You've been blessed with bigger-than-normal hands, so you've gone and nabbed yourself a Samsung Galaxy Note II. But rather than sticking with the stock software, it's time to unleash the real potential of your handset, by rooting, ditching the stock software, and getting a couple of hours extra battery life all in one.
In this guide, we're going to root your Note II; install a custom ROM, and then tweak the settings to give you a serious battery-life bump. As always, note (no pun intended) that rooting a device and installing custom firmware may void your warranty, and you do so at your own risk.
How many times have you been told to make a backup by your IT-savvy mate? Ignored them, because backing up is something that mere mortals do, and you're not gonna be the one to drop your phone down the loo? Ok, well now you HAVE to back up, if you don't wanna lose all your stuff.
- Download Carbon Backup to your Android device.
- While that's happening, download the desktop client from here.
- Connect the phone to the computer, and help the two of them perform the special mating ritual that will enable Carbon backup -- it'll hold your hand throughout the whole procedure, don't worry.
- Select all apps, and create a backup using Carbon. You can either back up to the cloud (but you'll need the paid-for Carbon Premium to restore from the cloud), or create a backup to an SD card or your computer. Remember, everything will be deleted when we flash our custom ROM, so anything you want to carry over will have to be backed up here.
Before we can do any serious modding, we need to get full control over our Note, and that means rooting.
- Download this toolkit and run the application to install it. Once it's installed, run the Toolkit app.
- When it asks for your device model and build, go to Settings, About device, and find the Android version and build number near the bottom of the page. Look for the matching model and build number in the toolkit, and enter the number.
- First, do option number 1, installing the drivers.
- While the drivers are installing, go to Settings-->Developer Options, and ensure USB debugging is ticked.
- Once the drivers are installed, return to the main menu, and hit option 2 (Root/UnRoot options). Within this submenu, you want choice 3 (ALLINONE). When given the option on the next screen, choose Clockworkmod Recovery (option 1), and option 1 for SuperUser as well.
- Your phone will boot into download mode, and Odin will open on your PC. In the Toolkit command line, instructions will be displayed with what to do with Odin. Follow them, and Odin will flash a recovery image to your phone (shut Odin once it's done).
- The phone will reboot, and the Toolkit will push a few more files to your phone. Once that's done, you'll see "CONGRATULATIONS YOU HACKED IT", and then your phone will reboot. Congrats, that's the stickiest part done!
Right, we've done the rooting, so the only USB wizadry that remains is to flash a custom ROM. I'm going to use CyanogenMod, because it gives a good balance of stability, speed, and the look of stock Android. If you still want to keep the look of TouchWiz (and all the Samsung apps), you can use monxDIFIED ROM; LiquidSmooth and Carbon ROM are pretty good too, but it's up to you -- the beauty of being rooted is that you can play with different ROMs, so go crazy! (But remember, kids, always use protection -- in this case, a solid backup.)
- Download the most recent ROM from this page. It's about a 200MB download, so pop the kettle on.
- At the same time, download the Google Apps .zip from here.
- Transfer both .zip files (without unpacking them) onto your phone, preferably in a memorable folder. Power the phone down.
- Boot the phone into recovery mode (hold volume up, home and power until the Samsung screen flashes). Go to install zip from sdcard-->choose zip-->and then navigate to wherever you put the files.
- Hit the cyanogenmod zip first, and install it. Then, do the same thing for the gapps file. Once you're done, go back until you see the option to reboot, and reboot that sucker.
Congratulations! You're now running a custom build of Android, so you've got far more options at your disposal now. Some changes to be made will be a matter of personal taste (like the design of your homescreen); others are more technical tweaks, which are the ones we're going to cover here.
- You've now got access to a new menu, right down the bottom of settings: "Performance". There's one change I would recommend you make to get better performance out of your Galaxy Note 2. Go into "Performance–>Memory management", and tick the "allow purging of assets" box. This will effectively increase the amount of memory available, making hardcore multitasking a lot easier.
- Go to "Settings–>System–>Notification drawer", and enable the Power widget. This’ll give you all sorts of handy toggles (customisable in the "Widget Buttons" menu) in the notification drawer. In the same System menu, there's also a "Status bar" menu, which gives you the option to change the battery icon to a percentage.
- 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.
- Set up profiles. Something that's missing from pretty much every mobile OS nowadays (but was a staple back in the days of Symbian), profiles are basically presets of a bunch of settings, like ring volume, Wi-Fi on/off, etc. I've got one for work, one for home and one for silent, for example. You can quick-change profiles by holding down the power button.
- 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.
- Download Light Manager to manage the notification LED. My advice is to set the LED to colours that match the app (so blue for Facebook, red for Gmail etc), but it's your choice.
- If you're missing the sNote application, download the free Papyrus, which is just as good (if not better).
- Download the free Greenify app. A root-only app, it allows you to put battery-leeching apps into 'hibernation' in the background, without totally killing them like some other battery managers.
Those are my standard recommendations — but of course, there's basically limitless possibilities for what you can do with your device now. Not to mention, you should also see better battery life, more frequent updates and a little less of that TouchWiz hell. Have we missed anything out? Let us know in the comments below!
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!
To get on-the-spot news, app tips and the full lowdown on Samsung’s latest mobile announcements check out Samsung’s Your Mobile Life over here.