Sony's shiny new Xperia Z may have only been on sale in the UK for a day, but the poor thing's already been hacked to hell and back. Lucky for you, that means you can root it, get rid of Sony's bloatware, and give the Xperia Z's awesome hardware the operating system it really deserves.
Before you start, you should make a backup if you've already customised your device. If it's fresh out of the box, well, you've got nothing to backup (lucky bugger!). Head to the Play Store, and download one of the myriad of backup devices out there -- I used Ultimate Backup, but there are lots that work. Make as complete a backup as you can, and then copy the backup file off your Android device and onto your computer. Simples.
Now, make sure you're sitting comfortably, with a fresh cuppa, and dive on in.
Standard disclaimer: rooting your device will wipe all your data, and possibly void your warranty. You'll also lose Sony's Bravia Engine, which apparently makes photos look better or something, and your DRM keys, which will be annoying to all three people who have bought music from the Walkman app.
Before we can do anything, there's a little unlocking of the bootloader to be done. Sony's got a guide on doing the dirty here; the Sparknotes summary is:
- Check you can unlock your bootloader by entering a code (spoiler alert: you probably can)
- Give Sony your details, and it'll give you a code
- Download the Android SDK and install it.
- Download the Fastboot drivers you'll need.
- Boot your device into fastboot mode (power down, then hold the Volume Up button while connecting the USB cable -- the LED will go blue if you're successful).
- Go to Device Manager, and right-click on the thing that says "SB1 Fastboot". Choose Update driver software, and then point it to the android_winusb.inf file in the USB driver folder.
- Open the ADB command line (can be found in adt-bundle\sdk\platform-tools)
- Enter the command "fastboot devices" into the command line. It should return something like "CB5blahblahblah fastboot", which is a good sign, because it means your device is connected.
- Finally, enter the command "fastboot.exe -i 0x0fce oem unlock 0xKEY", where KEY is the unlock boot loader key you got from Sony.
- Rejoice, because you've managed to jump through Sony's hoops.
- First off, download these two files: modified kernel and insecure kernel. Make sure you download them into the directory that your adb command line is executed from. (For example, if your adb line reads: C:\Program Files\Android SDK, make sure that the files you just downloaded are in the same directory.) Don't you dare rename any of the files.
- Boot your device into Fastboot mode again (or, if it's still there from unlocking, leave it be).
- Enter the following command into the ADB console:
fastboot flash boot Z_DooMLoRD_CF-Auto-Root-ported_FW-350.img
- Then, enter this command:
- Your device should now now be stuck in a loop, booting up to this notification:
- Hard power the device down by holding down the power and volume up buttons. Your Xperia Z will vibrate three times (kinky) to confirm it's successful.
- Boot up into Fastboot mode again
- Enter this command:
fastboot flash boot Z_DooMLoRD_insecure_FW-350.img
- Followed by:
- Your device will boot up, and you should be happily unlocked
- First-up on your newly rooted device is to install BusyBox. (It's an app in the Play Store, and it's useful, just trust me on this.)
- If you had a backup, move the file back from your computer to the right place on your Android device, and restore it.
Now, we can get on with the job of making this device as close to stock Android as possible:
- Download all the stock Google replacements for the Sony apps (unless, for some strange reason, you prefer the Sony apps). This will include things like Gallery, Maps, and especially the "launcher" (the app that powers your home screen) -- the default Google version can be found on the Play Store under "Android 4.1 Launcher".
- Download Root App Delete from the Play Store. Install it, and you'll be able to use it to rid yourself of any Sony apps you don't want clogging up your system. Remember, for every Sony app you uninstall, you'll need to have a different one that does the same stuff (or, accept that you won't be able to do the things that you could with the Sony app). So, if you kill "Album", make sure you've got "Gallery" installed. Killing the godwaful Xperia keyboard? Ensure you've got Swiftkey or something to replace it. You get the idea.
Now that you've got a rooted device, the possibilities are fairly limitless. Here's a few of my favourite root-only apps:
- Download Tasker from the Play Store. Tasker’s a wonderfully neat app that you can program to do just about anything. For some neat ideas and walk-throughs, have a look at this thread on XDA forums, which explains everything pretty well. There are even more ideas on this Lifehacker article.
- Download Apex launcher and get to work on your home screen. The stock Android screen is just, well, boring. Apex launcher (or the equally good Nova) provide endless options for customising your homescreen. If you need inspiration, check out Mycolourscreen.
- If you, like me, get annoyed by the soft-buttons at the bottom of the page staying there far too much, there is a way to get rid of them. Download and install Button Saviour, then grab the FullScreenToggle apk from this thread, and Bob’s your slightly-better-endowed-with-screen-real-estate uncle.
- Download Titanium Backup and make a proper restore file that will get back all your apps and data, if you somehow manage to break this phone.
- For more ideas, check out our Essential 'Droid Apps page. Enjoy!
Tweakmodo is Gizmodo’s new guide to getting the very best out of your electronics. Every week, we’ll be doing the magic to a different device. Got a bit of kit you want to see pimped up, or think we’ve missed a vital hack? Let us know in the comments!
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