Category: Phones


So, I just saw that Samsung has released UK pricing for it’s Gear smartwatch, and I have to say, I think they are bonkers.

At £299, it really is a gadget too far, especially since it will only work with other Samsung devices. At £100, it might have worked, but that really is just way too expensive.

Samsung, get your head in order, and make the price something that real people can afford, and stop being bonkers!!

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I have been with 3 in the UK for a long time now, probably going on 8 or 9 years, and I’ll be honest, my signay at home was ‘ok’, but not great, though usable.

Then for a while, we started to lose signal entirely (I say we, as my wife is also with them), to begin with, over the weekends, then during the week, the signal would just be poor, two bars if you’re lucky.

I’d heard from a friend that 3 offered signal boosters that were connected to your broadband, so I decided to call them and see what was on offer.

It took some prodding, and more than one call to speak to the right people, but I was eventually told that I was in a known area. It arrived a fiew days later for bad signal, and that they would offer me a Home Signal device for free. The normal cost if you just ask for one is £130!!.

However, due to the known signal issues, mine would be free. It arrived a few days later, and is the simplest set up you could wish for.

You fit the supplied SIM card in the bottom, plug it into your broadband, and power it up. Aside from telling 3 which numbers will use it (Up to 32 per home address), which you do via a website, that really is it.

We now have full signal, in and around the house, and never miss a call or text.

If you’re in the same boat, I’d advise you to call 3 and see if you’re eligible for one of these helpful little boxes. (Yes, they are really quite small).

3HSignalThere is a post script to this, in that mine started flashing a red warning light at me over the last few days. The problem? Simple fix, remove the SIM card, clean the contacts, and put it back in and reboot 🙂 Happy days!

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So, it’s been a while now since I updated to Jelly Bean, and also since the enforced factory reset due to the fact that things just weren’t quite right after the update.

The factory reset really was the charm though, as everything is running beatifully now, and the battery life is nothing short of amazing compared to before.

What I have noticed though, is that my Nexus 7 doesn’t seem to suffer in the same manner as my One X or Galaxy S2 (Work phone).

It has now had 2 or 3 updates with no factory reset rquired, so that does beg the question ‘Do skinned versions of Android have an update issue?’.

I’d certainly like to know, so if there is anybody out there who has a vanilla Android device, has found a factory reset is needed for updates, please comment!

Otherwise it has got me wondering if my next phone will be an unadulterated Google device. Don’t get me wrong, I love HTC Sense to bits (Touchwiz, not so much), but if it means I have to do a factory reset for each an every update that comes through, I won’t be too happy.

My S2 did just get an update to Jelly Bean, and so far seems fine without a reset, but I’m keeping an eye on it. Maybe It’s just the main version updates that need it, who knows.

For now though, happy bunny, lets just wait to see what the next update brings.

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So, I was pretty happy about the Jelly Bean update for my HTC ONE X, but that diminished as over time as things started to slowly go downhill.

I found the camera app was really slow from time to time, and only a reboot would get things going again, and the performance generally was the same, again needing a reboot.

I’d had issues with my work phone, a Galaxy S2 after that received both the ICS and JB updates. Not the same issues I might add, instead the battery life being sucked dry by a vampiric Exchange email client. The solution to this was a factory reset each time.

So, I thought ‘what have I got to lose?’ and proceeded down the factory reset route with my own phone.

I was pretty impressed by the Google experience, as my phone was reset and had all apps automatically restored by Google and within an hour was back up and running, albeit without any personalisation, other than having all my account information back in.

I’d taken screen shots of all my personalisation for the home screens (press power and volume down on the ONE X to do this), and in another 30 minutes my phone was back as it was before by referring to these.

So far it’s looking good, the phone being much more spritely than before, with no signs of camera or other slowdowns, and everything is buttery smooth again, and battery life seems to have shot up immensely.

I’m sure this has done the trick, so I think the moral of the story is ‘do a factory reset when you upgrade to a new version of Android’.

Hopefully somebody else in the same position will find this useful 🙂

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So finally Jelly Bean finally arrived on my HTC One X on Monday, a couple of months behind unlocked/unbranded phones.

The delay was due to the first build failing testing with 3, and HTC having to deliver a second build. The guff that 3 add has more than a little bit to do with that.

