August 7, 2014 By: Will Verduzco
It’s now been a little less than two months since Google I/O 2014. While the Mountain View giant talked about quite a few new technologies and releases during the conference, most of us here at XDA-Developers were undoubtedly most excited about Android L and the associated Developer Preview images for the Nexus 5 (hammerhead) and the WiFi-only edition of the Nexus 7-2013 (razor).
During the time we’ve had with the dev preview, we’ve all gotten a better taste of what Android L brings to the table, as well as certain bugs and other miscellaneous issues that have cropped up along the way. But rather than keep us all waiting for the official Fall release, Google has seen fit to update the developer preview images for these two devices. These new updated images for both devices come in at build number LPV81C, and they are available for download and manual install directly on the Android L Developer Preview Site. Today’s build also adds support for the Google Fit preview SDK, which was also released today.
Unfortunately for those already running the previous dev preview release, there is no OTA rolling out at this time. Instead, the only officially supported means of installing these updated images is to manually flash them–wiping your data in the process. However, if you already have the original preview released and you wish to manually flash the images, you can do so using fastboot flash system system.img. But if you upgrade this way, don’t be too surprised if you encounter a few additional bugs here and there due to app data incompatibilities.
[Source: Android L Developer Preview]
July 1, 2014 By: Will Verduzco
Update: As pointed out by XDA Forum Member a3361035 in the comments below, this isn’t a complete release just yet. Rather, these are just a few GPL projects for the L-Preview release, and not a full platform update.
As we mentioned earlier today, the Android L Developer Preview is exactly that–a developer preview. However, many users understandably want to taste the future of Android today. As such, quite a few Nexus 5 and 7 owners have ventured to install the Android L Developer Preview firmware images on their daily driver devices.
Unfortunately, not every one happens to own a hammerhead or flo. But now, as a surprise to many, Google has pushed the Android L Developer Preview source code to the AOSP under the “android-l” branch. Device-specific support is available for the Nexus 4 (lge/mako), Nexus 5 (lge/hammerhead), Nexus 7 2012 WiFi (asus/grouper), Nexus 7 2012 Mobile Data (asus/tilapia), Nexus 7 2013 WiFi (asus/deb), Nexus 7 2013 Mobile Data (asus/flo), and Nexus 10 (samsung/manta).
While these files were most likely released in order to help OEMs and third party developers begin preparing for L’s release, they will also enable custom ROM developers to build Android L releases for their devices of choice. But naturally, building for unsupported devices will be more difficult due to the lack of L-enabled proprietary binaries and device trees. As these source files are only for a few GPL projects and not the entire L-Preview AOSP source, this isn’t of benefit to ROM developers just yet. However, those wishing to learn more about the L preview may find use in the code.
Developers, head over to the AOSP to peer into the code. From there, all the relevant code will be available in the relevant subfolders with the “android-l” branch. ROM developers looking for device-specific files can find the goods in the appropriate links below:
[Many thanks to XDA Recognized Contributor ryukiri and everyone else who sent this in!]
June 27, 2014 By: Will Verduzco
Are you running the Android L Developer Preview? If so, your day’s about to get a little bit sweeter! This test firmware was released for the Nexus 5 and Nexus 7 (2013) yesterday. And in the time since, we’ve put it through its paces to see just how far Google has come in releasing this new test firmware. But do you know what else has been accomplished since then? Yep, you guessed it. Root has been achieved.
If you’re running the L Developer Preview and you’ve been dying for root access, you can now get your fix in thanks to XDA Recognized Developer savoca, who rooted the test firmwares and shared how to do so within just a couple hours of the L Developer Preview release.
The root procedure is fairly easy, but there are a few prerequisites. First, you’ll need to have a custom recovery installed. So after installing the L developer preview, go ahead and flash the latest version of your custom recovery of choice. Then, flash Chainfire’s SuperSU. Finally, head to your device’s bootloader and fastboot flash the appropriate boot.img for your device.
Users will be quick to note that root access doesn’t quite work as it did in the past with regards to system write access. This seems to be due to the previous root app breakage originally described by Chainfire with regards to the need for new security contexts. This is why certain apps can write to /system and others cannot.
What are you waiting for? If you’re running Android L Dev Preview on your Nexus 5 or Nexus 7, head over to this post to get your root on!
June 26, 2014 By: Will Verduzco
It’s now been several hours since the release of the Android L Developer Preview Images. Undoubtedly, many of you reading this have already loaded the preview firmware onto your Nexus 5 or Nexus 7 (2013). However, not everyone is lucky enough to own one of these devices–and even if you have an N5 or N7 by your side, you may not be willing to wipe your data in order to flash test images.
