Despite the efforts of some to lower the costs of cutting edge technology, most people can not afford to buy mobile phones outright. Instead we rely heavily on subsidised phones and 2 year contracts which leaves many of us desperately try to stay cutting edge by other means. An increasing minority of people are prepared to risk it all and despite warnings of bricking your phone and the end of the world, install a custom ROM.
The first phone I rooted and installed a custom ROM on was my trusty Galaxy S. It was a fine phone and despite the Samsungification of it all, I was happy. Until a new version of Android came out that I wanted. Could I wait 12 months for Samsung to decide not to let me have it? No. Call me cynical if you like, but it is not in their interest to keep my phone updated. If it is out of date come the end of my contract then surely I am more likely to upgrade and buy a whole new phone for the next 2 years? Cyanogen had the answer so I spent about 2 weeks reading about rooting and installing custom ROMS. At that time there was no Cyanogen MOD app that made the installation easy. There were all sorts of warnings about downgrading first, ensuring that you had the right radio files, using the correct version of ODIN and finding the right GApps package… the list went on…
Eventually I plucked up the courage and did it. A few hair raising and half a dozen heart stopping moments later and I had it up and running. It took a further 24 hours to realise I couldn’t make calls and find the correct radio file, but then it was done and I could carry on! The phone was faster without all the operator software running, I had the latest version of Android running and my geek side was just glad to have achieved something.
Now this is all a lot easier and I am thankful for that. There are lots of pitfalls still, and although it is unlikely if you follow the rules – you really can brick your phone (ie break it and turn it into an expensive brick) so you need to take care and make sure that you are happy with the process before you begin. Read about what other people have done wrong so you don’t follow in their footsteps.
That sounds complicated…
It can be, but it doesn’t have to be.
If this is something that interests you then head over to xda-developers. Click the bit that says “Find your device on forum…” and enter your phone model. It will take you to more information than you could ever hope to read – but I would recommend reading some of it. Please don’t just start posting and asking for instructions without looking around. Whilst their members are happy to help, they just ask that you use the search function to see if your question has already been asked and answered which seems fair to me.
What else should I know?
Aswell as reading the how-tos and making sure that you are flashing the correct ROM, it is also important that you understand the limitations of your chosen ROM. There are three main categories of stability.
- Final releases are put out when all the bugs are ironed out and these will be the closest thing you can get to never having to worry. Whilst they are the safest, they take a while to develop and therefore will not keep you “cutting edge”
- RCs or release candidates are not far behind the final release in terms of stability. They will have nearly all the functionality and be very stable, but there are still some bugs to iron out and you may well come across them.
- Nightlies. As the name suggests, these are built every night after the latest bout of coding. There are still some checks done before this code makes it to the nightly version, but you are likely to find bugs at some point and it is also possible that some of the phone’s features wont work in the early days. Regularly updating to the latest nightly is the best way to keep on top of the game and have the latest software with the latest features.
I only use nightlies, but that is my choice and my risk. You should weigh up how much risk you are prepared to expose yourself to before doing the same.
If it is Kit Kat that you are after then there are already a surprising number of ROMs available. I was not expecting it on my old phone but there are already early OmniROM and CM roms available. They claim to be so experimental that you shouldn’t try it but I find the OmniROM to be as stable as my old ROM. It feels smoother and quicker. It is reported that not all functionality is there, but I can use my camera and get directions so it is good enough for my daily driver. That being said, in the last 24 hours since install I have yet to find any problems at all.
Sign me up!
As you will see on all posts on the xda forum for these Custom ROMS, doing this invalidates your warranty and you do so at your own risk. I offer no guarantee that any of this is safe. Quite the opposite in fact – but it can be a fun challenge and I find the shiny new software a nice reward.