If you own an Android smartphone and keep up with technology, you know all too well how fleeting the feeling of having a top of the line Android phone really is. Say what you will about the iPhone, but at the very least you get a full year before your hardware is obsoleted by a slightly (but infuriatingly so) improved version of the device who’s previews you once lusted over. With Android, at the absolute best you will have about 6 months of hardware superiority, but on the average it ends up being a lot closer to 2 or 3 months.
Now, unless you have the disposable income to purchase a new smartphone every 3 months (without a contract subsidy, no less), you are going to end up owning a phone that is no longer the object of desire it once was. Not having the best hardware on the block isn’t such a big deal though, since it’s not as if newer hardware on the market instantly makes your device slower. The real problem is support from your device’s manufacturer in the way of software updates. It’s one thing to be stuck with a year old piece of hardware, but if you’re still running a year old release of the operating system which can’t even run the latest apps, then you’ve got trouble.
This article is not a Guide, as it doesn’t give specific information for the “OG Droid”, or any other phone for that matter. This is simply an account of the ways I used the flexibility afforded by Android’s open source nature to extend the useful life of my phone much farther than I would have been able to otherwise. Hopefully this article inspires others in similar situations, and keeps some perfectly good hardware out of the landfills.
The Slippery Slope
I purchased the Motorola Droid on release day, November 6th 2009. In fact, I purchased two of them, but that’s another story entirely. At the time, it was without question the best Android device available in the world, it was like the Galaxy Nexus of it’s day: there was simply nothing better. For about 2 months anyway, which is when the Nexus One was released. The Nexus One more or less doubled the hardware specifications of the Motorola Droid, but as it wasn’t available on Verizon Wireless, I had the slight comfort of knowing that my phone was at least the best on my carrier. Until the Droid Incredible was released on April 29th 2010 anyway, which ended up being the Verizon variant of the Nexus One.
So I got just about 6 months before there was just no way I could deny it: my phone was outdated. I wasn’t happy about it, and I still tried to rationalize my decision in sticking with the Droid by telling myself things like “Well, the Incredible doesn’t have a keyboard” or “At least the Droid is a vanilla Android phone, not Sense”. Sure my hardware was no longer the titan it once was, but at least I was still running a vanilla version of the latest Android. Right?
Not exactly. The Motorola Droid was, and for that matter still is, somewhat of a rarity as Android devices go. It ran a completely vanilla (in other words, unmodified) build of Android, and yet it wasn’t an official “Google Phone” (I.E. a Nexus). At first I thought this was going to future-proof my phone, since it would be able to run whatever the latest release of Android was from Google. But of course, things are rarely that simple, and the fact of the matter was that Google was never going to release updated Android builds for my phone like they did with the Nexus One or it’s offspring; any update my phone got would have to come from Motorola. With newer and better Android phones coming out of Motorola, and the promised software updates for the Droid getting repeatedly delayed, I saw the writing on the wall and wasn’t happy about it. Not only would my hardware be obsolete, but now soon my software would be too.
It was time to do something about it.