Samsung Galaxy S II Blues?

So you just bought Samsung’s new Galaxy S II smart phone. Nice isn’t it?

One of the first things I noticed when I turned it on was the unusual blue colour cast on the screen. It’s impossible to capture in a screenshot but I soon found out how to fix it and promptly forgot about it again. I was only reminded of it by the Ars review of the phone. Oddly they found the phone to have a yellowish colour cast:

But the screen has a very warm cast to it even at the brightest settings, so whites look yellowish-brown, like you’re looking at the phone through sunglasses. Samsung may have tuned it this way to mitigate the AMOLED’s brightness, but we found it off-putting. This isn’t an obstacle that can’t be overcome, and we’d likely get used to it after a while—some people prefer warmer-toned screens. But every surrounding phone’s screen will always look bluish and undersaturated by comparison.

It’s easily fixed by going into Settings->Display->Background effect. In my experience, “standard” looks a bit pale, blue and cold, “movie” looks a bit yellowish and warm. I finally selected “dynamic” and that looked the best. Whites look white. Persil would be proud.

Oh, the phone is fabulous. The default launcher sucks but it’s simple to change that (Go Launcher EX, thank you!). Google had all my settings already recorded so it was only a matter of logging into Google and it sucked down all the apps I had previously from the Android Market. Same with contacts. Definitely the easiest phone upgrade I’ve ever done.

Also check out this lengthy Anandtech review of the phone. Quite a bit of reading!

Living with CyanogenMod 7 for Samsung Galaxy S

My phone, a Samsung Galaxy S, has been running CyanogenMod 7 for the past week or so. The first week was a bit rocky. The phone ignored vibration settings at first and would vibrate when ringing, and when I hung up. In one call I couldn’t hear the caller at all! It also ignored my ringtone setting and used the first mp3 on the phone (not so bad, it was a Fun Lovin’ Criminals track!)

Anyway, I practically had to upgrade. I was running an earlier version of the Voodoo rom which unfortunately didn’t behave. Wifi kept turning itself off and I used my allowance of 3G bandwidth a couple of times. I did try to update Voodoo but screwed up and had to do a factory reset. Thankfully I had a backup done with Titanium Backup! After restoring my apps I decided to take the plunge to CM7. Why? Gingerbread!

CyanogenMod is an aftermarket firmware for a number of cell phones based on the open-source Android operating system. It offers features not found in the official Android based firmwares of vendors of these cell phones.

Initially I installed the 7.1.0 RC1 but there were problems as I mentioned above. There are nightly builds however and they’re supposed to be fairly easy to install. I screwed that up too but eventually got everything working! I’m now running nightly #67 and things have been fairly smooth.

CyanogenMod 7 is a very good mod. My phone is flying along and while it does offer advantages over the stock kernel (updated more often plus other features) you do miss out on the excellent Samsung Camera app, and battery life is slightly worse. The FM radio doesn’t work either but I haven’t bothered to investigate that as I rarely use it.

Flashing a new rom isn’t for the unadventurous. If the idea of rebooting into recovery mode, possibly changing radio drivers and knowing you might run into a world of pain scares you, don’t do it! Gingerbread, the latest Android firmware for phones, is making its way to the SGS and if you haven’t got it yet run KIES and you may find it waiting for you. The advantage of using CM7 is that they can move to the very latest Gingerbread (2.3.5 at the time of writing, my phone company only offers 2.3.3). Nightly build #70 introduced that version of the OS. You might want to keep an eye on this thread on the XDA forums too. There are problems with the nightlies but of course most of those who have no problem won’t be posting there so you’re bound to see a concentration of negativity. #67 works fine for me. YMMV!

How fast is my Samsung Galaxy S now? I ran Quadrant Standard three times, with progressively better scores.

  1. 1612
  2. 1977
  3. 2015
For comparison, the original Samsung Galaxy S had a score of 750. I would be very interested to hear how the stock Samsung Galaxy S with the Samsung Gingerbread firmware compares.

It’s still not quite as fast as the Galaxy S with the venerable “One Click Lag Fix” I benchmarked a while back. That used EXT2 however, a filesystem lacking journaling features important to maintaining data in the event of a system crash or problem.

Would I recommend CyanogenMod 7? If you’re a techie and can live without the Samsung Camera App then yes. Go for it. If you’re an Open Source fan who hates proprietary software you should definitely go for it. You even have to install Google Apps separately because they are proprietary software!

If you just use your phone to take photos, check Twitter and make phone calls, then don’t go near CyanogenMod 7 (or any firmware TBH!) just yet.

My Favourite Android Apps

I’ve used a Samsung Galaxy S since August last year and in that time I’ve downloaded and played with lots of apps and games. Here are a few of my favourites.

