Nate's Straight Talk Express: Android and the iPad Make a Good Pair??Nate Allen - Columnist
I'll get to the Android stuff in a minute, but I would be negligent if I didn't mention the Apple iPad release that has dominated the tech world for the last couple of weeks. I know some Android buffs are Apple haters, but I'm not one of them. We use both PCs and Macs at my house and if Verizon offered an iPhone, it's very possible that I'd be using one. I can't say enough about what a great experience I had standing in line at the West Des Moines, Iowa Apple store on Saturday morning waiting for the opportunity to purchase the iPad. After getting the device home, I can honestly say that it exceeds most of my expectations. Ok, on to life this week with the HTC Droid Eris, my daily workhorse.
I've been toying with the idea of rooting my Eris for a few weeks. When the Eris was first released, Verizon promised an upgrade to Android 2.1 sometime in the 1st quarter of 2010, but March 31 came and went with no real specifics about when the upgrade will arrive. It just so happened that a root path for the Eris was discovered by the great folks at XDA Developers which includes an update to a pretty stable version of 2.1. I spent several weeks following the Droid Eris development threads at the XDA forums to see how difficult rooting the device would be. I'd like to think that I'm pretty computer savvy, but reading through the instructions found on the XDA forums without a frame of reference for how the steps described would actually be completed made me hesitate to make the move. That is, until I came across a couple YouTube videos from The Unlockr actually showing the process from start to finish. I knew I was ready for the challenge, but for some reason I still didn't pull the trigger. The deciding factor for my final decision to root was not the 2.1 upgrade, but was actually the combination of having made the final decision to purchase the iPad and hearing about Verizon's announcement to reduce the price of the Mobile Hotspot service (wifi broadcast from the phone) for the Palm Pre Plus from $40 per month to FREE. After that Verizon announcement I started lusting after the Palm Pre Plus, looking on Craigslist and Ebay to see what people were selling them for while imagining myself using the iPad with the free Mobile Hotspot service. I remembered one of the benefits of a rooted Android device was using the wifi tether app (essentially a Mobile Hotspot-like function), which is not available for non-rooted phones. What a killer combination the cheaper wifi-only iPad model would be with the benefit of a wifi signal from my Eris if I ever needed it while traveling.
After successfully completing the steps required for the 2.1 upgrade with root as described on the XDA Developers forums, with a little remedial help from The Unlockr videos, I can tell you that all my hopes and dreams have now come to fruition...well, not all of them, but I'm pretty happy with the results. The 2.1 rom has been pretty stable as I haven't had any system freezes or unexpected reboots, and the wifi tether app works as intended. I don't expect to use the wifi tether fuction unless absolutely necessary, but it's comforting to know that it's available in a pinch. I'm also a big proponent of charging the same amount for similar services on the same carrier (well, since last week anyway) so if the Palm folks get their wifi tether for free, why shouldn't Android folks? Who's with me on that? After the rooted upgrade, my only real disappointment is that I can't find my favorite app in the market, Radiotime. I wrote about the Radiotime app in my 2nd column (here) so I won't go back into what it does, but I'll tell you this loss has been both unexpected and significant. Hopefully the good folks at Radiotime will update the app to be compatible with 2.1 soon (please!).
I'll close with these words of caution: 1) I am not advising anyone to root their phone, as it is not for everyone, 2) rooting will void your phone's warranty, and 3) a mistake in your attempt to root could cause your phone to turn into an expensive paper weight. Any Android users out there have similar stories? Let me know in the Comments.