Mobile phones

Mobile phones and PDA's

OnePlus 7Pro


So on my last flight to Las Vegas, either I lost my phone, or someone stole it from me at the airport, something I only noticed hours afterwards. Nothing showed up in the lost items department, so the theft option is real. So I found myself suddenly without phone, and had to revert using the Xiaomi Mi Mix with its cracked screen. Nothing wrong, as this is a fantastic phone (I really really love the width of the screen), but its annoyances drove me to look out for another phone.

I spotted the OP7Pro at Amazon with a 200€ discount, which arrived eventually in my hands. Lovely phone (my 3rd OnePlus device already !), gorgeous screen, a bit on the heavy side. I liked OxygenOS with its Android 10 version, and at that time, LineageOS 17 wasn't available yet for this device, so no reinstall for this device.

This will probably be my last OnePlus device, as the price keeps on increasing, and I apparently am not able to keep a phone from falling/being stolen during 18 months. I really love the brand (my 7 year old Oneplus One is still being used by my wife), but it's moving away out of my financial zone of comfort. Spending a biyearly 500 bucks for phones hurts my wallet too much; I don't need a flagship phone, midrange will suit me very well.

Oneplus 5T


I'll take back anything I said about the Xiaomi Mi Mix. Well, at least about the slippery part : 5 months after my purchase, I placed the mobile phone onto a pile of papers on my desk. Five minutes later, it must have seen it wasn't 100% horizontal placed, and decided to go for a walk. Fell on the floor, cracked screen. This thing *is* slippery as soap.

I still find the design of the phone the most beautiful I've ever seen, and the large screen just is gorgeous ! But you cannot use this phone without a cover, and that just breaks the beauty of the phone. That, in combination with the fact that mobile reception is zero without band 20 support, and the fact that putting a light sensor at the bottom of the screen is just irritating, were enough reasons for me not to reorder another Mi Mix again.

I've switched to a Onplus 5T as a new phone. The design just pales in comparison with the Mi Mix, but the development support is fantastic, and my Oneplus One was brilliant. I hope I'll can say that again within 3 to 4 years about the OP5T.

The bezelless beast


I'm using my Oneplus One phone since 3 years, and my god, what a pleasant device this has been. And also a testimony to the rise and fall of Cyanmod Inc. It is currently the most used device with LineageOS, and will probably the first one to receive LOS15. People were laughing 3 years ago with OnePlus 'flagship killer' theme, but now, 3 years later, new mid- and highrange phones still carry 3 GB of RAM. So finding a worthy replacement was hard.

As I commute by train nowadays, I wanted to breach the 6 inch barrier to have a nice big screen, and battery life was extremely important. To make the jump from my Oneplus One reasonable, it should have at least 4GB of RAM. And only 2 devices seem to fit the above : the Xiaomi Mi Max 2 and the Mi Mix. I was lucky that the Mi Mix 2 was announced, as most webshops were dumping the Mi Mix at affordable prices. I quickly ordered one, and received it some weeks later.

This device has a surprisingly low footprint, as it's not much larger than a 5.7 inch phone, so it's quite portable. The ceramic glass is slippery, but not the bar of soap most of the web reviews make of it. The real problem is that the phone is slippery and heavy, so I'm a bit reluctant to use it without a case. Luckily, it comes with a nice leather premium case as well. The screen is fantastic, and it really is the star of this mobile phone. Viewing angles are great, vibrant colors, and nice outdoor readability.

So fantastic hardware, what about the software ? It came to my surprise with an unlocked bootloader, and with the MIUI Global ROM installed. TWRP installation was unsuccessful, as the touchscreen didn't worked, and I had to install a customized TWRP in order to get it working. Quite shocking, and being used to the openess of OPO, rather an unpleasant experience. I quickly installed the Xiaomi.EU ROM, as it sports full Dutch language support, and decided to try out MIUI during a week. MIUI is something people either love or hate, and after one week of usage, I must admit I fall into the latter group. I kept loosing myself into the settings screens, and could not live with the MIUI quirks. Especially notifications - you must enable notifications per application in 3 different settings screens - madness ! Notifications are broken in MIUI, but I'm convinced they are broken by design, to maximize battery life. And gosh, battery life is really impressive. I got 9 hours SOT with 3 days on a single charge with medium to heavy usage.

