Context based services make our mobile phones the place where lots of exciting things are happening, with location awareness and augmented reality. I find my work routines are shifting because of it, and that is something I want to talk about in the presentations I give on working in a networked world. And for that I need screenshots. I’ve been using screenshots of how I use my tools to interact, work and learn for years and I need to be able to make screenshots of my phone as well.

Not the way I would like to make screenshots

The problem is there doesn’t seem to be a good screenshot app for my phone, the G1 Android or Google Phone.
There are currently two ways to make a screenshot on my G1.
The first is making use of the developer kit and using the debugging monitor. To do this my phone needs to be connected to my laptop via USB. That works if you just want a screenshot from some app, but not if I want to capture an interesting bit of interaction as and when it happens, or something that can’t be done on my desk. Like these screenshots from Wikitude AR, which have been taken by Maarten carrying his laptop around to make them.
The second way to make screenshots is using the application Screenshot available in the Android Market. It works in every situation though only with a sort of self-timer instead of a push button function, but more importantly the phone needs to be ‘rooted‘ for the app to work. This means changing the firmware on the phone to an earlier version, exploiting a little hole in that earlier version to gain root access, and then installing a hacked/modified version of the most current firmware. Sounds very laborious, not quite risk free, and like too much of a hassle. It’s not something I am willing to try with a ‘mission critical’ piece of hardware such as my phone.
Which bring me back to the title of this posting: Can You Build Me a G1 Screenshot App?
One that doesn’t require me to exploit loopholes in older firmware, or attaching my phone to my laptop all the time?
Is there an Android DevCamp coming up you intend to visit, where building a screenshot app could be a good project to work on? Can you give me an estimate how much time building this app would cost, and if there is a financial incentive that would make you spend that time?
I have a creeping suspicion there may be a technological reason why a decent screenshot app is still not available, but in that case I am very curious to hear what that reason is.

3 reactions on “Can You Build Me a G1 Screenshot App?

  1. Hi Nick, thanks for your comment. I agree, that if I wanted it would be possible to root my phone, as mentioned in my blogposting. I also think I have enough skills to do it. But I don’t think ‘quite easy’ is the right term if the guide starts with the warning in red bold capitals “PROCEED WITH CAUTION – I AM NOT RESPONSIBLE IF YOU BRICK / RUIN YOUR PHONE IN ANY WAY”, and exchanging images files that have been hacked/doctored by others. Those kind of steps and breaking TOS of both the phone’s producer as well as your service provider hardly make rooting my phone a mainstream option.
    Is there a reason screenshots are only possible by rooting your phone? What is that reason?
    As that seems to me the starting point for a more mainstream palatable solution.

  2. Ton, the reason you need to root your phone is because it requires sudo privs. What you are doing is actually capturing the display at that moment, and doing that requires you to go to low-level in the operating system, something only a root user can do. So long story short, as long as google doesn’t make a screenshotting application, your only hope is to use the dev tools or root your phone.

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