So this season the Galaxy Note GT-N7000 international models (the ones that cover a lot of bands and have a fast dual-core processor) have been going for peanuts on eBay—like, well under $100 new and in some cases closer to $50.
The kids have been wanting phones to play with, and a phablet is as good as a tablet for little hands, so I picked a couple of them up. They turned out to be Italian, but it’s a minor detail—box printing is in English. But of course they came with Android 2.x (the things date to the Android middle ages) so I needed a way to get a newer version of Android on them.
As usual, trying to figure it all out on XDA was a bit of a slog, but in the end I got there. Some points:
- The CM13-based version of NightOwl is stable, fast, and works well.
- The steps to get there include flashing a late version of the stock ROM. Turns out that for the N7000, you can install any national or carrier ROM and they should all work (they’re around the Internet and go up to 4.1.2); it’s just a matter of default language, branding, and carrier bloatware. So I went with Australian Telus. Just because. It’s temporary anyway—you’ll flash over it soon enough.
- The new Android runtime will eat space on /data faster, so you have to repartition, which seems scary, but actually went smoothly.
- Key combinations are: VolumeDown-Home-Power from off for ODIN mode and VolumeUp-Home-Power from off for recovery (hold the other two down first, then press power while holding them).
The path to upgrade to 6.x went something like this:
- Boot phone into recovery (see above) and there, choose to do a full wipe/reset. Then, power down.
- Boot phone into ODIN mode (again, see above) and start ODIN on Windows (or, if you’re on a Mac like me, in a Windows VM).
- In ODIN, select your PIT file (unzip and use the 6GB /data version) and then a stock Samsung GT-N7000 firmware .tar.md5 as the PDA file (unzip the firmware first, too, to get the .tar.md5). Run the flash.
- After the successful flash, exit ODIN and boot the phone. Shortly thereafter you’ll get a notification that says /data is unformatted. Confirm that you want to format it, then shut the phone down and boot back into ODIN mode.
- In ODIN on Windows, select this CWM version as your PDA file (again, first unzip for .tar.md5) and flash. This is to install ClockworkMod recovery. After flash, power down the phone and then boot into recovery.
- In recovery, select the mount options area and then choose USB storage. Plug into your computer again and the phone will be mounted as a drive. Copy the standalone kernel, NightOwl CM13.1 ROM, and gapps into the Downloads folder.
- Unplug the phone and use the Install .ZIP option to flash the standalone kernel from the internal SD card area and then power down.
- Boot back into recovery. Now, use the Install .ZIP option to flash the NightOwl ROM and then gapps (they will now be listed on the first mount, rather than the “internal SD card” area, which will no longer appear).
- Do a full wipe/reset again and then reboot.
It’ll take about 5-6 minutes of nothing but the Samsung title screen upon first boot before you get to the familiar cache rebuilding progress bar, but once you see that, you know you’re home free. You do get the side effect of the angry yellow exclamation mark at first boot (custom ROM warning), but as these things are so old now as to render any warranty concerns meaningless, I don’t see why anyone would worry, since it’s purely cosmetic and appears only for a moment when cold booted.
I know this seems like a slog, but it’s a pretty damned good deal—well under $100 (perhaps much less) for a brand new, retail box, dual-core, near-Android-stock 1GHz+ Marshmallow phablet, carrier unlocked, with major-manufacturer quality, a brilliant AMOLED display, and pen capability. I mean, seriously, that is a freaking good deal.