What annoys me the most is that valuable customers get left behind, and folks who don’t pay for a contract phone jump the queue.

Still, the I have it now, and so far so good. Battery life doesn’t seem that different so far, but I need to give it a chance I guess.

One big difference for me is the improved email client, which now allows html email with my Exchange 2003 activesync setup, whereas before I could only get plain text.

The addition of the Best Deals application gives you localised deals to you, and there are minor updates to some of the other embedded apps.

Google now is also a welcome addition, providing up to date information based on things you do, when you do them and where you are. For example, driving home it automatically gives me an eta.

The updated UI is not massively different, mostly minor tweaks and changes, but the underlying changes from project butter make what was an already slick UI email even better.

So, so far so good, and I’m a happy bunny 🙂

Ok, so after some badgering, I finally got some information on the Jelly Bean update for locked/branded handsets on Three UK.

It seems that they have a second build in testing now, the first having failed, and it will be released ‘as soon as its ready’.

Overall I’m more than a little disappointed with Three on this. As a loyal customer of about 7-8 years I’ve always had a branded\locked handset and stuck with them as overall I have no problems, but users of unlocked\unbranded handsets get the updates first, and as a customer who is paying more to be loyal to Three, I expect to have the update at the same time or earlier.

It isn’t like the update suddenly surprises them, they know it’s coming, so concentrate on getting the updates ready for the same time.

I guess the argument is that HTC are in control of the updates, so they can release to handsets with non brand CIDs when they want, but the carriers should either stop filling their handsets with unwanted bloatware so that the update is simple, or work harder with HTC to get the updates ready for all in time.

I had exactly the same issue with my HTC Desire, and I ended up rooting and flashing it in order to get the software level I wanted, something I don’t want to do with my One X.

What is even more galling is the fact that Samsung look to be releasing Jelly Bean officially for the Samsung Galaxy S2, which means my work phone, a much older model, may possibly get the update before my One X.

I may yet have to consider unlocking my bootloader so I can get a custom recovery on my phone, and back it up so I can try flashing to a stock JB rom, but each time I think of doing it I have a little twitch…….

Ok, so I found out today that the HTC One X has a safe mode that I accidentally went into when trying to get to recovery mode.

I’d held the volume – button down whilst holding the power button down until the 3 icons at the bottom of the screen flashed, and when nothing happened I simply powered up the phone to have it come up with ‘Safe Mode’ overlaid at the bottom left of the screen.

In safe mode, you can only use preinstalled apps, so none of my 3rd party apps would work.

So I rebooted figuring it would go away, but it didn’t, which led to several minutes of frantic Googling and minor panic.

As it happens, the answer didn’t come from Google, but from my own brain 🙂

So, I figured that it was only fair to share with the world at large, so here we go:-

Power off your phone and wait for the screen to shut off.

Hold down the power button until the 3 icons at the bottom flash and release the power button.

The phone will still be off, now power it on normally and safe mode will be turned off.

This worked for me, hopefully it will for others too, since with the One X there is no option to remove the battery!!

I am really getting into Minecraft now, but so annoying that I can’t connect to my home server from the Xbox and Android versions. I do hope this happens in the future, or I’m going to end up with 3 or 4 different worlds on the go!

So, do you have a locked HTC One X on 3 UK?

According to their support team, who I asked directly, Jelly Bean should be coming at the end of November.

Oooh, I do hope so 🙂

So, Apple has finally launched a smaller version of its best selling iPad, and it looks, from initial reviews I’ve read to be yet another high quality product.

But, was it really necessary for the mini to be made in the first place?

For a start, the pricing seems really extreme for a tablet with the spec of the mini, with the current 7 inch tabs, such as the Kindle Fire HD, Nexus 7 and Nook HD, all having higher screen resolutions and ppi figures, and equally good or better CPUs and similar storage capacity.

The base iPad mini is £269 for the 16GB Wifi only version , £70 dearer than the 16GB Wifi Nexus 7 @ £199. The Kindle Fire HD 16GB can be had for just £159, with the Nook HD coming in somewhere in between.

That £70 difference might not seem that much, but given that people are economising still, I do wonder if the price point could be a dealbreaker, especially if you follow the pricing structure up, where the mini overlaps the full size iPad quite deeply, and begs the question ‘Why buy a mini when you can get a full size one?’.

