How I modded my aging smartphone into a proper ereading platform

IMG_20140731_150728Following Juli Monroe’s illuminating article on how she installed Cyanogen Mod 11 on her Nook HD, I thought I’d share how I pulled off a similar trick on my aging ZTE Skate, an older model Chinese-manufactured phone which, although robust and built with an attractive 4.5″ screen, was fast being left in the dust by the ever more bloated ereaders and other apps of the latest Android generation. And in the case of the Skate, the problem was made worse by the machine’s niggardly internal memory of 512 MB – only some 200MB of which was available for apps.

To squeeze some more internal memory (and useful life) out of the phone, I first, of course, rooted it with the aid of ClockWork Mod, and installed a variant of Cyanogen Mod 10 called Paranoid Jelly, replacing the original Android OS, v2.3 (Gingerbread) with a version of Android Jelly Bean. Then I used a TPT template posted by the modder Amphoras to repartition the machine’s internal memory and reduce the generous cache allocation from 35MB to just 2MB, requiring a reinstall of Paranoid Jelly. The final result was a machine with 200MB system memory, 2MB cache, and still only 238MB for data.

I then used a step-by-step guide by Prashant Sharma to increasing the internal memory on a ZTE Skate. With this, I reformatted the phone’s SD card to create a partition for installing and running downloaded apps. Afterwards, I downloaded the app Link2SD, which helps users to move apps to the SD card and generally reduce their memory footprint on the phone. Following the rest of Prashant Sharma’s guide on how to use Link2SD, I was able to move bulky apps (like Amazon’s Kindle client) and even system apps like Google Play Services onto the SD card, where they ran more or less as normal.

The result? I have a phone that can handle the latest update to the Kindle app without the endless infuriating “insufficient memory” warning I used to get on the unmodded phone when trying to install or upgrade large apps. I also am even able to convert and move my system apps to the SD card with Link2SD, or even delete unwanted ones entirely. And instead of carrying around my Kindle reader, I’ve gone back to reading books on my phone again.

There are some bugs. The machine crashes periodically, and if I had known just how efficient Link2SD is in allowing extra memory add-on, I probably wouldn’t have bothered to repartition the phone and push its cache size so far down. But overall, I’m very satisfied with the result.

Of course, I could have bought myself a newer, smarter phone and saved myself all the trouble. But what self-respecting Scot likes to spend money needlessly? And where would I get that satisfaction of doing it yourself? Lame, maybe, but an added pleasure for my ebook reading …

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1 Comment on How I modded my aging smartphone into a proper ereading platform

  1. Ah, you’re hacker Paul. I didn’t know that. Years ago, I tried to keep up with the really technical stuff and even wrote some software for Kaypros that others found useful. Not now.

    There’s another option that came to me recently. At times a cell phone company gets ticked off at a customer, perhaps for not finishing out their contract and perhaps for a more petty reason. They can put a cell phone on a banned list based on the phone’s IMEI code. Even when that phone gets passed on to another and often innocent owner, the company will often refuse end that IMEI block. They’re not into winning awards for kindness.

    If don’t need a smartphone that’s a phone, you might look into buying one with a blocked IMEI. Don’t buy a stolen one, but there are other reasons for that block that matter less. If so, you can get one at a fraction of the cost of new phone or a cellular contract.

    The same is true of other issues. Quite a few people see their phones as fashion accessories and thus of limited value when scratched. Often they’ll sell them cheaply. I got my current 3GS at half the going rate because its owner felt so bad about the scratches. I could care less.

    Now, with that 3GS rapidly aging into senility and beginning to behave oddly, I’m hoping for a similar deal on a iPhone 5 when the iPhone 6 comes out. That larger and sharper screen should make it excellent for reading.

    You’re Scottish huh? I’m mostly Welch and English with a mixture of roving Viking (so the genetics say). But based on my attitudes, there may be a wee bit of the Scotch there, at least culturally. Waste not, want not and all that.

    –Mike

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