Setup Android When Its Not Your Phone

I have read many guides about perfect phone for a sysadmin or a programmer. They often assumed that I would get exact phone model (some recommended latest one, someΒ recommended old phone known to work reliably) then root it and put some custom ROM on it, let it be MIUI or Copperhead OS for security.

Most of these guides are actually valuable but they all fail when they are applied to phone that is only lend to you. You can not put a custom ROM on it. You can not root it. You can not even pick the model you get.

You are left with the stock options. The Android settings themselves, the wallpaper and lock screen settings, maybe add or remove/disable some apps if policy allows that.

Today I will share my experiences on how to setup your Android phone when it’s not your phone. When there are some strings attached with it and its required that you will have to keep it ready to use for the work purposes.

Initial Setup

When you setup such phone it ‘requires’ you to accept dozen EULA and other agreements just to start using you phone. Be very alert and agree only for the ones that are required to make that Next button work. No metadata sharing for reliability, no usage patterns sharing for making the product better. Always remember that if something is for free then you are the product. Your data, metadata and ‘noise’ that you generate is the bill here.

Do not connect to any wireless (WiFi) network or allow connection to the WWAN network (mobile data). You will enable them later when proper permissions would be set on applications.

I get the impression that I had to select everything inversely. For most of the setup process if something was selected I had to deselect it and valuable options to not do many useless things were not selected.

Main Screen

After you will see the main screen for the first time it definitely has some useless power draining widgets enabled and has the most useless icons/apps placed.

For example I disable huge widget on the first desktop.


First go to Settings > Connections and disable all connectivity, WiFi, mobile data, Bluetooth, NFC, KFC and WTF. Everything.


Then go to Settings > Apps and remove/disable everything that you would not use or everything that is not allowed to use by the company policy like Facebook, Google Drive, etc. I will not use Office OneNote or Gmail so I also disabled them. I also revoked all permissions from these apps.



As you will finish with the removal we will now revoke permissions from apps that so not need them like Google Play Services. I also disabled permission for notifications for most apps so they will not disturb me in the future.



For the apps that are not on the desktop but are left in the Apps place I gathered the most useless ones in the directory so all Apps that are still on the phone fit on one screen so I do not have to switch between screens.



You will need black wallpaper for the desktop and lock screen to save battery time. How to get one? Just type BACK BLACK in DuckDuckGo Images and pick the one that is entirely black. You may also prepare one by yourself of course.

Next, remove all unneeded icons/apps from the desktop and put the useful ones. Also remove unused desktops and widgets.



I wanted to change icon theme to something more dark and toned instead of the default circus but that would require me to accept another enormous Samsung EULA, so I passed with the default circus one.

The lock screen is also clean am black.



To setup the keyboard I added my native language to the spell check and I also configured what special chars appear after I hit the dot button. You only have 10 slots so pick wisely : ) I do not remember if Swipe option for the keyboard was enabled bit I sometimes use it when typing so I left it in enabled state.



Drop Down Console … Bar

I also configured the dropdown bar with only useful icons. This ROM had 6 slots on the dropdown bar so everything needed fits nicely.



After such configuration the phone runtime is very long. For example with 60% of the battery capacity and Medium level Battery Saver enabled it will still allow me to use it for about 40 hours. Not bad.



From the other setting I enabled the Blue Light Filter so the phone screen would mess less with my Circadian Rhythm.

I also configured Wireless Hotspot so next time my laptop will need it – it will be ready.

I did not configured Play Store as I do not need any additional Google connection, if any app is needed the APK are available. The only APK I added was latest Firefox browser. Of course you need to allow (at least one time) installation from unknown sources.

I also picked up some less annoying sounds for incoming call and for notifications. I also disabled sounds and vibration (so called touch feedback) so the phone will not emit annoying sounds with every touch and will save battery instead of playing and vibrating.

The entire configuration process took about 2 hours.

Model and Version

I deliberately did not specified what phone model I used for the purposes of this article because it does not matter. If you read this article then you will probably get other model.

Same for Android version. It’s not detailed Android setup guide for the Android version that came with this phone. It’s a general setup guide for the ones that need to work with foreign owner phone.

Single Finger Writer

It may be worth mentioning that I wrote that entire article using that phone. I wanted to check what annoyances will occur when something desktop/laptop oriented will be forced to do on the phone. I must admit the experience was not that terrible. Of course I will choose my FreeBSD laptop anytime over phone but as I typed the article on the phone itself more and more thoughts about the phone came naturally. If I would use laptop for that then many of these small quirks would be lost.

Also writing this article on the phone took about 15% of its battery including taking the screenshots.




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