I personally have not had any hands on, but looking at the reviews and videos so far, I find myself answering the question ‘Does it offer anything compelling over the competition? (Including other iPads)’ with a ‘No’.

I don’t doubt that it will sell by the truckload, but I can’t help that its Apple thinking they’ve missed a trick to cash in and racing to play catch up when they saw the success of the Nexus 7.

It seems these days that Apple is just about the money, and as I’ve said before, I think that’s a shame.

So, I’m totally astonished at the screen grabs and errors being published online in all quarters, centering around the poor quality of the new IOS6 mapping app. It is truly amazing, that an important app like this, replacing as it is the venerable Google product, even got out of the door. Terrible joins are visible in images, with distortion that makes some objects appear melted, items are missing, labeled incorrectly etc.

I’m sure Steve Jobs would be turning in his grave over this quality control blunder.

The worst part of it seems to be for the businesses who spent time, and probably money, getting themselves visible on Google maps are often unfindable in the Apple product, since it uses Yelp and not Google for searching.

Looking at other reviews, and I’ve read quite a few, Apple seems to have got stuck in their continuous product improvement cycle and are only able to evolve what they currently have, rather than being able to do anything revolutionary, and to me that’s a shame.

One final thing before bed, and that is to remind you all that whilst Apple designed the A6 core, guess who builds the chips for them? Yep, you guessed it, Samsung. 🙂

I just checked for updated firmware for my One X, and was surprised to see there was an update waiting.

It was large, weighing in at 165 megs, but downloaded quickly over wifi, and was installed in about 5 minutes.

Android is now at 4.0.4, and Sense is at 4.1 and the software number is 2.17.771.3, which seems to be a big jump past the last version. I’ll be interested to see what sort of a difference it is makes to the phone overall.

So I’ve had the updates a few days now and wanted to make a note of what I’ve seen so far.

Visually, it looks much the same. HTC Sense always was a nice UI, even before the update, but now it seems even smoother and just that little bit slicker, and there is something I can’t quite put my finger on with the visual quality, but it seems, well, nicer.

The biggest improvement I noticed was the battery life, which overall seems to have improved hugely, and is not dissimilar to my work Galaxy S2, which is also running ICS, albeit 4.0.3. Considering the extra CPU power in the One X, this is a good thing.

Another area where battery life seems to have improved is gaming. I take full advantage of the Tegra 3 chipset and run games like Max Payne, Dead Trigger, GTA III, ME Infiltrator, Dead Space and Shadowgun.

These used to make for a very low battery, and a very hot phone, but after the last update, these things seem to have improved immensely.

So far I haven’t any other info about this latest ICS incarnation, but as and when I do, I’ll post it here.

Update your phone now, and enjoy the bonus battery life 🙂

So, my wife would like an iPad, so we take a look at eBay to see how much 1st gen ones go for.

Well to say I was shocked is an understatement, because you can go and buy a refurbished 2nd gen one for less straight from Apple.

Why do people persist in paying more on eBay, I just don’t get it.

Shop around fools……

I promised a guide a little while ago, on how to upgrade an HTC Desire from Froyo to Gingerbread.

Well, keep reading because here it comes, since I’m on a night shift and have a spare moment!

First off are the obligatory warnings.

This process involves flashing the ROM of your phone, so if you don’t understand what you are about to undertake, don’t do it, walk away now, as you might brick your phone, and that’s your fault not mine. I’m only making the information available, what you do with it is your business.

When you do this, your phone will essentially be ‘Box Fresh’, so be prepared for some work afterwards to get it the way you want. It will even remove your custom recovery, if you already have one installed.

So, what is the process?

It goes a little something like this something like this on a PC. No Macs here, sorry:

