Faraz Kaleem Malik

CS '26 @ UofT

Rant on Android Rooting | Faraz Kaleem Malik

Rant on Android Rooting

October 24, 2023

After some piss-poor battery performance, I decided root my phone and install LineageOS. It wasn’t as simple as I thought.

It’s common knowledge that phones nowadays are the opposite of desktop PCs: instead of being modular, customizable, and flexible, they are monolithic, functionally fixed, and bolted down. There are a few initiatives that aim to change that, the most interesting for me being the Pinephone that ditches Android altogether and runs raw Linux, giving you your unified “Desktop-Phone” OS Apple used to proudly boast.

But the Pinephone, while great for its current price, leaves a lot to be desired specs wise.

Regardless of what my next phone will be (it will be a Pinepone), this post is about my current phone - a Samsung Galaxy A51. I mentioned this before - rooting this phone is hard. So far the steps I’ve had to take are

I list my some of my major grievances.

  1. Instructions, even coming from semi-trustworthy sources (XDA forums, TWRP’s official page), are often wildly conflicting, and generally don’t mention the significance of any given step. This makes it very difficult to determine if the step I’m struggling with can be skipped for a minor cost (like no GApps) or is absolutely essential to not bricking my phone. It also makes it very difficult to cross reference. I blame these on Samsung for always adding another hurdle to the custom ROM installation process every update, outdating many tutorials and guides. The best case for me would have been to not upgrade my software for the past year.
  2. Assumptions of prerequisite software. Currently the chain of software I need to install is Custom ROM with patched storage capacity -> Magisk -> TWRP -> LineageOS But all of the official installation guides recommend installing them with software up the chain! I get that no one wants to deal with some guy trying to sue them in Malaysia for bricking his $100 phone, but I think that more work needs to be put into guides that take you from nothing to some useful result - in my case LineageOS. This is hampered by the fact that guides for each model must be different - which again Samsung is to blame. amd64 doesn’t have this problem!

Anyways, I will make an update one I have this dang thing installed.

Update (27/12/2023): I made the classic mistake of updating something that Just Works™ and updating firmware to the latest security patch (to get rid of an annoying notification). Great if I want the phone to be useless to someone who stole it, but bad for just about all types of jailbreaking. There is a Github discussion for it here but I don’t expect to have it fixed anytime soon. I will have to wait a little while longer it seems.