After a week, I wiped everything in favor of LineageOS. So, what do you loose when installing LOS onto the Xiaomi Mi Mix ? Battery life, camera functionalities and reduced fingerprint scanner accuracy. I guess I've lost 2 hours of SOT, while still having 3 to 4 days on a single battery charge with medium usage. Still impressive. Camera has lost 4K recording and slow-mo, though some camera mods re-enable them. LED seems brighter on LOS than in MIUI. Fingerprint scanner is slower and misses more scans - I regularly need 2 to 3 attempts to unlock the device.

So far, I'm really happy with the Mix. A tad too heavy, but really beautiful, and with lots of custom ROM support. After the Galaxy Nexus, the Oneplus One, the Xiaomi Mi Mix will be again a legendary phone I will enjoy using.

Oneplus One


My trusty Galaxy Nexus has been by far one of my most beloved phones : I loved the design, the openess and the available development (custom ROMs). It has been running ParanoidAndroid most of the time, but when KitKat wasn't available anymore for the GNex, and because PA4 just sucked, I switched to Shiny ROM during its last months.

However, the internal storage was way too low (16GB), way too slow, and the battery was mediocre to say at least. So end of July, I started looking around for a replacement. Initially, I planned on waiting untill the Nexus6 would be available, but rumours about its 6 inch screen did me fear that its price tag would be also impressive.

My eye fell on the Oneplus One, and despite the questions about Oneplus' ability to support, I decided end July to bite the bullet, and to purchase a OnePlus One. An invite was easily found on G+, and beginning of August, I got the phone in the mail. Impressive by size, this phone is located deep into phablet territory. However, its size quickly gets used to. I wasn't really impressed with the sandstone back, I even feared it would be too fragile and damage prone, but after 5 months, it proves to be quite durable. I'm not so wild of the design either, I would have like some more rounded corners.

But apart from that, my experience of the phone has been allround positive : the phone is fast thanks to the Snapdragon 801, and 3GB of memory, and the 64GB of storage is a bliss. The battery covers mostly 2 days even with moderate to heavy use. Add Cyanogemod on the software side, combined with Exposed Framework, and count me as a happy man.

Galaxy Nexus


My HTC Desire has turned out to be such a great phone. I quickly rooted it and flashed some roms to play with. Leedroid-HD, RSK & AOKP were my favorites. Unfortunately, the Desire has one large drawback, and that's the limited internal storage. Sure, things like A2SD work like a charm, but slow down the phone considerably. Besides, with the arrival of ICS & JB, most custom roms center around CM and AOKP, & those do not include A2SD (or M2SD or whatever) by default. Upgrading your rom became quite a hassle then. Also, ICS introduced quite some instability issues on the Desire, with a flaky cam and absense of the FM radio support.

All those issues became far too annoying at a certain time, and when I saw the Galaxy Nexus at a bargain price, I decided to switch. This is a former Google Android flagship device, and my god, what impressive specs this thing carries. This thing is more powerful than my netbook ! The immense size of the screen alone : this is the first phone ever which felt large when first trying it. I've installed Paranoid Android on it : this rom is fit for the Galaxy Nexus as it optimizes its screen estate to the fullest. Running this in phablet mode, combined with Nova Launcher in a 6x5 raster, offers an immense playground.

HTC Desire


My Nokia N97 phone is now 2 years old, and although the device got slaughtered in most user reviews, I must say I was fairly content with it. The problem with the device is that the experience got ruined by its software, Symbian S60v5, and its successor Symbian^2. Both were too 'heavy' for the N97 CPU, resulting in a slow operating of the device. But what's really drove me to buying a new handset, was the fact that the GPS took ages to activate (unless you enabled A-GPS), and the fact that the automated backups 'just stopped working'.

And then there's OVI suite. Please don't remind me of OVI Suite with its Nokia Software updater.

Nokia clearly has no clue what to do on the smartphone market, as indicated by the fact that the Meego-powered N9 is only available in some countries. The only one who is not aware that Symbian is dead, seems to be Nokia. And then there's the Microsoft deal.

Reasons enough to switch over to the Android camp. I was first thinking of getting the Wildfire S, but then I noticed that the Desire was equally priced. I must say I miss the N97's hardware keyboard, but all in all the Desire is a great device. Sleek, performant, and equipped with a great touch screen.

