Monday, September 17, 2012

Android Phone Pimpin' 101

Usually I try to post information that would be usefull for anyone. This article is targeted towards a more adventurous and curious reader. If your phone runs Android and you are not scared of screwing around and tweak it at a superior level, then this is for you. If not just keep reading anyway.

First of all, it all depends on what phone you bought. The easiest devices to work with are the phones and tablets within the Google Nexus lineup : the HTC Nexus one, the Samsung Nexus S, the Samsung Galaxy Nexus and the latest, the Samsung Nexus 7. If you bought a Motorola, Samsung, Sony, LG or HTC you should be good, else don't even bother toying with it because it is probably not worth it.

Next up is what you can do with it : root your device, replace the boot loader, flash a custom Android ROM or just run a custom launcher or keyboard. The last sentence probably meant nothing to most of you but it will all make sense soon enough. Your device needs some kind of program that will allow you to install an operating system on it and this is called the boot loader. It lets you load a software on it so it can boot, a software like Android. Since Android is an open source project, everybody has access to it's source code and can modify and distribute it. There are communities of developers on the web that are dedicacted to pimpin' Android and add to it's amazing and endless possibilities. You can see how that helps Google to constantly be ahead in the most recent mobile endeavours. The most notorious community of Android modders is named CyanogenMod. They release custom Android ROMs that you can flash on your device. To do so, you need a custom boot loader like ClockworkMod Recovery. So with ClockworkMod you can install CyanogenMod and to be able to perform those modifications, you need to be rooted. Having a rooted phone or tablet means that you have the same rights as Samsung or whoever built it. If your device is manufactured by one of the 5 previously mentionned, then on top of Android, there is another layer of application that lets them customize your Android experience. A big part of that customization is done through the app launcher which is an app that you can replace without being rooted.

The last part is how you can benifit from performing such a tedious and kind of risky task. First it allows you to get rid of the user interface the manufacturer decided to apply over Android and get what we call the Vanilla UI. That means the you experience Android as Google intended you to. That includes icons, screen animations, default apps, number of desktop screens, the way you navigate through them, the behavior of hardware buttons and more that you can imagine. Another plus from flashing a custom ROM is the fact that it is an enhanced version of Android so it contains settings and options that were not available before. Also, it does not come preinstalled with apps that you cannot delete or turn off which reduce you battery life. Basically, you get more choices and flexibility than what the manufacturer gives you.

You can also perform minor enhacements to your phone, without having to root it or anything. For example, you can download a custom keyboard like SwiftKey or dialer like SmartDialer. From my point of view, this is what really makes all the power of the Android platform. The most important thing you must remember from this post is that if you choose to play with your device, no matter how easy it seems, you need to be informed before trying what ever shananigans.


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