Upgrading the Xoom!

The Xoom is an android tablet developed by Motorola. Motorola used to make android tablets back in 2011, however have since moved their focus onto smartphones. The Xoom was the first tablet to be sold with Android 3.0 Honeycomb, and just a few days ago I recently got one! I got it for about $20, it was heavily used and scratched on the back, but the screen and battery were in good order, which is all that matters in my opinion. I’ll do a longer introduction to it in another post, but my first thoughts of the tablet was that it felt really solid and sturdy – it was a bit more chunky width wise, but it felt nice to hold something that didn’t feel as fragile as the really thin plastic tablets that are popular today. The casing is metal and cool to touch, and really gives it a premium feel.

Motorola’s last android version officially for the Xoom was Ice Cream Sandwich, 4.0.4. However, thanks to the tireless efforts of the teams & individuals at XDA Developers, and the fact that Motorola has not locked their bootloader, or done anything to jeopardize the ability to flash properly, the Xoom has enjoyed support over the years, and access to the latest ROMs, such as KitKat, Lollipop and Marshmallow. Which is sadly unlike the Xoom’s older brother, the Xyboard, whose bootlocker remains locked.


Firstly, this is my first time attempting to do anything more than install the one-click root app on my phone, so these instructions are moreso a reminder to myself, rather than a complete guide to the process. A quick overview of the process is that you will be unlocking your bootloader, flashing a custom recovery, and then from there, flashing a ROM. The ROM I chose was the 4.4 KitKat OmniROM, and it took a few hours, but here’s how I did it:

1.) Turn on your Xoom and find out the exact version. Do this by going to Settings>About Tablet>Model Number. My Xoom had a model number of MZ604 which refers to the wifi version of the Xoom. This is very important as if you flash a ROM that is not meant for your device, it will be bricked! In my case, the codename for the wifi model of the Xoom was ‘wingray’, so that’s the type of ROM I needed to download.

2.) Backup any data on your tablet.

3.) During this entire process, your Xoom must be able to be recognized by your computer, and it must have USB debugging enable. To enable USB debugging, go to Settings>About Tablet>Build Number, and tap on it seven times. Then go to Developer Options>Enable USB Debugging. To make sure your Xoom is recognised by your computer (there should be no need for any manual driver downloading on Windows 7+), go to Settings>Storage>hit the menu icon (3 dots) top right>USB Computer Connection>Select ‘Media Device (MTP)’. Also, please note that you will be rebooting your Xoom a couple of times: sometimes the settings stay, sometimes they don’t. Please ensure that each time your Xoom reboots, you check that USB Debugging and MTP are selected.

4.) The first thing you have to do is unlock the Xoom’s bootloader. There are different ways to do this, the easiest is to install WinDroid (1). Follow the prompts, and select your device as the Xoom. Then, follow the prompts to unlock the bootloader. Do not continue to use the program, it seems to be unable to properly install TWRP on the device. You can try, as I did, and it might work for you. If it doesn’t here’s the other method which I had to find out how to do in step 4.

4.) Download and install the ’15 Second ADB Installer v1.4.3′ (2) It might be the first time you’ve heard of the words ‘ADB’ and ‘Fastboot’. I was really confused as to what these two were, but through research and doing the processes myself, I understand it at a basic level. You know when you hook up your Xoom to your computer, and then you can transfer files over to your Xoom or vice versa. ADB is something like that. ADB is developed by Google Android, and it allows you to ‘talk to the Xoom’ when you connect the Xoom to your computer. Instead of transferring files, you transfer instructions to the Xoom. By ‘talk to the Xoom’ I mean that from your computer you can type in something like ‘reboot’ and the Xoom will reboot.

5.) Next download ‘TWRP BigPart.’ (3) TWRP stands for Team Win Recovery Project. TWRP is a ‘custom recovery’ image for your Xoom. What does that mean? Well, let’s say for example you’d like to do a ‘hard reset.’ To do this on basically every Android device, you will need to reboot the system and enter ‘Recovery Mode.’ From the Recovery Mode, you can do stuff like: install an android update manually, or perform a hard reset. Likewise, when you install TWRP, it replaces the default recovery mode. TWRP has a tonne of features that the default recovery mode doesn’t have, that’s why you need it!

