Joining the Joneses

I like to think of myself as a tech-oriented guy. I have always kept up with gadgets, consoles and computers. I might not have the newest version of everything, but I do have a laptop, a PS3, an HDTV, an iPod and various other toys. I don’t have a top of the line laptop (it’s two years old now), I have a newer PS3 (160 GB slim), the HDTV is just a regular LCD but it’s only a 32″, and my iPod is an 80 GB classic, so no touch. Still, I am usually content as long as I have a gadget or piece of equipment that serves the purpose, regardless of if it’s brand new or top-of-the-line. The one area where I was lacking was mobile devices, more specifically, my cell phone. I never really saw a need for a smart phone, all I ever used my phone for was calling and texting. My old phone broke a few days ago, and I still wasn’t going to get a smart phone, but I was sort of forced into it. I was pleasantly surprised by how much I love the device.

I go through Boost Mobile because contracts suck. The service isn’t always ideal, especially with the crappy phone I had before, but you do get what you pay for I suppose. When I went looking for a new phone, I was surprised to find that you really can’t buy anything but a smart phone these days, at least through Boost, and the particular location I was at. So I ended up purchasing a Samsung Galaxy Prevail for a fairly good price. They actually had better smart phone options, but I didn’t feel the need to shell out more cash. Now that I know more about Android devices, I sort of wish I would have had more money to spend. I’ve had the phone for about a week, and have done quite a bit of toying with it, along with reading around the net and I have some tips and sources to share for users of this particular phone, but also for Android users in general.

The phone came with Android 2.3 Gingerbread, and though this isn’t the most current version of the operating system, it is one of the most popular and seems to be very compatible with everything on the market. On the storage side, it has roughly 160 MB internal, and a 2 GB micro SD card. It came with a handful of apps, most of which I found useless and unable to uninstall. The ability to transfer apps from the internal storage to the SD card is limited, most programs won’t allow this. My first step in customizing my phone was to visit the marketplace and download some apps, the first round were ones I already knew about. Facebook, the University of Phoenix app, Pandora Radio. Upon visiting the marketplace the phone detected updates to existing apps, so I updated those as well. Next, I wanted to set up custom ring tones, so I hooked the phone up to my laptop via USB, and transferred some MP3s over. I found that setting a custom ring tone was no problem, but there was no way to set my mp3 file to a notification tone, so I set about trying to figure out what could be done.

Tip #1: Under the main menu of the phone, you will see a file folder called “My files”. Open the folder, and within it, create a new folder called “Notifications”. Any sound file that  you save within this folder will now be available to set as a notification ring tone, so instead of having to use the default sounds, you can set a music file of your own to go off when you get a text message, voicemail, etc.

After figuring out most of the settings, I decided that I wanted a custom background. This part was frustrating for a couple of days, because I would find a picture I like (either one I took with the phone’s camera, or one that someone else sent to me that I saved), and I would set it as the wallpaper. The phone would prompt me to pick a portion of the picture, which it would then stretch to fit the 5 main screens. This was irritating, because I really just wanted the full size picture as the wallpaper for all of the screens, and would have preferred that the icons just floated over the main picture (a watermark, if you will). So it was time to do some more hunting on the web.

Tip #2: If this issue irritates you as well, I recommend downloading “Multipicture Live Wallpaper” from the marketplace. With this app, you can have 5 separate pictures on each main screen (it supports more than that, but that is my specific number of screens) and they will be full size, rather than just a portion. The settings are tricky and might take a little while to get used to, but it is definitely worth it.

Feeling like my phone was pretty customized, I decided that I wanted to try out some games. This opened up a whole other bag of worms, because once I started noticing the phone’s internal storage running out, I knew I was going to have to figure out a way to get apps moved to my SD card. As I mentioned earlier, there are some apps that will allow you to move them to the external storage. However, most won’t, and this poses a storage issue. It’s pretty silly for the developers to make it this way, because internal storage is far smaller than external, but thankfully there is a work around. My Dad told me about an app called App2SD, and I tried it. I suppose that solution works for some people, but when I opened it up to see what I could move, there was literally nothing. It didn’t help the situation whatsoever. So I started researching. I found that the best way to be able to handle operations like this is to Root your phone. Rooting is to Android as Jailbreaking is to iPhone. Basically, you give yourself administrative powers over the phone, much like you would have over your PC, where you can view more, move more, and do more. It sounded like a pain in the ass according to some websites, and sounded really easy on others. I was convinced though, when I saw this article, because some of those apps looked just plain cool. The same website had an article on rooting your Android phone, but it pointed to a program called “Superoneclick”, and this didn’t work for my phone. I had to do a bunch of searching around the web, and I ended up finding a different program that did the same thing, but I can’t remember the location at the moment. I’m sure if you had a different phone it would work out easier, but I wouldn’t recommend trying it unless you are a bit tech-savvy, it was definitely a pain and took the better part of a night for me to get it done.

After rooting my phone, I started downloading apps that allowed me to do more of the things I wanted to do. I picked up Superuser, Titanium Backup, and Adfree, all of which you can read descriptions of in the article I mentioned above. TB is the program that I was wanting to free up storage space, as it allows you to uninstall apps that came with the phone, and to move apps to your SD card, along with making backups of everything. That alone was enough for me to know that rooting my phone was worth it.

Back to gaming, I ended up trying a few of the games off of the Android market, but I really wanted an RPG to play, and most of the options were Action-RPGs, and with touch screen controls I was more frustrated than anything. So I looked into emulation, and it is actually quite prevalent on Androids. I ended up with Super Gnes and DroidEmu, both of which can be found on the market. The first is an SNES emulator, and the latter is actually an emulator for pretty much every system imaginable. Why have both? Well I preferred the location of the controls on the Super Gnes emulator, so for SNES games I use it. I ended up downloading a bunch of Gameboy Advance RPGs as well, and that is what I use DroidEmu for, as all of the other GBA emulators I tried didn’t work. I also found a great place for ROMs, and you can find that here. All in all, I have about 10 RPGs now that I either played very sparsely or never at all, so I have options for mobile gaming.

I am very pleased having an Android device, and having played with iPhones in the past, I think I prefer Android. If I have any more tips or tricks come up, I’ll make sure to share them here. Until next time.