štvrtok 4. septembra 2014

My perfect phone 2014 - Samsung Galaxy S Relay 4G SGH-T699


Hi, since my first mobile phone in 1998 (Ericsson GA-628), they've gone a long way to the present, adding more features and possibilities. The customization is today not only about uploading your favourite song as one track MIDI or polyphony ringtone, or chaging the whole look of the menu with Flash file, but you can create a phone that suits perfectly your needs.

This is a description of my personal current "dream setup" of a mobile phone. It's a strongly subjective point of view backed up by my personal preferences and needs. Maybe some of ideas will inspire you or introduce you some cool apps you were overseeing. Please, feel free to ask questions in the comments.

The hardware

With my first android phone without physical keyboard, I was suffering. Then I ordered HTC Desire Z and it got lot better, but after some time, the phone specs didn't manage to keep pace with the new apps requirements (yes, in 2009, the FB app had less then 2 MB). Next phone without keyboard definitely confirmed my need to be able to input text the comfort way, with haptic feedback and without having half of the screen blocked by the keyboard itself. Not mentioning all the backslashes in terminal and pressing keyboard shortcuts such as Ctrl+D or Ctrl+A N (do this on you phone!).

Unfortunately, the physical qwerty phones are in the list of spiecies to be extinct in the near future. I remember having read a tablet/notebook buying guide few years ago with an opinion that "if you're today buying a device with physical keyboard, you're doing it wrong". I wanted an android phone with physical keyboard, decent specs, GSM network support and a SIM card slot. There were two devices that got into the final round - Motorola Photon 4Q and Samsung Galaxy S Relay 4G. Both only on U.S. market, but Motorola had one big disadvantage of not having a SIM card slot. There's a way to solder one, even the author of the guide on XDA offers this service, but I didn't want to complicate things and chose the easy way of importing the only device that made it through this 4 conditions filter. Other Criteria as removable battery, screen resolution, presence of notification LED, ambient light sensor, SDcard slot, etc were not of that importance (or to be honest, I had not much choice).

Hail the winner - Samsung Galaxy S Relay 4G SGH-T699, U.S. T-mobile exclusive device.

What I really like about this device is 4" display (I had problem to reach the opposite corner on 4.5" screen with one hand), 5 row QWERTY keyboard with full numbers, arrows and few extra keys, and some details, that are not so common these days - microSD card slot, removable battery, notification LED (yes, few phones don't have it!), MENU, BACK and HOME buttons (not just drawn on the screen).

Custom ROM

After trying almost every ROM I found for the device on XDA, my choice is definitely the LiquidSmooth ROM. After pretty easy rooting and installing custom recovery, you are completely free to flash whatever you want. The original Samsung software is stuck on android version 4.1 and full of bloatware, just imagine half of the app names start with "T-mobile".

LiquidSmooth ROM is a masterpiece of work, based on AOSP 4.4.4 with lot of very cool features, I can't imagine living without anymore. [LiquidSmooth for Relay]

Let me name at least my favourite ones (or the ones I found most useful from all available).

Custom DPI setting

The default value is 182, I don't change it after install. The small screen now feels a lot bigger. You have literally a 4" tablet.

Notification LED custom values

A rather very cool feature, if you miss a notification, you can set different colors and blinking patterns for each app notifications. It's easy to know what notification awaits you just by getting used to the different colors / blinking speed.

LockScreen Notifications / Pocket Mode

The Pocket Mode is a killer feature. It uses the proximity sensor to switch on the screen, if you have some notifications to show. There are lot of alternatives to choose from in this ROM, I sticked to the LockScreen Notificaitons. Other options are Active Display, Notification Peek, feel free to try them and choose what you like the best. I use the lockscreen notifications with pocket mode on, so the screen turns itself on after picking the phone from pocket if there's some notification. Active display was disturbing my aesthetics, because the display looks totally different with and without notifications.

Notice the Battery status ring around the unlock slider

Hover Notifications

As the name states, your notifications appear hovering over the screen immediately. Everyone expands the notification right after the phone beeps, so it's an automatic process with this feature.

Custom Automatic Brightness Settings

Another cool one! You must be aware of the fact, that the screen is the worst battery drainer. With this feature, you can customize the curve of brightness level according to the ambient light intensity, making the screen more energy efficient in dark environment and brighter on sunlight. There's also a nice chart I can share with you :)



Assign custom actions for long pressing buttons on lockscreen. My fav is turning on the flashlight with holding the home button. Practical, easy, addictive.

Phonecall features

A propos flashlight, my colleague was pretty amazed when he noticed that my flashlight pulses on incoming call (400ms - of course a customizable value). He told me, that he has never seen any phone to do this before. Other comfort settings about the phone are forward and reverse phone numbers lookups, flip action choices (I use mute ringer), background incoming call (as heads up) when an app is in foreground, vibrate on hang-up, every minute.

Quiet Hours

Who doesn't like to sleep well? This ROM has Quiet Hours function built in that mutes the annoyances with reasonable options of exceptions (for example you need to call 2 times in 30 minutes to get your phonecall ring - what a brilliant idea - I'm really impressed).

Interface, Status bar, Performance and other customizations

There are many options to customize the looks and feels and performance of the environment. Don't hesitate to explore them.

The Settings

Each time after clean ROM install I had to go over the process of setting the phone again and again. The result is that I already know what settings are important to me and what I can skip to save time - in other words not important.

I've already mentioned above few settings that make me to feel happy about my phone. Besides setting my favourite ringtone, notification sounds and all the needed stuff, I made two more customizations myself.

Keyboard remap

I got used to this combination in other ROM, so this is my setup I found most useful - MESSAGE key remapped to SEARCH button as sending messages is not my hobby (I send like 3 per month - mostly for paid parking or mass transit ticket) and VOICE SEARCH key remapped to ALT key as I didn't buy a qwerty phone to use Siri and Co. and it's very handy to have an ALT key on the right side too, believe me.

Native SSH client

It's only 4 files I had to copy over from other ROM to the system partition to have ssh command line native client running the way I'm used to - ssh hostname [enter]. It's far more elegant solution than installing apps for such a core function.

The Apps

Here are some of the apps that definitely deserve to be mentioned.

Home screen - Nova Launcher
The Allmighty widget - DashClock
RSS News Reader - gReader
Music Player - Rocket Player
Notification reader - Voice Notify
Rotation control - Ultimate Rotation Control