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The 10 Best Android Hacks 134

Posted by samzenpus
from the hack-job dept.
Barence writes "The Android vs iPhone debate will continue until the apocalypse, but there's no doubt Android wins on customability. PC Pro has listed its ten favorite Android hacks, which include the ability to open your garage door with your smartphone, install Ubuntu on your handset, and overclock your phone's processor. There's also instructions on how to replace your dashboard satnav with Google's version."
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The 10 Best Android Hacks

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  • Customability? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by msauve (701917) on Monday January 03, 2011 @09:12AM (#34742776)
    Well, if you make up words, I guess you get to define them to mean whatever you want. If "Android wins on customability," then iPhone wins on appleability.
    • by bazorg (911295) on Monday January 03, 2011 @09:15AM (#34742792)

      Making up words? There's an app for that.

    • You beat me to it.... I had to be sure, so I looked it up on dictionary.com [reference.com] and it's not there.

      I'm sure that it will be in the Urban Dictionary [urbandictionary.com] shortly though, right next to convertablization [urbandictionary.com].

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Lazareth (1756336)

      Congratulations, you're hereby declared inured to inspiration and in a state of linguistic stagnation. [flamebait]You would fit nicely in France.[/flamebait]
      A quick question, when you read this "non-word" did you have any speck of doubt regarding the meaning being carried by it? I didn't even blink at it before you started to nitpick over the word rather than the semantics of it.

      And now for a new challenge, present us with a word with the exact same meaning as this "non-word" that can be swapped with it wit

      • by starsky51 (959750) on Monday January 03, 2011 @09:40AM (#34742954)
        The first line of your comment reads like a limerick. I was disappointed when I read he second line :(
      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        And now for a new challenge, present us with a word with the exact same meaning as this "non-word" that can be swapped with it without altering the grammar, meaning or flow of the sentence.

        Customizability.

        • by Lazareth (1756336)

          Touché. It fulfilled 2 out of the 3 points of the challenge.

          • by exploder (196936)

            Here's a challenge for you: explain to us what exactly is so phenomenal about the "flow" of that sentence that merits using an imaginary word with exactly the same meaning as an existing one?

          • uh...points of the challenge:

            1. present us with a word with the exact same meaning as this "non-word"
              • I think customizability would cover that, if the non-word had an official rather than a perceived meaning. All perceptions are not equal.
            2. that can be swapped with it without altering the grammar, meaning or flow of the sentence
              • Original: The Android vs iPhone debate will continue until the apocalypse, but there's no doubt Android wins on customability.
              • Corrected: The Android vs iPhone debate will continue until
            • by Lazareth (1756336)

              Points of the challenge:
              1) grammar
              2) meaning
              3) flow

              Customizability succeeds on the first and second point, but it is both hard on the eyes and on the tongue. Also, to be as nitpicky as the GP, it only turns up on two online dictionaries thus far for me (with a z or a s) but neither in cambridge or in merriam-webster.

              • Counting your "same meaning" requirement, that makes 4 points.

                I rather think that correct words flow better than incorrect ones. As far as dictionary references, you'll find that many perfectly valid words are not presented in all of their possible permutations in the dictionary.

                -ability +
                (Latin: a suffix expressing ability, capacity, fitness, or "that which may be easily handled or managed")

                Presented as the noun forms of -able; forming nouns of quality from, or corresponding to, adjectives in -able; the q

            • by jeffmeden (135043)

              The third point was, by my reading, "achieve levels of pedantry heretofore not witnessed among mere mortals"... You sir have passed the test!

              • by sempir (1916194)

                The third point was, by my reading, "achieve levels of pedantry heretofore not witnessed among mere mortals"... You sir have passed the test!

                Surely....."pedantrification heretofore not witnessed among mere mortals"....would have sufficed!

      • I'd take up your new challenge, but I already failed your first.

        What *does* it mean? That there are more custom abilities of the phone, or that the phone can be customized, or that there is a wider variety of custom phones (different brands)?

