I have been an avid webOS fan for quite a while, even purchasing an HP Veer 4G off contract on eBay. In my opinion, webOS is one of the best mobile operating systems ever made, and definitely does multitasking better than either iOS or Android. webOS is built for efficiency, beauty, and ease of use. The gestures are natural, the UI is smooth and hardware accelerated, and the buttons are well laid out and easy to figure out. The learning curve is small compared to other smartphones. It’s just an overall amazing OS that was never given the chance it deserved. Under Palm, the hardware was terrible. They used slow chips, fragile components, and not the most attractive design. I know that my friend had to replace his Palm Pixi 8 times in 2 years because it kept breaking.
When HP purchased Palm, we thought it would be a brand new start. webOS 2.x and 3.x looked amazing, the Veer, TouchPad, and Pre 3 were attractive devices and were very well built. Nothing could go wrong. Then everything did, and webOS was killed off. webOS without a manufacturer’s support was a dead platform. The lack of apps is what put the nail in the coffin, and everyone knew no one would publish apps for a dead OS. However, the TouchPad was given new life in the form of Android. Soon enough, fully stable builds of Android were released, installable alongside the original webOS operating system. This was great news, as the TouchPad became the most capable $100 Android tablet out there. The Veer, however, was just left in the dust.
I still used my Veer quite often, and adore it. I’m always on the verge of buying a Pre 3, just because I love webOS so much but the Veer’s 2.8” display is too small. I still used my Galaxy SII on the side, for browsing or music listening (the Veer’s 3.5mm adapter causes a lot of audio popping) or even gaming, because I just couldn’t get away from Android. Then a friend of mine tweeted me a link to a project called Android-On-Veer.
Now this isn’t the salvation that the TouchPad received. While the TouchPad runs Ice Cream Sandwich with everything working and it being a daily driver, the Veer’s Android build is based on Gingerbread and the list of working components is a lot shorter than the list of broken ones. The only things that work are the touch screen, the hardware keyboard, and the wifi (and that can freak out and stop working at times). Data, GPS, Bluetooth, signal, phone functionality, accelerometer, sound, nothing else is working. It really isn’t meant to be a fully working port, but a proof of concept that it can be done. I emailed the developer, and he told me his life is a bit too busy, so the project has been temporarily put on hold, but I have faith that updates will eventually be released to make this an at least somewhat working build.
The install process is quite advanced but not difficult. The standard disclaimer applies: No one but you is responsible for any possible damages, this will void your warranty, proceed at your own risk. Make sure you have 1GB of free space on your Veer first. Watch the video for a full tutorial on how to do it. This was my first time doing it, and it was successful and quite easy. So just follow along with the video. Also, here are some quick written instructions:
1. Install novacom drivers from here. Drivers are both for 32 bit and 64 bit Windows.
2. Download the 3 files necessary for the procedure from here .
3. Check the MD5 sums of the 3 files you downloaded. This is VERY important. Do NOT skip this step. If you don’t know what this means, Google it.
4. Navigate to C:\Program Files\Palm, Inc (both 32 bit and 64 bit) and copy uImage.install into that folder.
5. Plug in your Veer and mount it as a USB drive.
6. Toss android-rootfs.tar and boot.tar onto the root of your SD card. Make sure it doesn’t go into a folder, but on the SD itself.
7. Shut down your Veer. Then hold down volume up and press power. It should boot into recovery mode, which will show a big USB logo.
8. Open command prompt on your computer.
9. Navigate to the Palm folder by typing “cd C:\Program Files\Palm, Inc” in the command prompt window.
10. Enter “novacom boot mem:// < uImage.install” and press enter.
11. Your Veer should display scrolling text. You are done!
From now on, when booting the Veer, you will get a menu asking which OS to boot into. Use the volume keys to navigate and the power button to select. webOS will function like it always has.
As you can see, Android for the Veer doesn’t really work. It runs, but that’s pretty much it. It can’t even detect any SD card (since there really is none. It considers the internal memory to be the system root, and you’d need an external SD for it to see it. And the Veer has no SD slot). Wifi does work, thankfully, and that allows you to really play around with it. The video doesn’t show much when in white apps (unfortunately, it was too bright when recording), but a lot of the apps are just cut off due to the low resolution. The browser works perfectly, aside from multi touch. It is not very fluid, but you can’t expect too much from aging hardware and a dirty port. Speaking of hardware, the Veer is actually pretty powerful for such a small phone. It is no low end phone, running an impressive 800 MHz Snapdragon S2 and 512MB of RAM. These are identical specs to the T-Mobile HTC G2. So it really is a capable phone.
It isn’t a working port. There is really no use for it. But personally, I love it. I love that it exists, I love having the option to boot into Android, I love having the bragging rights, I love messing around with my phone, I love the FREEDOM of this device. HP and Palm left it unlocked and open to the community. They didn’t engage in the ridiculous process of locking bootloaders. They even encourage modding webOS with Preware. To unlock the device for hacking, you have to type “upupdowndownleftrightleftrightbastart” into the search bar. They not only give you the method to unlock your device without voiding warranty, but they put humor into it. This is why I love that phone so much. It has an incredible OS that, while not better than Android, does a lot much better than Android and is irreplaceable in my heart. And if Android becomes fully working on the Veer one day, and the app selection will be available to us Veer users, and they optimize it for the strange screen resolution (HVGA Android devices use 320×480, but the Veer is 320×400. Those 80 missing pixels creates the cut off problem), this device would be infinitely more usable.
I will continue to use my Veer. No, I will not be using Android. I will boot into it and play around sometimes, because it’s pretty cool using Android with the webOS gestures. They work quite well for the most part (when they don’t glitch). But I will be using webOS, a lot. Nothing can tear me away from webOS. Android is heading in the right direction, with ex-Palm employee Duarte helping with design (it really shows in ICS, just look at the recent apps window and the auto correct). But the core design and purpose of webOS is just unique and special. I don’t see webOS disappearing anytime soon, nor do I see it gaining any popularity as an open source OS. I think it will stay in limbo, with its dedicated fanbase by its side, using old hardware, hoping it doesn’t break. But it’ll be worth it, because it’s an enjoyable experience, and maybe our dedication to webOS will spark some sort of interest in it.
Next, I pray that webOS is ported fully working to the Galaxy S III. A man can dream, can’t he?
Thanks @Neijab! (Twitter user who tipped me off about this)