Mobile Tech Manor #106: Building a New Phone

Mobile Tech Manor (MTM) is the home office where I cover the world of mobile technology, and it’s an active scene of gadgets and apps. This column is my look back at the week and my outlet to share observations and lessons learned about the tech that crossed my path. I got a new phone this week; rather I built one using simple tools on the web.

Gadgets of the Week

The gadgets that had my attention this week have not arrived at the Manor yet, but should be here early next week. The folks at Sprint (s s) are sending a Samsung Galaxy Tab to test, and I am stoked about the arrival of this tablet. My extensive history using tablets of all kinds has me convinced the 7-inch form of the Tab may be the perfect size for maximum portability. I also believe the Android platform will go a long way to providing good utility on the Tab, so I am excited to get to play with one.

Next week will also see a new phone arriving, and I must admit I am surprised how excited I am to play with a flip phone. Yes, this phone has the old-school flip form, but in a very modern package. It is the BlackBerry (s rimm) Style, a new phone from RIM that blends the famous BlackBerry keyboard with two displays to take advantage of the new BlackBerry 6 OS. The research I’ve done on the Style shows it has some real promise, and I can’t wait for it to show up.

The gadget that captured most of my week is not a new gadget, but what I did to it turned it into a new smartphone. I replaced the HTC ROM on my EVO 4G Android (s goog) phone, and so far I am happy with the result. Flashing the ROM on a smartphone is not for the faint of heart, as it does void the phone’s warranty. It’s not without risk of turning the phone into a useless brick if things don’t work as planned.

Dire warnings aside, I have to admit the VaelPak 2,3 custom ROM I installed on the EVO has worked without issue, and the developer’s attention to detail make it a joy to install and use. There is even a VaelPak Settings app installed in the process that makes major changes like ROM modifications as simple as selecting menu items in the app. Selected modifications to the system are then downloaded OTA and installed automatically, including the reboot if required. The ResToggle app I recently reviewed has been incorporated into the VaelPak ROM, providing display resolution changes within the VaelPak Settings app.

My EVO is faster than ever, has even better battery life, and is more useful than with the stock HTC ROM. What I like most about the VaelPak ROM is that I can use as much or as little of the HTC Sense system as desired. It’s not an either/ or situation like with other custom ROMs. I don’t recommend that all EVO owners take this route, but if you are already testing custom ROMs I do think you should give VaelPak a hard look.

Apps of the Week

Last weekend saw the time change an hour due to Daylight Savings Time (DST), and unfortunately this affected my favorite Android app — Pocket Informant. All events entered into PI since the time change are now off an hour, and WebIS is working on a fix that should appear shortly. To get around the problem, I am entering all new events into Google Calendar on the desktop, which sync fine to PI.

The Android app of the week is LauncherPro, a launcher replacement that I’ve written about in the past. The developer has improved the app quite nicely, and I am enjoying using it as the launcher of choice on my EVO with the new ROM. The multiple docks alone make this a very useful addition to the EVO.

E-book of the Week

This week I started the last novel in the Void Trilogy series, Evolutionary Void. This series has kept me going for weeks now, a rarity in sci-fi. I’m not sure I am liking where the final chapter of this epic story is heading, but it has me swiping pages as fast as I can. That’s the mark of a good e-book — how smudgy the bottom of my phone screen is from turning pages.


That’s the week I had in Mobile Tech Manor. Next week looks to be epic with two new gadgets arriving, so be sure and catch me next week.

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