No Carrier IQ on my Samsung Galaxy 580

Last week there was a bit of media kerfuffle about “Carrier IQ” – a hidden application installed on some phones that can log all sorts of things for the phone company (see this Lifehacker article with links to Android developer Trevor Eckhart’s posts here and here – the dev who discovered the app).

While I’m not overly concerned about the app, given that Vodafone NZ deny using it and as it turns out the logging/spying appears to have overblown given this post by security researcher Dan Rosenberg, I thought I’d try out one of the detector apps to satisfy my curiosity. The app I tried was the Voodoo Carrier IQ detector and it came up clean for me:

Part of the reason I wanted to check myself is that I’m not running the phone+software as purchased from Vodafone NZ. I rooted my phone and installed a new Froyo ROM on it (see this post) and as such is not running fully vetted/authorised by Vodafone NZ.

So, despite a lack of concern it’s nice to see it’s not on my phone. 🙂

For completeness, my phone is a Samsung Galaxy 580 (aka Galaxy 3 or GT-I5800) running Froyo 2.2 (an XXJPM build) on the Vodafone NZ network. Here’s my about/status screens:

 

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Android 2.2 Froyo on my Samsung Galaxy 580 (NZ)

After waiting for months for any word of Froyo coming to the Galaxy 580 (aka Galaxy 3, or GT-I5800) here in New Zealand, including calls/emails to both Vodafone and Samsung here in NZ, I found the following post by admin “johnr” in the Vodafone forums,

Aarrgh! Damn you Vodafone.

Not content with that answer, I decided to take matters into my own hands, void my warranty and flash Froyo onto my phone. In short, I got it up and running on the second try and am stoked to be rocking 2.2. 😀

Pics or it didn’t happen right? Sure, here ya go:

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Here’s the nitty gritty…

Rooting and Flashing.
First up, the standard disclaimer. If you do this, you will void your warranty and you may lose some functionality on your phone, gain undesirable behaviour, or could even totally brick your phone. If that freaks you out or you can’t afford to replace it if it goes horribly wrong, don’t do it! And don’t be blaming me if it goes pear shaped!

That said, there are plenty of benefits in rooting and/or flashing your phone. Gaining root access will let you get at some deep dark parts of your phone and the OS, permitting you to run powerful apps (e.g. Titanium Backup). AFAIK rooting is reversable, so you can undo it. Flashing a new ROM on the other hand may not be reversable, unless you have a backup of your pre-existing ROM, or can get your hands on one to flash it back.

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Froyo 2.2.
My Galaxy 580 came with Eclair 2.1 installed. Since this was my first Android experience (I came to it from a Nokia 6234) I was impressed. However, being the geek that I am I started poking around, installing apps at will, and soon found some limitations that I knew were addressed in newer Android versions. The two features I most wanted was a solid way to disable packet data and the ability to move apps to the SD card to both free up internal phone memory and to allow more apps to be installed. Of course a shinier interface and newer features never goes astray either!

When I asked Vodafone directly about an update to Froyo via email they replied with:

2.2 has been released but to confirm it is available for your model phone and how to get you are best to contact Samsung directly

So I emailed Samsung and got the following response:

Unfortunately at this stage no release date has been set. please feel free to check back with us at any stage

Then I found the forum post in the screenshot above which made me angry enough to immediately flash my phone!

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Resources and Requirements:
All the info, software and background reading you’ll require can be found at xda-developers.com (specifically in the forums) and at SamFirmware.com. I’m not going to duplicate everything here, but you will need USB drivers for your phone, the Odin downloader software and a Firmware to flash.

Here’s the references I used (in the case of the forum posts, I did read most of the threads – not just the top level posts):

xda-developers:

SamFirmware:

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Notes on my experience:

  • I did root my phone first (using z4root) so I could run Titanium Backup, although root isn’t required to flash a new ROM.
  • Backup backup backup! I don’t keep any text messages and all my contacts live at Google which just get synced to the phone. As such, the only things I needed to backup were my apps/data on the phone (which I actually didn’t care about since they can all be installed again later, incl apps you’ve paid for. I didn’t worry about game saves etc, so I lost all game progress – meh, I was over Angry Birds anyway!). Note that anything on the SD card (photos, files etc) is left untouched.
  • Prior to flashing I did remember to record the VFNZ APN settings for both Internet and PXT. These have to manually set after flashing, and are listed online in the Vodafone forum here.
  • I used a stock Samsung Firmware without a bootloader – everything I read suggested this would be more stable and the lack of bootloader means you won’t brick your phone. Initially I tried I5800XWJPF but it didn’t work – my phone wouldn’t startup and hung on the boot screen, so I then re-flashed with I5800XXJPM which worked fine! I grabbed both firmwares from the xda forum not samfirmware – might as well let someone else remove the bootloaders!
  • I didn’t install Kies first – I had it a while ago, but it’s a POS (just like iTunes!) IMHO so I deleted it soon after installing it! This is recommended so you have the latest USB drivers, but you can get them from samfirmware. The only thing you need Kies for is to get software updates, and well, since Vodafone don’t appear to be doing amy more for the 580 I’m turning my back on them and Kies and doing it myself. Note that I can still transfer files to/from my PC via USB using the phone as a mass storage device, or via ftp over wifi – nice!
  • I did do the flashing without the SIM and SD card installed just in case anything went wrong. Some people say it’s not necessary, but I decided to play it safe.
  • Once done, I reset the APN and phone settings, re-installed my apps, synced to Google and other services and it was all good.

