Multi Boot: The Fall of Nandroid?
Ever since custom recoveries and roms became popular, nandroid backups have been the fall back method for all android enthusiasts, irrespective of their confidence levels. They allow easy backup and restore in case things go wrong, which happens invariably when a modification is being tested. With that being said, how relevant are Nandroid Backups to this day?
Back in 2011, when the world of Android was being awed by the likes of the Samsung Galaxy S2, a little modification made its appearance on the HTC Desire HD forums. This mod, by Senior Member michyprima, allowed users to effectively dual boot two different custom roms on their phone, one via the traditional nand route, and the other via the sd card route. While the methods involved were very young to Android, this “dual boot” mod had the potential to revolutionize the way we used custom roms.
Fast forward to this day, we have apps like MultiROM Manager which support a large variety of recent devices. Users are no longer limited to installing only a couple of roms on their device, as the app allows the device to boot from a USB drive connected to the device via an OTG cable. Not only that, you can even install non-Android systems like Ubuntu Touch too.
But wait, how does a multi rom modification affect the potential of nandroid backups? To understand this, we have to look at the scenario of storage space on recent devices. As more and more devices opt to go without removable micro-sd storage slots, the storage space available to the user has become hotly contested between apps, media content and other data. As system images become more complex and start taking more space, Nandroid backups have grown to become larger and larger, thereby restricting users to only a handful of choices depending on their convenience.
There is also an important link here: increased popularity of backup apps like Helium (non-root) and Titanium Backup (root). With these, users can essentially backup all relevant data of their rom and have it synced up on the cloud. While apps like OBackup do offer incremental nandroid backups with cloud sync options, it still does not provide granular control over the backups as an inherent limitation of Nandroid backups. As a result, you either choose between syncing incremental nandroid updates to granular app and data backups. Keeping in mind constraints such as cloud space and data caps, more and more people choose to go the latter route.
If this was 2012, a typical user would make a nandroid of their current rom, backup relevant apps and data using Titanium or other backup options, and proceed to flash a clean system. If the modifications were good enough, he would continue on to restore the apps on the new system. If the new rom failed to live up to his expectations, the user would choose to go back to his nandroid. Playing around in the recovery for all of this while backups happen becomes a bit of a pain if you are a flashaholic, although Online Nandroid Backup alleviates this issue for supported devices by not requiring a reboot into recovery.
With several multi booting options available now, a step can be eliminated from the above process. You are no longer required to nand backup your daily driver. Instead, you can flash over the new rom as a separate system altogether and continue on to make modifications. For people who frequently test things, this is much more convenient than daily nandroids. With the advent of Xposed modules which allow on-the-fly modification of roms, switching between roms is no longer limited only due to its feature set, allowing even more flexibility when choosing your new rom.
So does all of this really kill off nandroid? Well, not yet. Nandroid won’t be dying off any time soon, for it still retains its fair share of uses. It still remains one of the best methods to save yourself from a flash gone bad. But with more and more people switching out from actively needing nandroid backups, we might just be on the brink of something that might deal the slow but fatal blow to nandroid.