Replacing your Android phone OS
If you have one of the Android-based smart phones then you might not be getting most out it. That's because the distribution of Android that it comes pre-installed with is unnecessarily is bloated and crippled at the same time. You have the choice of installing a lighter and more capable distribution of Android on it. There is a thriving community of developers who are working to give you several such distributions at http://www.xda-developers.com/.
Rather than fully describing how to do it in step-by-step instructions (you can search for your device's specific method on http://www.xda-developers.com/ forums), let me explain the concepts and terms.
- Custom ROMs - Your phone has an OS on it. It is stored on flash ROM (writable solid state memory, kind of a like a hard-disk partition). A custom ROM is an alternative distribution of the OS (Android or other) as an installable image file.
- Boot loader - A program installed on your phone that the phone's computer executes as the very first program - even before it loads the OS. This program, called boot loader, loads and runs the actual OS. The bootloader is also the first layer of security on your device.
- Unlocked boot loader - The boot loader that comes pre-installed on most phones is "locked" - meaning it doesn't let you install and boot other OS's. In order to replace your phone's OS, you will need to unlock and replace the boot loader.
- Recovery - Smart phones have a special partition called "recovery" which let you restore the phone's data, or OS to a previous (or another) state. You will have to replace your recovery program as well so that you can install a new OS on your phone. Popular recoveries are Clockwork Mod (CWM) or TWRP.
More to come ...
Please leave a comment if this was helpful, or if some info is incorrect.