  1. Back up your phone before you do anything. I used Titanium Backup Pro, and as my phone was previously rooted when I installed Froyo, I also took a ROM backup using ClockWorkMod recovery. If you’re not rooted, this will still work, and in any event, it will de-root your phone, but more on that later.
  2. Visit http://htcdev.com/devcenter/downloads and download the item named ‘ HTC Desire Android 2.3 Upgrade’, which is 161MB in size. It will most likely be top of the list. Unzip it once downloaded.
  3. If you don’t already have HTC Sync, jump over to the HTC Help Center here and download it. Install on your PC. You can remove it later if you want.
  4. On your PC, ensure you’re logged in as an administrator user, and connect your Desire using a USB cable. When the dialog box pops up asking what you want to do, make sure you select HTC SYNC. Wait for the phone and software to settle down, and ensure your PC has no failed devices in device manager.
  5. Locate the files you unzipped in ‘2’, and double click on the file ‘RUU_HTC Desire Android 2.3 Upgrade (Gingerbread).exe’.
  6. On the first screen you see, click ‘Next’. The next 2 screens require that you tick a check box. Do so, and click ‘Next’, and you will arrive at a screen with an ‘Update’ button.
  7. Click the ‘Update’ button, then click ‘Next’ on the following 2 screens. Do not unplug or otherwise disturb your phone during the update, it may brick your phone. After about 10 minutes, the update will be completed, and you will see a screen with a ‘Finish’ button. Click ‘Finish’ and the ROM Update Utility will close, and your phone will reboot, and will come back as a clean phone requiring set up.

That’s it for those of you who aren’t bothered about rooting. The next step is to set up your phone, and restore the apps you want using your chosen method.

Be aware, Gingerbread with Sense is a tight fit, so you may want to take a moment to de-clutter now you have a box fresh phone.

For the tinkerers amongst us, that may not be enough, especially if you want your root access back. Well, that just got easier with the arrival of Revolutionary.

Again, backups before starting, and do so at your own risk etc etc.

So, what is Revolutionary? Its a tool which disables the NAND lock on your phone allowing an optional install of a custom recovery, which will allow rooting too.

So, here’s the process:

  1. Visit this page: http://unrevoked.com/rootwiki/doku.php/public/revolutionary#revolutionary_s-off_recovery_tool and download the Windows fastboot drivers and zipfile you’ll need for Rooting your phone.
  2. Uninstall HTC Sync, but don’t uninstall the drivers. If these drivers don’t work, uninstall them, then install the ones you just downloaded.
  3. Visit this page: http://revolutionary.io/ and download Revolutionary. A form will open asking you to generate a key, but we’ll come back to this in a moment. Let the software download, and unzip it.
  4. Connect your phone using USB and Run the exe you’ve just unzipped. It will tell you your serial number and HBOOT version
  5. Return to the web form from ‘3’ and enter the phone model, HBOOT version and serial number. This will generate a key.
  6. In the revolutionary window, enter the serial and the key you generated in ‘5’.
  7. Wait for Revolutionary to run, and allow it to install ClockWorkMod recovery if you want a custom recovery. This is necessary if you want to root your phone TBH.
  8. Copy the ZIP file required for rooting to your SD card, and reboot into recovery. To do this, power off the phone, then power on with the volume down button held. Using the volume +/- keys, select recovery and press the power button. This should put you in ClockWorkMod custom recovery.
  9. Once in recovery, choose the option to install a zip from SD card, then choose the ZIP from the location you placed it earlier. This will give you root.
  10. Once completed, reboot your phone. You now have an HTC Desire, with Gingerbread, Sense and root.
  11. I’d advise getting the ROM Manager app from the market next, as it will allow you to do a full ROM backup to SD card in case you break it during the next phase. Don’t be stingy, buy the full version.

Next, lets talk about removing bloatware.

The Gingerbread ROM for Desire comes with a few apps, like Facebook and Flikr, missing, due to memory constraints. In order to remove the apps you don’t want, and make space for the ones you do, I’d suggest you buy Titanium Backup Pro. Go on, treat yourself. It has saved my neck on numerous occasions, and since you now have root, it will work nicely.

The other way to do it is using the ADB shell, but Titanium will make it much easier. Once you have Titanium Backup, run a full backup at least once.

You can then select apps, even system apps, from the list of backed up software, and uninstall them.

I removed things like the FM Radio, which I never use, the Twitter client, as I prefer Tweetdeck, and things like Voice Search and Stocks as I never use them either.

The choice is yours, just be VERY careful, because if you haven’t made a ROM backup, you can easily remove something essential and break your phone.

I now have around 40 apps on my phone, all of which I want, and have around 13% free space, which is just right. And don’t forget to make sure any apps you do have are moved to the SD card where p0ssible.

Remember, this is a guide, so you may need to interpret what I’ve said, as it may not quite match what you see on screen.