6.) In this step, you will be ‘flashing’ (installing) TWRP onto your Xoom. Once you have installed TWRP it will replace your default recovery mode with an feature full one! Connect your Xoom to your computer, via the generic microUSB cable. Now, earlier on you installed the ’15 Second ADB Installer’ – this is key. Also, make sure you have done everything on step 3 (enabled USB debugging/enabled MTP). Open a command prompt in administrator mode (Windows 7: Home button>Search ‘cmd’>Right click, and select ‘Run as Administrator’). Then, type into the command prompt, “abd reboot bootloader”. Do not include the quotation marks. Hit enter, and your Xoom will reboot. If you have your speakers on, you will hear the USB being unplugged noise. If you get some type of error, there are too many possibilities so you’ll have to Google it – default solution for me is to restart your computer and install the 15 second ADB Installer again.

7.) Once your device reboots to the bootloader, it will now be in ‘fastboot’ mode. It should tell you this (the screen will be mostly black, and it will say something a long the lines of fastboot mode enabled in the top left hand corner.) In ‘Fastboot’ mode, your computer can send instructions (communicate) with your Xoom over the microUSB cable.

8.) Now, in your command prompt, to check whether everything is working as intended, type in “fastboot devices” and press enter. The command prompt should spit out the serial number of the device it is chatting with.

9.) Once you have confirmed everything is fine, it’s time to flash the custom recovery. Type into the command prompt “fastboot flash recovery <location of TWRP.img>”. Now, remember how you downloaded TWRP BigPart? What I like to do is rename that to “twrp.img”. Then, I copy this onto the C:\ directory. That way it’s easy to type C:\twrp.img as the directory. So, for me, what I typed into the command prompt was “fastboot flash recovery c:\twrp.img”. After you have successfully done this (it will be verified on the terminal/command prompt, and on the Xoom’s screen that the installation has been a success), type into command prompt “fastboot reboot”.

10.) One last thing, when it reboots you need to enter recovery mode. This is because you need to enter TWRP once after installation to set it as default. To do this, after typing “fastboot reboot” your Xoom will start to reboot. Wait for the red Motorola logo to appear for about 2 seconds and then press the Volume Down key. IF you reboot back into fastboot mode, simply disconnect the Xoom from your computer, and hold down the Volume Up and Power button. When it reboots this time, wait for the red logo for 2 seconds, than press the down button. It will say something like ‘recovery mode?’, and you need to press the Volume Up key to select.

11.) Now in the TWRP menu (if you get a password required like I did, simply cancel, and follow these instructions), go to Reboot>Reboot into Recovery.

12.) Once you have booted back into recovery for the 2nd time, its time to do some cleaning. Go to wipe and do both an advanced wipe and a factory reset. Note, it’s important you clean everything. You may need to reboot into recovery (top right hand corner, go back to TWRP menu>Reboot>Reboot to recovery) to perform another wipe again.After you’ve done this, to be extra safe, follow the BigPart repartition guide here (4).

13.) Okay, the next step will be installing the custom OmniROM and installing root access (done at the same time). To do this, download OmniROM 4.4.4 – wingray – BigPart (5) Download GApps (6). Download the SuperUser specified on the XDA page (don’t worry about the old version, you can update it once everything’s done, you just need to get it working first.) (7)

14.) To flash the OmniROM, reboot into TWRP/recovery mode once more. Connect your Xoom to the computer with its microUSB cable. To start the process go to TWRP menu>Advanced>ADB Sideload. PLEASE NOTE, you must install the OmniROM first, then GApps, then SuperSU, in that order! Then, remember how you still have that command prompt open from before (you can use a new one if you wish) type into the command prompt “adb sideload <location of omnirom.zip”. Then, “adb sideload <location of gapps.zip”. Then, “adb sideload <location of supersu.zip”. AFTER sideloading the OmniROM.zip over, when you try to sideload the next file (gapps.zip), it might say there’s sometime of error. To resolve this, on the Xoom, go back to the menu>Advanced>ADB Sideload (seems to need a refresh between installing different things.)

14. Continued) So, for me, I relabelled the OmniROM wingray 4.4 file to “omni.zip” for convenience. Similarly, I relabelled the GApps to “gap.zip” and the SuperSU to “super.zip”. Then, I moved it to the C:\ drive. Then, in TWRP I went to Advanced>ADB Sideload and on my computer, in my command prompt, I typed and entered “adb sideload c:\omni.zip”. When I tried to adb sideload gap.zip, there was an error. I went back to the TWRP menu, and then Advanced>ADB Sideload and installed the GApps: “adb sideload c:\gap.zip”. Then finally SuperSU: “adb sideload c:\super.zip”

15.) After this, go back to the main menu, and reboot. Congratulations, you have installed OmniROM 4.4 KitKat wingray BigPart onto your Xoom!

