How to upgrade your T-Mobile G2

For months I’ve been hearing that T-Mobile were going to be posting an upgrade to their Android-based G2 Touch phone, which is their branded version of the HTC Hero which was available on every other network last year (it’s now been superseded but I guess there are a lot of people around who got the Hero/G2). It came out with version 1.5 of Android, a Linux-based smartphone operating system developed by Google; newer phones (except, for some reason, the Samsung Galaxy) are coming out with version 2.1 or 2.2, and Hero/G2 users were wondering when we’d get it. It’s been put back time and time again, but there was an announcement that T-Mobile were finally pushing it out “over the air”. Many people, including me, reported that they hadn’t got their update, and to find out how to get it, you needed to dig into T-Mobile’s support forums which gives not always helpful and sometimes conflicting advice.

Well, I finally got round to following the steps and this is how you do it.

First, sadly you need to be running Windows to interact with your HTC phone by computer. This is, I think, ridiculous — software allowing you do develop programs to deploy on all three main platforms is readily available and much (even Qt nowadays) of it is free, and since Android is a Linux-based operating system, many of us who use Linux will have bought an Android phone. Most Android phones on the market right now are by HTC. Also, you are better off doing this with a Wi-Fi connection than using your phone’s own internet access, as it will be much faster and won’t run down your data transfer allowance.

Just setting the date forward by a year didn’t do the trick for me. It will result in a minor firmware upgrade, not the big upgrade.

1. Get HTC Sync and synchronise your contacts

You need to go to HTC’s download page for the HTC Hero. You need to grab the “HTC Sync for Android version 1.5 and 1.6”, which allows you to sync your contacts to your computer. You might want to do this because the initial stage will wipe your phone (although not the SD card which stores your pictures and so on — your contacts will all get wiped). Once it’s installed, you have to use the USB cable that you normally use to charge up your phone — there’s a USB connector at the other end that goes into the plug, and you have to plug it into your computer. Both the computer and the phone will recognise when they are connected and you can sync your phone contacts to Windows Contacts.

2. Install the November ROM upgrade

The upgrade is on the same download page where you got HTC Sync, marked “ROM upgrade for HTC Hero (T-Mobile G2 )”. There has been some confusion because that ROM update has the same build number as the one that may already been installed on your phone, but you need to grab that file anyway. Note that you need to make sure your battery is well-charged as it absolutely mustn’t cut out midway through the update (one charge, for me, was enough for this entire procedure). Once you get the file, open and run it and follow the instructions on the screen. You will notice that the phone reboots and that a white screen appears, which gives a progress report as different parts of the new system install.

3. Do the first part of the two-stage upgrade

Once the November upgrade is done, the phone will reboot and you will have to start setting up your Google account and e-mail account and so on. It will start prompting you for an upgrade while you’re doing this, but you might find that you can’t do the upgrade as you haven’t got an internet connection. Finish setting up these things, set up your Wi-Fi access again if that’s what you’re using, then power off the phone by holding down the phone-down button and selecting “Power off”. Once the power has gone off, turn it back on again by pressing the same button. It will go through it’s usual long start-up process, then it might prompt you for another upgrade (if it doesn’t, try putting the date forward by a year). Click OK, and it will blank the screen and show you an icon of a box with a phone coming out, with a yellow progress bar.

4. Get Android 2.1

Once this is done, it will reboot yet again, then offer you another upgrade with a version number beginning with 3. This is your main upgrade with the new version of the OS in it. Click yes, and you’ll get the phone-out-of-box picture again, followed by yet another lengthy reboot. And there you have it — you’ve got Android 2.1.

Is it worth it? I’d say yes, because there have been small improvements, such as the touch-screen seemingly being more responsive, particularly when you type faster than it expects. There isn’t any speed loss that I can detect. There are a few niggles; the look and feel seem a little bit less polished, and I much preferred the icons on the old OS with the new ones having a washed-out blue feel; that may be configurable, though. However, the real reason to upgrade is that you are probably stuck with your phone for another 18 months already and before long, there won’t be many apps left that support version 1.5 — Twitter’s official client requires version 2.1, for example.

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