Also remember that you do any of these procedures at your own risk, and if you break your phone, it isn’t our responsibility.

Good luck!

Well it appears the experiment worked.

I now have a Desire with official HTC Gingerbread ROM, rooted with ClockWorkMod recovery in place.

I was able, once rooted, to boot up using CWM recovery, mount the System and manually rip out the bloatware, and initial impressions are good, with Adao file manager reporting 147MB total ram, the same as when I was running Froyo.

Titanium Backup, as ever, is helping me get my apps back in place complete with data, plus I’m able to restore a lot of my settings. As I’ve said before, if you have Root, get Titanium Backup, it’s saved me a whole load of time and heartache.

So, all that remains is to pop all my icons back where I had them before.

Sorted!

HTC have recently released a ‘DEV’ version of Gingerbread for the Desire.

It was nearly a non-event, since Gingerbread+Sense doesn’t leave much memory to play with, but after a lot of protests, they did a U turn and released it. If only they had taken out some of the apps like Footprints, Stocks and Peep (I use Tweetdeck)

It is shorter on RAM than a Froyo Desire, but if you want, it is available.

I decided to give it a whirl, but I’ll say this, it gave me a hell of a fright, since it overwrote my ClockworkMod recovery, and it took a bit of doing to get it back.

Hence my advice to tread carefully, as I was now in a position of not being able to restore my Froyo backup, and no longer having root on my phone, and whilst I was happy to be getting Gingerbread, I had no way of removing the bloatware to give me space for the apps I wanted.

To recover, I had to use a tool called Revolutionary, which is the work of unrevoked & Alpharev, which restored the CWM custom recovery, and allowed me to restore my backup I’d taken before starting.

So I’m back in my happy place with Froyo, but having come this far, I have decided that another attempt is going to happen.

I shall be re-flashing the stock Gingerbread, then re-running Revolutionary so I can connect via the CWM recovery using ADB and manually delete the bloatware. From there I can try and see if Titanium Backup will restore the apps and data I do want successfully.

It’s gonna be an interesting ride, and I’ll report back on my results.

TTFN

So I’ve been trying to get my Desire (Froyo) to play nicely with HTML emails when using Exchange 2003, and it seems the stock email client just won’t. This is very annoying, since the email client on my wife’s iPhone works just fine. I also have a backup phone, an original 2g iPhone, and despite it’s age, that works just fine too.

So I did some digging, and discovered that my Galaxy Tab, recently updated to Gingerbread, now has a stock email client that supports HTML email with Exchange 2003! So every phone in the house, apart from my Desire, works. Most annoying.

Whilst I have an Exchange 2007 server available, which should in theory work with the client on my Desire, and ActiveSync is up and running, I would also need to migrate all my websites to it too as I run off a single IP and everything sits on one server at present.

That’s a lot of work just to get HTML emails.

I’ve tried RoadSync, and that doesn’t do it either, so I’m now giving Touchdown a road test.

And it’s working. I have HTML email on my Desire. I have 30 days trial to see if it satisfies all my requirements, but so far we have one major box ticked.

I’ll post more as and when I have played with it, but it is rather maddening that Apple, Touchdown, and even Google with Gingerbread can do it easily, but not the Froyo client, especially since Touchdown is £12 odd.

I have know that isn’t a huge amount of money, but I think its expensive for an app.

At least you have the benefit of a 30 day trial.

More later.

ADDITIONAL UPDATE

As of 25th September, I now have Gingerbread on my Desire. And guess what? The stock email client still doesn’t support HTML emails with Exchange 2003. The option is there, but greyed out.

Come on HTC, get it sorted. If Samsung can do it, why not you!

Well, HTC, after quite a bit of faffing around, have launched Gingerbread for the HTC Desire.

Well, launched is the wrong word, because it’s more of a ‘Quietly made available’.

You can find it here, Gingerbread, and you’ll find it’s missing some bits and bobs in order to save space, though the missing items have also been made available for download should you wish to try stuffing them back in again.

I’ve not tried it yet as I haven’t had time, plus HTC are saying ‘This is really only for developers’, but if I get the chance, I will.

If anybody out there has tried it, please feel free to post a comment.

I’ve had some discussions on forums of late, which have made me think long and hard about the almost religious fervor  some people get into over iPhones in this particular case.

