A Custom Kernel Can Help You Eke Out Every Ounce Of Performance
Modern Android devices have more than enough power to handle any task thrown at them, normally with capability to spare. The one exception to this however is games, which – as in the PC world – have a tendency to work available processing and graphics hardware to the limit to provide the best possible experience.
Android devices are built much like cars, they are designed for stable, safe everyday use by general buyers. In the same way that cars can have software upgrades – ‘chips’ – to push the hardware that little bit further, phones and tablets can do the same with a customised kernel. Custom kernels consist of fixes, tweaks and extra functionality. The process for using a custom kernel is very similar to using a custom ROM and carries the same caveats – flashing a kernel will likely invalidate your warranty.
1. Check Availability
Custom kernels are reliant on three factors. The first is a public release of the source code. The second is an unlocked bootloader to allow flashing. The third is an active developer community that is creating the custom kernels. Checking your device area at XDA-Developers is a good place to look for kernel activity.
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2. Unlock Your Bootloader
After you have confirmed that a custom kernel is available for your device, you need to ensure the bootloader is unlocked. The exact process depends on your manufacturer – for HTC devices you need to visit HTCDev.com, Samsung devices come ready to flash and Motorola also has its own unlock site.
3. Ensure You Have A Recovery Plan
Before you start modifying your device you should ensure that you have a way to revert back to stock should things go wrong. This could be in the form of a stock ROM flash (e.g. a RUU for HTC or an Odin flash for Samsung) or with your own backup made using a custom recovery.
4. Flash A Custom Recovery
Now that you have your bootloader unlocked, you should flash a custom recovery. Depending on your device, you may or may not need to use the custom recovery to flash the kernel, but either way it is very useful for creating your own backup. Ensure you pull the backup off your device in case you accidentally wipe!
5. Choose Your Kernel
For the more popular devices, there will likely be a whole host of custom kernels available, offering many different features. The best place to look is the development forum for your device at XDA-Developers – compare features, feedback and update frequency when choosing. Remember, you can try different ones too!
6. Flash The Kernel
The support topic should include flashing instructions. Kernels are often flashed using custom recovery, the Odin app on Samsung devices or the fastboot utility, particularly on Nexus devices. Double check before flashing that the kernel is definitely for your model of device.
7. Check For Companion App
Many kernel developers such as faux123 and franco offer companion apps. These allow you to enable and disable functions as well as tune specific settings for features like voltage and clock speed. These are normally downloaded from the Play store. Prices vary – some are free and some offer more fully featured paid versions.
8. Stay Updated
Custom kernel developers tend to update their kernels frequently with new features, optimizations and fixes. For this reason it’s a good idea to try and stay up to date with the latest version. If you are using a companion application, it may offer an auto-update option, otherwise subscribing to the support topic will help.
Getting the latest information for your android device and application is very important before you do any customization and so I recommend checking forums like XDA Developers and blogs like TheAndroidtips.com for android updates and customization tips for your smartphone.
This article is written by Mark who is a android app developer and a regular contributor on theandroidtips.com blog.