[Hack of the month] Hack Your Samsung Galaxy! Why Hack It And How To Hack Itby Mark Galaxy
Difficulty Level: Advanced User.
Samsung Galaxy devices are based on Google’s Android operating system, which is designed to be open to the mobile community. When software is open (commonly referred to as “open source”), it comes with a major advantage: anyone can take the code, create a custom version of Android, and distribute the firmware, called ROM, freely to others to put it on their phone or tablet. The benefits of installing these freely available Android versions are numerous and impactful. And you don’t have to be a hacker to do so. In fact, most of the hacks can be applied by following easy step by step instructions.
Why and How Hack A Samsung Galaxy?
The number one reason to hack a Samsung phone or tablet is the ability to install (called flashing) custom ROMs, which means that you are replacing Samsung’s ROM with one that suits your needs better. Would you like to have your phone run at blazing speeds? I’m sure you do. How about extending battery life by many hours? We would all appreciate this one. And what if you can try much better apps that only owners of hacked phones have access too? Interesting! And best of all, if Samsung doesn’t update your phone anymore, you can often get the latest features of the latest Android firmware and hack it onto your old device. Not bad at all…
To hack and flash a mobile device, two things are required. For one, you need to root your mobile. When you root a device, it simply means that you’re making it open for third party apps and for access to system functionalities that are otherwise inaccessible. There are dozens of rooting guides available on the web and you need to carefully look for the ones specific to your device model. For example, rooting instructions for the Galaxy S3 i9300 may be different from the ones for the Galaxy S3 i9300T. Pay attention to details. Second, you need to unlock your device’s bootloader, which is the thing responsible for booting up your phone. If the bootloader isn’t unlocked, your mobile won’t boot when it detects a custom ROM. Most rooting procedures unlock the bootloader automatically however. Some of the Samsung models such as the Galaxy S3 Developer Edition even come with an already unlocked bootloader.
ROMs can be divided into two main groups. The first type falls into the so called AOSP (Android Open Source Project) category. This means that a custom ROM was created based on the original stock version of Android. It doesn’t have any manufacturer or carrier branding and delivers a more pure experience of the operating system and looks different from what you’re used to seeing on Samsung phones and tablets. While AOSP ROMs usually resemble the looks of the original Android version, some actually come with an entirely different style. For example, the popular MIUI ROM falls into the AOSP category but it has its very own skin, looking more like a mixture of Apple’s iOS and Samsung’s TouchWiz.
The second type of ROM falls into the manufacturer specific category. In the case of Samsung, this would mean that Samsung’s version of Android, called TouchWiz, has been tweaked with a specific purpose in mind. Perhaps it was made faster, apps were added or removed, or battery life was improved. In any way, these ROMs still maintain the look and feel of TouchWiz.
Taking into account these two major categories, you’ll have to decide what kind of experience you’re looking for. Do you want to keep Samsung’s version of Android and just have a better version of it or do you wish to replace it with an entirely different version altogether?
The developer forum XDA-Developers is the place to get many of the custom ROMs for Android devices. Be aware that most of the ROMs are not perfected yet. However, we’ve done the filtering work for you so let’s get you familiar with the some of the best ROMs available in the market and the benefits of tweaking your Samsung Galaxy to its best.
Make a Samsung Galaxy Faster – A Lot Faster!
Hydra H2O is a fast and well tested ROM for the Samsung Galaxy S2 i9100. This ROM will give you an experience closer to original stock Android and replaces Samsung’s version altogether. But if you’re up for something even faster, read on:
Liteϟning, another ROM made for the Galaxy S2 i9100, falls into the manufacturer specific category and is therefore based on the original Samsung version of Android. The developer of this ROM cared about one thing specifically: speed! If fast reactions and speedy transitions is what you want, keep this ROM in mind. Beware! A fast ROM such as this one comes with a tradeoff: it may drain your battery quicker.
Image courtesy of Liteϟning
Extend Battery Life
CheckROM offers great battery life and is actually also pretty quick. It is based on Samsung’s original firmware and therefore maintains the Samsung feel. One interesting feature of this ROM is that it allows you to add or remove features during flashing as you wish. Currently, it supports the Galaxy S3 i9300 (CheckROM EvoHD), Galaxy S2 i9100 (CheckROM RevoHD), and the Galaxy Note N7000 (CheckROM Revo NoteHD). More models are to be added so make sure to check out the developer’s website.
Image courtesy of CheckROM
The Best of Both Worlds: High Speed and Long Battery Life
the most popular custom ROM for over 50 Android devices! It is a stable ROM that
is based on the original Android stock version and is massively tweaked for
both, high speed and long battery life. It is pure, comes without unnecessary
apps from carriers or manufacturers, and offers extended customization options
that are not found on the original Google Android or on the Samsung Android
firmware. Check out all of its supported Samsung and Nexus models on the CyanogenMod devices page. It also
supports variants of specific Samsung Galaxy phones. For example, for the
Galaxy S2, it supports the international version i9100 as well as T-Mobile
USA’s T989 variant and several others.
