Upgrading my Samsung Omnia to WM6.5


Those who follow me at Twitter or Facebook have surely noticed that last week I have been quite busy updating my Samsung Omnia to WM6.5.

How did I do that? Everybody knows that there isn't an official WM6.5 ROM for the Samsung Omnia. Well, let me tell you that I did not invent or discover anything new. There are many good (and bad) cooked ROMs for the Omnia around…. The information is all around at the Internet. Now I will try to put some order in all that.

More details after the break.

Warning: Danger !!!

Let me begin by telling my readers that many of you will have all the reasons in the world not to want to do this. Some reasons that come to my mind:

  1.  If your device is still under warranty, it will void your warranty completely and immediately.
  2. This is a one-way process; there is no turning back, and no return. Once you've done it, you will probably never find again an original ROM from your operator, so you will be stuck forever with cooked ROMs.
  3. The process of installing a ROM in a Samsung Omnia is more complicated and more dangerous than the process of doing that same job on an HTC device. There is more chance to brick your device, and if this happens probably nobody will be able to help you.
  4. All the cooked ROMs (as well as the official ROMs) are not Bug Free.
  5. In the case of Israelis: you will loose the Eyron Hebrew Support and need to stick to the Free Hebrew. It is also very good, but it does have some bugs that can be quite a pain. I will talk about that later.

So why did I do it?

Mainly two reasons for that:

1.     I love my Samsung Omnia – I believe this is the best Windows Mobile device every released.

2.     In the last months, I was beginning to hate it.

Let me try to explain that: the Omnia is really a great device. It has everything that a great device can have, plus a camera that no other WM device has managed to match. It has the right size, the right screen, the right accessories…..

However, Samsung has made a basic mistake when they planned this device. They planned it with 256MB of main storage and an internal Flash storage of 8GB, but loaded all their software (and there's a lot of it) in the main storage. Then they added load on it by configuring the pre-loaded Opera browser to write its cache to main memory.  Then came the Hebrew localization which also needs to load in the main storage. And last but not least, all the programs from the Cellular Operator, including Online Navigation Software, are loaded in the main storage.

The result: the out-of-the-box device in Israel comes in best case (depending on ROM version) with 50MB of free main storage. If I sync a 20MB PIM and email, and install some programs that need to be in main storage, I am left with 20MB free. Now comes a bug in Microsoft Activesync for WM6.1, and on every synchronization takes a minimum of 50KB, which disappear. This brings me to a situation in which every month I need to hard reset my device in order to get back the memory which "disappeared".

So, trying not to get to a situation in which I hate my device, and to give it a new life before it happens, I decided to begin researching and to go into this project.

The Upgrade Process

As I said before, I have not invented anything. All that I am writing here is about information that can be found scattered in the Internet. The only thing I have done was to search, to read, to execute and then bring the compiled information to this article.

  1. Please, before you begin, read all the instructions and the rest of this article, and check if you are comfortable with the whole process and the results. If not, don't do it !!!
  2. I recommend doing this upgrade from a computer using XP.  The upgrade from Vista is much more complicated, and much more dangerous. In case you don't have a computer with XP, but only Vista or Windows7, the process is different and can be found here.
  3. In case you don't have it already installed, you will need to install Activesync 4.5. You can find it at the MicrosoftDownload Center.
  4. You will also need the Samsung Modem Driver. You can get it from Samsung's website.
  5. After you have installed the two components above, restart the computer and download the Ryzry WM6.5 ROM from Modaco. I have chosen this ROM since this is the most stable and fastest ROM I have ever seen. You should use the newest version, since they get better as they get newer. I have used version 28230 from 20/2/2010. There are four different editions for that ROM, M2D, M2D Classic, Normal and Lite. M2D and M2D Classic include TouchFlo 2D, Lite is stripped off all software, and Normal is a Titanium-based ROM which still has some of the Samsung software. I have chosen to install the NORMAL edition.
  6. After downloading the file, extract its components with some software like WinRar, and run the exe file with the icon that shows a yellow ball. You will see the following screen:

     

    Note that the START button is not ready for use.

