Friday, May 9, 2014

Custom ROM installation on Xperia ZR

I've always been intrigued by Android. The sheer scale at which it commands the smart phone arena is fascinating . ( I know there is iOS on the other end by it is completely oblivious to me ) . My first smart phone was an android which I brought in 2011. It was a Sony Xperia X10minipro which I brought  after an impromptu decision. I loved my new phone  and was very much attached . It had best of both the worlds, Great OS and of course a sliding keyboard. Two years on, my second phone also happens  to be a Sony, this time with a bigger screen . I have also always admired Sony's tremendous support to the developer community, and was quite happy with their android upgrade cycle for the model which I use. Kit Kat OTA is right around the corner, but I did not want to wait any long . So I took the plunge once again in XDA, and after a lot of reading and careful precautions, was able to install a custom rom successfully . I wanted to share this article because I did not see anyone doing so for the ZR models. So here goes....

First and foremost, don't even think of installing one if you have no idea about any of the technical jargons in Android/XDA community, just forget it. You will void your warranty and may even permanently brick your device for good. For hobbyists though, a good place to begin would be the ZR board at the XDA forums .

Before thinking to start the process ,there are some essential downloads which are MUST if you ever want to come back to stock rom.

1) Sony flash tool             By Androxyde
2)Pre-rooted Sony Rom.  This is the easiest way than to flash older Roms and try rooting.
3) Backup TA tool .         Very important that you use this before unlocking your boot loader
4)Doomlord's root kit       For people who are still on 4.1.2 where perf_event exploit has not been patched
5)Android sdk tools          From Google
6)Flash tool driver pack    From DoomLord
6)Lastly, a strong heart which should be ready to face any eventuality, be it a bricked device or a buggy custom Rom

1) This is what I did. Downloaded an older android version for my phone with build number  10.1.1.A.1.310 . It is available for download from this website. Mind you this is only for Indian model, there are other versions available. Please check this link for the same

2) The second thing to do, is to flash the older or pre-rooted Rom using the flash tool which we downloaded earlier. Make sure that you copy the ftf file to firmwares  folder of the tool. The default directory path would be C:\Flashtool\firmwares .  For instructions refer to this link

3) Now that you have an older Rom, you need to root it and the best way to do so is to use doom lord's easy rooting toolkit. Make sure that usb debugging and "unknown" sources are enables in developer options. Detailed instructions are being  by doomlord in the following link

4) After rooting the device, you may have to unlock your boot loader to install a custom Rom. The requirements vary sometimes, and some stock based Roms may work on a locked bootloader too. But, if you want to try something completely different like Cyanogenmod, Carbon or Free Xperia which are based on AOSP, the only option is to unlock your bootloader. Please make sure that you backup your TA partition not once but n several times - to be on the safer side before starting the procedure. There is a video tutorial here which will guide you through the process. Also, there are a number of FAQ's which I would suggest you go through before proceeding with the process.

5) After finishing with the unlock - the last thing to do is to flash a custom Rom, there are a couple of them on the ZR board which you can go through. Make sure you read all the bugs which are present in the current Rom before trying to install it.

I selected Carbon Rom from the lot, as I've been a fan of them since last year. My nexus 7 has a carbon rom too --  so after going through all the features, it was the best option for me. The interface is very close and resembles stock version of Kit Kat. However, being a custom rom, there are many additions thrown in . I am sharing some of the screenshots here for a better understanding
The first one is a stock Kit Kat experience which includes the translucent menu bar. I also notice that the capacitive buttons are also transparent when opening up a book or a video allowing to enjoy a full screen - immersive experience

The second is the presence of a privacy guard which allows us to control the data which is being shared with 3rd party apps. (This is not possible with the system apps though)

The third is an extensive set of customisation settings in the Rom. I've not seen so many in Cyanogenmod .

There might be many more, but I've not tinkered with them as of now. Happy with what I have finally. There are also certain measures which I took to prevent anything going wrong during this process. They were

1)Disabling blue stacks service while performing rooting mechanism or TA backup method. If you don't do this you will get a message saying that there is more than one emulator installed on the system. Not good eh?

2)Disable Antivirus protection. Recommended

3) If you are using windows 8,you will have to disable driver enforcement

4) Backup the TA partition its a must. Also, make a nandroid backup - just in case

5) Make sure your battery is charged to at least 80% 

I hope my article helps other customers of Xperia ZR who are planning to go through this process. It was a big headache for me and was not so easy to achieve. All the credits go to the respective developers at XDA forums. I have only tried to bring together all the tools and practises for the benefit of others.