Tecno Phantom A+: First Impression and how to root

Soon after being relieved of my second Tecno smartphone I stuck to my policy of buying electronics. Its pretty simple buy more expensive in the event that I am careless and loose or are relieved of said gadget. I decided to always replace any gadget I loose with a better and more expensive one as soon as I can.

In order to adhere to the Mwangi policy, I proceeded to call up one Gideon Sigei, my go to guy for all things Tecno.  Since buying the N7 there have been several launches of droids sporting Android 4.2 most in the mid-range on price and feature sets. I wasn’t that interested in getting something I had previously owned. I thus went for the Tecno F7 (They call it the Tecno Phantom A+ but ain’t that such a mouthful?)

I gotta say I expected way less for the 20,000/- that was asked for the unit. I get a quad core  processor, a gig of ram, a GB of internal storage and an 8GB men card. Comes with a 5 inch screen in a better form factor than the Tecno N7 which was/is quite bulky in the hand, pocket and even on the desk. Its also lighter and easier on the eyes.

I tend not to store much on the phone apart from say a couple of pics and using the storage like portable storage. Tecno however need to try and up the internal storage, its really lagging behind competitors on this front anyway.

The 971mb ram seems to be handling tasks just fine with barely any lag or jittery operations.

Tecno Quadcore
Tecno Quadcore

Holding this phone in your hand makes you wonder exactly why you would buy a Samsung    phone. I know I am NOT getting a software upgrade to KitKat while some Samsung handsets will get an upgrade. I also have less internal storage but is that sufficient to warrant double the price for similar specs?

Well I will stick to my broke lanes while holding a gadget faster than my PC for half what it cost me several years ago.

Now for all the tinkerers out there here is how to root the gadget.

Requirements:

  • Windows 7 PC/laptop
  • ADB drivers(Just download the Android SDK and it should have all you need.)
  • eroot v1.3.3 found here

Now simply connect your phone to the PC and run the eroot software. Its in Chinese so you won’t understand much of what is going on(unless you are chines that is.) The only button you need is labelled ‘root’ and just click on it and thats it. Your Tecno F7 is rooted.

I doubt there is a need for a custom rom at this stage unless you are some kind of modding freak. Anyhow I have not explored past here.

 

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How Windows Phone could be salvaged

If there are investors that are not believing their misfortune it must be Research In Motion shareholders. watching your company move from dominating the smartphone market to limping about like an old diseased dog must be absolutely devastating.

Blackberry footsied about ignoring the growing dominance of iOS and Android devices and the rest as they say is history. At some point my adventurous self tried out the Blackberry Storm 2 and I must say save for the awesome camera the rest of the phone was crap. Slow to respond, heavier than a brick with some weird tactile feedback screen and the worst battery life I have ever seen in a new smartphone. Reminded me of pre 2008 laptops.

English: The BlackBerry Storm 9530 smartphone.
English: The BlackBerry Storm 9530 smartphone. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

But the one place Blackberry ruled and is still dominant to date is in the enterprise/corporate world. Suit wearers love the email and security features built into the device and I still see corporate types donning Blackberries albeit less and less.

And this is where the cousin of Blackberry (at least in the insignificant market share family) should be capitalizing and getting a foothold. As far as I can tell the dominant OS on most corporate desktops is still windows. Throw in a well thought out affordable windows tablet that can easily be hooked up to the offices intranet and CEOs will stop buying iPads. Put the same amount of effort if not more into a security and work conscious Windows phone and CEOs and their minions will go the Windows phone way. Make the entire ecosystem so rock solid and seamless that Windows phone becomes the default corporate hardware.

English: Picture from the Samsung Omnia 7 (als...
English: Picture from the Samsung Omnia 7 (also known as Samsung I8700) with Windows Phone 7 Homescreen. Deutsch: Bild des Samsung Omnia 7 (auch bekannt als Samsung I8700) mit Windows Phone 7 Homescreen. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Forget the consumer market for now, you will get them later. Fighting the Samsung galaxy’s and iPhones now is not going to be easy and a lot of marketing dollars will be wasted. Go for the sure budgets and they will soon trickle into the consumer market, just like the Blackberries did. Then take the entire Blackberry model where they have preferential data rates etc. Hell buy Blackberry outright. Why not? They are cheap enough now.

Wasting time fighting with Android gadgets about who is prettiest is only wasting their money flogging a limping horse.

