Careful with custom Android ROMs, you could be the problem

Careful with custom Android ROMs, you could be the problem

Summary: One of the reasons many smartphone enthusiasts pick up an Android smartphone is to tweak it with custom ROMs. However, you should also be careful or you could make things worse like I did.

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I purchased a GSM Galaxy Nexus back in December and quickly decided it was the best Android smartphone I have ever owned. A couple weeks after owning it I decided to root it and install custom ROMs so I could use Google Wallet and optimize the phone for my particular needs. Over the past month I went back to using Windows Phone as my primary mainly because the Galaxy Nexus just wasn't able to perform reliably as a mobile phone with call not going through or dropping constantly. It turns out that it was MY fault for this and the Galaxy Nexus is back in my pocket.

In our last MobileTechRoundup podcast I mentioned to Kevin that my Galaxy Nexus kept dropping the cellular connection so I had to take my SIM out to make some critical calls in January. He has been extremely pleased with his Nexus and also using it on T-Mobile, but he is using a data only SIM and making calls via VoIP. He questioned me on what version of the radio software I was running and it turns out I had an older version loaded with the ROM I was running. I never paid attention to the radio version of the ROM and did not select the updated version (the number scheme is not obvious) when I had the ROM baked with Paul O'Brien's MoDaCo Custom ROM.

After our podcast this weekend, I went back in and selected a later version of the radio software and installed the new ROM to my Galaxy Nexus. I am pleased to say this updated radio did indeed solve my flaky cellular connection and I am now very satisfied with my $740+ purchase. I actually almost sold off my Galaxy Nexus in pure frustration and feel a bit like an idiot for not thinking about the radio version in the ROM. Using custom ROMs is a great benefit of the Android platform for those who like to tweak their devices, but it turns out you also should pay attention to the details and use caution when messing around with the software and firmware of your devices.

I also wanted to say sorry to Samsung for some of my Tweets posted in frustration since my cellular connection issues were all my fault and not Samsung's. The Galaxy Nexus is a gorgeous device and my T-Mobile SIM is now back sharing duties with it and the HTC Radar 4G.

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Topics: Samsung, Android, Google, Mobile OS, Smartphones

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20 comments
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  • RE: Careful with custom Android ROMs, you could be the problem

    You shouldn't be allowed to own an Android device: "You're Not Worthy!"
    cj100570
  • RE: Careful with custom Android ROMs, you could be the problem

    Agree with the above poster. If you don't understand the basics of how the baseband works on one of the simplest phones to root; then you should have done some more reading before hand. That's kinda noobish. Plus if you are dropping 3G that often the first thing I WOULD blame is the rom. lolz
    deftdrummer
  • RE: Careful with custom Android ROMs, you could be the problem

    It isn't for the faint of heart and you can easily brick your phone if you're not careful... Of Course, the Samsung Devices are largely considered Unbrickable.

    Now, with all that said, if you didn't have a connection problem before you stuck the custom ROM on it, then why would you assume it was Samsung that caused it?
    slickjim
    • Calls were not really made before

      @Peter Perry I usually do not make many phone calls and thus before I started messing with custom ROMs I never made enough to notice anything. It likely had the same issues before I started messing around since I didn't update the radio and the radio it launched with was suspect and updated with an official Samsung update.

      I did have a need for many calls in January, which is when I noticed the problem. Thankfully, it was able to be fixed by updating the radio. I understand this updated radio is also part of the latest Samsung update so it likely was a Samsung issue.
      palmsolo (aka Matthew Miller)
      • Thats one reason "Its not for the faint of heart"

        @palmsolo (aka Matthew Miller) You didn't get the update from Samsung. When you stick with the carrier's version of Android, they are responsible for support and will push you updates automatically. With a custom ROM you become your own support department. If you are comfortable with that then a custom ROM may be the right thing for you. If you are not comfortable with it, well...you have already seen the pitfall.
        cornpie
  • There is generally enough redundancy in most Android devices

    to make bricking practically impossible, so long as you know what you are doing. The key is you have to know what you are doing. There are usually three different ROMs you can boot depending on you you press your hardware keys when the phone is off, and as long as you do not replace more than one of them at a time, you should be able to boot into one of the other two. And even if you make the rookie mistake of trying to replace two at a time and something goes wrong, you still have one working to fix your mistakes.

    Also, if you plan to root, make sure you buy a device that can be rooted beforehand. That little bit of research before you buy saves many a headache. And keep in mind that some devices are good enough to not need to be rooted, so don't root for the sake of rooting.

    As far as how well the ROMs work, well that's the downside of choice. There are good choices and there are bad choices, and if you are not careful you may make a bad choice.
    Michael Kelly
    • RE: Careful with custom Android ROMs, you could be the problem

      @Michael Kelly
      "There is generally enough redundancy in most Android devices to make bricking practically impossible"

      Except the bootloader, of course.