        Your point is often valid, and there are many legitimate reasons to synthesize new words (including for purely aesthetic reasons). In this case, however, there is a fairly large amount of ambiguity as to what the lexicomposer* is actually trying to convey.

        * Yes, I mad

        • by Lazareth (1756336)

          I think it can be derived from the context, but I agree with you and am glad that you took the time to politely point out the ambiguity that I missed.

          That said the 'proper' word customizability*, as pointed out elsewhere, feels extremely unwieldy to me. Might be because English is only my second language.

          * my spellchecker actually refuses it outright.

          • by jaymz666 (34050)

            try customisability then

          • Not to be rude, but since you aren't a native English speaker, you aren't really equipped to decide what fits the language better. I was going to reply to an earlier response of yours asking if English was a second language, because thinking that a non-word flows better than an actual word is a pretty good sign. I see now I would have been correct.

            • Not to be rude, but since you aren't a native English speaker, you aren't really equipped to decide what fits the language better. I was going to reply to an earlier response of yours asking if English was a second language, because thinking that a non-word flows better than an actual word is a pretty good sign. I see now I would have been correct.

              This is a good point.

              In English, the -ability ending is added on to verbs. The verb would be customize (or customise), hence why customability doesn't work.

    • by Joe U (443617)

      Well, if you make up words, I guess you get to define them to mean whatever you want. If "Android wins on customability," then iPhone wins on appleability.

      Sounds perfectly cromulent to me.

  • by neokushan (932374) on Monday January 03, 2011 @09:23AM (#34742838)

    My favourite android hack is when I set the alarm last year and it still works this year!

    • How do you do that? Because frequently, when I set the alarm, it doesn't go off. Also, there is no correlation to significant dates, so I never know when to prepare for an absent alarm. (I have an android phone, and I bitterly regret buying it.)
      • by neokushan (932374)

        Well what phone have you got? Are you using any dedicated alarm apps or the stock one?

        I have a HTC Desire and Sense's alarm never failed me once. Then I switched ROMs to one without Sense and use Alarm Clock Plus, which works just as well. It's even clever enough to up the volume if you happen to have your phone on Vibrate.

        • Sony Ericsson Xperia Mini Pro. (Yes, it sucks.) Stock alarm app. If I need to buy an app to get an alarm clock, I guess I should have stuck with a cheap'n'crappy phone. Oh, and if I buy a 'good' alarm clock app, I'm still stuck with the old one, without the ability to delete it.

          Android is the new windows, someone said, and they were right.

          And what is a ROM?

          • by neokushan (932374)

            You don't need to buy anything, the app I mentioned is free. There are many, many free Apps for Android, it's one of the things that really sets it apart from the iPhone app store.

            Sadly, Sony's Android offerings are....lacking...to say the least. They're not even 2.1 as far as I'm aware, so despite the fact that the phone is on sale in shops today, it's 4 versions behind!

            • by neokushan (932374)

              I should clarify: That alarm app in particular has a free version and a paid version. I use the free one.

            • Oh, they have a 2.1 upgrade. However, it won't work in virtualbox, although everything else in their 'pc companion app' works in virtualbox with XP. Of course, no support for mac or linux, so I'm stumped on that front. Upgrading apps just fails, I have never managed to upgrade any of the apps I installed. I could also mention that apps frequenly crash, for instance, the mail app will usually say 'oops errorz' and the wifi will fall out and come back in at random points in time.

              I wasn't an iPhone fanboy b

              • by neokushan (932374)

                I know The Xperia phones have some issues, but that all sounds pretty serious. I'd have taken that phone back pretty quickly.
                It's also quite strange that they wont let you update the phone OTA, like the rest of the civilized world lets you.

              • by Anonymous Coward
                Android phone made by Sony? There's your problem :) Those two probably repel each other..
              • I wasn't an iPhone fanboy before, but after getting the Android phone, I'm seriously considering becoming one.

                Do what you've got to do, but it really sounds like your problems are completely unrelated to Android and solely down to Sony being incapable of making a good phone.