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How to Root the Tecno N7 and install CWM

The Users of the Tecno N7 know what a bargain the device is and for the enthusiastic modders and those wanting maximum control of their device, having root is important.

Being a chinese device there isn’t much that happens in the mainstream developer circles (XDA) concerning it but there is an active community complete with very easy to use tools that you can use to root your ching chong thing and have just as much fun as the rest of the android crowd.

Now few of the regular tools seem to work so I dug around the interwebs till I found the simplest rooting tool ever. It goes by the name SRSRoot and all it needs is adb drivers and you are good to go. Be warned though that it needs internet access to talk to its servers. This got me worried for abit before I realised I barely know what rootkits Google has hidden in the OS for the US govt and that I barely have any sensitive info on the phone anyway. All you do is click root and it looks for the best way to do it and does it. Pretty simple and straightforward.

Screenshot_2013-09-03-14-21-03[1] Screenshot_2013-09-03-14-20-51[1]

Installing CWM was the hardest part no small part for the reason stated before, the community is still small.

I however found a no brainer resource that shows you step by step how to generate a CWM recovery for your device.

Requirements:

  • A windows 7 based PC or Laptop
  • ADB drivers installed on your machine
  • MTK Droid Tools v2.4.8 which can be found here
  • Tutorial which is to be found here
  • If you want to dump your ROM or backup here is a tutorial

Its a pretty straight forward process where the  software will do all the heavy lifting for you leaving you with a custom made recovery for the Tecno N7 allowing you to flash whatever zip you fancy and to mod it to your hearts content with custom themes etc. I believe the procedure will work with just about any other chinese or otherwise device that is based on the Mediatek chipsets. Ie if your processor is MTKxxx then this is likely to work. Just about all Chinese made phones i.e mi-Fone, Tecno, etc have MTKxxx chipsets and should work. It creates a custom recovery based on CWM specifically for your device. It doesn’t get more custom than that.

MTKdroidroot

 

I am informed that Tecno have not released the kernel source and thus building a custom ROM for the device will be impossible.  I don’t know how true that is since there are some for the N3 so there may be hope yet.

I went through all this trouble because of a problem with installing Google play services on this device. It kept popping an error when it tried to install and it was driving me nuts. Some apps require it to run e.g Foursquare, Hangouts, Avast Mobile Security etc.

All I did was clear the dalvik cache and wipe all the phone memory (that is do a factory reset and wipe ) and flash the gapps for ICS again from CWM and I was back in business.

Try it out and tell me what you think.

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Tecno n7

Being an Android loyalist, for the purpose of preserving the notes in my wallet, I only buy android handsets. They happen to be the only kind of smartphones that can hold 2 SIMs. This helps alot when I need MPesa but also need Orange Kenya’s cheap internet.

Samsung products are in my opinion overpriced for what they wind up delivering compared to their Chinese counterparts. But then again these may just be sentiments from a broke guy and I might have to eat my words sooner rather than later.

The first phone I tried out due to its price point was the Mi-Fone A351 for about 6,000/-. It was bought in a hurry since I was travelling and needed a smartphone. It also seemed to have reasonable specs . Humongous mistake. The build quality was atrocious, it crashed every other hour and simple things that even the Huawei Ideos could handle it struggled with. For instance when an app crashes, I cannot report to google the play store keeps crashing.

Later I got a chance to get something better and I decided that Tecno deserved a chance. Their previous offerings have been solid in performance and basically delivered precisely what was suggested on the box without fail. That tends to be important.

I fired up Olx and looked for the nearest deal. long story short I got a Tecno N7 for a steal and was pretty proud of myself, for a while.

It has pretty much what you would expect in a midrange phone with features balancing out. It has a dual core processor, 5 inch screen, 4GB internal storage(About 700MB available for apps and 2GB for your other stuff) a 5 MP shooter at the back, 1.3 MP at the front and the usual sensors, compass, accelerometer, GPS etc.
image

I was pretty proud of myself until I updated the google play store. There is this app called Google Play Services that is supposed to do mysterious things on behalf  of google for developers of apps or vice versa. All I know is some of the apps I need want it and refuse to work otherwise. Case in point Foursquare. For those with space issues, the app is humongous like 20MB and so it is not popular with them. I hate it for a totally different reason though am not sure whether its Google or Tecno at fault here.  The app simply refuses to install claiming it is incompatible with another app with the same shared user ID. Google just gives me people with similar issues albeit its not so widespread.
image

image
image

The soft keys at the bottom of the screen also only work when they are in the mood. I donno if this is a flaw with my particular handset or if this happens to all Tecno N7s.

