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Ideal cheap Android for Cellmapper

sibbahz

Regular Member
Hi all!

I am currently deeply embedded into the Apple ecosystem, therefore have no device that is capable of Cellmapping and only has the basic net monitor to check bands etc.

Im considering picking up a cheap Android which will support the required LTE and preferably 5G bands.
Does not need a particularly fast processor, but would be great if it supports the latest Android release.
Could be new or second hand as I will be continuing to use my iPhone 14 Pro Max as my primary phone.

So far, the Samsung Galaxy A14 5G looks like an option, but has anyone got any experience with this, or have a better recommendation?
 
Hi all!

I am currently deeply embedded into the Apple ecosystem, therefore have no device that is capable of Cellmapping and only has the basic net monitor to check bands etc.

Im considering picking up a cheap Android which will support the required LTE and preferably 5G bands.
Does not need a particularly fast processor, but would be great if it supports the latest Android release.
Could be new or second hand as I will be continuing to use my iPhone 14 Pro Max as my primary phone.

So far, the Samsung Galaxy A14 5G looks like an option, but has anyone got any experience with this, or have a better recommendation?
Ideally you should invest in one that you can easily root/jailbreak or install alternative OS (such as LineageOS) on. The idea is to have maximum flexibility, be able to install Network Signal Guru for deep dive into signal specs and generally be able to *own* the device.

I have a Xiaomi Mi 10t Lite and a Pixel 4a 5G for testing and both work well for this purpose.
 
Ideally you should invest in one that you can easily root/jailbreak or install alternative OS (such as LineageOS) on. The idea is to have maximum flexibility, be able to install Network Signal Guru for deep dive into signal specs and generally be able to *own* the device.

I have a Xiaomi Mi 10t Lite and a Pixel 4a 5G for testing and both work well for this purpose.
Thanks! Thats a good point, I had not looked into Android since I used a T-Mobile G1 and HTC Desire on Android v1 and v2. Looks like it's a lot harder to root nowadays on some devices.

Would be happy to install an alternative Android release, did that back in the day on the HTC Desire, definitely a good way to escape the official support window too.
 
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£99.99 for a Pixel 4a 5G in Excellent condition, or £89.99 for fair condition.
 
£99.99 for a Pixel 4a 5G in Excellent condition, or £89.99 for fair condition.
Thanks! Looks like a pretty good option.

Battery is a fair bit smaller than newer Androids, do they still generally last the day?
 
The Pixel 4a 5G is a nice phone for this. Fairly easy to unlock, root, and install custom ROMs.

Just be aware that it lost official software support from Google recently, so for future software updates, as Meritez said, you'll need a custom ROM. LineageOS is a good option and supports this phone: https://wiki.lineageos.org/devices/bramble/

You don't need to do all this btw, CellMapper doesn't need root, but if you're using it to explore mobile networks, having it is useful.
 
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The Pixel 4a 5G is a nice phone for this. Fairly easy to unlock, root, and install custom ROMs.

Just be aware that it lost official software support from Google recently, so for future software updates, as Meritez said, you'll need a custom ROM. LineageOS is a good option and supports this phone: https://wiki.lineageos.org/devices/bramble/

You don't need to do all this btw, CellMapper doesn't need root, but if you're using it to explore mobile networks, having it is useful.
Custom ROM would work for me. Looks like this phone has more RAM than the Galaxy A14 5G, as well as the Snapdragon chip.

Am I right in thinking Network Signal Guru only works on rooted phones, and its difficult or impossible to root modern Samsungs?
 
Custom ROM would work for me. Looks like this phone has more RAM than the Galaxy A14 5G, as well as the Snapdragon chip.

Am I right in thinking Network Signal Guru only works on rooted phones, and its difficult or impossible to root modern Samsungs?

Samsung is not a "modding friendly" brand these days, so I would avoid it.

I can unlock and root my S23 Ultra for example, but there are no custom ROMs and from reading forums like XDA developers, it seems to require extra steps that other phones don't need. And this is a device with some interest around it, it's probably much worse on a phone like the A14.

The other brand that is good for this stuff is Xiaomi (Poco, Redmi), at least the models with Snapdragon. Some devices have a lot of development around them, so you'll have no issues rooting or finding custom ROMs. The downside is that you need to wait a week to unlock their phones (at least Poco, not sure about other sub brands) and a Windows PC to run the software.

Network Signal Guru is very limited without root and only shows you some stats. With root, there's more detailed information, you can disable bands, etc, and if you have the paid version (expensive) you can even lock the phone to specific cell towers.
 
The Pixel 4a 5G is a nice phone for this. Fairly easy to unlock, root, and install custom ROMs.

Just be aware that it lost official software support from Google recently, so for future software updates, as Meritez said, you'll need a custom ROM. LineageOS is a good option and supports this phone: https://wiki.lineageos.org/devices/bramble/

You don't need to do all this btw, CellMapper doesn't need root, but if you're using it to explore mobile networks, having it is useful.
CalyxOS:

relocking the bootloader and banking apps work etc is incredibly useful, plus you do not need root.
 
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Not really, if NSG was a system app it wouldn't need root as it would be trusted.
Imagine a custom rom with NSG as a system app, just imagine.
Ah, right, I didn't think that could be an option.
 
I received my Pixel 4a 5G a few days ago!

Im up and running with Cellmapper and NSG on the Google provided Android 14.
There are a fair number of sites showing as me as the contributor now, so all seems to be working well.

What are the main benefits of rooting?
From what I can see, id have to go back to Android 13 to use Lineage at the moment, so might hold on until Lineage is on Android 14 unless there are some good benefits.
 
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Does that exist?
You would have to either build lineage or aosp with NSG either loaded via TWRP or CWM recovery, or bundled into the system apps.
You would then not be able to update NSG using Google Play Store or other app store.
Every app update you would have to flash a ROM update as the app would have system permissions which is not allowed in the Google sandbox.

It's a lot of work and I'm not sure if it is worth the effort as Android is far bigger these days and takes a lot of effort to build and compile.
 
I want to get an Android for my own personal testing, can somebody recommend something I can root and get Network Signal Guru installed on? Thanks :)
 
Samsung is not a "modding friendly" brand these days, so I would avoid it.

I can unlock and root my S23 Ultra for example, but there are no custom ROMs and from reading forums like XDA developers, it seems to require extra steps that other phones don't need. And this is a device with some interest around it, it's probably much worse on a phone like the A14.

The other brand that is good for this stuff is Xiaomi (Poco, Redmi), at least the models with Snapdragon. Some devices have a lot of development around them, so you'll have no issues rooting or finding custom ROMs. The downside is that you need to wait a week to unlock their phones (at least Poco, not sure about other sub brands) and a Windows PC to run the software.

Network Signal Guru is very limited without root and only shows you some stats. With root, there's more detailed information, you can disable bands, etc, and if you have the paid version (expensive) you can even lock the phone to specific cell towers.
Samsung also removes the drivers needed by NSG advance mode according to the development team.
 
I want to get an Android for my own personal testing, can somebody recommend something I can root and get Network Signal Guru installed on? Thanks :)
 
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