                As a (non-car) analogy, if you went to the store and bought a five dollar bottle of scotch that came in a tin can, would it be fair to say all scotch is bad, that it's unreasonable to expect you to look at the different brands, and you'l

                • Do what you've got to do, but it really sounds like your problems are completely unrelated to Android and solely down to Sony being incapable of making a good phone.

                  I'm sure you have a good point with your tequila analogy. However, what crappy windows machines won't run Windows Update? Do they even exist?

                  • I'm sure you have a good point with your tequila analogy. However, what crappy windows machines won't run Windows Update? Do they even exist?

                    I think you seriously underestimate the capability of PC manufacturers to sell unusable crap to people.

                    Remember that Wal Mart sells PCs.

              • by Culture20 (968837)

                I wasn't an iPhone fanboy before, but after getting the Android phone, I'm seriously considering becoming one.

                in case you're not aware, the OP was talking about the iPhone alarm bug that prevent alarms from working yesterday and the day before. FYI, it would prevent any alarm. I tried setting one for 2010/01/01-19:29 at 2010/01/01-19:27. It didn't go off proving that the alarm didn't have to extend over the year mark to be effected.

              • Of course, no support for mac or linux, so I'm stumped on that front.

                I shared your frustration for a while with my Xperia X10 Mini pro, but now that I've been able to root it to get rid of my telco's crapware and enable tethering, I'm happy. Remember that Android itself runs on a Linux kernel, so the device is not by nature inimical to other *nix boxes.

                If you root your phone with z4root.apk (you might need to google for a working version of the app, some of the binaries are broken), you can use the ad
            • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

              by Dog-Cow (21281)

              The Apple App Store has thousands of free apps. I really don't understand what you're trying to imply. Unless it's just your ignorance.

              • by neokushan (932374)

                And the android app store has more. Even titles apps that are absolutely sure to sell tend to get free versions on Android. Angry Birds is a primary example. Android seems to run best off of ad-supported apps, whereas, the iOS App Store seems slightly more geared towards paying for apps.

            • There are many, many free Apps for Android, it's one of the things that really sets it apart from the iPhone app store.

              There are more free apps in the iPhone app store than there are free & paid apps for Android...

              • by neokushan (932374)

                Perhaps I wasn't clear enough -

                http://www.cnet.com/8301-19736_1-20009717-251.html [cnet.com]

                Over half of all android apps are free. For iOS, it's more like 25%. Yes, there may be more iOS apps overall, but when Android hits 300,000 apps (where iOS currently is), it'll still be about 50%. So I stand by my point - The android market is full of a lot more free apps, maybe not by raw number (iOS certainly has that covered in pretty much all areas), but in all categories.

                • Over half of all android apps are free.

                  Interesting. You wouldn't know that by looking at the Market. Whenever I pull it up, I find the majority of apps tend to be non-free or ad-supported, which is also non-free.
              • And there are more red M&M's in my 1kg pack than there are total M&M's in my 100g pack!
            • by Kitkoan (1719118)
              My Sony Xperia x10 is 2.1. Been officially been Android 2.1 since Sony released the update in Nov.
          • Just to clarify: you're having a one-off issue with an application that nobody else has, and it's Android's fault?

            Right, just checking.

            When I set an alarm on my android, it even says, "alarm is set for hours from now."

            And then it goes off as planned.

            • Well, there are plenty of issues with various apps, but I won't bother listing them all. The issues are mostly with the stock Android apps, so I would say yes, it's Android's fault. If Minesweeper crashed all the time on windows, I'd blame Microsoft, right?
              • by Anonymous Coward
                But this seems more like the minesweeper crashes only on your computer, so I'd blame it, right?
              • by akzeac (862521)

                If Minesweeper crashed all the time on windows, I'd blame Microsoft, right?

                Well, it seems the application crashes all the time on you, so I'd rather blame you.

              • by jeffmeden (135043)

                Android has so little to do with how it was written, and so much to do with how it was modified by the handset maker (and possibly wireless carrier) that it's rarely fair to say ANYthing conclusive about Android after trying out just one handset. There are, no doubt, little problems here and there with any given handset, but your blame rests squarely on the handset maker (Sony) and their coding choices. Google clearly did not code a fundamentally flawed alarm clock app, or it would be the one making headl

          • by mcvos (645701)

            And what is a ROM?

