My Samsung Galaxy S3 is now almost 3 years old since inception (2012-05-xx). It is not getting attention for an upgrade to CyanogenMod-12. Apparently the device maintainer quit after finishing CM-11-M12. Also suppose it breaks? Although the Galaxy S3 is working fine, I don't want to be stuck in a time warp. It's time to upgrade. (Update: S3 started getting CM-12 nightlies on 2015-05-02. If I had been patient I wouldn't have had to do this, but the S3 even so is not exactly a spring chicken.)
Timeline of my pocket computers:
|To be determined||2015-04-15||(Current)|
|Samsung Galaxy S3||2012-10-23||No upgrade to CM-12 (Lollipop)|
|Motorola Droid 3||2011-11-23||Bit rot (memory failure)|
| HTC G1 |
|2009-03-30||Insufficient memory for CM-7 (Gingerbread)|
My goals this time around are quite similar to those for the Galaxy S3.
The machine must have CyanogenMod-12 based on Android 5.x
Lollipop. At present this is in nightly builds, but it's very close
to a M-series release.
The carrier continues to be Verizon Wireless in the USA. However, at our house the signal from Verizon is not very good (T-Mobile is better, according to coverage map apps), and also, our son has switched to T-Mobile and has offered to go in with us for their very reasonably priced family plan. So a switch to T-Mobile is likely around 2015-12-xx when my wife's Verizon contract expires.
Previously I got a phone subsidized by the carrier (Verizon). They provide modulation (CDMA-2000 and LTE) on frequencies for their network, which are incompatible with T-Mobile (GSM and HSPA the 1700MHz band, and LTE), and their bootloader requires images signed by them, i.e. is locked. This time I will need a SIM-unlocked phone with an unlocked bootloader. There is an unlock exploit for the Verizon bootloader, but using it is a distant last choice; see the saga for getting the S3 unlocked.
I view HTML content a lot. The phone must have a nice display. It looks like modern phones are 130mm diagonal and 1920x1080px, which is total overkill.
At times I use the hand computer outdoors in direct sunlight, particularly for map navigation. It is quite important that the display be readable in that situation, even though its color and contrast may be degraded from its performance in artificial light. A transflective display (color) would be rated highly if available; so would flight capability of pigs. The OLED display on the Galaxy S3 has been satisfactory but not wonderful, in sunlight.
Starting with the Galaxy S3 I switched to an on-screen keyboard, and this choice has worked out, so once again I will not look for the physical keyboard that the G1 and the Droid 3 had.
I need rare but important connectivity (both voice and data) outside the United States. A phone that can do both GSM and CDMA would be rated highly. On a recent trip to Europe my wife and I both had such phones and the ability to send SMS and/or voice in an emergency gave us a lot of peace of mind.
In my area 4G LTE is widely available. I don't do activities on cellular data for which speed is critical. However, I also don't want to be behind the times: the phone has to do LTE.
On a long flight I will need a spare fully charged battery to keep entertained the whole way. Also, batteries degrade with time. A field-replaceable battery is essential, preferably without removing screws. The arrangement on the Apple iDevices, where you need to send it in to depot repair to get a new battery, is unacceptable.
The S3's external SD card arrangement has been completely satisfactory: to swap it you need to turn off power and remove the back cover, but this is a field-replace job, not like the iPhone family where there is no external SD card and the memory is fixed at the time of purchase.
Here is a list of features that are important, and that every modern cellphone is expected to have.
Wired headphones and Bluetooth A2DP are required for music listening. Every phone should have both. A 3.5mm stereo jack is preferred over a proprietary jobbie like on the HTC Dream.
I rely on the pocket computer for navigation and mapping. It must have a GPS receiver for this activity. All modern phones have GPS.
Photography with a rear-facing camera. Massive resolution is not needed; it's impossible for a cellphone to have optics to match the sensors that go into cellphones these days. Auto focus is important for jobs like reading barcodes, which is one of my major uses of the rear-facing camera. LED flash is a nice addition.
USB connection to the host computer, including Android debugging. All Android phones have this. File transfer without unmounting the SD card is desirable, but this is an OS issue.
Charges from a generic micro-USB or mini-USB connector, not a vendor-specific charger like Nokia's old 1.5mm cylinder connector. This is a Chinese commerce department requirement and even modern Nokia phones charge through USB.
Here is a laundry list of features which would be nice but are not deal-breakers if absent. They are ordered by importance.
Water and rain resistance. There is no chance that I will get what I want for this requirement. (Update: Christmas has arrived!)
Adjusts the screen brightness according to the ambient light level. The Galaxy S3 does this very nicely, and it saves battery while keeping the display readable as lighting changes.
Video chat with a front-facing camera.
A lot of pocket computer activities depend more on operating system support than on hardware components. However, the point here is to pick the hardware. But we need to keep aware whether the operating system uses that hardware effectively.