In the time since release, we’ve been poking and prodding at the Android L Developer Preview firmware on a Nexus 5 to see how far Google has come with L and where there’s still room for improvement. Head past the break to see our initial impressions. READ ON »
June 24, 2014 By: Will Verduzco
Three weeks and one day ago, the WiFi-only variant of the Nexus 7 (2013), along with essentially all other currently supported Nexus devices, received its update to Android 4.4.3 in the form of updated factory restore images. Just one day later, the device then received its official OTA update to the 4.4.3 goods. And then five days ago, Android 4.4.4 was released for all current Nexus devices except for the LTE-enabled Nexus 7 (2013).
Over the course of the last three weeks, many LTE-enabled N7-2013 “deb” owners were understandably a bit frustrated that their devices weren’t at version parity with the other Nexus devices. Luckily, Android 4.4.3 factory images have just been released for the device. And while it’s not Android 4.4.4 (or an OTA update for that matter), it’s at least one step in the right direction.
Just like the Android 4.4.3 update for the WiFi model, the update for the LTE-enabled Nexus 7 (2013) comes in at build number KTU84L. The images themselves are available on the Nexus Factory Images page, and if you’re a ROM builder, the driver binaries are also available online.
June 19, 2014 By: Will Verduzco
Well, that was unexpected! After dozens of leaks leading up to the eventual release of Android 4.4.3, Android 4.4.4 has suddenly arrived without so much as a moment’s notice. The update itself has not yet begun rolling out to actual end user devices, but just like what we saw with 4.4.3 KTU84M, the factory images have been posted for the majority of the current generation Nexus fleet.
Today’s Android 4.4.4 builds come in at KTU84P for the Nexus 5, Nexus 4, Nexus 7, Nexus 7 (2013), and Nexus 10. Unfortunately, just as was the case with 4.4.3 KTU84M, nothing is available for the Nexus 7 (2013) LTE-enabled variant at this time. According to Sprint’s update support documentation released earlier today, this update only brings an unspecified “security fix.”
No details are known at present if this build fixes the Linux kernel CVE-2014-3153 vulnerability that was exploited by geohot in towelroot, but it wouldn’t be much of a surprise if that were to be the case. Obviously, the earlier merge to kill Dalvik and implement ART as default runtime compiler has not yet made it to shipping builds.
You can get your fix by updating your device directly via the Nexus Factory Images page. And if building custom ROMs is your thing, grab the KitKat MR2.1 Source Code and then head over to the Nexus Driver Binaries page to get started.
Update: As pointed out by XDA Senior Member phaseL, this indeed does not implement a fix to the Linux kernel CVE-2014-3153 vulnerability exploited in geohot’s towelroot, as the kernel build date (Mar 13) was dated well before a patch was made available (June 3).
June 2, 2014 By: Will Verduzco
It’s here, folks! After a false alarm a few months ago, several rumors along the way, and update documentation courtesy of T-Mobile earlier today, we now have Android 4.4.3 for the current generation of Nexus devices.
Today’s builds come in at KTU84M for the Nexus 5, and KTU84L for the Nexus 4, Nexus 7, Nexus 7 (2013), and Nexus 10. According to T-Mobile’s support documentation released earlier today, these updates bring “security enhancements,” as well as “various bug fixes.” At this point, it is unclear whether these security enhancements include some of the root app-related issues that we talked about previously or what other bug fixes may be present. That said, we DO know that the /system write protection outside of recovery context is not present in 4.4.3. Moreover, Dalvik is still the default runtime compiler—for now. If you spot anything else, we’d love to hear in the comments below!
You can get your fix by updating your device directly via the Nexus Factory Images page. And if building custom ROMs is your thing, grab the KitKat MR2 Source Code and then head over to the Nexus Driver Binaries page to get started.
[Many thanks to XDA Senior Moderator efrant for the tip!]
June 2, 2014 By: Will Verduzco
Update: They’re here for the Nexus 4, 5, 7 (both), and 10! Head over to this post to get in on the action!
You may recall back in the middle of April, Sprint erroneously stated that Android 4.4.3 would begin rolling out to the Nexus 5. We now know that this didn’t quite come to pass, as all of our Nexus devices are still currently officially running Android 4.4.2. Now, however, we have reason to believe that Android 4.4.3 may finally begin rolling out to current generation Nexus devices today.
