One of the very essential things that are needed for creating custom ROMs is a kernel source. Unfortunately Mediatek (and most of their customers) was not very open to providing source code for their smartphone platforms. Needless to say that this effectively keeps the community from porting new operating system releases to their very popular platforms. Thus until now I did not find any kernel source for the MT6577 dual core chipset available on the internet.
This has now changed. China’s electronics heavyweight TCL (precisely their mobile phone branch JRD communications) has released the kernel source for the S600 phone that is based on the MT6577 platform on their Sourceforge page. Previously TCL / JRD already made sources for MT6575 and MT6573 based smartphones that were sold under the Alcatel One Touch brand available this way. The package available for this phone includes a kernel source and a few other MT6577 platform specific source files and build scripts. From a first quick look it seems like the kernel source is fairly complete. Whether or not all needed parts for building the Android ICS system (with the sources available from Google) is not clear.
Availability of the source code means that now modified and optimized kernels may be compiled. This is a first step to building custom ROMs like Cyanogen MOD or MIUI from ground up for this platform. But although the kernel source is now available, there are still some parts missing. The Android system support for making calls, cellular data, GPS and even Bluetooth may reply on specific software that is developed by the platform manufacturer (here MTK). Also dual SIM functionality is not a feature that is included in the plain Android system thus requiring manufacturer specific code. Until all of these parts are available the development of true custom ROMs will be very difficult and may result in systems that lack some features of the original builds. However, kernel source availability is a first step and it is an important step into the direction of custom ROMs for this very popular smartphone platform.
The S600 phone is an entry-level dual SIM smartphone that TCL markets under their own brand. A special feature of this model is a water repelling coating that makes the device partly waterproof. Thanks to the MT6577 dual core processor, 512MB RAM and the screen resolution of 480×800 this phone can be expected to run the installed Android 4.0 ICS system quite smoothly. The price for this device is currently around 1000 RMB (160 US$).