The Nexus S, like the Nexus One before it, is designed to allow enthusiasts to install custom operating systems. Allowing your own boot image on a pure Nexus S is as simple as runningThis, along with recent developments regarding updates to and abandonments of handsets, has got me thinking on what are the most important aspects to consider prior to purchasing. The standard pre-purchase ritual involves the comparison of many specs, features, and numbers. This has been correctly pointed out to border on bullsh!t..
fastboot oem unlock. It should be no surprise that modifying the operating system can give you root access to your phone. Hopefully that’s just the beginning of the changes you might make.
Given two handsets of roughly the same generation, by far the most important consideration is access to forthcoming system updates, whether it be through an OTA update from the carrier or through rooting and installing custom ROMs on your own. Apple doesn't have this issue because they control everything and cut the carriers out of the update loop. Google on the other hand has makers and carriers to consider. Until there is an Android user's bill of rights, there are absolutely no guarantees that carriers will continue to support handsets, even only 6 months to a year after release on their network, and even if google and the maker work together to create a firmware update for that exact handset.
So what are we to do? Here are my thoughts. Let me know yours.
Purchase Google branded Nexus phones
I've linked previously to a list of reasons not to purchase the Nexus S, and I tend to agree, especially given the lack of a micro SD slot and the lack of a dual core CPU. However, I disagree with the reasoning that it is essentially a Galaxy S. Yes, this is true, but it is a Galaxy S that will never be at the whim of a carrier with respect to updates. It is a Galaxy S that essentially ships with not only an engineering bootloader but also Google's blessing to use it in order to gain root privilege.
As long as the Nexus phones are physically capable of running the most recent version of Android, they will receive updates directly from Google. When they are no longer able, someone will compile a version optimized for it.
Now we just need to wait a few more months until Docomo allows us to use it. To use it now, other options include B-Mobile and Softbank. It may be difficult to purchase from Best Buy because they have blocked all japanese IP Addresses.
Purchase handsets that are proven rootable
(This comes with the caveat that you are purposely purchasing a phone with a known security flaw. The caveat comes with the caveat that there is no such thing as a phone without a known security flaw.)
HTC handsets in particular are always a good bet since there is a huge community at xda-developers focused on HTC handsets, but Japanese makers such as Sharp and Toshiba should be avoided until we know more about their offerings. The first Sharp handset, the IS01/Lynx SH-10B has a protected system partition and cannot be updated (so far) except officially. Officially, no updates are coming. The Sharp IS03 could easily have the same restrictions. To make matters worse, relatively few people with the skills and knowledge to defeat the protections are using the handsets because they are (so far) only available in Japan.
Demand information on update plans
We know this won't get anywhere because the shop staff know nothing. But the more people that are asking the better. We need to point out that access to updates is more important than megapixels or waterproofing. The best way to get concrete update plans is to wait to purchase until after the next version is announced.
We also don't know which carriers are going to be the best about updating. So far AU is 0 for 1 with IS01. Docomo is fairing a bit better, though they appear poised to abandon the ht-03a after just over a year. (Regarding the ht-03a, I think there are very few people who actually bought one. European carriers are still announcing updates, so it is possible that Docomo plans to update it. 期待しない方がいいけど。) Softbank may have the best update record - at least they have been advertising offering higher versions than Docomo.
Known rootable Android handsets available from Japanese carriers (12/24/2010)
Purchasing any other handset than these listed below could leave you without system updates.
- Dell Streak (Softbank 001DL) [Not yet available]*
- HTC Desire (Softbank X06TH II and X06TH)
- HTC Desire HD (Softbank 001HT)
- HTC Magic (Docomo ht-03a) [no longer available]
- Samsung Galaxy S (Docomo SC-02B)
- Samsung Galaxy Tab (Docomo SC-01C)
- SE Xperia X10 (Docomo SO-01B)