It’s Hard to Keep a Good Phone Down

My phone needs and desires have changed, but some things are staying the same.

Let me explain:

When I first bought a smartphone (HTC Incredible), I just wanted something that could do “online-type” activities on the go: check email, get directions, browse, etc. While the Incredible wasn’t the most amazing device, it blew open my eyelids to the world of mobile tech. I couldn’t believe a single device could do so much. It was – quite literally – incredible!

After a while, the OS started to feel stale. Newer phones were coming out with Android 4.0 (Ice Cream Sandwich), and it looked pretty slick. So when it came time for an upgrade, I chose the wonderful Samsung Galaxy Nexus. Since my previous phone couldn’t really handle the newer OS (I tried to upgrade it to Android 4.2 through a custom ROM), I was really interested in experimenting with a much more capable device. I first tried Peter Alfonso’s Bugless Beast (website no longer operational), then I decided to switch. I’d heard so much about CyanogenMod, and it won the top spot in LifeHacker’s Android custom ROM voting.

After checking it out, I fell in love. Not only was it a nice, clean version of Android, but it had just enough extra features to fit my bill – tethering, notification panel options, etc. I faithfully used it for at least six months, and even flashed my ASUS Transformer TF300T with it. Life was good!

Now I’m in a quandary. I’ve fallen in love with the Samsung Galaxy Note II, but some of that is because of the TouchWiz features. I like trying out the gestures, I like what’s included for the S Pen, and I’m interested in seeing further releases. If I get it, I wouldn’t want to lose those features, even for the wonderful simplicity of CyanogenMod.

But throughout all those decisions, no matter what I get, there’s one benefit I’m very, very happy about –

Whichever way I go, it’ll still be Android. And it’s hard to keep a good Android down.

Here’s what’s happened recently: my Galaxy Nexus began to freak out on CyanogenMod 10.1 RC5 (Release Candidate 5, a “mostly stable” release). The CyanogenMod homescreen, Trebuchet (think HTC Sense or Samsung TouchWiz – the general overlay of the UI), began to force close 2-3 times a day. Depending on what I clicked on (Wait or Close) I could either use the power button to restart the phone, or I had to pull out the battery to restart it. Considering it happened multiple times a day, it was pretty annoying. I tried going with a more recent release, CyanogenMod 10.1 20130617 (Nightly release, unstable, but newer), and it had the same issue.

At that point I wasn’t really upset (the phone seemed to be showing its age), I just wanted it to work. So I decided to factory reset it, wipe everything, start fresh. I was getting a new phone soon anyway, might as well be prepared, right?

I wiped all my files, booted into recovery (ClockworkMod recovery), and began to wipe everything. Here’s where it got dicey.ClockworkMod Recovery

Originally, I just wanted to do a factory reset – I didn’t care about wiping everything everything, I just wanted to wipe my personal info and get back to stock. Should be easy, right? But when I went to wipe everything in recovery, I wiped too much. Everything. Absolutely everything. No more files, no more OS, nothing. Once I realized my mistake (a couple “Dagnabbit!”s were probably in there somewhere), I tried to restart my phone to see if anything still came up –



But I reminded myself I’d been in this situation many, many times before. Remember when I tried to upgrade my Incredible to Android 4.2? Yeah, that was a nightmare. I worked so hard to get that phone functioning again, and finally got it back to Android 2.3.4. Basic, but stable on that phone. Know why I wasn’t really worried?

Because it’s hard to keep a good Android down.

I had already installed the fastboot files on my desktop, so I connected my phone to the desktop, turned off the phone, and restarted it into the bootloader. I downloaded the files for the Galaxy Nexus factory image and proceeded to use fastboot to flash them one by one. At one point I realized my phone wouldn’t take the absolute newest files, so I simply downloaded the previous version and flashed them. Worked like a charm.

And you know what? I’ve heard of way worse cases than that, almost-bricked experiences that people were able to get out of. You know why?

Because it’s hard to keep a good Android down.

But to be fair, it’s really hard to kill an iPhone, too. While I have absolutely no experience with jailbreaking or recovering iPhones, according to LifeHacker there are methods to recovering a near-bricked iPhone as well. Because of the ability of modern mobile devices to interact with other systems (desktops, laptops), recovery can be pretty straightforward. Before I attempted to recover my Android, I knew it wouldn’t be that difficult. I only hit one snag, and it wasn’t a bad snag at that. Easily recoverable. So I guess we need a new phrase instead:

It’s hard to keep a good phone down.

No matter what I get, and no matter if I use a custom ROM or not, I’ll be set. The built-in bootloader is really all I’ll need, but I may install ClockworkMod recovery just for the added benefit.

I’ll be able to breathe a sigh of relief knowing that my phone has almost no chance of being a brick.


Nate Humphries

Nate Humphries

My two personal passions in life are technology and theology. If you sneaked a peek at my life you'd see me hanging out with my wife, our Dachshund Bella, and our snake Phoenix; playing Skyrim/Civ:BE/F3/FNV/BL/Rage/GW2/SRIV; watching movies; reading on my Kindle (sci-fi or theology research); or playing on my Moto 360/Samsung Galaxy Note II.

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