I have had my Nexus 6 for just under two months now and one of the main reasons for getting the device was to receive prompt updates. Everyone knows how that goes; Google sends updates to their devices before any other carriers/manufacturers send out their updates. The other main reason for me getting the Nexus 6 was to have a pure Android device. It is something I’ve always wanted; previously having the HTC One M8 with Sense 6.0, multiple Samsung devices with TouchWiz, and the LG G3 with LG’s UI.
Since all of the Google Nexus devices are very popular in the developer community, the possibilities for you to customize your Nexus 6 are endless. The Nexus 6 section on the XDA Forums are always full of great developers and even better, people who will help you out if you ever get stuck while flashing, rooting, etc. It’s a very friendly community, so if you plan to root, flash, or whatever you’d like, you should familiarize yourself with the community!
Now rooting your Nexus 6 isn’t for everyone. It takes some time and some reading, so make sure you understand all that comes along with the process. If you don’t follow instructions carefully, you could end up with a soft-bricked device, or even worse, a totally bricked Nexus 6 that is unusable. I’ll try to link as many resources as I can to make this as easy as possible for everyone.
**DISCLAIMER** ROOTING YOUR DEVICE WILL DISABLE OTAs. ROOT AT YOUR OWN RISK! (This is where custom ROMs come in!) **DISCLAIMER**
Note: If you plan on using the command line method, I recommend familiarizing yourself with Minimal ADB and Fastboot. It saves a lot of time instead of installing and setting up the full Android SDK. On the page it includes detailed instructions. If you have any trouble or any questions, please feel free to email me at [email protected] I am not responsible if you destroy device!
When you get a phone, what you are able to do with it is limited. Whether it is customization, adding features that weren’t included in the finally build (thanks Google), or getting more information out of your device by using apps such as Better Battery Stats, Wakelock Detector, and Greenify.
There are a few ways of rooting your Nexus 6, but I have found the two easiest for you. There is a great step-by-step guide thrown together by Gotta Be Mobile, Wug’s Nexus Toolkit over on the XDA forums, or multiple videos on YouTube. I personally would recommend sticking with the first two.
The first one from Gotta Be Mobile uses the CF-Auto-Root (Shamu zip file) method. While it may look intimidating, if you just follow the steps it is quite easy. Chainfire is one of the most known and best developers around. His methods have been used hundreds of thousands of times, if not millions; you are in good hands.
The second method is an automated program made by XDA developer WugFresh. His Nexus Root Toolkit has been around for a good while and now is fully compatible with the Nexus 6. His program can automate rooting, unlocking, and decrypting all in one click (essentially). Along with that, it can also un-root your device and flash the stock image if you find yourself in some trouble such as a boot loop/soft-brick.
Not only will rooting get you super user access to your device, it will open up the door for the next things you should do once your device is rooted. You’ll be able to enable tap-to-wake, the LED notification light, and use apps like I stated above that give you extra information about your device.
The Nexus 6 comes with the feature called Ambient Display. When the device receives a text, email. call, etc., the device will “breathe” and the screen will show your notifications in black and white. The reasoning for this is because the Nexus 6 comes with an AMOLED display, which is much easier on battery life when displaying darker colors than an LCD display. The display will “breathe” when it is moved. Sometimes when you pick up your device the display will turn on, sometimes it won’t. This leads to using the lock button to wake the device.
While using the lock button to wake the device isn’t the most inconvenient thing in the world, it would be much easier if the Nexus 6 just came with tap-to-wake enabled. Unfortunately, Google decided to not commit that line of code and it was left out in the final build of the device. The fortunate part is that since it was just hidden in the coding, it can be re-enabled.
Personally, I think all devices should come with tap-to-wake as a default method of waking a smartphone. It is one of the most convenient things to come on a smartphone in a long while, and now that phone screens are consistently eclipsing 5 inches, it is a necessity. When using a device that was dubbed “Shamu” as a codename, you know it is already going to be big, so it needs tap-to-wake.
There are two methods of enabling tap-to-wake on your Nexus 6 without flashing a custom ROM or Kernel. Both methods require rooting to make it easy, so it is just up to preference at this point. One method includes downloading an app from the Google Play Store called Nexus 6 Double Tap to Wake. This app costs $.99, so hopefully you have the money to spare because this is the easiest method. Once installed, just press enable and you have tap-to-wake on your Nexus 6.
