I have sufficiently gushed about my phone (smartphone, if you please – Samsung Galaxy S2), in the past. A snapshot:
- Waiting for Samsung Galaxy S2
- Samsung Galaxy S2?s most non-definitive review
- As a Samsung Galaxy S2 user, am I waiting for the S3?
What I’m going to write about now is incidental to the phone – it is something that increased the life of this phone way past what its life originally should have been.
Before the Galaxy S2, I had a BlackBerry… about which there’s nothing much to write. I loved the physical keypad, but hated the small screen.
Before the BlackBerry, I had a Nokia E61i. It was my first phone with internet connectivity and I loved it. But, after a few months, it became slow. Not buggy, just slow. Like a Windows PC’s deteriorating performance over the years/months, after which you start reading up on defrag for the first time in your life.
My Galaxy S2 too became slow after some time. I upgraded the OS (official OS release) as and when Samsung offered me those updates, but nothing changed. I touch the ‘Contacts’ icon and wait for what feels like an eternity – it is actually 2 seconds, but feels l-o-n-g in a phone. I was planning to sell the phone at that point.
But, I didn't.
After being adequately prepped by some well-meaning friends, I decided to root the phone and install a custom ROM. I allocated about 4 hours of a fine weekend for this project and started reading up on potential pitfalls I should be aware of.
As a complete non-geek, it took more than 4 hours, but the result is well worth the effort. Non-geek does not mean I can’t read English – that’s what you need in most cases – read English and try things out; nothing geek’y about it!
Of course, I did come close to bricking my phone, but eventually figured that I did not and always found a way out by Googling. There’s almost always someone (a few thousands is more like it!) who has had the very same phone and very same problem. So, you are not alone!
I did lose my call records and text messages data because I was not careful enough on back-up (I took back-up via Samsung Kies, the idiot me. Figured after rooting that a rooted phone won’t connect with Kies!), but eventually found other tools like Titanium Backup and Go Backup Pro that does the task efficiently.
If not for this custom ROM (I started with CM7 and now my phone runs CM10.1), I would have easily sold my phone and got myself a new phone, in the middle of 2012. But here I’m, still with my Galaxy S2 and couldn't be happier with it.
I have extensively listed my phone use-case
earlier, and with the CM10.1 upgrade, it performs all that and more, even better!
Now, I can totally understand why Phone makers won’t like this rooting and Custom ROM idea – it increases the average purchase cycle (albeit only with a small set of customers, for now) and that would kill the idea of launching a new updated version of the phone (hardware-wise) once every 8-10 months.
This reminds me of Linux (particularly Ubuntu, that even I, as a non-geek tried successfully and made most things work!), which allows you to do your own thing with a PC that came with stock OS. The power of choice is very, very appealing. It comes with bells and whistles for now (it requires a lot of time and patience, besides Google), but remember – I was on the verge of throwing this phone away. Haven’t yet – thanks to the custom ROM.
A few days ago, I had wondered (via a tweet), if we’d have phones without any OS (hardware alone), have the choice to pick whichever OS we like and install it ourselves with limited effort. But, given the fragmentation among device manufacturers and OS makers, I don’t think that future is likely… at least in the near future. We are in a state where people want to be spoon-fed things – this is the main reason why Apple’s ecosystem is such a big success. It makes things easy for people – no learning curve, no customization, nothing. Buy something, use it, love it. Some problem after some months? Trade it for a new phone.
This ‘Use, trade and upgrade’ process may work easily in US where the phone’s cost is a fraction of the average salary (including the special price they get from networks), but not in a country like India where the phone’s cost price is far more than the median salary. Even if you don’t take cost into consideration, we Indians are perhaps not fans of the ‘use and throw’ philosophy. We love baggages and collect stuff over years, like magpies. This custom ROM business fits right in that scene since it helps us extend the life of something we’d have traded a few months ago, into something a lot better!
Someone should find a way to root and mod the zillions of iPhones being discarded by Americans and make them a basic and functional internet access device for poorer countries in Africa, for instance. More than OLPC (One Laptop Per Child
), one modded iPhone per child seems like a better deal since the world is going mobile anyway. If you tie this idea to what Canonical announced recently – ‘Ubuntu phone OS that doubles as a full PC
‘, then I think we may have a killer ecosystem here, particularly for enhancing digital inclusivity (jargon alert!
) in poorer countries!