Upgrading a highly customized phone to ICS+, part 1: S II, meet S II

two siis - for some reason we don't have an alt tag here

There are times I really want to just blatantly state that my phone is more customized than anyone else’s out there. It problem wouldn’t be too far from the truth, and therein lies the biggest reason why I haven’t upgraded my Galaxy S II to anything above Gingerbread. There are just so much stuff on it that has been customized over the last year, that I honestly don’t remember how anything works anymore. We’re not just talking wallpapers and icons here, but custom software running in Tasker, relying on version-specific features and a dozen add-ons that all work together. Put simply, my phone works best when left to its own devices, so I’ve held it away from both OS and some app updates for ages.

Until now.

I’m not a big fan of Android versions newer than 2.3, simply because I don’t think anything truly noteworthy has been added. With that in mind, the idea of upgrading a phone that I know for a fact is not going to take to change lightly has just seemed like too much of a nightmare, and so I basically decided to leave it on Gingerbread until the day it got replaced.

That is sort of what happened, as my phone is still unchanged. I did however get my hands on a second Galaxy S II, thanks to a friend who was switching phones and sold his S II to me cheap. This gives me the unique opportunity to tinker and mess with a separate device for as long as I need before I move over, assuring that the phone I’m moving to is actually an upgrade from what I have now, not a downgrade.

This is quite a massive task, and I want to make sure that I can get everything working before I decide which device to keep. If I can’t make the new OS and app updates (some of which I’ve stayed away from due to knowing for a fact they break a ton of stuff on my device) work properly, I’m sticking to Gingerbread. I do how that with enough time and patience I can take a step forward into the future, although it will likely require that I rewrite a lot of my custom software.

So far, I’ve gotten the new phone rooted, and threw the latest Paranoid Android ROM for the S II on it. Paranoid Android is a ROM we’ve talked about quite a lot before on the site, and I’ve run it before on a Galaxy Tab 7.0 Plus. The unique thing about it is that it allows you to set custom DPI settings for individual apps, which in practice means you can run specific apps in tablet or phone mode. This feature alone is to me more impressive than what Google has done to Android in the last couple of years, which frankly doesn’t seem to be much.

I’ve also restored a lot of app data using Titanium Backup, though I need to go through and clean a lot of it, especially apps that operate with unique IDs for each install- something that has already caused one issue for me. Then, the next task will be to transfer all the locally stored data, a lot of which is critical for everything to restore correctly. After that, I need to dig into my Tasker creations, which is something I’m truly dreading. I know that the latest version of Tasker is going to screw up my custom todo list system beyond recognition, so I just hope I still remember enough of how it works to compensate. Then, if/when all of that is done, the mainstream part of Android customization needs to be handled- meaning just simple customization of icons and whatnot.

It’s going to be a massive task, and I can’t imagine doing this any other way than having one device that’s untouched and still working, and one that I can work on without having to transfer everything over in one go. This is the unfortunate downside of having such a highly customized device, but then again, I wouldn’t have it any other way. The things my phone can do are so beyond any other device I’ve ever seen that no iOS, Android, Firefox, Ubuntu, Windows Phone, or any other mobile OS feature from the last few years even makes me bat an eye.

It’s very hard to be impressed by pictures besides notifications in Android 4.1 when you’re used to your phone welcoming you home and turning on the lights for you as you walk in the door.

For the record, if I do end up getting the new S II to work on Android 4.2, it means I will once again be able to write about Tasker without just going on about an outdated version.

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Andreas Ødegård

Andreas Ødegård is more interested in aftermarket (and user created) software and hardware than chasing the latest gadgets. His day job as a teacher keeps him interested in education tech and takes up most of his time.

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