Android Modding 101

Most people think that modding Android is as complicated as sending a man on Mars, but I assure you it's not. The 1st few parts are tricky yes, but once that's out of the way, it's so simple even a 5 year old could do it.

Ever wonder why Android is so popular? If you ask this question to 10 people and 9 of them will answer that it's because of the cost, or magnitude of choice or the abundance of apps. The remaining 1 person will probably answer with the fact that the prospect of modifying android is so vast, it's hard to pass up.

Well, sure those 9 didn't exactly answer wrong, but to me, that last answer was the sole reason I ended up with Android. Due to the very nature of Android being open-source means that the developer community is constantly coming up with goodies that can enhance and even lengthen the lifecycle of your device.

Now many people confuse android modding with jail breaking and claim it's the same thing but that's like comparing a Corolla with a BMW M5.

Jail breaking only gives you very limited freedom and the ability to use cracked apps. In the Android camp however, modding opens up the world to do, quite literally, anything.

From enhancing performance, to lengthening battery life, to changing the feel of the phone to even changing the stock OS to aftermarket OS. Once you delve into it, you will always wonder how you ever went on without it.

Now, most people think that modding Android is as complicated as sending a man on Mars, but I assure you it's not.

The 1st few parts are tricky yes, but once that's out of the way, it's so simple even a 5 year old could do it. To understand modding, we'll go over the 4 things it comprises of.

ROOTING

"Just root it" is something you've probably heard saying if you've spent any meaningful time hanging around a hardcore Android user. For a prospective modder, the first step on the path is always rooting. Now many people misunderstand rooting, so let's get this cleared out. Rooting DOES NOT give you new features. Rooting simply allows you to have access to the very innards of your phone's software. It also allows you the power to grant this access to any app that may require it.

Getting root access also opens the door to run other, more powerful apps. For example, the most complete backup app, Titanium Backup, needs root to function properly. Other apps, like the power-saving Greenify, also function better when they have complete control; and if you're on a phone plan that charges you extra for tethering your phone's data to your laptop, there are root apps that can get around that too.

Rooting also gives you an ability to streamline your OS a bit. Now you must be asking why you'd need to streamline or maybe even what I mean by streamline. All manufacturers fill their devices with their company software or carrier software. Honestly, in my experience, you don't need almost any of them, and those software do eat your resources and your battery whether you want to or not. The best way to get rid of them, is through rooting.

For many users looking to clean out this trash, or de-bloat as it is known, rooting is the best way to do so. For users looking for more, we need to move on to the next item on the list.

RECOVERY

Now this step is a bit short, but trust me, it's one of the most crucial and convenient steps towards a truly custom experience. A custom recovery is like the launching pad for the phone's OS. It's also where you can make a full backup of the phone (similar to Time Machine in OSX). If something messes up and you can't even get the phone to boot, usually you can still get back to the custom recovery and revert to one of your backups or even do a full factory reset. What recoveries are used for though is flashing custom OS or other goodies in the Android Mod community toy chest.

Custom ROMS

It's very difficult to explain to the laymen the difference between a custom rom and stock rom, so I'll explain this in way I hope most would understand. There are 2 kinds of Android OS's that you will find in the market: Stock Android that comes with the Nexus devices and OEM versions of Android like we would see in Samsung, HTC, LG, Sony etc.

If we compare Android with cars, then stock android is just the chassis, engine, and steering rack. What other manufacturers such as Samsung, HTC, Sony, etc. do with this is fit the body, interior and every other component that's missing until they make the car whole. So if that defines a Stock Rom, then the way to describe custom ROMS would be modified cars

There are many kinds of custom ROMs but they can be classified under 2 sections:

* Stock firmware based custom ROMs:

These ROMs are a modified version of the stock firmware that your device shipped with. Sometimes, they can also be based on an upcoming leaked firmware that some developer managed to get his hands on.

These types of custom ROMs offer the most stability but only have a limited feature set.However, they do offer a great way to fix those minor niggles that you might have with the stock firmware and add just the right amount of enhancements.

* AOSP based custom ROMs:

These ROMs are based on the Android Open Source Project (AOSP) and are almost always built on the latest version of Android.

Since they are based on AOSP, they are devoid of any kind of OEM skin and look just like stock Android which translated to absolute fluidity in the operation of the OS.AOSP based ROMs are a great way of bringing the latest version of Android to devices that are more than capable enough of handling it. This means you are no longer at the whim of the company as you can be on the latest Android version despite your device being not supported by the company anymore.

They pack in many unique features like multi-window, Halo, PIE, DSP Manager and more. This should give you a good idea about what to expect in the features department from AOSP based ROMs.

The downside to AOSP based ROMs is that due to the fact that it has to support such an enormous amount of devices, they can be a bit unstable or have one or the other hardware functionality broken, which might be a deal-breaker to many.

The best thing about custom ROMs though, is that they are all free and are made by developers who actively support these ROMs and provide updates and bug fixes if required.

KERNELS

Basically, the kernel is the most important piece of most operating systems. It serves as the link between applications and the data processing that happens at a hardware level.

For Android phones the kernel has a lot of control over the handset's speed and battery life, as well as over how applications perform to some extent.

Some kernels are built for speed, and some are designed for battery longevity. When you hear about a phone being "overclocked," it's the kernel that is overclocking the processor.

Now, to be brutally honest, kernels are something you don't absolutely need to fiddle with unless you are a massive geek (guilty as charged) and you need to have control of every aspect of your phone and show off benchmark scores to your buddies.

Summary

That's all there is to it.

Sure there are lots of other things that I haven't yet mentioned like flashing themes to change your phone's appearance and I mean proper themes, not the ones you download off Play Store for your launcher.

There are also apps from other phones that you can run on yours and so much more that it can't really be tabulated. These things you need to see for yourself.

Now that you know all the basics, head over to the android modding community sites such as XDA and spend some time there and before you know it, you'll be flashing and modding swearing your allegiance to Android for all eternity.