Updating my old Android phones

I have a couple of old Android phones which had sat gathering dust for a year or so and I wanted to find some better use for them. I had also wanted to try out some of the various Android replacement firmware versions that I had read about but done nothing with.

So, at the weekend I experimented with CyanogenMod which offers an open source replacement for the firmware on various different devices to see what could be offered to bring my old Gingerbread devices into 2013. I was really quite surprised when I looked at their site as to how many different devices now have support for some form of upgrade up to version 10.1 which is based upon Android 4.2 Jelly Bean.

An old LG Optimus Black whose radio no longer functioned (having been dropped in beer) was the perfect candidate. This device does not have the most stable of releases of the CyanogenMod firmware but there are nightly builds of version 10.1 which offers the equivalent of Android 4.2 Jelly Bean.

Looking around, the instructions for loading some other phones seemed reasonably simple (e.g. Samsung Galaxy S). The LG was a little more complicated, with no simple to find route to installation.

The process I used was as follows:

1. Root the phone using Gingerbreak (simple to download apk for Gingerbread Android devices). This only works with Gingerbread and NOT with newer devices.
2. Replace the default recovery with ClockWorkMod recovery using the ROM manager apk from Google Play (downloaded on the device itself over wifi)
3. Download the nightly build zip file from the CyanogenMod site and transfer to an micro SD card
4. Download Google Apps zip file (seperate from CyanogenMod due to licensing issues) and transfer to the same micro SD card
5. Insert the micro SD card into the device and switch on the device
6. Use the ROM manager – Recovery Setup to install the ClockWorkMod Recovery and then again to install the nightly build zip file from SD card
7. Use the ROM manager again to install the Google apps zip file (Gapps) and reboot.
8. The device should then be fully installed and ready to use.

The build has been pretty reliable to date and never crashed. However, battery life is a bit poor (<24 hours standby) but that could be related to the beer. The only feature to be unreliable is the panoramic camera feature which is temperamental upon the speed of movement of the device. I think this is very much related to the processing power of the device and obviously not an issue for later generation smartphones.


About Tim

I'm Tim Haysom, a mobile telecoms, Internet and apps specialist with over 20 years experience. I offer support and assistance to businesses who need to: - Understand new technologies - Communicate with new markets - Work with developers - Benefit from involvement in industry associations
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