This news comes from T-Mobile software update support documents stating that both the Google Nexus 5 and Google Nexus 7 (2013) will be receiving their respective doses of the 4.4.3 goods starting today. The build for the Nexus 5 is said to come in at build number KTU84M, while the Nexus 7 flavor is KTU84L. According to the support documents linked at the bottom of this article, both updates come in at 54 MB and bring “security enhancements,” as well as “various bug fixes.” Given the former, it’s quite possible that all the potential root app breakage that we’ve covered in the past will come to light. In addition, we’ll probably see fixes to various device-specific tweaks such as camera and data connectivity issues.
These updates have not yet begun making their way to consumer devices, Google has not yet updates its factory images page, and we don’t yet have captured update URLs. In fact, it’s quite possible that we may not even see 4.4.3 today, just like what happened with Sprint a month-and-a-half ago. But given how much progress has been made towards 4.4.3, we wouldn’t be surprised if 4.4.3 starts making its way to consumer devices today. Time to start mashing that check for updates button, I suppose!
February 14, 2014 By: Will Verduzco
Most of us buy Nexus devices because of their timely updates featuring the latest and greatest that Google has to offer. And if you’re the proud owner of an LTE-enabled Google Nexus 7 (2013), you likely noticed a small incremental OTA update that began rolling out a few days ago, which bumps up the Android version from 4.4.2_r1 (KOT49H) to 4.4.2_r2 (KVT49L).
The fine folks over at FunkyAndroid have created a detailed changelog showing all of the commits that have been merged between the last two versions. So what’s changed? Not very much. There is a snapshot change on the device’s kernel (which is said to help compatibility on Verizon 4G LTE), as well as changes to the stock keyboard and Calendar apps.
Nexus 7 (2013) LTE owners out there looking to get in on the update manually can do so by visiting the Nexus Factory Images page and finding the “Razorg” section. If you’re interested in seeing everything that’s changed, head over to the FunkyAndroid changelog. And once you’re done, make sure to head over to your device’s home forum here on XDA.
December 27, 2013 By: Will Verduzco
Ever wonder how despite its less than jaw dropping specifications, the Moto X still manages to score quite well in many benchmarks? Unlike some of the other major OEMs out there, Motorola doesn’t rely on benchmark-specific application detection and questionable “optimizations.” Rather, they actually employ genuine speed tweaks, in the form of optimized Bionic and Dalvik libraries.
But before delving further to learn about how you can use optimized libraries to improve the performance on your own Qualcomm-based Nexus device, let’s spend a few minutes talking about these libraries in question. After all, you should know what you’re getting into when incorporating any new system-level tweaks and mods.
Let’s start with Bionic. Bionic (libbionic) was originally created by Google for use in Android, as a derivative of the standard GNU C library originally found in BSD (glibc). Bionic differs from the standard C library in that it is a much smaller library than the GNU C library. Furthermore, it is designed for relatively low powered CPUs like mobile devices. In practice, it is used for various basic math and memory operations.
Now, let’s take a look at Dalvik. Dalvik is the virtual machine used in Android that has much in common with Java virtual machine. But rather than executing standard Java class files, Dalvik relies on DEX files. This is the same DEX that you’ve undoubtedly already heard of when talking about ODEXED and DEODEXED ROMs.
You may also recall how we broke the news on the new ART runtime compiler introduced into Android 4.4 KitKat. ART, which serves as a drop-in replacement for the Dalvik VM, is far more optimized thanks to ahead-of-time compilation rather than Dalvik’s just-in-time compilation. ART compatibility isn’t quite 100% yet, but it is already good enough for many. And while ART necessarily requires greater storage space usage on installed apps, the performance gains may be worth the added storage footprint. Unfortunately though, the popular Xposed Framework is not compatible with ART—and it won’t be for quite some time, if ever.
So what does any of this have to do with the real world performance gains we all crave? Simple: Loading more optimized libraries can potentially result in improved performance. To see this in action, let’s take a look at a particular thread by XDA Senior Member kszaq, which demonstrates how more optimized Bionic and Dalvik libraries can be used on various Qualcomm-based Nexus devices to improve performance.
Where do these optimized libraries come from? The optimized Bionic library comes from the open source Code Aurora Foundation, and the optimized Dalvik library comes from the Moto X. So why weren’t these just implemented into stock Android? That’s a bit harder to answer. The Dalvik optimizations from the Moto X are closed source, so it makes sense that Google would not want to include this in the AOSP and in devices with official AOSP support. The Bionic optimizations from the Code Arora Foundation, on the other hand, are open source. But perhaps, Google simply did not want to have these hardware-specific optimizations a part of the Android as a whole.
If you’ve been wanting to optimize your Qualcomm-based Nexus device’s performance but don’t want to use ART, you should consider implementing these optimized Dalvik and Bionic libraries. Make your way over to the original thread to get started. Just be sure that you have a Nandroid backup before flashing these, as there’s no simple “undo button” when modifying system libraries.
