HTC’s G1, the first Android phone, had a long and interesting life until it was retired last year, and although I loved the phone, I’ll be the first to admit that being limited to Android 1.6 was kind of a disappointment. Naturally modders had their way with it, but development slowed down long ago in favor of newer and more popular phones.
But today, in a feat of nostalgia and hacking skills, XDA-Dev poster Jcarrz1 has made a working AOSP port of the latest version of Android, Ice Cream Sandwich, for the venerable G1. It may not extend the life of many phones out there (most have been long since abandoned, though not mine), but definitely demonstrates the flexibility of the platform.
Of course, with a lot of work, you could probably get Ubuntu to run on the G1, or Windows 95. But Really, this is a very pleasant development. It’s amazing to think that the G1’s paltry 528MHz processor and 256MB of RAM (paltry compared to modern phones, anyhow) can run a mobile OS designed to debut on one of the most powerful mobile devices out there right now, the Galaxy Nexus.
Naturally not all is well in G1 town. This is just an AOSP port, not a fully customized ROM, and is labeled as “Alpha 1,” which should give you an idea of the state of the thing. Wifi and Bluetooth don’t work, no doubt owing to incompatibility with the wireless chipset used, and a number of hardware features are unsupported, like some buttons and lighting controls. And of course it runs like a dog.
On the other hand, the browser is apparently snappy, calling and SMS work, and interestingly, using the trackball produces a little cursor like a mouse’s. This last detail, if it’s not just a holdover from debugging, indicates ICS will have support for external pointing devices, since few if any phones include a trackball or trackpad any more (though the pointer does feature in Google TV and the Asus Transformer and is in the ICS settings, as commenters note).
What’s next? Now that basic compatibility has been shown, a custom ROM with unnecessary stuff snipped and better support for the G1 hardware will probably appear in the next couple weeks. Thanks to Jcarrz1 for his hard work.