So, you've been all pioneering-Lone Ranger and dived headfirst into buying a Galaxy S4 -- good on ya. But before you get too settled, you should think about rooting and pimping that beast, to get the very best out of it. To help you along the way, we've got a dead-simple guide to hold your hand and show you exactly how to root -- it's probably easier than you think.
Before you begin, you should make a complete backup of all your data. Although there's lots of different backup tools out there, Helium is my go-to. Download the Android app, the desktop client, plug your phone in and let it work its magic (if you pony up the cash for the Premium version, you can also have it sync to a cloud storage account).
Note: this guide is tested on an international LTE Galaxy S4 (i9505), and while everything possible has been done to ensure accuracy, we take no responsibility for bricked devices etc. Also beware that rooting your device may void your warranty.
Courtesy of the legendary Chainfire,
- Ensure you've got the Samsung drivers installed on your computer -- if necessary, download and install them from here.
- Download CF-Auto-Root, and extract the .zip file.
- Put your phone into 'download' mode. This involves turning it off, then holding the volume down, power and home buttons simultaneously. You'll get a warning message, which you have to press the volume up button to get past, and then your phone is in download mode, its soul bared naked to your PC. Connect it to your computer at this point.
- Run 'Odin' (one of the files extracted from the .zip). Click on the 'PDA' button, and select the CF-Auto-Root-asjf;klasjdf;lkasjdf;alskjdf;.tar.md5 file. Ensure your device is being seen (there'll be a little message saying something like "IDE;00034 added!"), and hit start. Your phone will do some Matrix-style scrolling text, and then it'll reboot, fully rooted.
- To check it's rooted, go to your app drawer -- there should now be an app called 'SuperSU' in there, which controls which apps are allowed root permission.
Depending on how non-hacky you want your phone to feel, you might want to sink £2 on Chainfire's TriangleAway app. You see, when customised or rooted versions of the S4 boot up, they display a little scary triangle, reminding you that your phone is custom, and might blow up in your hand etc etc. TriangleAway gets rid of that, very simply.
Of course, there's no good going through all the palaver of rooting your handset if you're not gonna bother making the most of it. Now, Android is a wonderfully customisable platform -- that's the beauty of it -- but there's still a few tweaks I'd recommend everyone and anyone makes, to make their lives immesurably better.
- 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 TouchWiz 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.
- AdAway works like an ad-blocking extension in a browser. Simples.
- 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.
- Disable S Voice, which slows down the response time of the home button (since S Voice is activated by double-pressing the home button). To do so, open the S Voice app, hit the menu button, go to Settings, and untick the 'activate with home button' option.
- For more ideas, check out our Essential ‘Droid Apps page.
Finally, keep your eyes open for third-party ROM releases, in particular CyanogenMod, which is rumoured to be coming to the international Galaxy S4 very, very soon. (We'll update this post with more details if and when it does.)
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.