            No idea what the acronym means, but it's basically an Android distribution. Kernel, core apps, config, lots of tweaks according to the tastes of the creators, and you install it all at once on your rooted phone. (Except if it's god an encrypted boot loader like my stupid Milestone. Then you have to do everything by hand.)

        • by nospam007 (722110)

          "It's even clever enough to up the volume if you happen to have your phone on Vibrate."

          Waking my wife when I put it on vibrate under my pillow isn't very clever.

        • by Pojut (1027544)

          I currently have NonSensikal (which is a Froyo 2.2-based rom) running on my Droid Eris. My favorite feature of the alarm built into it (not sure if it's stock, but whatever): Even if you have headphones plugged into the phone, the alarm still comes through the speakerphone.

          Quite useful if I'm streaming Last.fm for sleep-time music.

      • by Pojut (1027544)

        How do you do that? Because frequently, when I set the alarm, it doesn't go off. Also, there is no correlation to significant dates, so I never know when to prepare for an absent alarm. (I have an android phone, and I bitterly regret buying it.)

        I've got a Droid Eris that I plan on getting rid of when the Tegra-based models hit Verizon. I've used numerous custom roms on it (as well as the stock rom for a few months) and I've never had an alarm fail. I've heard this criticism a lot, but I've personally never experienced it. Have you tried a different rom/alarm app other than the stock one?

        Maybe it's only with certain phones...?

        • I don't even know what a ROM is, and I'm above-median interested in gadgets. If it's some sort of firmware, I have no idea how you upgrade it. As I said, I haven't even managed to upgrade the phone to android 2.1, after trying several PCs.
          • by Pojut (1027544)

            A rom is, in the simplest terms, the underlying operating software on your phone. Or, if it helps, just think of it as an operating system version. That's not exactly right, but it will keep things simple.

            Example: I'm running NonSensikal on my Droid Eris...NonSensikal is a Froyo 2.2 based rom that runs FAR better than the stock 2.1 Sense rom that the phone comes with. This is where Android phones show their true flexibility: you can change anything and everything, right down to the very operating system

            • Right, but would any old Android version fit the small Xperia Mini screen? It sounds unlikely, because several of the apps made especially for the Mini are still screen real estate hogs, and are not really useful. And then, how do you change the OS on the phone without using M$ Windows? According to Sony, there's no way. And again, what about drivers for the various sony specific stuff? I'm sure there must be some?

              I am not from the US either, so not all of those choices are possible for me.

              • by Pojut (1027544)

                All of your questions can be answered at XDA-Developers [xda-developers.com]. That's the go-to place for stuff like this. Check on the forums, I can 100% guarantee you the answers you need are there.

    • by Feinu (1956378) on Monday January 03, 2011 @09:47AM (#34743004)
      My favourite hack is the one which allows you to hold the phone any way you please.
      • by Anonymous Coward

        My favorite Android hack is the one where messages are sent to the intended contact. Only trouble is, it hasn't been written yet.

      • From the "Important Notice" section of my new LG P509 phone:

        11. Hold the phone straight up
        Please hold the mobile phone straight up as a regular phone. While making/receiving calls or sending/receiving data, try to avoid holding the lower part of the phone where the antenna is located. It may affect call quality.

    • by jo_ham (604554)

      While I get up late due to dodgy alarm code, my favourite iPhone hack that I have to do in the afternoon is when I send an SMS message and it actually gets to the person I sent it to.

    • My favourites are Metal Detector and Lie Detector.
  • The first rule is too restrictive, specially now when saving money matters more than harming humans. So the best android hacks usually pass around changing the weight or deleting one of the 3 rules, or putting a zeroth rule in front of them, even if requires capabilities that the positronic brain should not get without a serious hardware upgrade.
  • by Jimpqfly (790794) on Monday January 03, 2011 @09:25AM (#34742856) Homepage Journal
    ... but it could be nice to have anything usefull among those hacks, don't you think ?
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by Jon Stone (1961380)

      ... but it could be nice to have anything usefull among those hacks, don't you think ?

