HTC has always known their biggest weakness: Windows Mobile. They've done their best to hide the aged interface in glossy costumes and bolster performance, but they can only do so much—the OS is slow, buggy and can drain battery life on certain hardware. Luckily, Windows Mobile responds well to per-device modification. A dedicated community of hackers called XDA has built a collection of streamlined, debugged, turbocharged OS builds (or ROMs) to resuscitate your flagging HTC phone, along with some less daunting smartphone tweaks for the weaker stomached. Now, it bears mentioning that HTC is pretty diligent about updating their phones, releasing driver and software updates to improve performance when necessary. Problem is, these updates don't usually trickle down through the cellular providers, leaving most users stuck with the first (and only) generation of the phone's branded—and sometimes crippled— software. Thanks to XDA, most users can switch to an up-to-date OS, with a variety of extra tweaks added at the discretion of the community. What do you stand to gain from upgrading your ROM?
Popular phones best suited for upgrade:
- Better battery life
- Faster performance, especially in TouchFLO 3D
- Stronger reception
- Quicker, less laggy GPS locking and tracking
- Bundles of useful software, included updated, faster Opera browser
- Reenabling carrier-chopped features such as tethering, HDSPA
The prospect of upgrading your phone's entire OS might sound intimidating, but the XDA community has provided GUI tools for each step. The procedure is not risk-free, but the success rate polls highly among people who follow the directions closely. I flashed T-Mobile's branded Diamond, the MDA Compact IV, without incident. Ready to give this a shot? XDA's detailed guides are available here:
If ROMs and bootloaders and radios all sound too scary (and I wouldn't blame you), XDA also has a hefty collection of simpler tweaks and mods for your HTC phones, including themes, games and apps that you might not find elsewhere. Expect to hear a lot more about these guys in the coming months—they'll probably be the first ones to port Android to older HTC handsets. As of the 4th, they've got a severely gimped version of Android 0.8 (the G1 launched with 1.0) running on the Diamond, so an "Install Android on Your HTC Phone" Dealzmodo Hack is inevitable, if still pretty far off. [XDA Developers and ModMyDiamond] Dealzmodo Hacks are intended to help you sustain your crippling gadget addiction through tighter times. If you come across any on your own that are particularly useful, send it to our tips line (Subject: Dealzmodo Hack). Check back every Thursday for free DIY tricks to breathe new life into hardware that you already own.