16.) Here are some things I did, after successfully rebooting from TWRP into OmniROM and setting everything up. Sadly, you will have to disable Google Text to Talk which doesn’t work. Also, you can now upgrade the SuperSU to the latest version.

17.) That’s it! You now have a very capable Xoom. Here are my thoughts on using 4.4 on the Xoom. I now have all of the features I missed in ICS on my Xoom! Works well and no performance issues or bugs when switching to using the Nova Launcher. Performance wise, the Xoom can struggle opening big webpages – but to be fair, I have access to an iPad 4 that I need to use regularly, and the iPad 4 can’t switch tabs at all, because the page keeps on getting refreshes which is not a problem on the Xoom – so, yes, it could be better, but from a 5 year old tablet it’s really not too bad. Audio/HD video playback is smooth, and no hiccups. Gaming wise… I don’t game on my tablet, I do a bit on a my computer though. That being said, I use my Xoom for educational apps/office apps, and they work fine for my purposes. So, overall, I am exceptionally happy with my Xoom and all that I’ve learnt, and thankful to all the contributions, big and small, across countless sites that helped me.

(1) http://forum.xda-developers.com/motorola-xoom/development/tool-windroid-universal-android-toolkit-t3066994
(2) http://forum.xda-developers.com/showthread.php?p=48915118#post48915118
(3) http://forum.xda-developers.com/showthread.php?t=2580256 (It’s under the Install heading, and you need to click to show the content.)
(4) http://forum.xda-developers.com/showthread.php?t=2506997
(5) http://forum.xda-developers.com/showthread.php?t=2580256 (It’s under the Download heading.)
(6) http://forum.xda-developers.com/showthread.php?t=2580256 (It’s under the GApps heading – anyone of the three is fine.)
(7) http://forum.xda-developers.com/showthread.php?t=2580256 (It’s under the Download Root heading.)


Boost Nero and Alcatel Pixi 3: a quick look

First Impressions
The Pixi has a clean, plain, black design. The back cover is made from matte plastic – charcoal shade – with the Pixi logo debossed. It definitely keeps with the modern phone appearance, although the phone’s thickness and bezel around the screen differentiate it from more expensive models.     
The Nero takes us back to 2008 sharing great resemblance to the iPhone 3GS – complete with rounded edges, and silver/metallic strip around the phone. The back cover is made from shiny, fingerprint attracting plastic, with very small inverse dimples that make for an interesting feel.

Performance, Screen and UI
The Nero and Pixi both run on a  dual core 1Ghz processor with 500MB of RAM. Both phones feature a TFT touchscreen, however the Pixi has a much higher resolution (4″ at 800×480 vs 3.5″ at 480×320.) The TFT panels mean that there is a limited viewing angle – this is most noticeable if you watch a clip on either phone that features a dark scene – even at the perfect angle, around the corners, the dark scene will display as a purple/inverted mess. For normal browsing (black text on white/light colours), the TFT panels are more than adequate at a range of viewing angles.
Performance wise, the Nero is very snappy. There is no lag when swiping to a different homepage, and a slight pause when opening an app. The Pixi is not as snappy as the Nero, and there is a noticeable lag when flicking through the phone’s homepage or opening an app. (This is definitely due to the larger resolution of the Pixi.) App wise – both phones can handle to a good level simple games (i.e. the ones that are about 20-50MB downloads), and apps like Duolingo.
The Nero runs on 4.2 Jelly Bean and the Pixi runs on 4.4 KitKat. I haven’t experienced any problems with either OS. While I prefer Jelly Bean because it is a very simple and plain UI, I have to admit that KitKat is aesthetically a step up.

The image quality on both cameras leave much to be desired – had they been purchased for much more. However the fact that they were only $20 a pop, and they have a camera that can take okay-ish pics is amazing. Quality is ‘mobile’ webcam level, and both phones can take practical pictures – the stuff that your Samsung S7 or iPhone 6s will probably be taking (and not the great scenery shots you normally see!) – i.e. taking a quick snap of a document or a picture of something instore.

I picked up the Nero at $24.50 from Big W and a couple of months later picked up the Pixi for $19. The Pixi can be rooted easily, so I keep most non-essential apps on there. The Nero only has 4GB of memory, and is hard to root, so not a lot of space for apps. Most of the time, you get what you pay – and this is no different for the Nero and Pixi. Both phones fit my need perfectly – messaging/web browsing, so I think they are a steal if you use them for what they are!