Dear Nokia


Dear Nokia,

the times I give advice to companies are quite seldom, so please shut up & listen. The next time you announce an 'important phone software update' on my N97 mobile, make sure that :

  1. I don't have to do the upgrade with my computer, especially if it's a minor update. FOTA will do fine, thank you.
  2. when starting the Nokia software updater on my computer, I don't want to be forced to upgrade this POS 'software' called "Nokia Software Updater"
  3. when upgrading this Nokia Software Updater software, I don't want to have to wait 20 minutes for it to finish - this is a dualcore with 2GB, not one of your Symbian turtles, for cryings sake !
  4. after the upgrade of the upgrade software, I don't want to reboot my computer
  5. after reboot, and starting the upgrade software, I don't want to receive a warning that OVI suite is already running.
  6. No, for crying out loud, I don't want to upgrade OVI suite !!! Can we finally update my mobile firmware, pretty please ???
  7. when finally be able to start the Nokia Software Updater, I do want you to find my USB-connected phone, it's the only USB-connected thingy, goddammit !
  8. I don't want to reconnect my mobile 5 times before your POS software finally recognizes it
  9. I don't want to see your 'important phone software update' to be the most minor upgrade I've ever seen
  10. And most of all, when pressing the 'Upgrade' button, I don't want to receive a final message 'Phone software already on latest level' after this whole irritating procedure !!!

Nokia, please fire your Symbian QA management. It's incompentent !

Now where's my aspirin ?

Creating self-signed certificates


Symbian still uses certificates to sign applications. In the case you want to roll out your own Symbian application, you need some way to sign your app. Turns out the certificates can easily be created on your own by use of the OpenSSL toolkit :

$ openssl genrsa 1024 >my.key
$ openssl req -new -x509 -nodes -sha1 -days 3650 -key my.key >my.cer

After entering the second command, you are prompted for various bits of information about yourself that is embedded into the certificate. This process only needs to be performed once, and the generated certificate can then be kept for future use with CreateSIS or SignSIS.

Nokia N97


I've been playing with the Nokia N97 for a week now. Choosing the color of the device has never been so difficult : I like my mobile phones black, but the black N97 version has a dark brown back, and the front is more anthracite. So I opted in the last moment for a white device. It arrived a week later than expected, and judging by the size of the box, I feared that the webshop only sent me the car holder. Choosing a device only by internet preview pics & unboxing videos is deceptive - the box itself was 3 times smaller than expected. If you have small hands, you're apparently an ideal candidate for mobile device manufacturers to send device previews to. And indeed, after unboxing the device, it was about 1 cm less wide and high as expected. Same experience with my previous Nokia, the N80. Seems that most people really like small mobile phones, something I can't understand why.

The box content is rather dissapointing :
- a stylus ? Come on Nokia, the era of the stylus has ended 3 years ago. Get over it. It would have been great if you provided us with a USB memory stick disguised as a stylus, with a Nokia logo on it, but this stylus thing is waste of plastic.
- No car charger ? This is Nokia's flagship device, and no car charger provided ?
- No pouch ? No TV out cable ?

Luckily, lots of this is made good by the N97 device itself: Very sleek & sexy with a chrome bezel. Nokia hardware rules. The slide-out mechanism is great, and makes a nice sound when clapping open & close. There is unfortunately little or no tactile feedback from the keyboard, but apart from that it works fast. Battery life is very good, I get 2 days with moderate to heavy use; battery needs about 2 to 2.5 hours for a complete fill.

The performance of the N97 is rather surprisingly good, given its 434 MHz processor. The touchscreen is quite responsive for a resistive screen, though a capacitive one would have been far better. First thing to do is to fill the gorgeous 32GB space with new S60v5 applications. The OVI store is a good starting point, the list with applications grows every week.

I like the stability of Symbian; combined with the wealth of applications, this makes it a bliss using the device. Combined with the sexy look & feel, you'll get lots of attention when you pull out the N97. A question I get a lot, is if the functionalities are comparable with the iPhone. Well, hands up of those iPhone users whose devices can do the following :
- SSH to your Linux workstation/VNC control your windows desktop, read your email, while listening to your favorite MP3 files.
- follow your voice-guided satnav, while listening to your MP3 files, FM transmitted to your car radio.
Get it ?

Are there any drawbacks on the device ? Apart from the hefty price tag, hardly; initially there were numerous problems reported, but the new firmware took care of most of them. However, I'm still bugged with the following :
- The GPS has lots of trouble getting a fix on satellites; only while enabling A-GPS, I get a fix within the minute. Drawback if you don't have an unlimited data plan.
- The Accuweather widget doesn't refresh itself correctly (sometimes needs manual kicking)
I hope that next firmware upgrades will take care of this.

Apart from that, the N97 is by far the most pleasant toy I ever used. Definitively an allways-on device.