Recently it has dismayed me how, across the Android Community, people seem to feel that it's necessary to run a "Custom ROM" in order to get improvements and changes to your ROM. Of course, some of you know it's possible to modify the APK files directly to change things, but these changes need to be done every time your base ROM is updated. Once Samsung starts leaking out updates to 4.2 like a sieve, you guys will be all over them, needing to update your patches and tweaks every time.
Anyway, seeing this displeases me, as it encourages people to see "Custom ROMs" as a commodity, and something you consume. In essence, users were getting their "fix" of tweaks from their "chef", but not learning how to do it themselves, nor realising their beloved chef isn't doing anything magical. In fact, their chef is likely decompiling the applications, and using baksmali/apktool to take apart the app, hard-code in their changes, then rebuild it. This method has worked well for 3 years, but it's been in need of an update for some time.
Then I saw this thread by rovo89. That man deserves a beer for every Android user there is, for his work on the Xposed Framework! His and Tungstwenty's work on this has made it possible to modify the core Android system, without doing any actual modifying of applications.
OK... Why are you telling me this?
This invention seems to have pretty much gone unnoticed by the world. The reasons this is vastly superior to any other way of making modifications to apps and the system are:
- Your modifications are not tied into a single version of the APK or app or framework. If the ROM is updated, the patch should still work perfectly on the new version of the app (this doesn't necessarily apply across major updates like 4.1 to 4.2, but should be fine across 4.1.0 to 4.1.2 style changes).
- You are not actually modifying any files on the phone! If something goes wrong, you can just disable the support for the framework, and the tweaks will do nothing. As such, it's easier to get a working phone if something dies - in fact there is a ZIP placed on your SD for this very purpose. Just flash it in CWM and it will disable the framework.
- As no actual files are being modified, it doesn't matter if your ROM is odexed, deodexed, or a bit of both (ie. certain apps deodexed, but frameworks odexed). With this, there is no reason to run a deodexed ROM, since you can change pretty much everything you want to without touching the raw files. So leave them as odex files and you'll not have any problems. Bear in mind we deodex to allow easier customisation, odexed is actually slightly faster, and removes the majority of the dexopt process on first boot.
- No application signatures are modified, as the apps are not touched, so if you were to use this to modify an app like Maps or Gmail, you won't get issues when trying to update to a new version of the app via the market.
The only way this can succeed is for you to try it. I usually run a "custom ROM" on my phone. For the first time ever, I've been using a stock ROM for a significant period of time. On the Note2 in particular, Samsung is really getting good at this. But they're not perfect. And as such, I started to look at using this to perfect their work.
When you run a custom ROM, look at what you're getting, and ask yourself why it doesn't use this method. I've only made one little modification so far, but it's one that annoys me hugely! The blooming SMS -> MMS conversion when you try to write any form of prose in a text message. I cannot stand the limitation of SMS to 160 characters, so the ability to chain together messages is a godsend to me. Unfortunately though, Google and Samsung seem to like to restrict you to 3 SMS messages worth of text before converting to an MMS message. Which is wonderful, except when you have totally unlimited SMS, but pay for MMS. As such, I was finding my ability to communicate in my usual verbose way somewhat hindered by the messaging app.
Alas that is no longer an issue. If you want to get started, here's how.
OK... How do I use this?
- Download and install the APK file from this post - http://forum.xda-developers.com/show....php?t=1574401. I have tested it on the N7100, it works fine. Run it, install the framework, grant it root (yes, this requires root!), and reboot. I have mirrored the APK below just in case of issues.
- Download and install the APK modification you want from http://www.villainrom.co.uk/forum/microdownloads/
- When you get a notification about enabling the modification (after the APK is installed), tap that notification, and enable the plugin by ticking the box.
- Reboot your phone
- Go test your modification
If you have any issues with this, please paste the contents of /data/xposed/debug.log on a pastebin site or in [code] tags.
How can I make my own modifications like this?
Will post this a bit later, along with the source of this plugin.
You can find the sources for Xposed Framework at https://github.com/rovo89
You can find the sources for all Xposed modifications I have made so far on Github:
Disable SMS -> MMS Conversion
Disable 100% Battery Notification
Enable Call Recording
Enable scrolling wallpaper in stock launcher
Make text in email app message list clearer to read (lighter) on the black background