Adventures with Android: a few “tweaks” on my Samsung Galaxy S3 Mini

This content is 10 years old. I don't routinely update old blog posts as they are only intended to represent a view at a particular point in time. Please be warned that the information here may be out of date.

I’ve been using an Android phone for work for a few months now (a Samsung Galaxy S3 Mini: GT-I8190N) and, on the whole, I’ve been pretty disappointed.  The user interface is clunky (and downright confusing at times) and the battery life terrible – but I’m also more than a little aware that there is a certain amount of OEM- or carrier-supplied software on the device and that a “stock” Android phone might be a little more “polished”.

I started to look into wiping the device and starting afresh but, after consulting with Dan Delaney (@dan_delaney), who knows more about this stuff than I do,  I decided not to bother as it looked as though I’d need to root the device – something I’d be happy to do on my own phone but am not permitted to do on a company device that’s connected to our corporate infrastructure.

Even so, I’ve made a few tweaks over recent months that have slightly improved the experience, and I thought I’d make a note of them here…

First up, battery life.  Three things that have made an enormous difference:

  1. Firstly, I dropped the polling interval for email in the settings for TouchDown (the app used for ActiveSync connectivity to my Exchange email and calendar).  Instead of push email, I poll every 10 minutes, or every hour during off-peak times (I have peak times set as 07:00-19:00 Monday to Friday).
  2. Secondly, I removed the native ActiveSync connection to my Office 365 account as, between them, Exchange Services and TouchDown were drinking a lot of juice.
  3. Finally, I installed the free Battery Doctor app, which not only intelligently charges the device but also watches out for apps that are draining the battery and gives me the ability to disable them.

Another change I made was to install the Android 4.4 Kit Kat Launcher. I may be stuck with Android “Jelly Bean” 4.1.2 but I can at least have some of the latest bits – although I now have such an odd collection of widgets that it looks a complete mess (sorry guys, Microsoft has tiles nailed in Windows/Windows Phone).  The process for installing the Kit Kat parts is described on WonderHowTo and I have Google Play Services, Google Search and the Google Launcher all running happily now.

Still bogged down with Samsung and other bundled software, I decided to follow Jon Spriggs (@jontheniceguy)’s guide to stripping a UK O2 Samsung Galaxy SIII Mini down to the bare essentials.  Jon’s guide is based on a “clean” device and mine has a load of extra apps I’ve installed, plus the customisations I mentioned earlier but I used it to disable some of the built in apps that I don’t use (if you can’t disable them, uninstall updates first, then the disable option should be available).  Unfortunately, I can’t see how to hide the unused apps, now that I have changed the launcher!

My Android adventure continues… but it’s still very tempting to wipe the device and start again!

5 thoughts on “Adventures with Android: a few “tweaks” on my Samsung Galaxy S3 Mini

  1. Android with the OEM/carrier gubbins is almost always a complete pig. Think: “laptop from PC World with all the preinstalled unneccessary cruft, vs the same laptop with a clean OS install”. Stock Android is the way to go if you can, but as you say most handsets require rooting first. AFAIK the rooting business is only really needed to get the altered OS bootloader in place. Once that’s done you should be able to un-root again. Don’t take my word for this though as I’ve never tried un-rooting. Regarding battery life, there is a slightly more aggressive app called JuiceDefender which does stuff like kill your handset’s 3G radio when not in use (re-enabling it at periodic intervals to poll for email etc.). I’ve had a fair amount of success with it, almost doubling my battery life, but it’s not perfect and you do sometimes find yourself prodding the phone in and out of flight mode just to get it to pick up 3G again. As with all these things YMMV.

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