      Like a spell checker?

    • Well if you root you can enable the wireless tethering that most carriers disable. I'm fairly surprised they didn't mention that.
    • A couple examples:

      • the garage door opener. Yeah, that's really cool. But am I really going to 1) dedicate a linux box (in my garage, with temps pushing 100F in the summer), 2) buy the needed serial control interface, 3) spend hours hacking around on software, and 4) physically mount up and connect all this stuff, so I can 5) replace the garage door remote that I already have? I don't think so.
      • Changing the look of your interface is one of the "10 best" hacks? Really?
      • Overclocking my phone? Yeah, that'll en
    • Ubuntu and a faster processor for less money aren't usefull?
  • In this war (Score:5, Insightful)

    by mhollis (727905) on Monday January 03, 2011 @09:28AM (#34742880) Journal

    In this war between Android and iPhone, the customer wins.

    The "Droid Does" (multitasking) ad campaign spurred Apple to develop iOS 4.x, which allows multitasking. The first Droid smartphones got Apple off the dime with cut and paste. Customers continue to win here, no matter which phone they purchase

    Personally I have an iPhone (4) and I like it. I had the original iPhone and retained it well past my contract with AT&T. I have a client who purchased a Droid Incredible and asked me to set up his email (from my server) on it. Took all of about a minute. I was very impressed by the phone and shall always retain that impression.

    I think the real losers here are RIM with the Blackberry and the Palm WebOS smartphones. While Palm has innovated, they have been passed by and are now in a niche. RIM is trying to play "catch up" and the only real difference they offer in their phones is complete integration with secure Exchange Servers. They have lost utterly in the easy app purchase field.

    Apple's biggest mistake so far in the United States has been the exclusivity contract with AT&T. Initially, it was a boon for Apple, but the Android smartphones are selling faster than the Apple smartphones because they are available on more networks. To the extent Apple stays with the phone company we all love to hate, they will lose market share versus the Android smartphones.

    • by LodCrappo (705968)

      I think RIM's best move would be to port the things corporate customers like onto an Android based phone. Bring all the functionality of the BES server to Android and you've got a device that could *really* clean up in the business market. I'm not familiar with all BES can do, but our IT guys love it.. I guess it allows a lot of security, remote control, policy management, etc that isn't yet available on the other smartphone platforms. They'd have all the benefits of the Android system (huge array of so

      • by mhollis (727905)

        Mod this up!

        And hopefully RIM will get a clue.

        Their server technology is so secure that certain rather paranoid countries want them to give officials "back door" keys. And in this day of business espionage, that is a real plus.

    • Isn't it great that the iPhone gets all the features Android gets a year later? Its amazing how innovative Apple has become!

  • by Joe U (443617) on Monday January 03, 2011 @10:39AM (#34743390) Homepage Journal

    I'm glad I held on to my WM 6.5 phone. Personally, I think having a phone you can hack is part of the fun of owning a smartphone.

    Most people who look at my setup give a 'WTF is that?!?' expression. But it works for me, and that's what counts. (Yes, it's stable, I just had to un-HTC ware the freaking thing and it became stable, cooking my own ROM is was part of the fun)

    My next phone will be Android based, because MS is too busy playing iPhone catch up to actually release a real smartphone. I'll most likely cook up my own Android ROM when the time comes.

    • by mlts (1038732) *

      I was in the same boat when my WM phone croaked last year. The WM phone was insanely customizable, had very good encryption, easy to back up, and the custom ROMS for it were excellent.

      Depending on the Android phone you get (Nexus 1 and Nexus at the top of the heap for ease of customizability, and a crapshoot with other phone makers, although HTC seems to suck the least), you might be able to find a really cool, stable ROM. Usually a stable one (that dispenses with the UI junk that phone makers and cellula

    • If you haven't switched...see my sig. I stayed on PalmOS for a long time until Maemo came out, for a while I was worried I might have to strap a GSM modem onto some kind of handheld PC if I wanted an open phone. I also considered a rooted Android build, but Maemo is unquestionably a more capable OS.

