I paid my Redmi Note 7 mobile phone around
£130. First and foremost, I strongly hate planned obsolescence, along with its consequent reckless environmental abuse. Other than money and greed, there’s not a single rational reason behind releasing new phones every year, especially models that can’t be repaired.
Xiaomi told me that no new Android updates would be made available for the device. I’ve had enough of depending on a manufacturer’s whims for the safety and durability of the hardware I buy.
- I’d been having issues with MIUI recently, mostly random reboots and boot loops. Reinstalling the OS, a time-consuming procedure, didn’t fix them.
- MIUI activates by default a ton of “suggested” features, which is a preposterous euphemism for invasive ads popping up in core apps at all times. The operation of deactivating them is per se tiresome, as they’re all scattered around numerous settings.
- The default OS is bloated with apps that cannot be removed. Also, despite having set Firefox as my default browser, they keep insisting on opening their own MI browser — which has been found to be akin to spyware — from links in core apps.
- Every single alternative launcher failed to work in the long term, with issues that regularly crept up and increased in time. Maybe it was because of Xiaomi’s hyper-aggressive battery policies, I don’t know and don’t even care anymore.
First: unlock the device
Most Xiaomi devices come factory locked, which means it’s impossible to rewrite the bootloader without unlocking. Obligatory note: the procedure voids any type of warranty or support from the manufacturer.
- Enabling developer options: in
Settings > My DeviceI tapped repeatedly on the MIUI version, until a pop-up message You are now a developer! appeared on screen.
- USB debugging: activated USB debugging and Install via USB in
Settings > Additional Settings > Developer Options.
- Unlocking: Xiaomi’s Unlock app required a Windows machine.
Second: custom recovery bootloader
I chose OrangeFox, one of the most popular bootloaders. Downloading the correct version for my specific device was a bit trickier. My phone is a Redmi Note 7 Pro, whose codename is violet, but when I flashed the recovery for that model, I involuntarily bricked the phone — or so it seeemed.
After several hours, close to giving up, I’d decided to read the bootloader log from the terminal of my Window machine, through
adb. To my utter surprise, the device was listed as lavender (code name for the regular Redmi Note 7) and not violet. Did they sell me a pro device that wasn’t really pro? Whatever. Once re-downloaded the OrangeFox image for lavender, it worked like a charm.
Third: boot into recovery
Next, I rebooted the device by pushing the power button together with the volume up button. After OrangeFox finally greeted me, I proceeded to wipe:
- Internal storage
Afterwards, I hit Back and tapped on Format Data. Typed
yes, hit the back button again, tapped the bottom icon Menu and chose
Reboot > Recovery. If it wasn’t already, that’s when I was supposed to connect the device to the Windows machine via USB cable.
Fourth: custom ROM
My choice was Android 13 for Pixel phones, which weighted around 2GB. From the computer, I copied the .zip file onto the internal storage.
When the OrangeFox recovery had booted up again, I tapped on the ROM .zip file from the main menu tab Files and authorized the installation.
Another reboot later, the animated Google logo told me that everything was going fine. Android 13 was installing. The classic Android setup routine followed.
Pretty much everything I was expecting worked, and some more.
- My old but still capable smartphone can stay up to date.
- No random reboots.
- No ads.
- No bloated apps. I even removed most of Google’s native apps without encountering a single issue.
- Custom launchers work perfectly.
- Battery life has improved in a way I’m struggling to explain: a single charge lasts 3.5 days with average use; 2.5 days with intensive use.
- Animations are sleeker and the interactions feel fluid and faster.
This is a biggie: I never logged in to a Google account and everything works smoothly. I’m using F-Droid and Aurora Store to download apps. I feel less spied on now that I have a sort of Google Pixel native Android operating system.
I’ll probably want to check one of the Google-free alternatives such as LineageOS, but so far I feel good where I am. Everything works, including all my OTP codes in Aegis, which were re-imported in seconds from an encrypted backup.
I don’t sync the phone with any cloud, I use the open source and private Syncthing to help myself with contacts and copying or deleting pictures from the phone to macOS and viceversa. My Xiaomi Redmi Note 7 (non Pro, apparently) is now seen as “Pixel 6 Pro”.
In two weeks, I’ve only experienced two minor problems, both connected to the same feature:
- I seem to be incapable of shooting QR codes directly. I have to photograph them with the camera, and then load the photo in a QR reader.
- The camera sometimes freezes on loading. To unblock, I just have to tap on a different scenario: portrait, night mode or whichever is there, and go back to the one I need.
Unlike several bug reports on LineageOS’ forums about the Redmi Note 7 camera which is only working at low resolutions, with this Android 13 ROM I can shoot pictures at the maximum resolution offered by the hardware.
Revert to MIUI?
If, for whatever reason, I wish to go back to MIUI, all I have to do is download Xiaomi’s flash tool and follow the instructions. I did exactly that when I bricked the phone, before re-flashing the recovery for the correct device, and it worked.
Edit: a month later
The whole “Pro/non-Pro” issue was my fault. Apparently I had a Mandela effect on my own — in fact, I’ve found the original box, which clearly states it’s a Redmi Note 7, not a Note 7 Pro.
The issue related to QR codes only exists in WhatsApp for whatever reason, which is definitely not a problem.