The Unintended Impact of Crashing my Phone

Yes, my really nice Samsung Galaxy Note 4, with an excellent camera, perfect size, and bright screen…

Coming out of an Uber in front of my house at night, fell on a second curb that was put there for protection. I was about to give 5 stars to my driver, when baam! Face down. Since my phone was in my hand, it landed screen down with all my weight. The poor thing kept vibrating at random intervals with no other visible activity. It reminded me the deteriorating robots in Humans.

It turns out I had still my old Note 3, so I moved the SIM and the 128 GB memory card into the new phone, and fortunately, I didn’t even had to call Verizon to make it work. I had a phone back at least. Basic functionality restored.

But here is what I find interesting. You see, the retail version of the Verizon Samsung Note 4 has not yet been rooted by the community, so I was stuck using the default system, with all it’s bloatware and restricted functionality, made for consumers, not for computer geeks.

My Note 3, however, was already rooted, so I installed the JasmineROM in it, wiped out everything, including Safestrap, and started over. Over the next day I restored all my apps, and I installed important apps for rooted environments such as AdAway, and a series of Xposed modules that restore critical functionality like per-app permissions (AppOpsXposed), advanced firewalls, OpenVPN, and many other important things for me.

To my surprise, after all this, my old Note 3 now behaves and operates faster than my Note 4 ever felt.

There was a noticeable lag in the Note 4 for simple things like launching apps. The apps worked fine and ran fast, but I had no control over deep customizations.

JasmineROM, just like most modern ROMs, are zipaligned, deodexed and debloated. The “perception” was amazing. The cleanliness of the overall system was fantastic.

You know, we keep being treated like children by these carriers, and I refuse to accept that. I refuse the Apple walled garden as much as the all the uninstallable apps clogging my Android phones. Examining each app individually using AppOpsXposed is eye opening. Why does my stock Email app need to know my location? Or Music, or My Magazines, or Scrapbook, or the Wallpaper picker for that matter? Why does TouchWiz (app launcher) or the Dictionary need to read my contacts? Why can my IPSec service record audio?

Now, I have the control to block specific functionality from specific apps. Some will break, and it’s OK. It’s a tradeoff that I’ll deal with on a case-by-case basis.

In retrospect, I’m happy that I crashed my phone, as I now remember the sense of empowerment of at least get back some control that I had forgotten for almost a year.

As a lesson for the future, I will not consider a new phone until the community has rooted it first, and alternative kernels and ROMs are available. I don’t care if I have to wait. If you care about deep customizations, privacy and security, then that should also be your first priority.

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