The immortal phone might have a successor.
The HTC HD2 has a long history amongst the Android enthusiast community. It's the software equivalent of the Nokia 3310 - it just won't seem to die. Born running the ancient Windows Mobile 6.5 (yes, Windows Mobile), it went on to run basically any operating system thrown at it, from the latest versions of Android to Windows RT and even Ubuntu. While flagships come and go, no phone has been able to challenge this classic's ridiculous longevity and tinkering potential.
That is, until now.
XDA recently picked up findings indicating that there might finally be a device (or in this case, devices) ready to pick up the mantle of the legendary HD2. They found that despite years of Android updates and UX revisions and explosive phones, there are 2 devices that it seems Samsung and its competitors have been unable to kill – the Samsung Galaxy SIII and the Galaxy Note 2.
Take for instance the popular custom ROM LineageOS, a popular option to flash onto an ageing Samsung device. Both of these devices shipped with Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich, yet 5 versions of Android later these devices, with their humble specs, perform so well running Android 7.1 Nougat's via LineageOS that the Galaxy SIII is actually the 2nd most popular device running LineageOS internationally. Just take that in.
As XDA pointed out, it's likely that strong developer support and removable batteries have helped these devices live this long. But that's not the whole story – many phones, like the OnePlus One which lives above the Galaxy SIII on the LineageOS installation rankings, can live a long life thanks to developer support and some love. There has been a larger breakthrough, and it's to do with Linux kernel support.
Maintaining a device's kernel has always been a big problem for enthusiasts, so native device support in an updated kernel is a godsend in many ways.
The breakthrough has come courtesy of XDA Senior Member forkbomb444, the official LineageOS manager for the Samsung Galaxy S III, Google Nexus 7 (2013), and the Samsung Galaxy A7 (2017). They have stated that version 4.17 of the Linux kernel will add support for the Samsung Galaxy S III and Samsung Galaxy Note II; a critical step in ensuring the longevity of the device, both from the perspective of future versions of Android and the potential for tinkering with other Linux kernel-based operating systems.
Maintaining a device's kernel and ensuring stable driver support in order to accommodate future versions of Android has always been a big problem for enthusiasts (hell, it's a big enough problem for manufacturers that so many Android devices are left starved and devoid of Android updates, which is where Project Treble comes into play) so device support in an updated kernel is a godsend in many ways. So if you're motivated enough, you could probably get the Android P developer preview running on the Samsung Galaxy SIII pretty soon.
The Samsung Galaxy SIII has received some other leg-ups too. As XDA pointed out, Samsung's testing of Tizen 3.0 on the Galaxy SIII helped it's SoC, the Exynos 4 Quad, become a prime candidate for porting and flashing other operating systems. The reason is pretty simple; better driver support. And as a result, the tinkering potential with these devices will be practically endless, and there's no reason why we shouldn't expect wild Linux distro ports or even a Project Andromeda-based Windows port on this device at some point.
forkbomb444 has stated that their work on audio drivers and specific hardware drivers for the Galaxy Note 2 will be upstreamed to the mainline Linux kernel, meaning that the two devices "will be able to boot the kernels released by Google/Kernel.org with no changes, which makes it a lot easier to keep up with newer AOSP versions". This potentially seamless path for AOSP-based Android updates marks an enormous advantage to any enthusiast or developer in using and abusing these two devices. In effect, this might just be the canonizer for the pair of old n' gold Samsung flagships.
There's no reason why we shouldn't expect wild Linux distro ports or even a Project Andromeda-based Windows port on this device at some point.
According to the developer, each Exynos SoC-based variant of the Galaxy S III or the Galaxy Note 2 will be able to able to boot a single set of software, and with a bit of modification, there's no reason why any old GNU/Linux distribution can't be installed.
The developer estimates that the changes he has submitted already should land in the mainline Linux kernel source tree by next week, so you might not have too long to wait. Kernel support is one of many critical components to making sure that current and future versions of Android can sail smoothly on your device of choice. The difference here is the extent; the ingrained Linux kernel support will open the door to other Linux distributions running on these devices. Or possibly even ports operating systems based on different kernels.
Why, you ask? Because they can.
Will this be the next HD2? I'm not so sure, as the HD2's association with hacking and tinkering runs much deeper. The HD2 was a perfect storm of sorts; born just before Microsoft killed Windows Mobile, it was just begging for developers to try and port the new-born Windows Phone 7 to it. And it didn't stop there; after Android 2.2 found its way onto the device, everything from PlayStation emulators to Firefox OS was ported onto there. Ever since birth, the HD2 was a playground for development and proof-of-concept tinkering, and that's something tough to replicate.
But what's for certain is that these phones aren't going anywhere. And there's no reason why we can't have a close second and third place, right?