  1. Tweetdeck
  2. Dolphin Browser HD
  3. Kindle and FBReader
  4. Amazon Appstore and Android Market
  5. Reddit is Fun
  6. GO Contacts/Dialer/Launcher EX/SMS Pro
  7. CardioTrainer
  8. WordPress
  9. aCar
  10. Juice Defender
And some games
  1. Galaxy Domination (not on the market any more, now here!)
  2. Cut the Rope
  3. Guns ‘n’ Glory

Besides those, there are so many apps on my phone now that it’s ridiculous. I recently started using the Google+ app, and the Amazon Appstore gives away a free paid app every day so that’s my first port of call shortly after 8am every morning. There’s also getjar.com who have a free ad-supported version of Cut the Rope, as well as many other apps and games.

I used to play a lot more games, I’d dive into Galaxy Domination any chance I’d get but now I’d rather read a book in the Kindle app or FBReader, or check out the latest Reddit posts on “Reddit is Fun”.

If you have a phone with a fairly big screen (the Galaxy S has a 4 inch screen) then reading on them is a rare pleasure. No more fiddling with bookmarks or holding the spine of a thick volume open. Go on, head over to Amazon now and pick up a cheap ebook. You might just like it!

You might wonder how much has this all cost me? I’ve bought quite a few books on the Kindle store (I still think it’s wonderful that I can visit Amazon from my phone and buy a book), but I’ve only bought 2 apps. Those would be aCar (purchased through the author’s website) and just last night I bought Juice Defender Plus. As I mentioned in a previous post on battery saving tips that app shuts off the various radios in your phone when not in use, switching them on momentarily for syncing on a regular basis. The free version turns off the 3G connection when the screen is locked, but not wifi. The paid for version  does that and it’s well worth it. Battery life sky rockets after using this app!

Make Android screenshots without root

Sometimes you can learn useful things from a bad thing happening. Yesterday came the news that 21 popular apps on the Android market had been copied. They were uploaded again to the market with similar sounding names but loaded with a trojan.

That installed a rootkit on your phone to get root access and then sent private data to a remote server in the US. All the apps have been removed, and the developer accounts banned but of course it’s a bad day for Android. 🙁

Anyway, this Symantic post explains how to know if you’ve been unlucky enough to download one of these apps. Open up Settings->Applications->Running Services and look for “DownloadManageService”.

I did that and found a service I didn’t recognise, ScreenCaptureService. What? In the past I had to root my phone to take screenshots. How do I do it now? A quick search and I found this thread. Apparently pressing the back key and power key starts the service and this post explains that pressing Back and Home takes a screenshot! This is a Froyo, (Android 2.2), feature and a welcome one but I wonder why it’s not documented?

Screenshots are stored on your SD card, in a ScreenCapture directory. The screenshot above was created with it. No root required!

I'm an ebook convert now

Matt has made it well known that he loves his Kindle and for a while I thought about buying one too. Unfortunately I’ll have to order it from Amazon.com in the US because I live in Ireland. Attempts to buy it from Amazon.co.uk result in an error and asks me to go visit the US site. When you add shipping costs and import fees it drives the price on Amazon.com up to $193.58!

So, if not the Kindle, how do I read ebooks? On my phone of course! I downloaded the Android Kindle app for my Samsung Galaxy S. The 4 inch screen of this phone is plenty big enough for reading, though you won’t be doing it at arm’s length. It’s also backlit so there’s no need for a light to shine on the device to read it. That suits me as the majority of my reading is done when I’m in bed at night. I don’t think I’ll ever read a magazine on the phone as the screen is too small. I tried reading bits and pieces of a Retro Gamer pdf on it but it was a horrible experience. I presume Kindle formatted magazines are better suited to the small screen?

I tried reading books on previous phones but each time it was one of the free “out of copyright” books I picked up rather than a book I had to spend money on. Last September at Seaside all that changed when I bought the Kindle version of Terry Pratchett’s “Unseen Academicals” and put the paperback version of that book back into my bag. It was wonderful!

I don’t think I’ve bought a paperback since. I wandered into Waterstones once (killing time, I didn’t even head over to the sci-fi section), and any time I pop into Eason’s it’s to buy a magazine. I’ve since made several purchases on amazon.com including a few books by authors unknown to me. Check out Containment and Brainbox by Christian Cantrell for example.

I’m not happy about everything Kindle however. Even though Ireland is in the European Union along with the UK, Amazon customers here cannot buy the Kindle or ebooks through amazon.co.uk. Instead we have to use amazon.com. Thankfully there’s no VAT on books so the US price is the price Irish customers pay. Good thing the Euro is stronger than the US Dollar. It does however mean that we have to buy books with American English spelling and that won’t improve the humour of those people who will criticise the service.