But Aside from that everything else works fine and the humongous screen is just the best when watching the downfall of Miley Cyrus.

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My Top Android Apps

Having been an android user for several years now, I can comfortable list the apps I must have installed on my phone to feel comfortable and use my gadget optimally.

So here is my definitive list and is not necessarily conclusive seeing as time has not stopped and I have less than normal loyalty to any software/platform/device.

 

  • Official Twitter App

twitter-bird-white-on-blue

Twitter is my no.1 source of news, gossip, humor and a personal realtime information source that I ave relied upon many times in the past.  This has always been my default and only twitter client. Several versions ago, the functionality was rather bogus and other clients such as Uber twitter, seesmic etc but the constant advertisements and requests to buy pro versions put me off and I stuck to the regular app. They have since greatly improved even adding Instagram like filters for its photo functionality.

  • Google Maps

 

Google Maps

If there is a favorite and must have app on any smartphone anywhere it is the maps app and by far Google has the best product. Their strategy of crowd sourcing their mapping to all and sundry has yielded the most comprehensive privately funded mapping product that is freely available to the general public. I have helped map some parts of the country that I have had the fortune of having intimate information about and thus I could say I have made my mark too.

Before any trip I make it is the first app I consult to know the estimated distance I would be driving and the general route that would get me there. Granted it is not as comprehensive as in the ‘developed’ countries with turn by turn directions and traffic info but it is good enough as it is.

SoundHound Shazam

 

Ever heard an awesome track or song in a matatu or the over the radio and would almost kill to know the name or the artiste so that you find it later on youtube or buy it or something? Then you can appreciate how convenient having an app in your phone that can do that is. I remember seeing this capability first in Sony Ericsson handsets and it was called TrackID back then.

Sometimes Sound hound doesn’t find the track and I switch to Shazam and vice versa. I prefer Shazam though due to its easy integration with social media and the faster loading. Must have apps if you are an audiophile or really into music porn.

 

  • Google Reader

 

Google reader

 

I read lotsa blogs and keeping track of  new posts is impossible. Enter google reader that neatly arranges all new posts up for you to read, laugh,gawk, sneer and get inspired by. It helps sustain my reading habit(or at-least whats left of it) because otherwise I and my bookmarks bar on my browser would be overwhelmed. This I also use everyday and is possibly the first app I download whenever I get a new android phone.

  • Opera Mini

Opera mini

 

This has been a constant on the cellie since the dumb phone era of Nokias with 32mb internal storage. Used to be (and still is) the first essential apps I download after getting a data connection on a new cell phone. Incidentally the few manufacturers that bundle it with the phone software manage to lock it in an ancient version impossible to upgrade(Am looking at you Samsung) and am forced to install another alongside that remains up-to-date.

Opera mini is seamless, reliable, data saving and generally awesome.

 

  • Ma3Route

Ma3route

This is the only Kenyan made app that I use regularly. Its directions functionality when using public transport (read chaotic Matatus) is legendary and has saved my skin several times. The traffic update thing needs some more polishing but is usable as it is. I also like that it tells you how much the fare will costs thus avoiding getting swindled by touts.

 

  • Foursquare

 

Foursquare

 

I have waited with baited breath for a local recommendation app for local spots eg restaurants, hotels, clubs, fuel stations and that sort of thing based on location but I suppose this is a problematic business model. Populating the database is costly and if  crowd-sourcing is the intended method of getting the data then the motivation for using the app or service needs to be appealing.

Google latitude tried this out but Google barely marketed it and it is a ghost town todate. Foursquare has stepped in nicely and with the growing user base, maturing platform and improving aesthetics, it has garnered some semblance of reliability in terms of local recommendations. Most recommendations however are mostly middle class joints with most people checking in to posh venues and avoid tagging when they are in river road.

Thats my list, would be interested to know what others deem their must have apps.

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Ubuntu Phone

So Ubuntu, arguably the most popular Linux desktop OS out there has decided to jump into the mobile space.