      It's also the only mobile OS that's headed in the right direction - towards more openness instead of less.

    • by I8TheWorm (645702) *
      WM 6.5, still by far the easiest to develop apps for. As a test, I wrote a simple calculator for my son whose fuel gauge stopped working. On the Blackerry it took me 2 hours (fire up Eclipse, set keys, code, test, and deploy app). On the iPhone and Android it was about the same. WM 6.5 it literally took me 22 minutes, and that included a little bit of design.
  • This is stupid (Score:4, Insightful)

    by rickb928 (945187) on Monday January 03, 2011 @10:46AM (#34743452) Homepage Journal

    Ok, in order:

    1. Um, connect your Android video-out-capable phone to your in-car video. If the hack is replacing yoru in-car satnav system, you did that with the Android phone without the video. Now, hooking up YouTube to your in-car video, that's a hack. And illegal in many states.

    4. Playing classic games on your Andriod? That's an *app*, not a *hack*. The controller hack is nice tho.

    7. Installing root-only apps? How about "Getting root on your android"? After that, well, the apps come.

    8. Controlling your Media Centre? Um, My Palm III did that. And that was before I *had* a mnedia centre.

    10. "Get the latest Android versions, fast" What? If you're referrring to getting custom ROMs from those intrepid developers out there, fast is relative. Getting Froyo on my G1 took waiting for Froyo to be released into SDK, then waiting for it to be ported to the G1 (which required waiting for the DangerSPL), then waiting for a stable candidate, then finally the 2708 hack to make it useable long-term. Now, this is admittedly faster than waiting for the OPTA release, cause neither TMO, HTC, or Google will ever release any Android 2.x for the G1, but that's sort of like saying it was a clever hack to play DNF at PennyArcade before anyone else, since for all purposes DNF is a DNF, but the demo is not a release. Well, maybe not quite like that, but calling an alternative ROM release 'fast' is relative.

    Stupid list. Mostly apps, not hacks. Show me the RAM stack hack for the G1 and I'm nominating it for #1.

    • by mlts (1038732) *

      I agree with you about that -- there should be a difference between a hack (as in using the CDMA pulses so you can have a strata 1 NTP server on your phone), versus an app.

      On Android, apps have a lot more freedom. Take Exchange for instance. Even though Android is still lacking Exchange encryption, Touchdown from Nitrodesk provides this. Having Exchange in an app also separates it from the OS, so work and personal contacts don't end up merging.

      Ten candidates (IMHO) for best Android hacks, as in true hack

  • Garage door (Score:4, Insightful)

    by NetNed (955141) on Monday January 03, 2011 @12:34PM (#34744534)
    I read the garage door opener and was excited to see how it worked. It involves hooking a Linux box up to your door opener that is connected to the internet. That is kind of lame , certainly in environments where it would be impossible to put a pc in essentially a outdoor setting and I would suspect it wouldn't be that hard to do on other smart phones.
    • You can purchase an inexpensive atom based motherboard (or ARM or Geode based) with Bluetooth for under $140... Since no real processing is required, there may be even cheaper systems that can be built based on older commodity processors. There were some non-MMU versions of Linux that might work.. don't know much about recent developments, but that would be the way I'd go if I were to build it.

  • The garage door opener is labeled as "brilliant" by the article, but frankly I was hoping for something more inspired than networking to a PC-controlled garage door. A real hack would be to modify the firmware so that the cellphone antenna would send the right rolling code directly to the existing radio receiver in the garage door opener. Then there's no need for special "don't accidentally open the garage door if I'm in Japan" type safeties in the software.

  • FTA: "Satnav’s only the tip of the iceberg. Connect your phone to access your music collection, read your Twitter feed, check the latest headlines or perform any other function on your dashboard"

    As a motorcyclist I really hope I'm not anywhere near a car driver reading their Twitter feed or the latest headlines on their dashboard! It's bad enough when they're sending SMS or changing the song! Yes I know they probably mean that you should do this when stationary but to be honest for most of the drivers

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