Also, some books cannot be bought because I’m not in the United States or United Kingdom. Ender’s Game is one such novel. If I search Amazon.com for that title I won’t be shown the Kindle version at all but I found it by using Google. I can’t even look for it on amazon.co.uk because I’m in Ireland, not the UK. I understand this is probably because publishers have regional contracts but this is digital data and Amazon has a worldwide audience.

I’d still like to try out a Kindle as a reading device as I’ve heard so many good things about it, but the important part of the Kindle are the books, and I can read them just fine on my phone.

Besides the Kindle app there are many other Android ebook readers. I particularly like FBReader myself but check the market for others.

For historical purposes for those reading this in 10 years time when it will probably be hard to buy paperback books, Amazon sold more ebooks during the last 3 months of 2010 than paperbacks.

Amazon has revealed that it has sold more Kindle ebooks than paperbacks in the US during the final three months of 2010.

A similar pattern has continued during January 2011 with 115 ebooks being sold for every 100 paperbacks.

My phone is faster than yours

If you’re using a Samsung Galaxy S or one of it’s variants then my phone may well be twice as fast or even faster than your phone! How? It’s all rather simple actually.

First of all, I downloaded Quadrant Standard from the Android market. This is a benchmarking app that you can use to find out how fast your phone is. Run a benchmark and note the performance figure for your phone. Now, go look for “One Click Lag Fix” in the market and install that too.


This little app will root your phone, and install a new ext2 partition on your phone. The default Galaxy S filesystem isn’t that hot at running apps. The new partition will be used to store cache data, and because ext2 is supposedly better at caching your apps will load faster, and you’ll experience less or no lag when opening them. That was my experience with it anyway. This will help your phone’s performance significantly.

In recent updates to OCLF two new options were added, “Alter Minfree”, and “Change Scheduler”. Adjusting these will make a huge difference to your phone. Each one is explained briefly, with a recommended setting. I followed that advice and it’s like my phone is on steroids now! Apps open faster than ever and I’m just waiting for it to dance a jig it’s so fast and responsive.

Please be aware that running OCLF means rooting your phone and invalidating your warranty. You may brick your phone. That means it won’t work any more and can’t be fixed. It more than likely won’t happen and I haven’t read about it happening but you should be aware of the risks involved.

Bonus tip: If you’re running Linux on your desktop computer, the scheduler can be changed on that too. Must give that a go some time.

Android Battery Saving Tips

Battery usage on all so called “smart phones” is almost universally woeful. Big high-res colour screens, fast processors, sound, wifi and 3g networking all consume gobs of battery power.

Here are some battery saving tips for Android phones. I’m going on a long flight in a few days time so I’ll be trying these tips out before I go!

  • Go into Settings->About phone->”Battery use” to see what’s chewing up your battery.
  • Turn off haptic feedback. That’s vibration alerts when you press your screen. Turn off vibration as a notification too.
  • Apparently 3G uses more power than wifi so make sure wifi is always on. (Settings->Wireless and network->Wifi Settings->Advanced->Wifi sleep policy and select “Never”). My Galaxy S switches to 3G when the screen blanks by default but apparently this is a big battery saver. Only when you have a wifi network around I guess.
  • Always press “BACK” when you want to exit an app.
  • Turn off GPS. If your phone uses the cell network to find your location turn that off too.
  • Turn on power saving, and reduce the screen timeout so it goes black faster.
  • Turn off wifi when you leave your house or work. That stops your phone trying to connect to a network.
  • Turn off bluetooth when you don’t need it.
  • Turn off 3G and use 2G. (Ugh, slow!)
  • Turn off background data and syncing.
  • Turn down the brightness on your display.
  • Don’t use your camera.
  • Don’t use a live wallpaper, what’s wrong with a static picture?
  • Don’t use a homescreen widget that pulls data and updates all the time.
  • Task manager are generally frowned upon but some apps misbehave and don’t close properly. “Watchdog Lite” is a useful app that tells you how much CPU each app running on your phone consumes. Beware closing apps too much. They may look like they’re running, but they’re not. Android keeps them in memory, so they start up quickly next time.
  • Get Juice Defender off the Market. Besides a ton of battery saving features, the like of which I’m still trying to understand, it has a handy widget that will disable mobile data completely. Nice!

I’d love if Android phones totally disconnected from the Internet when I closed the browser, Tweetdeck or whatever app was using the network. My old Nokia 5800 did that. It connected each time I opened the browser and had wonderful battery life.

So, what other tips can you suggest for power hungry smartphones?

Update! With wifi and the 3G radio on the other night 6% of battery was used over about 6 hours. I switched off wifi and 3G (using Juice Extender) and the phone only burned through 2% of battery power over the same period last night.