  7. Do a complete Power OFF (not standby) in your device.
  8.  With the device off, connect it to the USB cable which is connected to the computer. The START button will become active.
  9.  Press the START button. The process will begin.
  10. This is what you will see at the end of the process:

    The important thing is to see the writing JOB DONE on the top and see that there aren't any errors on the bottom.

  11. Disconnect your device, and let it restart. It will do a HARD-RESET.
  12. In case you need to use Hebrew, this is the time to install it. You can get the Hebrew Support from this link, and the Finger Keyboard that supports Hebrew from here. You can also install SIPChange from here and use it to define the Finger Keyboard as the default after every soft-reset.
  13. Now it is time to configure your device and install all software you may want in it.

The Result

Well, you have already seen the main Titanium screen at the top of this article. So let's begin with the Menu screen, which already includes all my installed software.

I would like to stress here that the work with the finger, in the home screen, in the menus and in all software installed is very smooth. Almost like using a capacitive screen. The device responds quickly, there are no sudden halts, and everything works really great.

This is the about screen. Please note the amount of free memory. More details below:

This is right !!! At hard-reset time I had approximately 130MB free. Since then I have put the device in Push Synchronization with my Exchange server, installed much software in it, and after the device is already running for a full week I still have 99.5MB free.

This is only the beginning of my "Remove Programs" list. I have installed more than 50 software packages. We see a small bug here, the Remove screen does not know how to count the available storage.

The whole OS has undergone a full facelift which makes it finger-friendly all around. I can work with my fingers wherever I am, and the pen is something long gone, which I don't even remember where I put.

Another screen from the calendar. Details have been deliberately erased. Please note this bug in the Hebrew support: Notes in Calendar and Contacts items are immediately turn into Gibberish at the moment they are synchronized with Outlook.

This makes the upgrade very NOT RECOMMENDED in case you have many Hebrew comments in your contacts and calendar. Please take note of this, or you will loose all your comment data.

Contacts have become completely Finger Friendly as well:

Everything looks beautifully organized: we can run between the different types of information with the bar at the top.

Here is the additional Info page.

We can update the different  fields  one by one.

As I said, Notes in Hebrew are turn into Gibberish at sync. Luck that I use mainly data in English, and this was only test data……

I have decided to use the Normal version and to install Spb Mobile Shell 3.5 as my Shell on it. It is worth every dime of its price. With it, I could define 3 home pages that I can move among them with a simple finger gesture. Like my phone status page above.

Next are the favorite program shortcuts….

And last is a page with my closest meetings, a google search applet, and a Twitter tool. Surely, if I press the Launcher button from any page I will get access to all programs and settings comfortably organized, and if I press the contacts button I will first get a quick photo dialer, with the option of switching for a full contacts view.

Bugs

Well, I have already talked about the Hebrew bug. This is in my opinion the main showstopper, which may convince most people to give up on it.

Then there is a strange bug on Pocket Internet Explorer: it only works on WIFI. Yes, strange as it may be, every attempt to connect to a website with PIE ends up with a "cannot connect" error message. Update: I managed to solve this one. It was just going to Settings -> Connections -> Browser Connection and checking the Automaticly Detect Settings option.

I have solved this issue by installing Opera 10 Beta 3. Works beautifully, and is my default browser in the device.

Another smaller bug regards fonts: in some screens (like the camera), the fonts are kind of big and ugly to see. It doesn't damage the ability to do what you want, but it is not really nice to see.

Conclusion

Before I did the upgrade, I was thinking that this device is approaching the end of its useful life with me and that I will need to get a new one soon.

To make long things short, this upgrade has given a new life to my device. I do not need a new device anymore. I have the newest OS in my device, my memory leak problem in Exchange Activesync is solved, and I have all necessary memory to work with my device on a day-to-day basis.

Never mind the small bugs, this is the kind of ROM I would like Samsung to release for this device. Sleek, smooth and fast. I don't need them to fill the device up to its top of software which I don't need: just let me choose by myself what is the software I want to install, and I will be the happiest person in the word.

Sources

Modaco: www.modaco.com

xda-developers: www.xda-developers.com

My Samsung Omnia: http://mysamsungomnia.wordpress.com

Microsoft: www.microsoft.com

Samsung Mobile: www.samsungmobile.com