Rooting Android and installing a custom ROM – Part 3 – My experience.

Back to Part 1 (Overview): https://22point.wordpress.com/2014/12/15/rooting-android-part-1/

Back to Part 2 (The process of rooting): https://22point.wordpress.com/2014/12/15/rooting-android-part-2/

 

In parts 1 and 2 of this guide we looked at what it means to install a custom ROM, and what the process is to do it. In this final part of the series, I’ll share some of my experiences living day to day with a rooted phone running a custom ROM.

 

Large print experience:

 

So first of all, back to one of my main goals for this whole process, and that was to explore what I can do to make my phone more large print friendly. The main things I tried were adjusting the font size and changing resolution and pixel density. I wrote a longer pieces detailing my experience last week here: https://22point.wordpress.com/2014/12/12/adjusting-android-resolution-pixel-density-and-font-size-for-large-print/, but basically whichever way I went, it caused problems with some apps, though in the end I am pleased overall with how things are going. I’m currently using the standard resolution, but a pixel density of 200% normal, and font size at 200% which I can easily change back to 100% for some apps).

 

Having been using this for a few weeks, I’m shocked now when I do go back to 100% pixel density, at just how small the status bar is by default and how small text is at even 130% normal (the otherwise maximum “huge” size in display settings):

 

Screenshot_2014-12-15-12-30-06Screenshot_2014-12-15-12-29-26

 (Google Play at standard DPI vs 200% on my Galaxy Note II.)

 

With this setup, there are some apps I’ve kept but need to adjust the font size down to use properly (easy to do on the fly using an app such as “Custom notifications” by Shekeen Lab: https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=jp.co.shekeen.WidgetHolder) to show icons in my notification shade with an icon in there to Font Size Setter), and some apps which didn’t work with the higher pixel density – mostly games which it turns out I can live without (or install on my unmodified tablet and play on that). I’ll also keep an eye out when I download new apps and try to get ones which work in this new setup. For the most part the good outweighs the bad – for instance, the clock doesn’t display properly on the lock screen anymore, but exchange for putting up with that, the clock on the status bar is now at about 20pt, compared to 10pt originally.

 

Screenshot_2014-12-15-12-37-11

(My lock screen – the camera, torch and other icons middle, right are from the Custom noticiation app and are handy, though even they should only display the first icon on each row until you drag them across.  The lock widget covers the clock, and only the hour is visible on the clock anyway.  Not the prettiest lock screen, though in return for this I have a status bar clock I can read anytime the phone is unlocked.)

 

In some ways those little graphics glitches are annoying – I do feel a little like my phone is utilitarian and readable, but at the expense of the carefully designed and laid out screen features which were there originally, so I have still been experimenting with different setups (eg dropping that pixel density back to 150%) and I must confess that I am yet to find a setup which is both large print AND without compromising on things like the list of my apps in the play store only taking up half the screen because the place for the “Installed” title is not only very large, but I can’t read it properly anyway.

 

General custom ROM experience

 

One of the main drivers behind the exact timing of my foray into custom ROMs was that I got an update which made my phone quite unstable. I’ve tried two ROMs so far, Cyanogenmod and Carbon ROM and both are definitely more stable than my phone had been just before, although I would have to say apps do sometimes crash randomly more than originally happened (before the bad Samsung update), and currently in Carbon, opening my recent apps list is likely as not to crash com.android.systemui (gave me a scare the first time I saw it, but seems to just result in dropping back to the lock screen – though it does mean I can’t use recent apps for a while (haven’t yet figured out either what causes or fixes it).

 

Customisation:

 

I love that I can set my menu button to the more modern recent apps function (and use it for menu when I long press), or that I can set long pressing my home key to bring up Voice search. The fact that I can customise how my battery icon looks in the status bar, display the date on the status bar or change the way my screen goes off when I press the power button are fun but not critical one way or the other.

 

I do like that I can edit the hosts file to block unwanted ads and known malicious sites. I should add that if you do this, it does potentially take away revenue from sites that you visit that use the advertising to pay for their upkeep, so you should support them in some other way, but it can help cut down on some of those particularly annoying full screen ads.

 

Overclocking:

I must admit I haven’t really tried this. I did find the device got a bit warm when I tried overclocking, and became extremely sluggish when I underclocked it, but maybe I went too far in either direction. I must confess it wasn’t a big driver in my rooting the device and I haven’t played with this ability much.

 

Root only apps:

There are a number of apps on the Play Store only useable by rooted devices, from Titanium backup to wakelock detector they give you access to features such as backing up all your apps and files, and digging deeper in to seeing what keeps waking the phone up (Google fit mostly, which is particularly annoying given how inaccurate it seems on my device – pity as otherwise it works really well with the larger font setup). I’ve also been playing with AppMonster Pro which not only displays a list of all my apps and lets me run and uninstall them (this works on non-rooted devices) but I can also rollback to a previous version of an app, which is a cool feature. Again I’m yet to fully explore the potentials here.

 

Overall, is it worth it?

 

Overall, I’m glad I did it, as it fixed the problems I was having and gave me access to larger print and new features on my phone. It was more effort to setup originally than expected, though actually now I’ve done it, the process of updating to a new custom ROM (eg when I changed from Cyanogenmod to Carbon) is much simpler (It involves booting the device into recovery mode which requires sight or a magnifier, though only for a few minutes).

 

Would I do it on a new phone?

 

Quite possibly – Particularly now that I’ve had some experience with it, I’d want to use a new phone for a few days to get a feel for how it works and what options the manufacturer or version of Android has that I mightn’t have been familiar with, but if I bought another Galaxy Note II for instance or a new phone which didn’t have any new killer large print feature, then yes, at the very least for the ability to toggle to a larger font size I find well worth it.

 

Summary: Would I recommend it?

 

That’s a trickier question, but again I would stress, you need to be very comfortable with tinkering with settings, following instructions, researching solution to problems and not panicing if things don’t work immediately.  You also need access to some good eyes or magnification for some of the steps.  Definitely there are some large print benefits to be had, though again it depends exactly what apps you want to use or what you want to do with your device as to whether it will work for you.

 

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