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Forget Flashing Custom ROMs: Use the Xposed Framework to Tweak Your Android

xposed-framework-header

Many low-level tweaks can normally only be performed on Android by flashing custom ROMs. The Xposed Framework allows you to modify your ROM without installing a new custom ROM. All it requires is root access.

Sure, you may want to flash a custom ROM like CyanogenMod  to get the latest version of Android or use a wide variety of tweaks, but the Xposed Framework makes it possible to perform small tweaks without replacing your Android operating system.

How It Works

To perform various low-level tweaks, developers have to modify system APK (app package) files. They generally release these changes as a custom ROM, which users have to flash onto their device.

The Xposed Framework requires root access to install, but should be able to work without root afterwards. It extends the /system/bin/app_process executable to load a specific JAR file on startup. This file’s classes will be part of every app process on the system — even system service processes. It’s then possible to modify an app’s behavior at runtime — no ROM flashing or modifying app APK files required.

It works with most Android 4.0 and later devices, assuming they’re ARM devices. If you have a Gingerbread device or one of the rare Android devices using an Intel chip, it won’t work for you.

Installation

The Xposed Framework isn’t available in Google Play, so you’ll need to sideload it. You can download its APK file as an attachment on the XDA Developers forum.

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Once it’s installed, open the Xposed Installer app and tap the Install/Update button to install the Xposed Framework. This part requires root access.

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Reboot your device after installing it and the Xposed Framework will become active. You can return to the Xposed Installer app to uninstall the Xposed Framework later, reversing the changes to the app_process executable. Be sure to perform an uninstall in the Xposed Installer app before removing the Xposed Installer app from your device.

Xposed Framework Tweaks

The Xposed Framework is just a base that allows other tweaking apps to do the work. Once you have the Xposed Framework installed, you’ll need to use another app to actually perform tweaks. There are a variety of tweaks that depend on the Xposed Framework, but we’ll cover a few popular ones here.

Tweakbox is a collection of no-flashing tweaks from the creator of the Xposed Framework. As with the Xposed Framework, you’ll need to download it from its thread on the XDA Developers forums and sideload it.

After installing a module, enable it in the Xposed Installer app.

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Open the Tweakbox app after restarting your phone or tablet and choose the tweaks you want to make. You can enable a variety of tweaks — for example, you can change the level where you’ll receive a critical battery warning, prevent the screen from turning on when you unplug your phone, control what happens when you long-press the home button, and enable skipping songs by pressing the volume keys when your phone is off. These are the sort of tweaks you’d normally have to flash a custom ROM for. You’ll have to restart for most changes to take effect.

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The MoDaCo Toolkit is another package of tweaks, which must also be downloaded from outside Google Play and sideloaded. After installing it, enable it in the Xposed Installer app as above.

The toolkit allows you to perform a variety of other tweaks, from enabling multi-user support on phones like the Nexus 4 (normally available only on tablets), disabling region-checks so you can install apps like Wallet and Sound Search outside the USA, hiding the battery meter if you’re using a third-party battery status icon, and more.

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The Xposed Framework may just be a tool for Android geeks to tweak their phones, but it’s a faster, easier, and less invasive tool than a custom ROM is. This could also be used to install themes and perform other invasive customizations that would normally require a custom ROM. The Xposed Framework’s method doesn’t involve changing your device’s operating system and can be easily reversed.

Chris Hoffman is a technology writer and all-around computer geek. He's as at home using the Linux terminal as he is digging into the Windows registry. Connect with him on Google+.

  • Published 06/4/13

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