I’ve had an old HTC Diamond for ages, running Windows Mobile 6.1, which at the time was a great phone (it was in the early days of the Smart Phone Era. Before apps took control over the mobile world). I tried the iPhone for a while, but could never bring myself to like it (or it’s locked down security tight OS). I decided to revert back to HTC, and this time the HD2. Of course this running Windows Mobile 6.5 doesn’t make it a great phone either. Microsoft didn’t go all out on this one, in regards to software quality, drivers, and app availability. But the hardware … Now That’s impressive. Too bad I was stuck on Windows – or was I?
I began poking around, and found others (a whole community in fact) dedicated to this phone. And soon realized this gem of a gadget can run almost anything (except for iOS – but who wants that? Seriously) being, Linux, Windows 6.5, Android 2.3, Android 4 and the upcoming Windows 7. There are two options; tethered and untethered (or as they say in Android Land: NAND and SD). The difference being the boot process, where one completely replace the old OS (with no Undo), and the other where you choose a multiple boot environment, where you can choose which OS to boot every time you restart the device. Other phones and brands can also be subject to this kind of upgrade thou personally I have only tested this on my HD2.
Before we go any further, let me just point out that this is not a full tutorial on how it’s done. I am only describing a technique to prolong and improve your smart phone. As with everything else, there are risks involved – and you do so knowing this.
Okay, that being said, let’s continue…
I decided to go with SD (keeping Windows) and adding Android 4.0.3
Why keep Windows ? Mostly because the Android 4.0.3 build (for my phone) is fresh and might not be all that stable yet. Keeping the original OS makes it easier to experiment as the OS is stored on a SD-card which may be replaced and updated through simple file copy. And as a bonus, you can always revert back to windows should anything go terrible wrong.
Step 1. Research, Research, Research
First thing you want to do is some research. Check different blogs for different builds for different phones. The one I ended up using seems to be the most acknowledged one, called CyanogenMod which is a non-profit group dedicated to create and customize the best Android Builds out there. Their latest is called CM9. After some more research I found a build for my phone that was tested and verified to work with my hardware.
Booting the phone from a SD-card requires that you first boot it into the original OS (in my case Windows 6.5) then run the boot loader apps. To avoid this, there are several automatic boot loaders available, which will take care of this for you. Another important step is to swap the original “BIOS” Software (SPL) on your phone with one that support the new OS. When you have done all that, the upgrade it self is just a matter of copy and paste. Copying the OS to the SD-card in the phone and reboot.
The steps (the short version):
- (If you own a Windows phone) download and install Windows Active Sync – you’ll need this for the first part of the process
- Download the BIOS Hack Tool (HSPL: 2.08.HSPL) – this is the most risky part of the process
- If needed you have to download the Radio controller driver as well (Info here)
- And of course you need the boot loader, which will actually allow you to load your new OS)
- Download the Android Build you want (NexusHD2-ICS-CM9-SD_v1.4.7z.).
- UnPack and copy the content to the SD-Card
- ReBoot Phone
Beginning the Upgrade (or converting process)
Following the steps in the tutorials provided made it quite easy. One thing I found they neglected to mention, was to make sure Microsoft Active Sync was running on the computer (and the phone) to get the BIOS hack to work. But other than that, after about 15 minutes my phone had a new life – running smoothly on Android 4.0.3 Ice Cream Sandwich.
One of the first things I noticed working much better was that the camera. When taking photos in windows 6.5 the pictures got a green glare (especially indoors) and was blurry, as if the lens was dirty. The same camera on Android take beautiful pictures. Clear image and crisp colors. The phone itself (as well as the sensitivity on the touch-screen) work far beyond what I would expect.
I have been running Android 4 on my HTC HD2 phone for about three weeks, and the ride has been pure pleasure. Finally, I can use this powerful gadget, as it was supposed to work.
So if you have a smart phone that isn’t quite all there, try to hack it – you might just save yourself a lot of money.