A new phone.

I got a new phone last week. An Asus Zenphone 3. Yes, I stepped off the Samsung train for a change. Samsung has really nice phones but they also have really nice price tags.

I had my eye on the Zenphone for a while already. Read about it somewhere, liked the specifications and the way it was shown by Asus.

I also read lots of reviews. Many of them told me it’s a great phone and so I waited for it to become available in the Netherlands. I could have ordered one online from somewhere and hope for the best but for such amounts of money I tend to be a bit careful. If something’s wrong with the device and the seller whose name I can’t pronounce lives in a place I’ve never heard of, that’s enough for me to be patient.

Last week was the day I discovered the phone to be available. Again I went out to read the latest reviews. What struck me was that many of them sing and dance about the Zenfone 3 but there is only one common gripe: the bloatware, the odd Zen UI launcher and the many notifications.

Bugger all that. I ordered the phone. I have it here. It’s really nice, fast, and the screen is definitely nice. The resolution is less than that of the Samsung Note 4 I had before but I don’t notice that at all.

On to the bloatware. I have disabled everything I don’t need. That took me several hours because on a new phone there’s a lot of new stuff and it’s not exactly sure what you need and what not. That took care of that.

On the Zen UI launcher. I don’t use it. Since a long time I moved to Smart Launcher 3 and that’s perfect for me. There are lots of launchers available for Android; there has to be something you like if you don’t like Zen-UI. I had a look at Zen-UI and it looks a lot like regular Android to me but I didn’t investigate a lot. If you ignore a phone simply because of the default launcher you’re going to miss out on a lot of good devices.

Finally: the notifications. The Zenfone 3 comes with a nice built-in option to set which app can push notifications and which can’t. People who whine about the notifications should first really get to know the phone. I have no problems with the info on the screen; it shows what I want, when I want.

Another nice thing on the Zenfone that no one has mentioned in the reviews I read is the option to prevent specific apps from starting at boot time. That saves boot time and memory. I have the 4GB/64GB version so memory isn’t a big problem but the option’s there and it’s great.

All in all I’m really happy with the phone. I’m not going to list all the specs, you can find that online everywhere, like on the Asus site. Why it’s called a mid-range phone is a riddle to me but my demands on phones aren’t high. I don’t spend hours playing the heaviest games on my phone. I think the Zenfone would do well in that area but I have no inclination to find out because I’m a lost case with games.

Android and its ROMs

Yes, ROMs. Not Romulans, as this is not Star Trek. Alas.

A while ago I got an Android update on my smartphone. It was for Android 4.4.2. I installed it and I was not a happy camper: suddenly only Google’s own apps could manipulate the SD card! The trick would be to ROOT the phone (breaking it open, in a way, to give me all the permissions again). It was quite an experience.

How to root your phone: first you need a Recovery Rom. Best known are CWM (ClockWork Mod) and TWRP (no idea, I didn’t use this one).

I used Philz Touch CWM rom. Note: find the version that works for your phone. Mine was N7100. Make sure you pick the right one. Please use Google or Bing or so to locate this file, there are many versions. Search for “Philz Touch recovery tar md5“. You will also need a Windows-program called Odin. This is what you need to put the recovery rom on your phone. The last one I know of is Odin3 3.09.

Online you can find information how to do this, but the quick rundown is: run Odin. Point the ‘AP‘ location to the tar.md5 file with Philz Touch Recover. Put your phone in DOWNLOAD mode. Connect USB cable. Wait for Odin to recognise the phone. Press start. Wait until Odin reports Success.

Once you did that you can locate a ROM you want to put on the phone. The one I finally had success with was the TigraRom v4. This one runs Android 4.3, is rooted and gave me back read/write access to the SD card. This is the one I’m currently running. To install a new ROM, first backup your stuff. Then make sure you’ve backed up your stuff. Find the ROM that works for your phone. Really, read that again. Download it and put the ZIPfile on your phone or on the SD Card. Boot your phone into Recovery mode (usually Volume-up and Power, but my phone also needed the Home button pressed so look that up for your phone). You’ll be put into Philz Touch Recovery.

Start sweating: select Wipe Data/Factory reset and confirm you want to do this. return to this menu (is easy). Select ADVANCED and select Wipe Dalvik Cache. Confirm.

Then select ‘Install Zip’.  Locate the zipfile on your device and make it so. This is where the magic happens: the new ROM is loaded onto your phone. After that: reboot system now. That’s all there is to it. After that it’s up to you to find if the ROM works for you. I found Tigra to work after 8 or 9 disappointments. Flashing a ROM gets easy after a while, trust me. 😉