The second method comes from XDA developer qwerp_. Technically you can do it without root as long as you have a custom recovery and an unlocked bootloader, but we’ll stick with the rooted method. He recompiled the power.shamu.so to re-enable the illusive tap-to-wake feature. You can find the file and instructions on this XDA thread. Essentially you find the file by using an app such as ES File Explorer and replace the default power.shamu.so with his recompiled version. Make sure you back up your old file first!
LED Notification light
Something that took a similar path as the tap-to-wake feature was the notification light. The Nexus 6 does indeed have a notification light, but it was thrown in the can due to Ambient Display. Once you are rooted, it is very simple to enable the LED notification light hidden under your top speaker grille. You can follow this easy tutorial from hutzdani on the XDA Forums. You need to download the Lightflow app, and it cannot be the ‘lite’ version, it will not work.
The Lightflow app also costs money, but is a little more than the Nexus 6 Double Tap to Wake app at $2.49. It is totally worth it if you are going to stick with a stock ROM or something like CyanogenMod 12 (currently CM 12 doesn’t have the notification light built in). If you do not wish to pay for it, some kernels/ROMs come with it enabled.
This topic has been debatable on the internet ever since it was found out the scores of the Nexus 6 before and after decryption. I ran a stock Nexus 6 for over a month before I rooted and decrypted it and found no adverse effects. Although, will downloading files, the device seemed to lag a little. I am currently encrypted again since I am running a CyanogenMod 12 nightly, so it is just up to preference.
You technically don’t need root priviledges to do this, but this will break OTAs as well, so if you are going to root your device and delve this far into customizing your Nexus 6, why not do this along the way; especially if you plan to flash new ROMs/kernels.
You can decrypt your Nexus 6 by using the Nexus Root Toolkit as well as using the command line. If you are unfamiliar with using the command line on your PC, then I recommend the latter. I personally prefer using the command line because it is more straight forward if you have the instructions, although it may be difficult to follow.
This is personally my favorite part of having a rooting device. Some things are left out of stock Android, and that includes a lot of customization. From the little things such as modifying the status bar, navigation bar, and even the color of the interface. To top it off, custom ROMs usually start using the latest AOSP build a lot sooner than Google will release them. This means you can still get prompt updates along with the customization that stock Android leaves out.
Like I stated earlier, the XDA Forums are full of great development and you can explorer the 40+ threads of Nexus 6 ROMs for days along with a few kernels. ROMs bring along with them the user interface changes that you wish you could do on stock Android. Almost all of them let you enable the circular battery icon (my personal favorite), the reorganization of quick toggles in the notification shade, any many other little things to tinker with.
A few of the ROMs I have used on my Nexus 6 are:
As far as kernels go, they give the user a little more power when it comes to their Nexus 6. Everything is on the table from under-clocking/over-clocking the CPU, custom voltage support, custom haptic feedback settings, tap-to-wake, LED notification, etc. Long story short, they are a really good way for you to maximize the device to your choosing. I don’t particularly mess with my kernels to much, but so far I have found I have liked the franco.Kernel the most.
The franco.Kernel has the easiest installation by far, and it is literally one click. If you download the app from the Google Play Store (Both paid and free versions available), it automatically installs itself to your device. If you have the paid version, you can get a little deeper into the settings over the free version as well as an automatic updater. That way you won’t have to manually flash an update every time.
A few of the kernels I have used on my Nexus 6 are:
The Nexus 6 is a very powerful device and while it does come with stock Android on it, it can be quite limited in how it performs. Some people don’t like rooting because it breaks the OTA system, but the pros definitely outweigh the cons in this situation. With your device rooted you can customize your device to the fullest by enabling tap to wake, LED notification light, and even installing/flashing custom ROMs and kernels. Ever since I rooted my device and moved away from stock Android I have not regretted and I guarantee you won’t either. I find myself exploring new builds daily, even though I have to re-setup my phone. It is worth it to find what you like the most.
Like I stated earlier, do all of these modications at your own risk! I am not responsible with what you do to your device nor is AndroidGuys. Make sure you do your research before attempting anything and know what you’re getting yourself into. If you have any questions, feel free to email me ([email protected]) or even leave a comment below! I’ll be sure to keep up with this post.
If you enjoy any of these ROMs, Kernels, Apps, etc., please make sure to support the developers! Development takes time and a lot of these developers do this in their free time! The same goes for apps; please don’t Google the apk file, if you enjoy it, purchase it! It keeps Android development going. It’s what makes our community better than iOS ;)