or a very significant thing.

In the days when 8-bit computers ruled, sure, some people just bought the computers off the shelf, bought some software off the shelf, and were perfectly happy just using their computers that way, as pure consumers.

But there were any number of glossy magazines that were hardly underground–you could buy most of them at any major book store or even a good grocery store–dedicated to going deeper. They had type-in programs, and by their very nature most of those were user-modifiable. Some of the magazines even presented hardware projects on a regular or semi-regular basis, for those readers who weren’t afraid of soldering irons. If you wanted to really tinker with the machine, you could do it.

And to a degree, Android brings back a little bit of those old days.

I haven’t had time to customize my Android phone. At some point I’ll do it. It’s a mainstream phone, by current standards. I don’t think loading a custom image will turn it into a high-end phone. It certainly won’t turn it into a high-end phone once high-end phones have dual cores, and those days are coming soon. But at the very least, it will let me make tradeoffs between battery life and performance when I need to. During those times when I’m just using it as a phone, and the battery gets a little low, why not back off the clock speed by a few hundred megahertz to get some more battery life? I can see why T-Mobile doesn’t want every user to have that option. But I know what the tradeoff is and I’m not going to go into the nearest T-Mobile store and complain if I make the wrong decision.

I can see the appeal.

If you’re interested in extending the capabilities, or just gaining more control over your Android phone, a good place to hang out is XDA-Developers. You can see what kind of a following your particular phone has, see what people are saying about the various options available for it, and find links to everything in one place.

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