I got 99 technical problems

I have an aging Samsung Galaxy SII that I bought a couple years ago. Physically it’s still in good condition, but for the past several months its performance has been terrible. I don’t want to drop $500-700 on a new phone right now, so I’ve been trying to figure out whether the performance problems have a solution. This has been an epic time sink, probably costing me the $500-700 in time that I didn’t want to spend in cash, easily.

To recap:

A few months ago, the phone started getting really slow and laggy, and would lock up and need a hard reboot or would sometimes reboot itself spontaneously. This came on gradually, and got worse over time. It was particularly aggravating when attempting to use the phone as a GPS.

Then, one day the phone started pulling down updates for various apps, and informed me that there was no room on the internal SD memory, so no more updates could be installed. I have a 32 GB external SD which is where most of my downloaded apps reside, so it was baffling to me why my internal memory would be full, so I investigated.

Somehow or other, I discovered an app called Clean Master, which found a ton of junk on my phone and cleared it out. Mostly this was cache files, some outdated .apk’s, etc. After running Clean Master I freed up something like 1.3 GB of data from the 2GB internal SD, and the phone not only could take updates again, it became fast and responsive again, and stable, and felt like a new phone.

Unfortunately this lasted only a couple of days, and then went back to being slow and laggy again. Not as bad as before I ran Clean Master the first time, but still quite bad. I’d just run Clean Master again, and it would seem to help, although it didn’t seem to make as dramatic a difference on subsequent runnings, and needed to be run several times a day, every time the phone got slow. So it didn’t seem to cure the problem, although it was capable of treating the symptoms and allow me to manage the problem.

Then one day I got a notification from the Lookout Security app that came bundled with my phone, warning me that there was an unpatched vulnerability in the default browser on my phone, and to uprgrade the browser I would need to be running Android 4.2 or later. T-Mobile has never released a newer firmware update than 4.0 for the Galaxy S2, so I had no official support options.

I could have switched from the default browser app to Chrome or Firefox, but I preferred the default app because of its font sizing and zoom made it easiest to read web pages with. But given all the problems I was having with the phone, and that my phone is already rooted, I decided to try out an unofficial firmware for the first time.

Not knowing much about this, I did a little googling and stumbled my way through the process. It wasn’t too bad, although I did end up getting stuck in a reboot loop which took a couple hours of troubleshooting to overcome.

Next, I had problems logging into my google account on the phone, so I couldn’t access My Apps and get them installed for a bit. I eventually figured out what was causing that problem and fixed it, and was able to start downloading all the apps that I’d installed under the previous firmware.

Most of those apps came down, but there were a couple that were missing, two of which were apps that I use the most: Simple.Facebook and the default browser. I figured the default browser might not be available on the new firmware, since it was a baked-in app on the stock firmware. I can’t find Simple.Facebook in the Play store, so I guess it must have been discontinued. I replaced it with a similar app, Tinfoil for Facebook, which seems to be an acceptable alternative and works maybe even a bit better than Simple.Facebook did. And the alarm clock app that I’d been using on the old firmware also is nowhere to be found in My Apps. I gather that when an app is pulled from the Play store, it just disappears from My Apps, although remains installed on the device. LiquidSmooth has its own alarm clock app, which has equivalent functions, so it’s not as big of a deal.

Overall I liked the new firmware, it seems to run fine on my phone and is nice and fast, and the LiquidSmooth people did a good job creating it. But I still have a few problems, some of them quite major.

  1. ACR Call Recorder doesn’t seem to work now, leaving me without a call recorder. Call recording is an extremely useful feature to have when dealing with companies who are not always competent or honest, or someone who is harassing or threatening you.
  2. Launcher shortcuts disappear from home screen after a reboot. At first when I started researching I thought this was a problem with the Google Now Launcher, but it seems to be a problem with any launcher I’ve tried so far. This is a major annoyance.
  3. Battery life has been horrible. I’m starting to dive deep into this because I didn’t know that much about it. I’ve always felt like the S2 drains battery at far too fast a rate, but since the switching to LiquidSmooth it’s been unbelievably bad. If I’m actually using the phone, it seems to drain about 25-35%/hr. Even just a few minutes of use will drain 10% in almost no time at all. Idling off battery it’s like 10%/hr. I am chained to power outlets. I disable everything I can when I don’t need it, and it doesn’t help. I run apps that supposedly help you save battery, and it doesn’t help. A friend of mine who is working on a book on this subject sent me some information, so maybe I’ll figure a few things out.
Updated: 2014-Nov-22 — 3:40 am

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