Please note, however, that this only is of benefit to Qualcomm-powered devices. Naturally, CAF’s optimizations will not have any beneficial effect on non-Qualcomm hardware. Furthermore, the Moto X’s Dalvik optimizations are largely unnecessary on non-Nexus devices, as other vendors also use hardware-specific Dalvik optimizations. Basically, you’ll only find this useful for the Google Nexus 5, Nexus 4, and Nexus 7 (2013)—all of which are powered by various Snapdragon chipsets. And it should go without saying that these optimizations are only valid for near-stock, AOSP-derived KitKat ROMs.
December 26, 2013 By: Will Verduzco
As you’re making your way down the list of things to try with your newly acquired tech toys, one thing you’ll undoubtedly get around to is flashing a custom ROM. Those looking for aftermarket firmware now have one more Android 4.4.2-based option, as the AOKP team has just finished incorporating Google’s latest and greatest into their nightly builds.
Currently, Android 4.4.2-based nightly builds are available for the Google Nexus 5, Nexus 4, Nexus 10, Nexus 7 (2013), Galaxy Nexus, Galaxy S III, Galaxy S 4, HTC One, Xperia Z, Xperia ZL, Xperia T, and Xperia V. More devices will be added to the nightly list as soon as they’re ready. The AOKP team recommends a full wipe when installing the latest JB-MR2 nightlies, but users on unofficial builds released after December 10 may be able to get away without a full wipe.
December 25, 2013 By: Will Verduzco
Once again, all of us here at XDA would like to wish you a Happy Holiday Season! Undoubtedly, many of our happy readers are waking up to some extra Holiday cheer in the form of shiny new tech acquisitions. Luckily, XDA is here and has your back in helping you make the most of your new, Android-powered tech toy(s).
You may remember that a little while ago, we shared with you our Best of 2013 Holiday Gift Guide. Now, we’re going to take some of these “Best” devices that you all voted for, and help you make the most of them. Obviously, we’re going to start with gaining root access and installing a custom recovery. But on some devices, this will even include installing an aftermarket ROM or even enabling multiboot!
Let’s start the day with your top pick as best tablet of 2013, the Google Nexus 7 (2013). With its high end specs and budget-friendly price, we think it’s safe to assume that quite a few Android fans are waking up to a brand new N7.
Since the Nexus 7 is a Nexus device, unlocking and rooting is incredibly simple. You will want to start by installing ADB and Fastboot by downloading the Android SDK (or installing minimal Fastboot and ADB installer, and the associated drivers). Then after you have ADB and Fastboot installed, the real fun can begin!
If all you want is root access, the easiest way to accomplish this is by running CF-Auto-Root for the Nexus 7 (2013). CF-Auto-Root will get you rooted and install the latest version of SuperSU in practically no time and with virtually no effort or hassle.
Not everyone likes it simple, though. For those who’d rather get a bit more hands on, you can unlock your device by turning on USB debugging in developer settings and rebooting your tablet to bootloader by issuing the adb reboot-bootloader command. From there, you can unlock your new device by entering fastboot oem unlock. Then, simply reboot your device with fastboot reboot, reenter your bootloader with adb reboot-bootloader, and flash a custom recovery using fastboot flash recovery <recovery image filename.img>.
After you have your custom recovery installed, your doors are now open to installing some of the more popular custom ROMs, or perhaps you can even give Multiboot a try! All of this and more can be found in our Google Nexus 7 (2013) forum, here at XDA.
Now let’s shift our attention to your top pick as best smartphone of 2013. Surprise, surprise. It was the highly anticipated Google Nexus 5. Just like the Nexus 7, it also offers a wallet-friendly price. But unlike its tablet sibling, it also offers bleeding edge specs like a quad-core 2.26 GHz Snapdragon 800 processor.
Just like the Nexus 7, unlocking and rooting the Nexus 5 is a cakewalk. Just like what we covered above, you will want to start by installing ADB and Fastboot by downloading the Android SDK (or installing minimal Fastboot and ADB installer, and the associated drivers).
Once again, if all you want is root access, the easiest way to accomplish this is by running CF-Auto-Root for the Nexus 5. CF-Auto-Root will get you rooted and install the latest version of SuperSU in practically no time and with virtually no effort or hassle.
For those who’d rather get a bit more hands on, you can unlock your device by turning on USB debugging in developer settings and rebooting your tablet to bootloader by issuing the adb reboot-bootloader command. From there, you can unlock your new device by entering fastboot oem unlock. Then, simply reboot your device with fastboot reboot, reenter your bootloader with adb reboot-bootloader, and flash a custom recovery using fastboot flash recovery <recovery image filename.img>.