I am an Android user, but I am more than capable of looking at the iPhone and saying ‘Yes, it is a standard setter, and has, and always will be a great piece of industrial design, and does what it does very well’.

Although I have an older model as a spare phone, and my wife has a 3gs, I’ll never go down the route of having one as my primary phone, because as a techie, I love the freedom I get with Android, and the iPhone leaves me a bit cold, because it is too rigid and fixed. I can’t tinker with an iPhone so easily. Oh, and it doesn’t have Flash either, or an easily changed battery. And it has a SIM card that is so small, that if you drop it on a brightly coloured carpet it vanishes for good.

So as a droid user, I can see both sides of the  argument, and am prepared to believe that both devices have pros and cons, and ultimately, its down to the individual to choose the device that best suits their personality.

iPhone users however, seem to be incapable of accepting that both devices have pros and cons, and simply wish to pour damnation on everything remotely droid.

One forum I posted on had an iPhone user saying that droids were laggy, fragmented, malware infested and had no updates, and wouldn’t sync with iTunes. Another described the Market as a cess pool!!

Folks, all I’ll say is this. Look back at the iPhone and it’s recent past, such as antennagate, alarm clocks that won’t recognise summertime, baby shaking apps, flashlight apps with hidden tethering, and a serious WiFi security bug in the iPhone 3g, that won’t be fixed because support has ceased. Not much consolation for those with a year or two old iphone 3g.

Back in 2009, which is not that long ago people, Apple had to close around 46 bugs in iOS, some of which were serious security vulnerabilities.

There has been malware in both the App Store and the Android Market.

Apple is no more perfect than Android, they are just better able to put a spin on things, and divert our attention away from the bad things by launching new, sexy things just when something bad happens.

When comparing an iPhone to an Android handset, don’t compare with a handset that is way down in the specs. Make sure you’re comparing Apples with Apples (So to speak).

Get your facts right. Android gets updates, and some manufacturers do this over the air, rather than having to plug into iTunes to get them. I can also choose from a selection of ROMS to install on my phone at any time I choose.

Oh, and finally, both my HTC Desire and Samsung Galaxy Tab can sync to iTunes.

So if you are an Apple fanboy, and you want to slag off Android you’d better:

  1. Get your facts right.
  2. Don’t be standing in a glass house.

Try and see both sides.

Reminds me of a long time ago when my friends and I owned things like a Sinclair Spectrum, CMB64, Atari 800 and all those other long lost home computers, when the ‘My Computer Is Better Than Your Computer’ argument raged on.

Except then it was much better natured. Sighs….

Well, I finally took the plunge and downloaded Samsung’s Kies app to my PC as I’d been reading that Samsung delivered new firmware using it, and that FOTA was not their thing. I have a Galaxy Tab as well as my HTC Desire, and was keen to get it some Gingerbread action.

So, with everything installed on my PC, I plugged in the Tab, fired up Kies, and sure enough it identified my firmware as needing an update and after backing up my data, installed the new firmware.

Be aware, Kies is not fast, so be patient. It took a good hour to back up and install the new firmware, so give it time.

One reboot later and Gingerbread has left my Tab with few obvious changes, but with a definite feel that everything was ‘perkier’, with menus sliding back and forth with ease, and a Quadrant Standard score that is seemingly better than the original firmware.

And that is where most people need to stop reading, because if you have no need of root, then that’s all you need to do in order to get some Gingerbread action.

Me, I need root as I have some software that needs it, such as the lifesaver that is Titanium backup.

I used the details that can be found here: Rooting a Galaxy Tab with Gingerbread 2.3.3.

They are simple and easy to follow, and as I’d tried and failed with a couple of other methods, I breathed a sigh of relief when it all worked and I was rooted again.

A benefit of this method was that the ClockworkMod recovery is included, giving you great access and a means to fully back up your system prior to any Rom based hijinks.

Beware though, the controls once in ClockworkMod recovery are based around the volume up/down keys, so a bit odd as it starts up in landscape mode.

You also get a Tweaks tool for messing around with performance. I’ve not tried any yet, but it looks good.

As usual, you get the obligatory warning: ‘I am not responsible if you choose to follow any of these procedures and turn your Galaxy Tab into a paperweight. This is all on you if you get it wrong.’

If you do decide to go ahead, good luck, I hope it works as well for you as it did for me.

Bye for now!