January 05, 2011, 9:21 AM — WARNING: Overclocking is not for the faint of heart. Do not attempt to hack your phone unless you understand and accept the risks of turning it into a useless "brick."
The Android v. iPhone debate will continue for some time, but there's one area where Android wins every time: hackability. iPhone users might discuss jailbreaking, which allows--wow!--unauthorized software to be installed.
We have open source to thank for such cell phone hacks; the fact Android is built on Linux allows people to view the code and make modifications entirely legally, albeit without the blessing of handset manufacturers.
Of all the tweaks, overclocking--which involves tweaking the phone's processor to run at a higher clock rate than its maker intended--seems to offer significant rewards. A previously laggy phone can be turned into a truly responsive handset and for a zero-dollar outlay.
But is it wise to overclock a phone that cost several hundred dollars and is tied to a lengthy and expensive contract?
The question might seem to answer itself, but the real-world issues to consider are heat generation and decreased battery life between charges. After all, some phones struggle with these problems at stock speeds set by manufacturers.
In reality neither issue is necessarily a game stopper, but could become annoying.
Although warnings are always given about possible hardware damage arising via overclocking, most PCs get away with it provided adequate cooling is provided. Essentially, the faster a chip runs, the more heat gets generated.
Mobile phone processors are no different, although they rely on passive cooling, which is to say, heat dissipation through the cell phone case. Often the phone is cleverly designed to get rid of heat, but phones aren't guaranteed to do so when the processor is running at over capacity.
In most cases you can set upper and lower clock speeds for your phone, and the phone will scale between the two extremes depending on user demands. It's even possible to under-clock to stretch out battery life, although the phone may be punishingly slow to use.