[Updated 7 October to include some information I discovered for installing games on the phone. -Peng]
One of the best features of smartphones is the ability to install apps. Except not everyone can afford smartphones, and some of us don’t want to get locked into a multi-year contract. Thanks to companies like Boost Mobile, metroPCS, and Virgin Mobile (the cell phone provider I’ve come to love to hate, even after just one month with them) we can get a fairly inexpensive cell phone that can run Java apps while paying for your service on a monthly basis. The only problem can be that your provider may not make very many apps available for your phone. Case in point: While Virgin Mobile has quite a few games for my Samsung Restore there are only a few apps available: Google maps, Email+IM (a combination of messaging for services from Google, Yahoo!, and AIM, as well as a couple of others), and MyPix (a picture sharing service from VM which has been closed recently), all of which are free. You can also get the Opera Mini browser, which is also free but ou have to go to their website withe the phone’s built-in browser to get it. You definitely want to get Opera Mini because the built-in browser is an old-fashioned WAP browser. If you had a phone a decade or so ago that had limited web access you may remember how flat out fugly it was.
The good news is that you can find Java apps online and you can download any number of apps, although you may need to download them to your computer and transfer them to your phone. In this tutorial I’ll show you how to get apps on a Samsung Restore phone on Virgin Mobile. You may be able to use the instructions to add apps to other phones, but I can’t make any guarantees. I figured out how to install apps with a lot of help from tutorials for installing apps to LG Rumor Touch phones on Virgin Mobile, and the main thing to keep in mind as you look for apps is that if the apps need a touch screen they won’t work on the Restore, and some apps may not work at all. I’ve found a few apps that either won’t install or refuse to run for one reason or another. The only good way to see if an app will work on your phone is to give it a try.
DISCLAIMER: These instructions are intended for entertainment purposes only and should not be used to install apps that require payment. Freeware apps may be installed with these instructions, but if the developer requires payment, or if the app you want to install is available in your provider’s app store for a fee please pay the fee. Purchasing commercial software allows the developers to devote time and energy to support the apps and even create new apps. Think of it as tipping your server at your favorite sit-down restaurant.
In addition to your phone you will need a microSD card, as well as a way to connect it to your computer. You can use a data cable, which doesn’t come with the phone, or if you have another device that you can connect to your computer. I use my iriver E100 digital media player since it supports microSD cards and comes with a cable to connect it to a computer. You may have a card reader for your computer, which will do the job wonderfully. Please remember that unless your device say otherwise do not insert or remove your microSD card while the device is turned on. It may work without problems but if you do you can create a short that will have you kissing your card goodbye as you tearfully go to the store buy a new one.
I’m afraid I don’t have any screenshots for this tutorial. The only camera I have is on my phone and I haven’t found a way to take screenshots on the phone. I’ll be using the IQ-Flashlight Java for the tutorial. It’s 100% free and a very handy app to have installed. I know there’s a JAD (Java Application Descriptor) file for it, but we’re not going to use it for this tutorial.
The first step, of course, is to get the JAR file for the app you want to install. make sure you have the right version for your phone, especially if there are versions for different screen resolutions, and make sure it doesn’t require a touch screen. Also remember that you can’t use Android or iThing apps. If it isn’t a JAR file, go back to the top and try again, otherwise copy it to a folder called
APPS on your microSD card. If the folder doesn’t exist yet create it right in the root directory. Just put the JAR file directly in the
APPS directory, not in a subdirectory. Unfortunately the Samsung Restore doesn’t know how to use subdirectories.
You’ll need to put one more app on your microSD card, and that’s Yuri Kudrin’s MiniCommander app. Mini Commander is a file browser for Java-based phones, and it has a killer feature: The ability to create JAD files for JAR files that don’t have them. Download the MiniCommander ZIP file from Yuri’s site, extract the two files from the ZIP archive, and copy the two files (
mico.jar) into the
APPS directory on your microSD card.
Once you have the JAR files and the two MiniCommander files put it on your microSD card, either by using a data cable or by using another device to get the file on your card. Once that’s done, put the card into your phone (if it’s not there already), turn your phone on, and go to My Stuff on your phone. You should see a seventh menu option under My Stuff called Apps. If you don’t see it then it means that you don’t have any JAD files in the folder so go back a step and make sure you have both of the mico files on your microSD card.
Regardless of what else you see on your screen, select mico.jad and click Install. If everything goes well you’ll see a screen that tells you that the app is being installed. When it finishes it will return you to the APPS screen and you will simply need to go to My Stuff > Applications and run MiniCommander. Once it opens navigate to Memory Card > APPS, then scroll down to select IQ_Light_English.jar. Press the right softkey to get the menu, and select File > Create JAD file. MiniCommander may seem to lock up for a bit if the JAR file is fairly big but it’s normal. Hopefully updates to MiniCommander will provide feedback to let us know it’s working.
If all goes well you’ll find a newly made file called
IQ_Light_English.jad. Go back to My Files > Apps and select IQ_Light_English.jad and press the Install button. You should see the phone “Download” the file (it’s not really downloading it, but that’s what the phone’s software calls the process) and return you to the Apps screen. Now go back to My Files > Applications and run IQ Light. You now have a flashlight app right on your phone. I’d recommend just using the app as is because when I push Start my screen flashes and I can’t do anything with the app without hitting the red End key and forcing the app to exit. The backlight may dim but to get it bright again just press any key. I like to use one of the arrow buttons on the D-Pad.
When you’re finished with the light just select Exit. You’ll be asked to visit their sponsors so click Done to get to the sponsor list. After the software gets the sponsor list from their server (you will need enough signal for the software to phone home) Once the list loads in you can visit the sponsor’s website with the built-in WAP browser or can safely press the right softkey to Exit from the screen and close out the app completely without visiting the sponsor. Please visit the sponsor’s website from time to time to help support the developer. IQ-Flashlight is freeware but they do depend on ad revenue to help fund their support and development efforts. In most cases you will simply be brought to the IQ-Mobile home page where you can check out the other software titles they create.
This process doesn’t work for all apps, unfortunately. You may get a complaint about missing a
MANIFEST.MF file when you try to create a JAD file, and that simply means you need to get the app from somewhere else because the file you got is incomplete. In some cases you can create a JAD file and try to install it but the install fails silently. Again, that means there’s a problem and you’ll need to get a better copy of the app.
Please do not use these instructions to install free copies of apps that you normally have to pay for or that are available in the Virgin Mobile app store. You really should buy apps when possible to support the developers, but if you find an app (not a game since Virgin Mobile has many of those in their online store, unlike their app selection) you want to run that doesn’t come with a price tag you can use this tutorial to try to get it installed and use it.
Remember, if you install pirated software on your phone and you get busted for it don’t blame me. These instructions are for educational purposes only, after all. Also, if you use these instructions to install an app that breaks your phone I can’t help you. Be careful what software you try to install and make sure your phone can run it, as well as where you get it from. I’ve used these steps to install an app that lagged my phone so much that I had to uninstall everything and reinstall even the free apps I’d gotten from VM. Talk about your royal pain in the keister.
Updated 7 October 2011: If you’re using these instructions to install free, open source games you can manually add these two lines to the end of your JAD file to get the games to install to the Games category: