A modder has exploited the Motorola Droid and gained root access to let developers customize the smartphone with multitouch features, such as the pinch-to-zoom capability missing on the Android 2.0 device, themes and other perks.
Root access means users gain full rights to control the phone, taking the power away from the phone maker-Motorola-and its carrier Verizon Wireless.
Android is open source, so it is expected that geeks play with the code and find ways to jailbreak the devices running it to do whatever they want. Modders did this for the Apple iPhone, bringing a source of perverse pride to the hacker community because Apple modus operandi is closed and controlling.
There Verituse invites fellow coders to download the zip file, copy it to the SD card, power off the Droid and power back on while holding the X key. "When you see a '/!' symbol, press both vol+ and camera. Use the onscreen menu to install update.zip. Once installed you will be able to run 'su' from your adb shell," he wrote.
People with programming skills can then add capabilities missing from the Droid, including the ballyhooed multitouch capabilities Motorola elected not to put on the device, even though users can access pinch-to-zoom on the lower-end Droid Eris from HTC.
Ideally, users can also download widgets normally forbidden for the phone or add skins to change the look and feel of the Droid. Of course, there are risks inherent in unlocking any device, particularly one as complex and feature-rich as the Droid. Wired summed it up:
""While today marks a great feat in the Android community, rooting a phone does involve risks. If you have no idea what you're doing or what unlocking is, you might run the risk of bricking your phone (making it useless) or disabling essential features. Needless to say, unlocking will probably void your warranty and might put you in violation of the carrier's terms of service agreement.""
Meanwhile, IDC tallied some encouraging statistics for the mobile Web. The researcher said 2009 will close out with more than 450 million mobile Internet users worldwide, a number the research firm expects to more than double by the end of 2013 to surpass the 1 billion mark.
"The number of mobile devices with Internet access has simply exploded over the last several years," said John Gantz, chief research officer at IDC. "With a wealth of information and services available from almost anywhere, Internet-connected mobile devices are reshaping the way we go about our personal and professional lives."
Moreover, Gantz said the explosion in applications for mobile devices-led by Apple's iPhone App Store's 100,000-plus apps and Android's 15,000 programs-means the world will witness another sea change in the way users interact with the Web.
What are users doing with their iPhones, Droids, Palm Pres and BlackBerry devices?
Pretty much whatever they are doing on their desktop computers, including searching Google or Bing, reading news and sports information, downloading music and videos, and using e-mail and instant messaging apps. In 2010 and beyond, more users will be making e-commerce purchases with their smartphones and even writing blogs on them.
Gantz also reported some encouraging news for knowledge workers who travel, noting, "Accessing online business applications and corporate e-mail systems will also grow rapidly as businesses move to empower their mobile work force."