Unleashing the Galaxy Gear- Full Featured Android Installation
With the holidays just behind us, I’m sure its still fresh in your minds the struggle to find the ‘perfect gift’ for that special someone. Maybe you found yourself wondering about Samsung’s new smart watch, Galaxy Gear. If you’re like me, you were also likely disappointed with the advertised product versus the actual ‘smartness’ of […]
With the holidays just behind us, I’m sure its still fresh in your minds the struggle to find the ‘perfect gift’ for that special someone. Maybe you found yourself wondering about Samsung’s new smart watch, Galaxy Gear.
If you’re like me, you were also likely disappointed with the advertised product versus the actual ‘smartness’ of the device. It has a few useful features, such as text notifications, Bluetooth phone call capability, and camera, but that’s about it, aside from a pedometer and a stopwatch. That, coupled with the fact that [at least at launch] it was capable of connecting only to a Galaxy Note 3. For me to own an S4, the company’s flagship phone and, along with the S3, being the most popular and widespread Android phone in existence as of the time of this writing, it would seem like a no-brainer to make this device compatible with other devices, at a minimum at least other Samsung devices.
So, that left me with questions, more questions than answers, about the usefulness of gear. But the IT guy in me didn’t stop there. If Samsung wasn’t going to provide a practical software package for their new device [the hardware is just dandy] then someone must have. And they did. Null_ not only released a rom that will allow you to connect to any Android device or iPhone*, but even better, it is a full featured Android installation, complete with Play Store, browser, and anything else you’d want to do with Android [within the limitations of the hardware, of course].
*iPhone can be used for internet connection, but will not be compatible with ‘stock’ Galaxy Gear functions
Want to do this modification yourself? Here’s what you’ll need:
- One Samsung Galaxy Gear Smartwatch
- One Android phone or iPhone
- A computer
- ADB [part of the Android SDK]
- TeamWin Recovery Project v2.7 [Custom Android Recovery]
- Null_ 15 (or current version) [The actual Gear rom]
- Odin3 3.09 [For flashing the recovery with TWRP]
Once you have these prerequisites, there are two caveats which you will need to take into consideration. The first is that the Android version you will install on the watch will be pretty useless without internet, as are most Android devices, at least until you get some apps installed on them. The Gear does not have its own wifi or cellular radios. Therefore, the only way to get internet is to use Bluetooth tethering. This is a stock option on vanilla Android [and iOS], however, at least in the US, most carriers have disabled this option on their specific installations, and instead offer the service as an ‘add-on’ to your cellular plan.
What this means for you is that to do this you’ll either need to pay your carrier for this added service, or flash your phone with an Android rom that has Bluetooth tethering enabled. Unfortunately with your iPhone, paying for it may be your only option [jailbreaking iPhones was not part of the scope of my research for this project].
The second is that you will run into display issues in recovery mode unless your watch is at software version V700XXUAMK7 before you flash the recovery with TWRP. You can check your version in settings>about Gear. One of my friends was going through this process after having done some other things to his watch, and even though the software version was right, had issues installing the TWRP recovery until he re-flashed the original software, so it might be a good idea just to do it anyway.
So, now that you have Bluetooth tethering enabled on your phone [right?] we can start the process of promoting your Gear to useful.
The first thing you’ll need to do is reboot your gear into ‘download’ mode. To do this, press and hold your power button. Ignore the shutdown menu when it appears, just continue holding power until the screen goes black. Immediately after it restarts and you see the screen that says ‘Rebooting…’, press the power button repeatedly until it loads a boot menu, where you can select reboot, download, or recovery. Press power to cycle options, until you reach Download, then long press power to load into download mode. You should see a green Android guy and the text ‘Downloading…’
With your device in download mode, connect it to your pc via USB and run Odin3. You should see a device show up on a com port, depicted at the top of the Odin3 window by a blue rectangle. Click the ‘AP’ button in the bottom right, and then in the ‘open’ dialog, navigate to your null_03_TWRP2.7.tar file. [You may have changed the name]. Make sure only AP, Auto Reboot, and F. Reset Time are the only boxes checked, and click the Start button.
After your Gear reboots, open settings. Select Gear Info > About Gear. Tap ‘Software Version’ 7 times. [It will count down; “You are x steps away from becoming a developer!”]. The final message it will show is one that says “You are now a developer”. Back up one level to the ‘Gear Info’ menu, you will see a new option called USB Debug. Check the box and click OK. This will allow you to manage your device on your computer using ADB. Which leads us to Step 4.
Open a command prompt as an administrator, or a terminal window, and navigate to where your ADB.exe and .dll files are. Using default SDK folder structure, it lives in sdk/platform-tools. Run the command “adb devices”. A list should pop up containing one device, that shows ‘unauthorized’. If the device list is blank you may need to install Samsung’s ADB drivers. These are obtainable from http://developer.samsung.com/android/tools-sdks/Samsung-Andorid-USB-Driver-for-Windows. Yes, I know it says ‘Andorid’. This is not a typo on my part, it’s a typo on theirs, but the drivers work.
Once you see the ‘unauthorized’ device appear, check your Gear, you should see a popup asking if you want the computer to be able to access the device, and show an RSA fingerprint [I’m blotting mine out for obvious reasons]. You want to say ‘Yes’. Running ‘adb devices’ again should show the same device, but it should now say ‘device’ instead of ‘unauthorized’.
Next, in ADB, navigate to the location of your Null_ 15.zip. Note that the default file name has a space between the underscore and the ‘15’, which you will want to remove. After you rename the file, run the following command: “adb push null_15.zip /sdcard/”. It may take a minute, as this is moving the new Android rom onto the internal storage on the Gear.
In ADB, issue this command: “adb reboot recovery”. This will reboot your device directly into Recovery Mode. Once recovery loads, select ‘Install’, then scroll all the way down until you find your ‘null_15.zip’, and select it. Swipe right to confirm flash.
Once the installer loads, you need to pay attention or you may miss your opportunity to install the Play Store. On the first screen [“You are about to install Null_ for the V700”] click ‘Next’ once. On the next screen make sure you check the second option to install GAPPS. This is what will make Play Store work. After this, you can leave the rest of the options as default and click next, then Install.
Once the install completes, you should be good to go. You can connect using Gear Manager on your Android phone to use the stock Gear apps and notifications. Then you can pair the Gear to your Android or iOS device just like you would pair any other Bluetooth device or headset.
To enable Bluetooth tethering on Android, go to settings>more…>Tethering & portable hotspot and check the ‘Bluetooth tethering’ box.
To enable Bluetooth tethering on iOS, go to Settings>Personal Hotspot, and turn Personal Hotspot on.
On your gear, go to settings>Bluetooth, then select the settings for your paired device, scroll down to Profiles, then check the ‘internet access’ check box.
That’s it, you’re done. Download some apps and go nuts!
Interested in learning more? Let’s start a conversation.