Image courtesy of Android-Wallpapers.net
AOKP (Android Open Kang Project, a word play on the Android Open Source Project) is similar to CyanogenMod and resembles a pure Android experience as well. One major difference to CyanogenMod is that all of its customization options can be accessed from one single menu. It supports over 25 Android models including several different Samsung devices. For a full list of supported models, check out the AOKP Devices Forum.
Image courtesy of THA PHLASH
Experience Android Completely New – Beautiful and Powerful With Many Colorful Themes
MIUI is another milestone in the custom ROM market. Although it is based on the original Android firmware (AOSP), it has an entirely new feel to it. There are dozens of themes you can choose from to get a completely new Android experience. You can even make your Samsung Galaxy look like an iPhone or HTC if you wish. The supported Samsung devices list can be found here. For more details about its main advantages, check out the official trailer:
Protect Your Personal Data Better
Create Full Backups (Nandroid)
When you reset a Samsung Android device, your contacts are stored on the web provided you backed them up with a Google account using your mobile. All of your app purchases are also stored in your Google Play download history. Considering all of the many apps we try at some point, finding the ones we really liked can be cumbersome. A better way is to use one of the many back up apps, which back up contacts, media, text messages, and currently installed apps. But if you’re ready to hack your phone and install a new ROM, you need something even more comprehensive. A complete one to one copy of everything that is currently installed on your mobile device is called a Nandroid backup. Having a Nandroid backup is absolutely invaluable. If you ever brick your device when you’re hacking it and trying to do cool things with it, a Nandroid backup can easily restore it to its original working state. Being able to create a Nandroid backup is a huge benefit of rooting your Samsung Galaxy.
Better Sound Quality
When you’re rooting your device, you’re hacking it to make it open for third party apps. Once done, you can start flashing ROMs onto it. And with custom ROMs come many advantages. One advantage of flashing the CyanogenMod ROM for example is that it comes with an app called DSPManager. This app lets you tweak the sound quality on your mobile to new heights!
Remove Unwanted Bloatware and Carrier Branding
When carriers release their own version of a Samsung firmware, it usually comes loaded with all kinds of carrier related apps at least a few of us never use. These apps slow down the performance of an otherwise speedy device. Unfortunately, it usually isn’t possible to uninstall carrier branded applications. Some carriers also brand the firmware and you’ll see the carrier’s logo when booting the phone, which some of us don’t like to see. When you hack your Samsung Galaxy and root it, you’ll be able to get rid of all these unnecessary extras and enjoy better performance because there will be less drain on the mobile system. Again, there are many ways to remove bloatware and get rid of carrier branding and we’ll cover them in our blog. If you want to get started already and have rooted your device, take a look at an app called NoBloat, which can uninstall unwanted apps. And if you want an entirely unbranded version of the firmware, you can flash a different ROM onto it. This would also remove the carrier’s logo during boot up.
Unlocking the SIM lock
When you purchase a Samsung Galaxy device from a
network carrier, it may be locked to that carrier so it works only with their
specific SIM card. The only reason to lock the phone or tablet is to ensure you
use their service for an extended period of time. Cell phone unlocking enables you
to use your mobile device with a SIM card from any carrier. Unlocking your Samsung
mobile has many benefits. You can use any SIM card from any carrier and save
money by choosing the best available offer. You can also switch to a carrier
that offers better service and take your phone with you. And when you’re traveling,
you can use cheap local SIM cards rather than your native SIM card, thereby
avoiding high roaming fees. One more benefit of unlocking your phone is that
you’ll be able to resell it at a higher price because unlocked phones have a
higher resale value than locked phones. As you may be able to imagine, carriers
are often reluctant to give out the unlock code to you. It is not always
possible to get an unlock code elsewhere in the market either. This is where GalaxyUnlocker
software comes in. With our unlock software, you can connect your Galaxy to
the computer with a USB cable to unlock it. Most of the older Samsung phones do
not have to be rooted in order to get unlocked.
However, some of the latest Galaxy line models do require rooting and
therefore, this is one more good reason to favor a rooted device.
The list of benefits of hacking your Samsung Galaxy is long and there are just too many to list them all. You can overclock your device to make it run faster. You can extend the battery life by applying specific hacks. You can install new functionalities such as different ways of taking screen shots. Or perhaps you want to completely automate tasks on your phone or maybe block unwanted advertisement. The list goes on…
Hacking your mobile is not risk free. When you root your device, you void the warranty but there is a solution for this. Samsung mobiles can also be unrooted and unhacked. Manufacturers are able to check how many times a device was flashed and before you send your device in for a warranty claim, you’d be better off to unroot it, unhack it, and reset the flashing counter. All of these methods will be covered on our blog.
What to do next:
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