CyanogenMod-12 is being developed on phones which a lot of people have, i.e. popular phones. To pick the phone, I need to do a three-way intersection: which of them have CM-12 nightlies now; which are best sellers; and which ones meet my goals?
|Chassis Name||Vendor and Marketing Name|
|mako||Google Nexus 4|
|shamu||Google Nexus 6|
|tilapia||Google Nexus 7 (GSM)|
|jewel||HTC Evo 4G LTE|
|m8||HTC One (2014)|
|t6||HTC One Max (suffixes vzw spr)|
|memul||HTC One Mini 2|
|ls980||LG G2 (Sprint)|
|spyder||Motorola Droid Razr|
|obake||Motorola Droid Mini/Ultra/MAXX|
|xt925||Motorola Droid RAZR HD (GSM) (also suffix _jbbl)|
|xt907||Motorola Droid RAZR M|
|targa||Motorola Droid Bionic|
|xt897||Motorola Photon Q|
|mb886||Motorola Atrix HD|
|maserati||Motorola Droid 4|
|peregrine||Motorola Moto G 4G|
|titan||Motorola Moto G 2014|
|quark||Motorola Moto MAXX|
|klte||Samsung Galaxy S5 (also suffixes spr usc vzw)|
|honami||Sony Xperia Z1|
|sirius||Sony Xperia Z2|
For popularity I would prefer to cue on CyanogenMod registration statistics, which governs the priority of the phone for continued CM development, but unfortunately the CyanogenMod statistics site has been out of action for six months. So I'm going to go by sales figures. Here's a list of Amazon's best selling unlocked phones, most popular first.
Here's a list of the most popular phones by David Nixon, 2014-10-29. He took the most popular one from each brand, then sorted just those.
Great quality and function without over-the-top screen size.Forum posters warn that the Exynos processor and CyanogenMod have some kind of bad interaction; not sure what the problem is.
I'm starting the search with these models:
Web resources for phone specifications:
|Feature||Galaxy S5||Moto G 2014||HTC One M8|
|CM chassis name||klte||titan||m8|
|Unlocking||Not Verizon||Moto site||HTC site|
|Price on Amazon||$525||$180||$460|
|Display size||5.1in 1920x1080||5.0in 720x1280||5.0in 1920x1080|
|Display tech||Super AMOLED||IPS||Super LCD3|
|Contrast||3.55 sunlight||n/a||2.37 sunlight|
|Chipset||Qc MSM8974AC |
|Qc MSM8226 |
|Qc MSM8974AB |
|Processor||Krait 2.5Ghz x4||1.2GHz x4||Krait 2.3GHz x4*|
|GPU||Adreno 330||Adreno 305||Adreno 330|
|External flash||uSD 128Gb||uSD 32Gb||uSD 128Gb|
|Rear camera||f/2.6 16Mpx||f/2.0 8Mpx||f/2.0 4Mpx|
|Front camera||2Mpx 1920x1080||2Mpx||5Mpx|
|Battery||2800mAh remov||2070mAh fixed||2600mAh fixed LiPO|
|802.11 bgn||802.11 abgn/ac|
|Other||NFC,BT 4.0,IRDA||No NFC||NFC,BT 4.0,IRDA|
|USB rev||3.0(cable sep.)||2.0||2.0|
|Sensors||Accel, Gyro, Prox, Hall, Baro, Fingerprint, Heart rate, Gestures(?)||?||Accel, Gyro, Prox, Compass, Baro|
|Audio||3.5mm, Noise cancel||3.5mm||3.5mm, Noise cancel|
|Light sensor||In color||Has||Has|
|Water resist||IP67 dust+water||Resists:Yes|
|SIM size||Micro SIM, 12x15mm||Micro SIM||Nano SIM|
Link to Wikipedia's Android Version History .
I'll start the evaluation from the bottom.
This appears to be a less expensive phone with a chipset from the previous generation, and without LTE. For people who want a nice smartphone to be used in rural areas that lack LTE, it looks like a good buy on Amazon. But it's a step down from what I'm replacing.
The specs of this phone are very similar to the Galaxy S5, so let's concentrate on the differences.
The S5 and the M8 are very similar, but in the differences indicated versus the M8, the S5 comes out a little ahead, and particularly, it has a removeable battery. This is the one that I am going to pursue.
Each cellphone is actually a family of small variants; the major difference is which modulation and frequencies they support. The purchaser needs to be very sure that the one he gets is going to work with his preferred carrier, and my case is more complicated because I'm targeting two USA carriers from different families, plus international operation. A problem is that resellers' product pages may not always have correct data. Another problem is that flaky resellers may give you a model different from the one you ordered; there were several such complaints in Amazon product reviews about Amazon affiliates (outside vendors).
Here is a list of Amazon products, all but the last of which are to be avoided.
So what frequencies are we getting on the SM-G900M? This is from the Amazon product page indicated above.