Quite frankly  I think they took too long and it may just be too late. The problem is that we don’t have products anymore. An OS is not a product. Its an ecosystem. You need to have a large population of users, developers and manufacturers willing to bet on your system for future profit.

Windows had the biggest first mover advantage but they clearly botched it up and if their recent spending on R&D is anything to go by, they are not going to make that mistake again. The linux world has suffered from fragmentation and nonsensical duplication of features, code and effort. Why we have over 100  distributions(versions) of linux OS. Ubuntu itself is a modification of the Debian distribution and  Mark Shuttleworth probably wanted more control in the direction the OS takes hence the offshoot but nonetheless there is a lot of waste around.

That being said, the Ubuntu Phone is late to the party but it just might be the show stopper especially if they figure out how to run android apps. Also if the development and upgrade cycle is maintained for the phone ecosystem like it is on the desktop, then many (Technical) users would move if only for the frequent updates. It tends to make you feel like you are being taken care off.

Well I personally cant wait for the first phones to show up. Will definitely be on the line in wait only if the price is right.

 

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Gtide E7 Vs Samsung Galaxy Pocket

Am an Android Freak. And that’s only because windows phone is feeling sexy punda (Phrase borrowed from @machomoja) with East Africa and their definition of an entry level smartphone hops along with a Kshs 16,000  price tag. No thanks.

Seeing as we have established my cheapskate credentials, allow me to introduce the latest Chinese smart phone from the company locally known as G Tide (and internationally going by whatever you feel like calling it that morning) that has been rocking my world for the past 4 days.

I have a Samsung Galaxy pocket that has disappointed me severally with a plethora of problems that custom ROMS have not resolved yet. The teeny-weeny screen, plasticky feel, average battery life and pre-installed bloat crapware drove me nuts.

*side Rant-\

The galaxy pocket comes with the following pre-installed and nonremovable on the stock rom without rooting the device.

  • Accuweather.com app though there is an inbuilt android weather app.
  • Some Yahoo! finance nonsense
  • Samsung apps app plus it forces you to download some other Samsung ad things and push services
  • Operamini 6.5 that CANNOT be upgraded.
  • Some educational and music apps that I really did not care about.

Now the pocket comes with a GB of  phone memory and 2GB of user memory so storage and app installation even without a memory card is plenty. The thing however hangs for me every single day without fail like clockwork and goes to a crash upload mode that rarely ends and when it does, just for dramatic effect, the screen goes off, the phone becomes unresponsive and it proceeds to enter an epileptic vibration mode which only ends when the charge runs out.

The 3G is also extremely flaky and I am forced to restart the thing every few hours just to keep myself connected to the internet.

Not Impressed.

*End Side Rant-/

The Gtide E7 is an Android based smartphone running gingerbread on a 1GHZ ARMv7 based processor. No GPU as far as I can tell and sports a 3.5 inch capacitive HVGA screen, 2 mp back camera and a 0.3 mp front facing camera. And of course all the other usual suspects, GPS, HSDPA, 32GB memory card support, WiFi, Bluetooth, gyro sensor, gravity sensor, ambient light sensor etc

Now what sold me (refer to cheap skate inference above) was the price. You get all this for Kshs. 7,000 . Thats right just 7 Ndovus.

The galaxy pocket costs Kshs. 10,000, has fewer capabilities and is loaded with crapware. Granted the G-tide doesn’t come with the fancy e-warranties and support declarations from the parent company but solid performance is delivered nonetheless.

Below are some rudimentary  photos I took of the phone. I haven’t figured out how to take screenshots of the phone yet but will post as soon as I can.

 

Samsung Galaxy Pocket Custom ROM

Having been bored to the core by the constant hanging, crashing and general nausea of the stock OS on this thing. I figured the custom roms would not be any worse. I mean if your nagging wife is replaced by a nagging BUT hot girlfriend, its a trade right?  No?

Anyhoo I set out to right this universal wrong on Mwangikind (am working on a copyright) I shopped around the only place anyone with an android phone should go with OS issues, XDA . I figured someone else with more skill, time or resources than me would have built a custom ROM for the damn thing already.

Sure enough, there are several ROMS including Mak-droidJellyMod, and Repencis

I went with JellyMod and at first had issues with the deodexing manenos but I managed.

Here are some screenshots.

What surprised me was the stability of the ROMS which are generally worked on by hobbyist developers and rarely attract financial benefits for their makers.

