One of the things we all like about Android is the ability to customize our smartphones and tablets to suit our personalities and the way we each use our devices. Out of the box, stock and unrooted, Android is a very powerful operating system. With just a couple taps you can enable sideloading of apps, and you can even install any of several app stores. However, if you’re brave enough and with a little technical know-how, you can OEM unlock and root your device. From there, the sky is the limit!
In the past we’ve talked about various hacks, apps that require root, custom ROMs, and more. Rooting can be a dangerous process, and what you do after you’ve rooted can be even more so. Before you consider undertaking anything you’re about to read here, make sure you understand and accept the risks.
What is build.prop?
One area we haven’t talked too much about is the build.prop file and what you can do with it. The “build.prop” file is a system file that contains build properties and settings. Some of the contents are specific to your device or your device’s manufacturer, others vary by version of the operating system, but some are generic to all devices running the same version of Android as you are.
All you need to make any of the changes you’re about to see is a rooted device, a root file explorer, and a root text editor. I’m old-school, so I like Root Explorer (which includes a text editor), although there are various build.prop editors that you can get from the Play Store to help make the process even easier. Use whichever method works for you. If you go the explorer/text editor route, navigate to /system/ and make a backup of build.prop (optional), then open it as read-write (it’s read-only by default).
After that, simply change the values of existing lines, or add new lines. Save the changes and reboot, and make sure you like the changes you made. If not, simply re-edit the build.prop, save, and reboot again.
My favorite tweaks
There are lots of things that you can change through your build.prop and this article is by no means an exhaustive list. Rather, it’s a collection of tweaks that I’ve used over the years, focusing on my favorites. Let’s jump right in!
Does your phone take a few seconds before it starts to ring? Eliminate that delay by adding these lines:
Does your phone tell you that you need to purchase an upgrade to your plan whenever you try and tether? Depending on your carrier, this line may help:
Do you want your lockscreen and launcher screens to rotate just like other apps do? Add these lines:
One of my absolute favorite build.prop tweaks let me lock the launcher in memory. This meant that switching back to the launcher from any app was fast because the launcher was still in memory – it didn’t have to be loaded again, which could take a few seconds. Unfortunately, this tweak worked up through Gingerbread, but doesn’t work in Ice Cream Sandwich or above. I’ve included it here because (in addition to being one of my favorite tweaks) this is still a tweak that many recommend applying (even in Lollipop), despite the fact that it no longer works.
Another tweak that’s no longer used the way it was previously has to do with windowsmgr. Modern builds of Android lock the “smoothness” to 60fps. The FPS multiplied by 1.5 gives you the recommended value of this setting. Many sources still suggest setting this to 300 or even higher to help make things look “smoother”. That’s no longer the case, so setting this value above 90 (60 * 1.5) will likely result in higher processing demands with no visible improvement – and will probably slow you down.
There are a bunch of other tweaks that have to do with cellular voice and data. I haven’t had much success with them over the stock settings. However, your mileage may vary.
Although not all of these build.prop tweaks are usable on today’s devices running Lollipop, those are my five favorites. But enough about me! What is your favorite build.prop tweak, what does it do, and why do you like it? Head down to the comments and let us know!