Many years ago I had an iPod Touch that I had jailbroken into doing a bunch of cool but needless things. I really liked iOS at the time (and still do), but I think the jailbreaking experience needlessly put me off from trying Android. Another thing that still rightly prevents people from trying Android is the number and severity of uninstallable apps and needles UI skins applied both by carriers and manufacturers.
There is an obvious incentive for both to install promotional apps, and honestly that’s ok. Really. I can live with it, just like I live with the crapware that PC manufacturers often load on new systems, as long as you let me similarly uninstall them as soon as I get my new phone. Most users are fearful or even incapable of rooting their phones, and it really shouldn’t be necessary to do all of that just to remove some app I don’t want on hardware I own.
That being said, my first Android phone was a Nexus 5. Other than battery life, it was spectacular. There was almost nothing on it I couldn’t do and it only suffered minor types of crashes (generally individual apps) every few weeks. Both features were in stark contrast to my experiences with iOS, and especially jailbroken iOS. Suddenly it wasn’t impossible to browse the contents of a zip file on my phone, or to load an SNES emulator with all my games, or do a port scan on the local LAN. It was incredible, but a few years later it needed to be replaced because of a blown speaker, a mic that was failing, and a power button that was getting stuck causing a restart loop. Several years of good service is all I could realistically ask for though.
That was when I bought an LG2, an “outdated” model on Amazon for around $250 brand new. I use quotes around “outdated” because it still had quantitatively better specs than the iPhone 6 plus. If you don’t believe me, by all means, verify for yourself: iPhone 6s+ vs. LG G2
Rooting the LG G2
Rooting was ridiculously easy and foolproof. I downloaded an app called Stumproot, and let it do it’s thing for a few minutes. No computer or USB cable necessary. This let me remove the crapware installed by AT&T and LG, as well as opening up other sytem utilities and other options. SuperSU is an app that I downloaded immediately after to lockdown root access, which was also kind of a pushbutton process. It should be noted that rooting isn’t this easy for every phone, but it was for this one. My Nexus 5 took a bit more effort to root, but not too much. I suggest researching the root process for your phone before buying a new one, if you plan to root it.
First Android ROM: Resurrection Remix
I’m really not sure where the name for this one comes from, but it has a lot of really neat features built in. Some of the features I liked the most:
- The app launcher wheel (kind of like OSX’s dock)
- Ability to add custom launcher buttons to the unlock screen
- Options for changing notification light behaviors (very granular)
- Options for changing vibration behaviors
- Slide the status bar to change screen brightness, no need to even open the drag down menu!
- Options to unlock when paired with specific bluetooth devices (like my car)
- Expanded lock patterns for enhanced security
- Privacy Guard, which prevents apps from leeching any details or sensor data you don’t want them to have
- OS theme manager
There are a ton more features, but I found that this list was 90% of what I used and liked. After a while though, I noticed that there were a lot of bugs in the OS and some of the features like the app launcher wheel were things I just didn’t use enough to care if I lost them. I used it for about 6 months, and then had to call it quits because of the crashes and the worsening battery life. This led me to try out Cyanogen Mod, the project that Resurrection Remix was based on.
Second Android ROM: Cyanogen Mod
I’ve been using Cyanogem Mod (CM) for several weeks now, and it’s awesome. Apparently, the majority of features I liked from Resurrection Remix (RR) were actually implemented first in CM. This led to much rejoicing as I discovered that the only difference between the list of features above are the first two bullets, which were both features I didn’t use much after trying them out for a bit.
The other major difference between the two ROMs was the battery life and number of daily crashes. CM is basically as stable as the original Android 5 ROM on my Nexus 5, while RR was increasingly buggy. Battery life is also exceptional on CM, I can generally use my phone normally and be above 90% battery remaining after lunch. I generally only charge the phone once every couple of days now. Hopefully CM will be solid in the months to come, but if not, it’s a pretty minor ordeal to reinstall. Just restart, install, boot up, and install the apps from the play store again. Overall, I would highly recommend Cyanogen Mod for any Android phone that comes with a less than desirable manufacturer operating system.