See this Wikipedia article about E-UTRA, which is the formal acronym for LTE. Significant LTE bands (ordered by frequency) and their regions of use are:
|17 #||700||LSMH||AT&T, Rogers||--|
|20 *||800||EUDD||--||Europe, Asia|
|04 **#||1700||AWS||All||South America|
|10||1700||EAWS||AT&T Verizon T-Mobile||--|
|03 *||1800||DCS||--||Europe, Asia|
|02 **#||1900||PCS||AT&T, T-Mobile||--|
|40 *||2300||--||--||Russia, Optus(AU)|
|07 *#||2600||IMT-E||Rogers||Europe, Asia|
|* = Good for roaming in Europe, Americas, Asia|
|** = Good for roaming in Americas|
|# = Allegedly supported by SM-G900M|
So as jimc reads the table, the G900M should work with AT&T, T-Mobile and Rogers (Canada), all the formerly GSM carriers. But the situation with Verizon is ambiguous: CDMA-2000 modulations (non-LTE) will almost certainly be useless, band 13 is in the covered 700MHz range but does not overlap T-Mobile and AT&T specific bands (17 and 12), but bands 04 and 10 (1700MHz) are shared among all three USA national carriers (excluding Sprint) and likely will be functional. (Band 04 is a subset of band 10.) The roaming situation in Europe and Asia is also unclear: band 07 (2600MHz) is supported but that's the only preferred global roaming band.
Update: With a Verizon SIM the G900M is unable to connect to Verizon's network. One person has told me that Verizon requires the phone to authenticate over CDMA2000 or EV-DO or 1xRTT before it will let the phone on its LTE service. And this of course is not going to happen.
Some more useful web links:
40 Galaxy S5 Models Dummies' Guide on AndroidForums.com. The SM-G900M model is identified as being for South America north to Mexico.
How to flash a stock firmware using Odin, from W0lfDroid.
How to Back Up and Restore the EFS Partition, from W0lfDroid. This is where your IMEI is kept, also the WiFi and Bluetooth MAC addresses, and if it gets trashed you're in real trouble.
In this GSMNation customer support forum post, Danny Daniels (about 2014-05-xx) asks what model of S5 meets his needs. Arsalan K (GSMNation tech support?) gives a link to GSMNation's compatibility web app and says: G900M does LTE in North and South America. G900F does LTE everywhere else. G900H does not have LTE, only 3G, and also has the 8-core Exynos CPU. You need to activate the G900M in North-South America, then it will work anywhere in the world.
In the same forum post, Ig Shpo (by-iphone.com) gives a list of frequency variants:
Here are some results from the GSMNation Compatibility Calculator. (I'm not sure how much I trust it.) GSMNation only reports on GSM.
This product page for the Galaxy S5 from Overstock.com gives these frequencies for the G900M (overpriced):
This product page for the Galaxy S5 from Tronic LTD gives these frequencies for the G900M:
On this T-Mobile customer support forum post, erosmoura asks if a G900M will work on T-Mobile in Florida (he will be visiting from Brazil). drnewcomb2 quotes gsmarena's page and says the freqs match up. tmo_erika (customer service) gives this link to T-Mobile's Setup Guide for Bringing Your Own Device (supplemented by jimc's notes from neighboring T-Mobile pages):
Satisfactory connection in some homes. Also at UCLA. All of Los Angeles has LTE except a few mountain areas. Good coverage nationwide in urban areas and in rural areas of a few states. Relies on roaming (AT&T) in rural areas of much of the midwest and others. Roaming (Rogers) in Canada.
So the SM-G900M should do GSM, HSPA and LTE on T-Mobile, and may be able
to do LTE on Verizon (but not CDMA-2000). Update: replace
Purchase strategy: The Samsung Galaxy S6 comes out 2015-04-10. After that, the price on the S5 will drop. (Dreamer! It's already dropped as much as it's going to.) I will wait, then buy an unlocked S5 SM-G900M from Amazon. This should come with an unlocked bootloader, i.e. will accept unsigned images. I will just transfer the Verizon SIM to the new phone; no need to notify Verizon. Later when we jump ship to T-Mobile (2015-12-xx) the S5 is expected to work with them. [Update: since the G900M can't connect to Verizon at all, I'm going to have to jump ship immediately.]
Setup steps before installing CyanogenMod:
Do not insert the SIM yet, lest the phone download the carrier's latest OS image, which for Verizon will include a locked bootloader.
Copy down key parameters:
Grant access to the new pocket computer on the local network's firewall. Files to edit:
Set up the Wi-Fi network. To get to settings, pull down the notification area and hit the gear icon. Or long press on the Wi-Fi icon and you jump directly to its settings page.
Establish Google identity so I can use the
(Android Market). Settings - Accounts+Sync - Google. Decline
Google+. Decline Google backup.
Install Phone Tester, GPS Status and Coverage Map from the market.
Check out the phone on the stock image, excluding cellular communication.
Here is a preview of how to install CyanogenMod-12, from CyanogenMod's installation page. Do not use this procedure on devices with Verizon or AT&T stock images! They require signed boot images which this procedure does not mitigate. This is a preview summary for planning purposes; read the page for necessary details. Here is the procedure I actually used.