The ROMs are based on the stock roms so they still run on Gingerbread. I have however seen a significant bump in responsiveness, stability and general awesomeness. Cant wait for an ICS based phone!

Update:

Here is a useful PDF I found on the inter-webs that should greatly aid in rooting your Galaxy pocket or related Samsung android phones Universal  Gingerbread Root & Unroot 2.3.3 – 2.3.7+

And here is the Deodex File I used. Also downloaded from a site I cannot remember now.

Happy rooting and custom ROMing!

 

Samsung Galaxy Pocket

I finally got rid of the Blackberry storm after thoroughly being disappointed by its battery life, app store and general pain in the tush in using internet services.

The way they market the BIS service you would think it has some kind of über superior advantage over the regular data network but it’s actually more limited. You can’t YouTube. On Orange Kenya network, BIS totally refused to connect on 3G for me at least. I understand why Blackberry is dying now.

I moved swiftly lest the condition of being smart phone less caught on and became permanent (nimetema hayo mate!) and scored myself the cheapest android phone I could get that had the best bang for buck. At the time my options were the Alcatel one touch 918 and the Samsung Galaxy Pocket .

Of course Safaricom sales agents being the regular douche-bags they are did not tell me that Huawei were about to upgrade the U8150 Ideos with a pimped cooler snapdragon sporting older cousin in the form of Huawei Ascend y 100.

But the heart was firmly with the Samsung pocket and the 2 year warranty wasn’t sounding too bad from where I was seated. I still haven’t gotten my free 500mbs from safaricom and am getting rather bored with the back n forth exchange with the customer care.

The phone is rather nice to hold and feels too plasticky as have all Samsungs since time immemorial. This I remember is why I detested and resisted buying a Samsung handset for many years. In retrospect this may be a reason why I should buy Samsung phones since I drop my phone more times than I sneeze. Compact solid phones dropped on hard surfaces crack. Plasticky phones just bounce. Samsung 1 Others 0

I will spare you details on the specs. These are easily googled and I am not google. I love the battery life since i easily do a whole day on intensive use. The camera is a hopeless 2 megapixel  machine. Absolutely nothing to talk about. The galaxy moniker is thoroughly embarrassed by this camera. This touchwiz interface is also annoying and ugly at times I don’t like the rigidity much and would rather have the vanilla android interface.

That being said , I cant wait for the fellas over at XDA or Cyanogen to come up with a proper custom ROM for this baby and I will jump ship faster than you can say a ship. And the 1 gb system memory and 2 gb user memory means I can install as many apps as I want without worrying bout space or pushing them onto an sd card. That is just awesome. Samsung 1 Others 0

I am also annoyed by its random hanging and crashing and leaving me with a crappy screen with a droid and ” CP crash upload mode” displaying.Till I have another smartphone to use I am not about to take it back to the shop. I have 2 years warranty anyway.

Other than that its awesome.

 

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Ideos Custom Roms

I am the proud owner of a Huawei ideos device that has been rocking my world for damn near 5 months now. I got it for a song not even at the retail price. Holla at the Kikuyu in me.

Being adventurous as I am I wasted no time rooting the thing and shopping around for a custom rom.

Now for the uninitiated, a custom rom is a customized OS for your phone. Think of  it like the way you buy a laptop with windows XP on it.  Now if you format the laptop and put a different system say windows 7 or linux then you may say you have put a custom OS. Flashing a custom rom is something close to this only that there is nothing official about it like Windows or Ubuntu. They are made primarily by volunteer hackers who just love tinkering with stuff. And fellows like me love people like that.

So where was I?

Right. Lucky for me there are several options for wannabee hackers like me who want to rock the coolest in new shiny software. Here are the options I tried out.

Gingerman 

This is by the good guys at Ideos Dev Team It is a port from the cyanogenmod 7 project over at Cyanogenmod

It is a stable release based on the Gingerbread flavour  but the wifi feature has issues, there is no usb tethering and  no fm radio.

FusionIdeos

this one is mainly based on the XDA forums and is about to stop being actively developed but is pretty stable itself. It is based on the stock froyo that comes with the ideos but with added functionality.

 

There are others like Dronix 4.0 but I havent bothered to install any other.

Currently running FusionIdeos and couldn’t be happier.

Procedures for rooting, flashing recovery etc are your homework.

Capish?