There are few things more exciting than getting a new smartphone. Even the process of unboxing smartphones has become a ritual in and of itself: bringing it home from the store, ripping the plastic from the box, pulling off the lid, and then the most satisfying task of them all — peeling the protective plastic off of your new device. Move over slow, ugly and outdated phone; you’re now at the forefront of modern technology!
Not too long ago, in the early days of the smartphone boom, this joyous experience would be ruined as soon as you pressed the power button.
“When you got a phone from your carrier or from the manufacturer, they were just so bad,” Brandon Miniman, User Experience Administrator of XDA Developers, explains. “There were so many problems with them: they shipped with bugs, WiFi wouldn’t work, and GPS bugs were very common. The operating systems were just not optimized.”
Instead of moping about their new underwhelming devices, many people instead turned to XDA Developers to unlock the potential their new hardware. Brandon — who at the time was just a fan of the site — was among these people.
“It was a no-brainer that if you got a new phone,you went to XDA to make your phone 10 times better. And being kind of a techno geek, I was enthralled by that.”
Brandon was so enthralled that when he noticed the site was underperforming and was neglected by its owners, he decided to step in and along with a family friend who purchased the company in 2009. Since then, he has not only helped restore the site to its former greatness, but helped the site evolve and stay relevant in the ever-changing world of smartphones.
The Early Days of XDA
“XDA was founded on the idea that sharing is good and in the very beginning that’s all it was — a forum for sharing information about these early devices,” Brandon recalls.
The early days of XDA had a devoted but relatively small audience. Smartphones in the early/mid 2000s were still relatively new so they weren’t as mainstream as they are today. Before the days of Android and iOS, the XDA forums were focused on Windows Mobile and HTC devices.
As the community grew, XDA established itself as one of the best places on the Internet to enhance your device. It was there that you could learn how to do things like remove carrier bloatware, enable WiFi tethering, customize the UI, and increase device performance.
Spotting An Opportunity
The original owners of XDA were primarily interested in their business developing secure phones for governments. XDA Developers was originally created as a simple forum where people could discuss the inner workings of the Windows Mobile Devices that they used for their business.
“It kind of took on a life of its own,” Brandon explains. “They didn’t expect that to happen, and they didn’t have the resources to handle such traffic.”
This unexpected success began to take its toll on the site. Pages would constantly be down, database errors would pop up, and various other bugs were plaguing the site’s experience.
As an active member of the XDA community, Brandon saw the value of the site and its community. He decided to contact the site’s owners and see if they’d be willing to sell the site so that it could live up to the true potential that he saw in it.
“At the time I was a college student; I didn’t have any money to put up or know how to negotiate a website purchase.”
To help with this bold undertaking, Brandon enlisted the help of his family friend Josh Solan to join in this venture with him, and by late 2009, the site was under new ownership.
Evolving The Site
Once Josh and Brandon had control of the site, they immediately got to work making it better. The first thing they did was fix all of the server issues so that the site could properly handle the large amount of daily traffic that it was receiving.
Next was opening up the site to allow for more devices to be discussed. In 2009, only Windows Mobile and HTC devices were welcome on the forums, despite the newly emerging Android operating system and all of the devices that supported the platform.
Brandon remembers this as one of the first setbacks he faced with the XDA community. “A lot of people were extremely upset about this,” he recalls, “but we knew that we had to do this to evolve the site and keep it growing.”
As time went on, it became more and more clear that this was the right decision and where the industry was heading. “It’s funny to think that if we had stuck to just HTC and Windows Mobile phones there would be no XDA today,” Brandon comments.
More recent efforts have been focused on providing new opportunities for the community’s best developers. Fastboot Mobile is the site’s developer services company, which works with clients to ensure that their latest firmware updates will be compatible with all of the many Android devices out there. Another initiative has been to test for security vulnerabilities in software before they are discovered by hackers.
Creating A Great Experience
Originally, XDA Developers was meant for technical people that understood how to do advanced things like root their phone and load third party ROMs on it. When everyone started to get smartphones in the early 2010s, this brought a more casual audience to the site along with it.
What sets XDA Developers apart from the many other smartphone forums out there is how it puts its efforts towards protecting its developers. “We have to protect the developers,” Brandon explains, “because without developers we become just a general Android forum and there’s already plenty of those.”
XDA achieves this by having several forums for each device, including some that are exclusively for developers. These forums only allow developers to post, giving them the benefit of sharing their work with others and getting feedback, without the headache of frequently asked questions from those with less technical abilities.
“This stops people from coming in and saying things like ‘I don’t know what I did wrong, my phone’s broken…by the way, how do I fix my battery life?,” Brandon explains.
XDA also keeps developers happy through its Recognized Developer program, which gives developers a special badge, access to a private forum, an ad-free experience and a bigger PM inbox.
While developers may be at the forefront of the site’s efforts, none of it would be possible without the volunteer moderators who help keep things running smoothly.
“We have over 100 volunteer moderators; people that spend time on XDA removing spam and helping members just because they love the community,” Brandon explains.
As a project gets more and more complex, it can be easy to lose track of what you initially set out to accomplish. Brandon believes it’s important to always remind yourself of what your main goals are and stay true to them.
“Every day there are decisions to make and it’s helpful if there’s some sort of uniting purpose,” he explains. “I think it’s a matter of knowing which way your compass is pointing when you’re making these decisions and trying to make them consistent with that direction.”
Why XDA Chooses Hover
Not surprisingly, the decision to register xda-developers.com with Hover came from one of the site’s developers. He recommended Hover for their domain name because he was confident with the level of security that we offer, the interface for managing everything and, in his words, because “it’s just a good product.” And given how much Brandon and the rest of the XDA community values its developers, we’ll take that as the ultimate compliment!
Ready to get started on your next big idea? Get it a great domain name from Hover: