You can pick up the Samsung Galaxy S4 for less than £200 on Amazon and, with a ROM installed, it is still a VERY capable handset
16:27, 29 Sep 2016
If you’re short on cash and like to tinker around with Android, or just want to take yourself out of the arbitrary hardware cycle favoured by tech companies, then it is well worth investigating the benefits of buying older hardware and installing custom ROMs.
Technology trends move fast. Really fast. But most of the innovations present inside new, cutting edge phones, while impressive and certainly interesting, are not essential — especially if you’re on a budget.
Once you’ve acquired one of these old flagships, your next step is rooting it -- getting rid of that pesky Samsung bloatware -- and installing a custom ROM, something like CyanogenMod. This is a fairly simple process and it will teach you a lot about how Android works. You will also get far more control over your phone’s power management, applications, bloatware and overall performance and longevity.
They will function and look like new phones. Part of the reason phones like these become unusable after a couple of years is because software updates retard performance and compromise battery efficiencies; it’s not that they’re just no good anymore, far from it, in fact — OEMs just gradually kill off older handsets so that you buy new, more costly ones.
According to Admiral Cole, writing on Reddit, his Samsung Galaxy S5 was performing OK for an oldish handset. However, after installing the latest Samsung software update he noticed a serious dip in the phone's battery performance, which led him to speculate that Samsung is actively trying to kill his handset with nefarious updates packed with useless bloatware.
“My problem was this,” wrote Admiral Cole,” I have a Galaxy S5. I recently just updated to the latest version of android Samsung offered. With it came a myriad of other software previously not on my phone. Such as the abomination that is Samsung Plus. This stupid thing is like a hydra with a million other pieces of software that bogged my phone down to a tiny crawl. Samsung Plus stated it was "fixing" my phone and running ‘diagnostics’, bullshit. It told me among other things my battery was ‘dying’. Ok, I thought to myself I mean the phone is getting older and I use it a lot, but what I noticed is the life of my battery was cut in half after Samsung Plus was installed, and it kept throwing up warnings at awful times about battery usage, running out of space, running out of ram, etc.”
According to his post, the effect of the update was pretty drastic — his phone went from 100% to requiring a charge at midday. During this period, with the new update installed, Admiral Cole, likely not a member of the navy, witnessed his battery drop by 85%, which is a significant change. Even more so when you assume software updates will optimise your handset, not hinder it further.
So what did the good admiral do next?
Simple: he rooted the Galaxy S5, removed all the bloatware, and guess what…
“Magically my battery functions again, the random lag spikes opening texts went away and my 2 something year old phone runs like the day I bought it. (Been on it all morning at this point and I'm still at 85% battery... wow).”
With this in mind, Admiral Cole asked the next logical question:
“So why would Samsung intentionally put system software on a device that totally destroys the experience for the end user I thought? The only conclusion I've come to is to force you to want to buy a new phone. I've been getting letter after letter in the mail and emails about my upgrade time being ready to renew.”
This post is now killing it inside Reddit’s r/technology subreddit and a lot of people are experiencing the same thing after installing the updates. This is a pretty interesting thread and is definitely worth looking at in full.
This is an issue that has been on my mind for quite some time now. I have used handsets in the past — Apple ones included — that have been effectively knee-capped after installing an update. I get that hardware brands are businesses and they need to sell hardware to prosper, but this kind of practice is not cool — not cool at all.
Android and iOS products, nowadays, and, let’s face it, for the past couple of years, have been specced-out to hell, making them EASILY capable of performing basic phone tasks for a good few years. A lot of these phone have 2GB of RAM and quad-core processors; basically, more than enough grunt to handle some web browsing, apps and emails, texts and calls.
Moral of the story? Simple: if you’re using older hardware like the Galaxy S4 — which is still a capable handset — you NEED to root the handset and install a custom ROM. This is the only sure fire method of avoiding mandatory updates from Samsung that could negatively affect your handset’s performance.