      He managed to put on the custom rom but still overlook the baseband issue which makes me think he didn't know what he was doing.
      And quite frankly, he should have direct his question to modaco.com /XDA before venting to samsung
      Samic
  • Can't be worse than stock POS Droid X I have

    Constant reboots, sluggishness, and generally poor experience.

    Like they say, Current Android Users are tomorrow's iPhone customers. And I can't wait to get back to a reliable device when the iPhone 5 ships. Then I can throw this POS out of the car onto the highway.
    itguy10
    • RE: Careful with custom Android ROMs, you could be the problem

      @itguy10

      I have the same issues with my Droid X, but I will be switching to WP7 instead.
      bigjon-x64
    • RE: Careful with custom Android ROMs, you could be the problem

      @itguy10
      Trolling much?

      Who exactly is the "They"? I've googled "Current Android Users are tomorrow's iPhone customers" and 0 result comes up.

      The reason why I went from iPhone to Android was Apple made iPhone 3G oh so "Constant reboots, sluggishness, and generally poor experience" with iOS4 updates I was forced to go to SGS. Couldn't be more happy after that.
      Samic
      • RE: Careful with custom Android ROMs, you could be the problem

        @Samic I might be one of them... I have an iPhone 4 for my personal phone but replaced my work Blackberry with a Samsung Fascinate and I'm honestly considering going back. I've tried 3 different ROMS and the 3G connection is the absolute flakiest I've seen on any device I've owned. I'm trying to decide if I want to try another Android based device, an iPhone 5, or go back to Blackberry when my contract on this POS is done. I'd put WP7 on that list but the work order system we use is not currently compatible with WP7 and may not be ever.
        athynz
  • RE: Careful with custom Android ROMs, you could be the problem

    Are you sure that the radio was baked into the ROM? If you rooted and loaded a custom ROM early, you would have missed out on any radio updates delivered via the normal OTA process unless you specifically flashed those radios manually, the OTA process obviously being disabled on your phone so as not to wreck havoc with superuser and your ROM in general. I could be wrong about the GN, but with most phones the radio is a separate piece of firmware not associated with the "ROM" at all. A data wipe/factory reset doesn't touch your radio, nor does wiping /system, nor should any custom ROM you might flash. With every device I've had radio updates are flashed sparingly and extra-carefully via bootloader. <br>tl;dr: I don't believe it's the ROM's fault if you failed to manually update your radio(aka baseband version) after rooting your device.
    burnmatoaka
    • RE: Careful with custom Android ROMs, you could be the problem

      @burnmatoaka
      I think the custom rom that Matthew installed indeed have baseband rom baked in. The page that he was referring to has a ROM kitchen at the bottom of the page and it includes different baseband images.

      http://android.modaco.com/topic/348909-20-jan-ir10-gsm-modaco-custom-rom-for-the-galaxy-nexus/
      Samic
      • RE: Careful with custom Android ROMs, you could be the problem

        @Samic Ooop, sorry OP/Matthew, I stand corrected. Maybe it's not as scary to flash radios willy-nilly on the GN like it is on my htc Inc, but I would much prefer my ROM leave me to flash radios on my own damn terms, with verifiable md5 checksums, etc. That's pretty cool if even a bad radio flash doesn't brick a Samsung phone. I do plan on getting a GN as soon as I can upgrade, so I ought learn about these things in the meantime. (It does appear from the kitchen's prepared "menu" that flashing a radio w/ the ROM is entirely optional... so maybe he just didn't upgrade, or flashed the wrong one, or the ROM version flashed had an old baseband baked in, no options... who knows???)
        burnmatoaka
  • these Android posters are some elitist people.

    The author lived and learned. Why bash and say hes not worthy.
    whomeyeayou
    • You Beat Me To It

      @whomeyeayou@...I was somewhat taken aback at the cold, authoritarian, arrogant, insular harshness of most posters here. Like they never made a classic boo boo in their life.
      The thing is, M.M. made a basic oversight, especially so as he is a Tech type.
      But, Big Man he is to 'fess up and come clean; rare and refreshing. That is newsworthy/noteworthy in itself.
      PreachJohn
    • RE: Careful with custom Android ROMs, you could be the problem

      @whomeyeayou@...
      So based on the responses, I guess a technical aptitude test should be a pre-req to purchasing an Android device. Go ahead then and watch the Android marketshare drop to single digits if that's what you ("you" as in the critics of the author) want.
      TroyMcClure
  • RE: Careful with custom Android ROMs, you could be the problem

    The title should have been: "I'm sorry Samsung, it was my fault!"
    JerryScript
    • RE: Careful with custom Android ROMs, you could be the problem

      @JerryScript Heh, that would've been too personal, and it would've been directed toward Samsung only, and not as a sort of warning or advice given to the general public. But you're probably being sarcastic anyway.
      DarkKenshinX
  • RE: Careful with custom Android ROMs, you could be the problem

    So...... after you broke it..... you were going to sell it to some unsuspecting sucker? Not very kosher if you ask me.
    bonafide49