This post was published 4 years, 3 months ago. Due to the rapidly evolving world of technology, some material it contains may no longer be applicable.
With all the Lollipop hype in the media at the moment, a lot of you are probably wondering when, or indeed if you’re going to get Lollipop on your device. If that’s you, then be sure to check out Charlie’s Lollipop update timetable here.
However, as mentioned at the end of that article, there is an alternative to waiting for your official upgrade. It is something that frightens many users and is probably only suitable for the more tech-savvy of users. I am of course talking about custom ROMs.
Cyanogen in particular have been making decent progress in updating their ROM to Android Lollipop, but at this early stage very few devices are currently supported officially. If like myself, you have a device which is not supported yet then do not despair! Already there are quite a few unofficial ports of CM12 for a plethora of devices. I’m going to tell you what to expect from such builds.
Disclaimer: Running custom software on your device always has carries risk. It is important to remember that should you to choose to use such software, the risk is entirely your own and Little Green Dude, XDA, the ROM developer nor anyone else is responsible if it causes loss of data or damage or your device. On some devices installing such software may also void your manufacturers hardware warranty. You have been warned!
First of all, I want you to remember that this is based solely on my individual Galaxy S4. Other devices will vary, but this should give you some idea as to what you can expect right now.
The most common bugs I’m seeing across devices are issues with the camera and RIL. Let’s start with the camera. Many users are getting a “cannot connect to camera” error either every time they open the app, or randomly every so often. This is common with early unofficial ports of new Android versions and should be fixed with time. In many cases this will prevent you from using your camera altogether and in others it may be fixed by using a third-party camera app – it depends on what exactly is broken with the camera software.
Next is RIL support. For those of you who are unfamiliar with what RIL is, (probably many of you – I didn’t know until Charlie told me!) RIL (or the “Radio Interface Layer”) is basically the software between the Android telephony services and the radio hardware and is needed for the radios work with Android. In other words, if the ROM you’re looking at has RIL issues, you can say goodbye to phone calls and texts. Basically you’ll be left with a small tablet.
Other than that it’s mainly device specific bugs. If you don’t have a Galaxy S4 you may want to scroll down to the advice section as everything else for the next few headings will be S4 specific. That being said, some of the improvements and bugs I’ve seen may be present on your devices as well.
HDR: HDR doesn’t work at all, causing camera crashes if you try to use it. It’s worth pointing out that this has been a bug in CM on the S4 since last November, so if you’re using a custom ROM chances are you’ve already noticed this.
Screen Pinning: Screen Pinning doesn’t like hardware keys as it turns out. If you try to use it you’ll end up having to reboot the device to get out of it.
There has been a marked improvement in performance since I upgraded to Lollipop. The S4 has never been a slouch thanks to its 2GB of RAM and Quad-core processor, but Lollipop makes much better use of that hardware than KitKat. The animations are stunning, especially on a five-inch 1080p panel. Not once does the S4 begin to stutter, even when you have plenty of apps open at once.
App load times are much improved over KitKat, as are website loading times. Overall, quite simply everything is faster. Hopefully things will be at least as good if not better once Samsung releases the official update.
Battery life improvement is probably my favourite thing about Android 5.0. It has been reported that it brings on average a 36% improvement. Do those numbers stack up in the real world? In my experience: yes!
Before upgrading, I would struggle to get a day out of my S4, even when there was plenty of standby time just being in my pocket while I was at college. I would end up at around 30% by 4PM and having to charge my device before I went out. As I write this, I am in a hospital waiting room with my mobile data turned on. I’ve been here about an hour playing Monument Valley and writing this, all after using the device moderately at home. The result? 50% remaining at 4PM with an estimated 6 hours remaining.
As I have already mentioned, using an unofficial port of an already unofficial firmware can be tricky and carries a certain level of risk. Before installing anything make sure you make a full backup of your device so you can revert back if anything goes wrong. On Samsung devices you’ll also want to back up the EFS file as in ultra rare situations the EFS file is lost, leaving your device unable to connect to a mobile network.
If you are on a Lollipop port and an update is made available, make sure you keep the zip of the version you are already using as new builds can sometimes introduce new issues and so you may want to flash back to an earlier one if that happens.
My last piece of advice is probably the easiest to follow. Once you have Lollipop downloaded and working: HAVE FUN!
If you have any questions please feel free to drop them in the comments section.