After about four years with a used HTC Sensation phone, I decided it was time for something new. Something that was fast. Something without a big permanently blacked-out spot on the screen. Something shiny.
So I bought a new Samsung Galaxy S4. Well, although it was technically new in the box, the S4 is several years out of date. I think Samsung is up to the S6 now, but I just can’t bring myself to spend $600 on a phone of any kind. The S4’s run around $200 now, which is much more palatable.
I unboxed it, fired it up, and started installing my usual suite of apps. Unlike many people, I don’t have a hundred apps… I use maybe a dozen regularly, with perhaps another dozen that I find I need occasionally. So it was a pretty quick process to get everything up and running, and even configure it much like my old phone (but faster and more shiny, of course).
It was then that I discovered the latest version of the Android OS doesn’t allow apps to write to an add-on SD card. I use my SD card to store things like books, music, and some other files. Well, no more. Everything has to go on the built-in storage, which rapidly fills up. I’m sure Google had a good security reason for doing this, but apparently a lot of people are unhappy about it. As I read various comments and rants from people, it became clear that the only way around these security measures is to hack (“root”) the phone. There are a few different approaches to this, but in the end the one I chose was to install a custom Android OS called Cyanogen.
The rooting process was actually pretty simple, and after maybe an hour of carefully reading instructions (doing it wrong will ruin the phone) and downloading the right things, I had Cyanogen up and running. Even better than my new ability to save whatever I want on the SD card was the fact that the phone no longer had a bunch of carrier bloatware installed on it. I swear, every cell phone provider has their own family of junk apps that you hate and you can’t uninstall. Well, no more. I had only bare-bones apps, and after installing the Google suite of tools (Maps, Gmail, Calendar, etc.) I was able to re-install my two dozen apps once more.
I found Cyanogen to be pretty sweet. It runs a little faster (less bloat, I suppose) and has a lot of customizations that you don’t get with stock Android. As one of those guys who usually goes to the “Advanced Settings” menu of any software, it was nice to be able to play around with things a bit more than usual.
So my new phone is pretty awesome now, and happily running all the stuff I need.
After using the phone for a day I decided to go ahead and root my Nexus 7 tablet as well. It went a little faster, since I knew what I was doing this time around, and within about 30 minutes I had Cyanogen plus my suite of apps on it. Woot!