And that’s about it! Now, I should probably answer two post-flash questions you might have…

Any problems?
Not really. However I do think the reported size of apps (via the manage apps settings) is incorrect. Not a biggy, as it still reports the correct usage for the SD card and internal storage.

How’s the performance?
Awesome! In fact I think the phone is snappier through menus etc now under 2.2 than it was under 2.1. It could just be the eye candy distracting me, but I think my phone actually runs better now.

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Final words…
So, it does take a leap of faith to do this sort of thing, but I’ve been voiding warranties, flashing firmwares and building PC’s for a while now so I’m quite happy doing so.

If it ain’t broke, take it apart and fix it! 😉

Props to Nokia

A quick shout out to Nokia for the minimal packaging that came with Lou’s new phone,

When purchasing it, I couldn’t believe how small the box was and (perhaps foolishly) actually asked if that was the complete kit: phone charger, car kit, manual and phone – all in that box?!

So yeah, kudos Nokia for getting the packaging about as small as you could have. Nice wee phone too!

Vodafone scam alert!

Yes, you can get SPAM on your phone!

I received a couple of these txt messages last night (you shall remain nameless!) which should immediately jump out at you as being a scam.

This isn’t the first time these type of messages have done the rounds, but this one is so fake it’s laughable. Why? Oh boy, where to start…

  • It clearly contains a spelling mistake, bad grammar and a lack of punctuation
  • It didn’t come from Vodafone
  • It sounds too good to be true (which means it most certainly is!) Spend $2 and get $50 – yeah right!
  • Deals and promos from Vodafone always contain a link to their website for more info or a phone number you can call

And if you want confirmation it’s fake from Vodafone themselves, check out this forum post by Paul Brislen – Vodafone’s External Communications Manager.

I promised those that got sucked in a lecture, so here goes… after the break that is…

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Mobile Data Costs

Vodafone sent me (and 1000’s of others no doubt) a txt msg today announcing their new mobile internet plans. The big change is for casual users (probably anyone like me on prepay) who now have the following pricing,

$1/day for 10MB, no monthly fee, $1/MB overage

In other words, that’s ~$30/month for 300MB. While this is not a bad price in NZ’s (crippled) mobile data market, it is still complete pants compared to the rest of the world. It’s also worth noting that this a better deal than their “Broadband Starter” plan which is $30/month for 200MB on a 2 year contract. Go figure.

While on the topic of ridiculous pricing for mobile data, lets look at what those sms/txt messages cost you. At 20 cents per message that’s cheap right? Wrong! Time for some math…

1 sms = 160 7-bit characters (max) = 1,120 bits = 140 bytes
1 MB = 1,000,000 bytes (SI units) = 7142 sms messages
1 sms message costs 20 cents
Therefore, sending 1 MB via sms costs $1,428!

Of course if you don’t max out your 160 characters (or if you base it on 1024^2 bytes) it’s much more expensive. Wow.

Now if that doesn’t make you realise just how much money the telco’s are creaming off us, I don’t know what will.

Vodafone NZ embarrassed by its own plans?

Just three days before the launch of the iPhone here in New Zealand, Vodafone NZ announced some of the most expensive data plans accompanying the phone ON THE PLANET. Like many, I thought $199 was reasonable for the legendary device, until I saw the associated data price tag that is – a whopping $6,000! (see this post).

While browsing the Vodafone website this morning, I decided to see if there was any change in the plans given the general disappointment by the public (see here* and here*). To my surprise there has been a change in the listed plans(!), but not a change I was expecting.

So lets play spot the difference…

The listed plans today:

And the plans announced on July 8:

As you can see above, and for yourself on their iPhone plans page, Vodafone have ceased advertising their exorbitant 1GB data plan – you now have to visit a store to find that one.

So why the change? I can only conclude that Vodafone are EMBARRASSED by their own plans to the point that they are trying to hide the true cost to “heavy” data users. I say “heavy” as I believe that is complete bollocks by the way – 1GB per month is a mere 33MB (or so) a day and trivial to burn through given the richness of the internet. Furthermore, paying $6,000 for 24GB over two years is plainly insane when my ISP can offer me 50GB in one month for $40. Go figure (coz I can’t).

So yeah, SHAME ON YOU VODAFONE – firstly for pricing your data ridiculously high and secondly for trying to hide it.

(* WebCite links to the Stuff.co.nz articles here and here)

NZ iPhone data plans announced

Yesterday Vodafone NZ advised that the iPhone would start at NZ$199 – not too shabby, until you review their data plans announced today… If you thought the Canadians had it rough, check out the following exorbitant prices,

First up, that $199 price quoted earlier only applies if you buy an 8GB model with 1GB of data per month at a cost of $250/month! The astute among you will immediately realise this equates to a grand total of $6,199 over the course of the 2 year contract for the handset plus data! If you’re willing to shell out that much, you might as well treat yourself to a 16GB model for just $150 more.

The cheapest option is to buy an 8GB model with a paltry 250MB of data per month at an ongoing cost of $80/month, which totals $2,469 over the 2 year contract period. Just to be clear, 250MB per month is less than 9MB/day, which given the size of feature/media rich web pages these days is trivial to use up with simple web surfing.

Those plans are laughable. Congratulations Vodafone NZ – you’ve probably just announced the most expensive iPhone on the planet! How you can justify to charge that much for data is beyond me.

So yeah, no iPhone for me, but then that probably comes as no surprise really.

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UPDATE: But wait, it gets worse (if that’s possible). The folks in the NZGames.com forum have pointed out that you can’t get the phone on a prepay plan and there will be no visual voicemail when the phone is launched (this is not to say Vodafone won’t support it in the future, but hey, that’s one very cool feature missing).