Android 4.3 update for the HTC EVO 4G LTEI’d mentioned that things were probably going to be a bit different in how you have to update to Android 4.3 Sense 5.0 a while back, HTC confirmed this a little later, some people are very upset about this, and I’m here to say I’m not one of them and I’ll tell you why.

Imagine, if you will, that the software you’ve been running on your phone was terrible. Many in the root community have considered the stock HTC base ROM on the EVO 4G LTE abysmal for quite some time now, and it’s been a challenge for anyone who’s been rooted to stay on the stock HTC ROM for longer than it takes to get to a computer and root the thing.

Now, consider that if you’re reading this and awaiting an upgrade that’s not going to come over the air from Sprint like the previous ones have, you’re probably not rooted, you may even have misconceptions about the legality or warranty issues that might be caused by rooting, and now you’re looking at a new and different update method from the manufacturer.

We’re not going to go into why you should root and what the issues are – we can save that for another time and piece. Let’s just go into some of the underlying mechanics of what’s been wrong and what HTC finally did right, even if the update sounds like it’s going to be a total pain.

What’s the problem with the current ROM?

HTC released a phone that was severely hindered in app storage when they released the HTC EVO 4G LTE. You might not have run into this, but people who are power users or just want to have a lot of stuff on their phone found out that the 16 gigs they paid for were getting them two gigs of app storage, two gigs of system ROM partition, and about 11 gigs to store photos and space for applications like apps2SD to attempt to push some data to.

In short, you were getting about 1/7 of what you should have been able to reach, and you’ve been limited to that for the past year and a half.

With applications getting more robust, you need more app storage. You need what you paid for. Also with Android 4.3 you just want to stop the endless rigging that’s been going on under the hood of the ROM that’s been kind of sporadically updated and patched.

To give you an idea about how bad the ROM is currently, imagine an app is a burger and fries, and your waiter (Garcon Google Play) comes out to you and puts the bun on one table, the fries on another, and in the next building over is the meat and your Instagram photo of what you’re going to eat. For some reason, the condiments are in the lady’s restroom vents, but there’s no mention as to why.

That’s sort of the layout as it stands. The new layout will put everything in places that resemble what other restaurants (devices and phones) do. Storage will be properly accessible, and the great term “Android fragmentation,” will decrease by one.

Why does it have to be a download?

If you’ve grown with an operating system such as Windows or Mac OS, you’ve realized that there comes a time when you can’t upgrade, it’s time to just format and install the next OS. This is where we’re at on the EVO 4G LTE and here’s why:

The partition layout is completely changing to allow you to use what you paid for. Everything needs to be wiped, partitioned, formatted, flashed, upgraded and otherwise burned down to make the layout correct.

There’s no way to finagle your apps, data, the gigabyte update, any photos, music, etc. you have on the device while on the device. It’s like doing brain surgery on yourself. During the update the following happens:

  • HBoot updated so it can boot to the new partitions/make S-OFF difficult again
  • Partitions remapped deleting everything on the phone
  • LTE/WiFi/3G radio firmware updated in new partition space
  • New updated recovery placed in now vacant recovery spot
  • Gigabyte+ unpacked ROM pushed to phone

Unfortunately step two is not possible if you have the ROM/OTA on the phone. (Well, it theoretically is – you could delete a whole lot of stuff and have an update that takes a few hours as it moves data around, but your phone would be out of commission a long long time. SD access is not that speedy.)

With the update coming in at a gigabyte, and your old ROM being a gigabyte, and all your apps and data being two to three gigabytes plus whatever music and photos you have, you’re dealing with shuffling a LOT of data around for a long long time in an attempt to get the layout properly done and preserve your data.

To reuse the restaurant analogy, it’s putting a tablecloth on the table while people are eating and there’re plates and glasses of wine everywhere. It’s possible, but not advisable.

Losing all your apps, games, etc.

Desktop backup in AndroidYou don’t have to. We’ve had the ability to back up our phones to a computer and restore them for a long time now. When the update is released, since you’re going to have to update it on a computer anyway, you’ll make a backup to the computer, copy all your music and photos off of the SD card, install the RUU update from a computer, and then restore what you need.

At least that’s the assumption. HTC might make a really nifty RUU that does it for you, but I assume they’re going to leave that in your hands. We’ll probably have a primer on backing up your phone to your computer and restoring it for non-root users when the time comes.

And as long as you’ve been using a Gmail account with your phone, chances are pretty good you’ll never lose a contact ever. Even if you throw the phone into a ditch.

Your Angry Birds achievements should be preserved and make it through to the other side. The only difference is you’ll have to work a little bit to get it done, and have a computer to do it with.

Is it worth it?

You’ll get a new version of HTC Sense, which if you are a fan is an incentive. You’ll get a slightly faster kernel and better experience. Your battery will be a bit better, and the radios will correct some issues that you currently may not realize you have.

In short, if you’re sick of what you’ve got, it’s different and slightly better in terms of performance. It’s a lot like a slightly better new phone.

It’s extremely better in terms of being able to access storage you paid for and should have been mad about not having non-rigged access to for the past year and change.

Giving up and going to another phone?

It should be noted that if you say eff it and leave the HTC EVO 4G LTE, you’re going to go through the same hurdles on a new phone to get your data and apps transferred over. Then again, with the EVO 4G LTE close to EOL, that might work for you.

What you’ll (probably) need

Computer running Windows 7 or emulated Windows under Mac. Windows 8 will most likely work, but you might have to follow this guide to fix USB connection issues. Also, a USB cable for the phone and n hour to backup and RUU (update) and restore.

Alternately

You can unlock, root, backup with Titanium+Nandroid, install captain_throwback’s ROM based on the HTC beta, and come to the root world with Android 4.3 today with all your stuff. One of us, one of us.

Wrap up

Nobody’s forcing anyone to take the upgrade. The phone reaches end of life in May. The upgrade is nice for a stock upgrade but it’s not going to change your phone into a significantly more powerful phone, it’ll just be nicer, and finally laid out like it should have been initially. There are very few applications even the power users run that require the Android 4.3 upgrade.

Most people who do the upgrade will see incredible performance increases mainly because they won’t have restored all the stuff that was slowing down their phone on the Jelly Bean stock ROM they were running.

HTC is finally making the stock HTC EVO 4G LTE layout right with their upcoming Android 4.3 update, and for that I’m glad. You can’t keep building on rigged without failing eventually, which is what power users ran into very early on before the EVO 4G LTE was unceremoniously dumped as the HTC flagship for the One.

It just bothers me that they’ve allowed a former flagship phone to limp along for so long without a better solution at the ready for when this day finally came.