OnePlus 3, Google minimized
After a surprisingly long relationship with my trusty rusty Nexus 4, I bit the $586.47 CAD bullet and got me a shiny new OnePlus 3. The honeymoon truly was up when I wasn’t able to properly update my custom ROM on the Nexus, but the screen suddenly losing huge chunks of responsiveness was really the beginning of the end. Even when I found workarounds for typing e, o, 3, 9 (and everything nearby), other things started to go… the browser’s address bar, ghost touches, menu soft key/volume rocker/power button unresponsiveness and, well, I knew it was time for an upgrade.
Why the Chinese flagship killer? Simple, and not really a solid reason: they had hired the core team behind Paranoid Android, my ROM of choice because of its great “immersion” feature and allusion to the depressed robot of Hitchiker’s‘ lore. They were also working closely with CyanogenMod to develop a custom OS for their phone, moving away from total Google control. Curtly, they seemed to be democratizing the mobile world, and at a fraction of the cost. Yes, I was worried about potential corporate abuses employed to get ahead in the market (eg: worker/environment exploitation), but, after researching this a little, I was happy to have my fears assuaged:
After getting my phone, I immediately set about removing as much Google from it as I could. First, it’s a whole lot of bloatware. Secondly, goodness only knows how much of it is spying on you. However, the only way I knew how to go about doing so was through installing a custom ROM. Naturally, I chose Paranoid Android again. Compared to my previous forays, this was an exceptionally painless operation. I have since discovered there is a script that can do much of this even more easily, but all this is water under the bridge now.
In researching this topic for about a week though, one of the biggest revelations was the video below, fully explaining what rooting is and why doing so is just good practice. A highlight was the explanation of why all Android phones offer slightly different, company-specific experiences. Tl;dw: Samsung, Sony, etc. wrap the original Android OS in a custom UI of theirs, complete with such nuisances as bloatware, a psychological incentive to stay with their brand when choosing a new phone, and much later official Android updates:
Taking control of your phone
Two quick steps:
- Root your phone. This step also installs TWRP recover:
- Create a back-up, then install a custom ROM. I chose Paranoid Android:
And presto! Though I would no longer recommend Paranoid Android, it’s a bit slow and seems a lot less feature-rich than before. I might be flashing Hydrogen OS on my device shortly to see if that doesn’t speed things up. One thing to keep in mind while you’re flashing between ROMs: disable any screen lock. Recovery mode goes buggy and doesn’t let you do stuff if unless you do this.
Final things I learned: you should always perform MD5 checks when installing program files to ensure file integrity (ie: that the download is complete, that the file isn’t corrupt, etc). I remember the Liux Mint hack from the other year that was a direct result of people skipping this very important step when downloading what they thought were clean files. Here’s how:
And lastly, if it’s a minimal Google footprint you want, then the ROM you’re flashing isn’t of any significance — it’s the GApps package you install that matters. Options are plenty, and I always go with pico because this has just enough Google functionality to enable the Play Store. Sadly, F-Droid doesn’t have all the apps I need, and in the end I download Google Translate and Maps anyway, because gosh darn it, they’re just that good. But I am looking for a way to unwind even these tendrils.