Once you’ve got your recovery installed, you can now begin flashing any number of custom ROMs and kernels. And for those willing to try something a bit more ambitious, you can even play around with multiboot. Obviously, all this and more can be found in our Google Nexus 5 forum.
Next up, we have the HTC One. Although the device is no longer on the bleeding edge in the specs department, it offers build quality and a design aesthetic simply unparalleled in the Android OEM world.
While the process is a bit more involved than it is on the Nexus devices listed above, it is fully possible to unlock, root, install a custom recovery, and do much more on the HTC One. Thanks to the hard work by ieftm and his team, the device can be unlocked. There are also several custom recovery options available, as well as Official OmniROM and CyanogenMod installations, though you will want to make sure you are installing the appropriate version for your particular variant.
In addition to the custom ROM fun, those who are feeling a bit more ambitious can give Multiboot a try, as well as a Google Play editions conversion. Just like the previous two devices, all this and more can be found in the HTC One forum.
Please note, however, that the above links are intended for the INTERNATIONAL version of the device. If you’ve got yourself a shiny new carrier-branded variant, make sure you find your appropriate XDA forum before getting to work.
Let’s turn our attention over to the popular and powerful Sony Xperia Z1. Unlocking the device is a breeze. From there, you will want to gain root access, as well as flash a custom recovery. Once you’ve gotten that done, Official OmniROM and CyanogenMod builds await. And like the devices above, all of this and more can be found in the Sony Xperia Z1 forum here at XDA.
Now, we will talk about the wallet-friendly Moto G. Although it’s not the fastest device available, it offers a fantastic value that is simply unmatched in other budget devices.
Luckily, it is quite easy to unlock the Moto G directly through Motorola. From there, you can easily achieve root access and install a custom recovery. There’s not much in the aftermarket development world beyond the above, but you can rest assured that this is only a matter of time, thanks to the device’s popularity. And of course, keep your eyes peeled on the Moto G forums to keep apprised of any and all development activity for the device.
This innovative Moto X proves that raw hardware specs aren’t everything and that an innovative feature set can make for a great user experience, even on non-bleeding edge hardware.
Let’s start with rooting and unlocking, which is now possible thanks to jcase’s RockMyMoto exploit. From there, you will want to install a custom recovery. Then, you can try out any one of the source-built custom ROMs and kernels available in the Moto X forum.
Now we have the largest phone on this list, the Samsung Galaxy Note 3. Packing bleeding edge specs, a mammoth sized screen, and the fantastic Wacom-based S Pen, the Note 3 is certainly a force to be reckoned with.
Luckily, rooting the device and installing a custom recovery are quite easy on the Note 3. Development support is also quite widespread on the Note 3, so be sure to check out the Samsung Galaxy Note 3 forum here at XDA. Please note, however, that the above links are intended for the INTERNATIONAL version of the device. If you’ve got yourself a shiny new carrier-branded variant, make sure you find your appropriate XDA forum before getting to work.
Rounding out this article, we have the Samsung Galaxy S 4. Much like the highly acclaimed HTC One, the SGS4 is no longer the king of all of the hardware specs battles. That said, it’s still a great phone, jam packed with plenty of great features.
Thanks to the device’s age and vast popularity, root access and custom recoveries are both possible, with much more available in the Samsung Galaxy S 4 forum. But just like the HTC One and Note 3, be sure to visit the appropriate forum for you carrier-branded variant if you’re not running the international version of the device.
We wish you much Android-powered joy for this Holiday Season! See you in the XDA forums!
December 15, 2013 By: Tomek Kondrat
As you all know, AOSP is the purest form of Android. All Nexus devices are shipped with relatively clean Android, baked by Google engineers. Constant and frequent updates make it a quite interesting position for all Android enthusiasts. But AOSP is pretty barebone, as it lacks many of the key features of skinned ROMs that many of us have come to enjoy. This is when the brilliant Xposed Framework enters the picture.
A few months ago, we talked about an Xposed Module aimed at bringing some goodies to Samsung stock ROMs made by XDA Recognized Developer wanam. This time, wanam created a module dedicated to Nexus devices owners running KitKat. This module allows you to customize many little things to make your stock ROM more suitable for your needs. With this kit, it’s possible to change the clock position, the type and color of your battery text, and so much more. Everything can be found in the original posts, where a video demonstrating the module is also available.
Nexus devices should not be limited to AOSP features only, and Wanam Kit gives you a great chance to enhance the user experience. More information and the module itself can be found in the development thread. Keep in mind that your device must be rooted and running the latest version of Xposed Framework.