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I want to root and replace the stock launcher + delete bloat

Discussion in 'Android Devices' started by bvz, Jan 16, 2016.

  1. bvz

    bvz Lurker
    Thread Starter


    I'm not looking for a step by step here, just more asking about whether this plan seems feasible or not. I'll do research on how to do it on my own. Thanks.

    I want to give my Verizon Galaxy S3 (4.4.2) to my elderly parents (78 years old and 83 years old). The issue is that they are completely smartphone illiterate. The only apps they will be using are:

    navigation (offline)
    whatsApp (if it works on wifi only)
    maybe one or two other simple apps

    They will not be getting a data plan, just wifi. They will not be surfing the web.

    I want to customize my S3 so that it only allows them to do those things. I have found several launchers for senior citizens (I'm thinking the Wizer launcher) but the key for me is that the phone never ever accidentally revert back to the "standard" Android (Touchwiz in this case) behavior. I live more than 3000 miles away from them and this thing has to be as bullet proof as possible. In my experience on 4.4 the default launcher occasionally gets either confused (something updates maybe?) and the user has to choose which launcher to use OR it just resets itself. In either case there is the very real chance they would wind up back in the "wilds" of Android and their phone would suddenly be completely useless to them.

    So my plan was to root the device and remove most of the bloatware. I want to remove the stock launcher entirely and replace it with Wizer. I want to remove most of the apps that they would never use. I want to keep them out of any settings as much as possible.

    Does this seem doable? I have read on other forums that to replace the stock launcher I just have to remove the home.apk (or whatever Samsung named theirs) and move Wizer into that same directory (so that it survives a reset). I could also delete a lot of apps once I have root. Am I looking at a world of hurt here? Or does this seem possible?


  2. Best Answer:
    Post #2 by dynomot, Jan 17, 2016 (1 points)

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  3. dynomot

    dynomot Android Expert

    It is partially doable, and yes, you are looking at a world of hurt if you get it wrong. Replacing the stock .apk with the Wizer .apk while rooted is almost certainly asking for trouble. However making it the default launcher and disabling changing it is probably possible.

    You need to install Titanium Backup (buy the premium version) and at first "Freeze" the apps from this link that advise caution, one by one.


    Testing only the features your parents will use before "freezing" the next one and repeating. when you have confirmed that the app or package "frozen" is not causing any issues. Once this is done you can uninstall them using Titanium Backup (TB).

    This is going to be painstaking, you will make mistakes, and the end result may not be what you were hoping for entirely, but if you're up for it it is worth a go.
    scary alien, bvz, svim and 1 other person like this.
  4. svim

    svim Extreme Android User

    I agree with dynomot and just want to add, maybe think about just customizing TouchWiz to suit your parents' needs. Once you root that S3 you'll have a lot of control to manipulate it into a suitable Mom & Dad phone. A nice feature that Titanium Backup does when you freeze an app is to remove its icon from the app drawer. Freezing an app as opposed to uninstalling it does have the advantage and making it easier to restore in the event you want to enable it later -- in Titanium's app list you tap a 'Freeze' button to freeze it, tap a 'Defrost' button to un-freeze it.
    I'd also suggest installing Droidwall, a firewall app. You can individually allow/disallow each app/service access to WiFi and mobile data (although the cellular access isn't relevant as you mentioned they won't be using a data plan).
    And since since you're 3000 miles apart, installing some kind of remote desktop app might be a good idea. I like Airdroid for its local WiFi connectivity features but it can also be used remotely over the Internet.

    Getting back to just tweaking TouchWiz, as it sounds like you'll be setting up that S3 to only have a limited number of app icons showing, your parents might find the default number of screens (7) to be confusing. You can do some minor social engineering by just having one -- using two fingers squeeze them inward on any screen. A mini-representation of all seven screens will show up, the Home screen will have a little blue arrow in its upper right corner, all the others will have a grey arrow icon. Just drag all the other screen to the 'Remove' trash icon. That will leave you just the one Home screen. (You can always add one or all six back again by tapping the '+' icon.) If you think they might get confused by different icons on different screens having just one screen should help. Even with something like a weather widget taking up a third of a single Home screen you'll still have room for 12 app icons.
    In the Settings >> My device >> Display menu there are number of things you can adjust to make things less troublesome for your parents. Turning off auto rotate maybe, or paring down the number of icons that show up in the Notification panel.
    dynomot and bvz like this.
  5. bvz

    bvz Lurker
    Thread Starter

    Wow. Thanks to the both of you!

    So I've taken your suggestions. I purchased titanium backup and went nuts freezing any user facing apps. That was a great suggestion vs. Deleting them because I overdid it but was able to reverse out of it (Wizer hated having the contacts app frozen). I also did a full backup first and saved it to my SD card which I will keep with me. I'm not actually going to delete the frozen apps because space will not be an issue for them.

    I'll try resetting the device (not the factory reset, just the one you do when it locks up) to see what happens then. If stuff gets unfrozen and defaults break I might have to get more extreme with my customizing.

    I'll also take your advice on droidwall and airdroid (that last one sounds like a life saver).

    Finally, I'll set up the default launcher like you suggest in case it ever gets to be the default again.

    Thanks again!
    dynomot and KOLIO like this.
  6. bvz

    bvz Lurker
    Thread Starter

    So here is what I wound up doing in case anyone else is trying this.

    I rooted my phone using towel root.

    Could. Not. Be. Easier. Wow.

    I then purchased titanium backup and first backed up the entire phone to the SD card.

    Then, using titanium backup and the list so kindly posted above, I froze nearly every user facing app that I could.

    Then I decided not to use wizer or any other launcher. I'm too afraid that the defaults will get broken and then the phone will be as good as unusable to my technically illiterate parents because it will have changed on them. Instead I'm sticking with the stock launcher. I hid a few remaining apps in the app drawer (ones that I will need on occasion, but that they will never use) using the built in app hiding function of the stock launcher's app drawer (I hid titanium backup, play store, es file explorer, etc).

    I then took the advice above and removed all of the extra home screens. I also removed every single widget and shortcut from the home screens. The only things there are contact widgets for family, the phone app (in the dock) and the camera app (also in the dock). The other five or so apps are all only accessible from the app drawer. I also went into the settings and bumped up the font size (though it does nothing for the launcher icons and their text).

    This seems like it might work. I'll give it to them and we'll see if they can handle it.

    One final question. Since I have root, could I find the file that the touchwiz launcher uses to configure the desktop? (If it is even a single file). I'd like to change permissions on it so that it is read only to prevent them from accidentally changing anything. Is that possible?
  7. svim

    svim Extreme Android User

    dynomot, bvz and KOLIO like this.
  8. bvz

    bvz Lurker
    Thread Starter

  9. dynomot

    dynomot Android Expert

    No further advice to @bvz, but to say nice work :). I strongly suspect your parents will get along fine with the device.

    This sort of thread is why I keep coming back here and answering what I can.
    scary alien, Jfalls63 and bvz like this.
  10. bvz

    bvz Lurker
    Thread Starter

    You guys are the bomb. Thanks.
  11. scary alien

    scary alien not really so scary
    VIP Member

    Thread moved to the SG S3 root area for you guys.

    dynomot likes this.

Samsung Galaxy S3 Forum

The Samsung Galaxy S3 release date was May 2012. Features and Specs include a 4.8" inch screen, 8MP camera, 1GB RAM, Exynos 4412 Quad processor, and 2100mAh battery.

May 2012
Release Date
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