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Running Android on the Nokia N900: A Fun Diversion

August 10, 2010
Welcome to Android!

Welcome to Android!

What happens when you mix the most prevalent open-source mobile OS with one of the most “hackable” phones out there? You get Android, on the N900.

This isn’t a how-to, as there is a better guide to setting up Android 2.2 on your N900 here (note: you’ll need a microSD card and some time). Think of this as a first impression.

And first impressions are good. Thanks to the efforts of the NITDroid team, Android on the N900 has a lot of potential. For the time being, however, it’s only a nice diversion.

So how is it? Currently the user interface, keyboard, Wi-fi, Bluetooth, Live wallpapers, apps, and the media player are all working on the N900. What’s missing is the actual phone, power management, GPS, 3G, camera, and a couple of odds and ends. No phone and power management are currently deal breakers, after all – what’s the point of an alternative OS that doesn’t have the ability to make phone calls? And there’s still a number of wacky bugs – like screen flickering when opening up the phone options menu as well as a wacky control scheme involving the Camera key, lock switch, and light sensor. Using the light sensor as a button should be a bannable offense.

The installation process is fairly painless even if you’re unfamiliar with Linux. Just open the directions (see above) in the browser, and then switch to the terminal application and paste in. One of the nice side benefits of the method above is the ability to dual-boot or multi-boot, preserving Maemo while installing Android onto your microSD card. Don’t feel like dealing with Maemo’s lackluster email client? Switch to Android and load up K9. Tired of floating leaves and billowing blades of grass? All you need is a reboot (well, maybe two) and Maemo is back in the palm of your hand.

Either way, the speed at which progress has been made so far on the project is pretty astounding, and I have complete faith that Android will eventually run at 100% on the N900 someday, and probably sooner rather than later.

I should note that this isn’t my first exposure to Android. Longtime readers may remember that in December, I bought myself a Nexus One which I used for several weeks before selling it and returning to my N900. It’s not that the N1 wasn’t a good phone – it was an excellent phone – but I felt I needed a physical keyboard, and just…more control.

But lately I’ve found myself bored with Maemo, and somewhat frustrated with its shortcomings. Maybe my needs have changed, or maybe I’m just getting old, but I think I’ve reached a point where I’m simply looking for an operating system that works well without the need for hacks or workarounds.

So I’m eager to see what kind of improvements Android can muster for the N900.

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