The problem with Android is that it’s designed for a level of stability that just isn’t there

Yesterday, a friend of mine mentioned that she was having issues with her Galaxy S II, which was complaining about the memory being full. After a lot of back and forth (as this was over the internet, not in person), I was able to instruct her to clear the data of the Facebook app, which was just enough to get TeamViewer QuickSupport up and running. I started looking around the phone, thinking that it was a case of too many apps, too much app data somewhere, or something in that fashion, but quickly discovered that this was just another chapter in the epic tale of Android, the OS that is designed for a level of stability that just isn’t there.

Long story short, it was nothing she had done. Some system process has managed to use up the entire system partition for something, and I don’t even know what. The S II has 1.97GB of system storage (not to be confused with internal storage, which is split into system storage and user storage), and despite there only being a total of about 300MB of apps and app data, the entire partition was just full, for no given reason. After a quick Google search I found some references to this problem, and it likely has to do with some system process creating massive log files in the /data folder, eventually using up all the storage available for the system.

The problem with this is that the system partition is not accessible to the user, unless you are rooted. The logic behind this is to protect the user from making critical mistakes, and protect the device from malicious attacks. All good and well, but what then when a legitimate system process just screwed your entire phone into a state of uselessness? Seriously, Google, what do you expect users to do in this situation? It’s essentially the same as locking the access to the fire extinguisher, citing “this place won’t ever catch on fire” as the reason.

Long story short, we had to wipe the entire thing. If this had been my phone, which is rooted, I could have just gone in and fixed it in half a minute. Even if that for some weird reason had been impossible, I could have restored my complete ROM backup using ClockWordMod Recovery, or wiped the phone and then restored all the apps and data using Titanium Backup. I have a hundred more apps than she does, and my phone is probably several hundred times more customized and complex in every respect, but it would have taken me no time at all to fix the issue on my phone- because my phone is rooted, also known as “insecure”, “warranty voided”, or whatever else you want to call it.

I was able to do a backup of SMS messages using a Google Play app I found, and copying various files to the SD card made sure everything else of consequence was backed up. Still, Google and Samsung’s own backup systems are pointless shadows of their third party, root-only CWM and Titanium Backup counterparts, and it took quite a bit of tinkering and manually installing apps to get it back up and running afterwards. In the end it did fix the problem though, and with more apps than before installed, the available memory was still 1.7GB after the restore- showing just how massive this bug was.

This story is just another example of how Google has made an OS that is too screwed up to be as locked down as it is. It’s not the first time something idiotic like this has happened in my presence either, as my own S II has needed a couple of wipes itself; one time the Bluetooth stack managed to send the device into an infinite crash loop. It simply can’t be like this. Either make sure the OS works properly, or make the process of rooting simple to do for everyone without any experience, and take that choice away from these dumb-ass device manufacturers who are too busy loading their devices with TouchPiss to do anything worthwhile.

I like Android, but at this point, I don’t trust it without the device being rooted, and with several backups using both Titanium Backup and CWM. It’s not just ironic that you need to circumvent built in security systems to actually make sure the device won’t suicide at some point, it’s outright idiotic. It’s also the reason I would never ever recommend Android to someone who I wouldn’t trust to fix issues with it themselves. Android might have a large share of the consumer market, but it really shouldn’t.

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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.