Configure Sony Android
This is my checklist for basic setup of a new Android phone. Depending on how you like your phone configured you may wish to create your own list.
This checklist starts when an Android phone first boots after having its data partition wiped – this is usually after:
- The phone has had a factory reset
- The phone has had it’s firmware completely re-flashed
- The data partition has been wiped in a recovery environment such as CWM or TWRP.
My Philosophy on configuring Android
I setup mobile phones to be as independent as practical from online services, including having no accounts at all setup on the phones (Google, Facebook, Twitter etc) and certainly no data being transmitted to these organisations where I can prevent it. This increases security, performance and the reliability of the phone. I install whatever apps I need either locally or via my website. On phones to which I’ve flashed AOSP (Open Android), I don’t install Gapps, so there is no Play Store on the phone.
There are many low end Android phones that can quite happily do what they’re designed to (be fast and responsive as mobile phones) if they weren’t clogged up with pre-installed apps and constant updates, which go into the usr partition and also chew up data. Eliminate Play Store and your phone will be faster and your data and battery last longer. Note however that some apps require Google Play services, so I keep Google Play services but not the store.
This guide is based on Sony stock firmware because my personal preference is that I like the niceties of Sony’s interface and some of its apps over Open Android but could happily remove about 80% of what Sony pre-loads on its phones. So everything below is switching off the leaks (we can reach) in Sony firmware.
On other brands of phone where I don’t think the vendor’s software adds a lot of value, I tend to favour AOSP Android or AEX (AOSP Extended) with 3rd party themes to liven it up a little.
Having said all this, whether you’re happy with the firmware on your phone or not, or if you like the conveniences of a Google account on your phone or not, a checklist like this will likely still be helpful to you. Simply enable the features that work for you.
First Boot of Android and Setup Wizard
After an Android first boots on an empty data partition it will usually run a setup wizard. What’s in the wizard varies according to the type of phone and how the vendor has set it up but will generally include configuration settings such as downloading settings for your phone network, setting up wireless network, adding a Google (or other) account.
Usually I run through this wizard acknowledging only what I have to and disabling all services not strictly necessary for the phone, including (but not limited to) location services, settings that send information back to Google or other vendors. I don’t add any Google accounts (ever) or sign up any services that aren’t required to run the phone. I usually say “yes” to downloading Internet settings for your phone provider as finding where to do this in Android later is sometimes tricky. Downloading Internet settings requires you to have an Internet connection so I usually connect to a wireless network, or use mobile data if I have no wireless access.
Once I get through the wizard and to the Android desktop I do the following:
- Remove all widgets and shortcuts on all screens, including Google search bar, welcome to this, welcome to that, would you like to tap this? etc. If they’re there, I only keep the clock widget, weather widget, Sony Music Player widget and a shortcut to settings.
- Place a clock at the top of the home screen and a shortcut to settings somewhere on the home screen. Add a weather widget and Sony Music Player if you like to whistle while you work.
- Remove all shortcuts from the Android dock (bottom of the display) and replace them with (left to right) – phone, messaging, contacts, camera.
Customise Android Settings
Open Android settings:
- In display – disable Auto-rotate, set Sleep to 2 minutes, Font to large. If you’re able to set Quick Settings (icons in the Notification Panel) then change these to your liking. Select a theme that matches your mood.
- Under Wireless & networks – make sure Bluetooth is off. Under More… disable NFC. Under Mobile Networks, check and set your preferred Network Mode.
On some networks (such as 2 Degrees NZ), the most reliable setting is WCDMA, sometimes called 3G. If you select LTE or 4G your phone will cling to that even when network signal strength is low and outside city centres 2 Degrees’ LTE strength tends to be low. Obviously LTE is much faster when signal strength is up, so your call which you choose.
- Check Access Point Names – there should be at least one APN configured if your Internet settings downloaded correctly.
- If you had an APN configured under Internet settings then you can now switch off your Internet connection (Wi-fi or mobile data) unless you wish to keep it up.
- Under Sound – set Phone ringtone to Breeze, Xperia or Themos. Change Notification sound to Notification, Signature or Ta da. Set Alarm sound to Alarm. I generally set my email to Wah wah, Whisper or eXemplify.
- Under Location services – disable everything, unless you like to be tracked.
- Under Security –
- Setup a screen lock you can remember. I set automatic lock to 15 seconds after sleep (my preference, you might like the default 5s).
- Enable installs from Unknown sources.
- Disable Verify apps.
- Under Language / Input – check your language is in your locale (NZ in my case) so that spell checking is relevant to you.
- Under Backup and Reset – make sure nothing is being backed up.
- If there is an Auto-sync setting, switch it off
- Under About Phone – disable automatic updates under Software update and check that preferred updates only occur on Wi-fi. Tap on Build number 7 times to enable Developer options.
- Under Developer options – enable USB debugging.
Connecting to your computer
If you’re going to be connecting this phone to your computer to install apps or run the MyPhoneExplorer app (highly recommended for backing up and restoring contacts, text messages etc), then we should test this now.
- Make sure you have ADB drivers installed on your computer for this phone (Windows 10 comes with generic ADB drivers that work with most phones).
- Plug a USB cable into your computer and then your phone.
- If you have MyPhoneExplorer on your computer then run this up and click on the monitor (under Other). This will prompt the phone for status.
- If your ADB drivers work, the phone will now present a window asking you to confirm the RSA key of your computer. Tap Always allow from this computer and OK to confirm the connection between the phone and your computer.
- If your phone doesn’t have a File Manager built in (yeah, really – some phones come shipped like that) then push a File Manager onto the phone with MyPhoneExplorer (under Files\Applications). If you don’t have ADB you can download a File Manager from the Play store or https://kell.co.nz/downloads
Why disable automatic updates?
I don’t believe in enabling automatic updates on an Android (or any other) phone. If it’s important to you that your phone retains its performance, functionality and reliability, you’re usually best to switch automatic updates off.
Updates to software on your phone do not generally go into the system partition, where Android (or iOS) lives. They’re downloaded into the user partition, the same place as your other apps. I’ve seen a brand new budget phone become unusable within 1 month of purchase because automatic updates from the Play Store had filled the user partition and the preloaded/updated apps used so much memory that the phone would take 5-10 seconds to answer a call. We reset and used the same phone with automatic updates disabled (and no Google account loaded) and it worked reliably for the year we had it with no decrease in performance or functionality.
If you absolutely need to update a specific piece of software in order to use (or continue to use) an app that you need, then selectively update that software, just don’t let everything else update that you don’t need.
Where to disable automatic updates
Disabling automatic updates on an Android phone is not intuitive or easy. On my Sony phones I need to disable updates in 3 places and check them periodically to ensure that the settings haven’t reverted to auto-updates.
The 3 places that I disable updates on my Sony Android phones are:
- In Play Store app, with no account loaded. Tap the overflow icon (3 dots) then Settings. Set Auto-update apps to Don’t auto-update apps.
- Under About Phone \ Software update. Tap the overflow icon (3 dots) then Settings. Set Auto download system updates and Auto-update apps off.
- In What’s New app (Sony only?). Tap the action bar (3 bars) then Settings. Set Auto-update apps to Off.
Next thing is to add standard apps to the phone. I get these from https://kell.co.nz/downloads.