Bricking and Debricking Samsung Galaxy S3 SCH-I535

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dateline: 24 November 2015

I want Lollipop!

I was given a used Samsung by a friend a year or so ago.

I recently transferred my Tracfone number and minutes to it through their Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) program--that story is a laugh and half, but not for this set of notes. After three or four hours of conversation with various and sundry support personnel, the problem in their system was detected, and the process was brought to a successful and very satisfying conclusion.

The operating system is 4.4.2 (KitKat).

It may be vulnerable to the Stagefright exploit.

I would love to move up to Lollipop or Marshmallow, but Samsung has abandoned the S3.

They have not provided a patch for Stagefright.

They have not and will not make Lollipop or Marshmallow available.

"No problem," I thought. "I'll just load a new system in by hand. I've been using computers for over 30 years. I can handle this."

Now for the three hardest words for a man to say: I was wrong.

I got Knoxed!

2015-11-23 006 cropped.JPG

As a preliminary step, I wanted to make a Nandroid backup of my system that I could use in case anything went wrong.

I downloaded TWRP from the play store.

I verified that the installation folder was correct by installing Android Studio so that I could open an Android Debug Bridge window and navigate to the putatively correct folder.

When I was confident that I had found where TWRP needed to go, I confirmed the folder and set the installation of the latest package in motion.

After installation, I tried booting into TWRP in order to complete the Nandroid backup.

The boot failed with the error message, "System software not authorized by Verizon Wireless has been found on your phone. Please turn off your phone and go to the nearest Verizon Wireless store for help."

As they say, I did not see that coming.

I was able to reboot into Download mode and prepare the phone for re-installation of some approved software.

Using Odin, I tried to install a previous version of the kernel.

Things seemed to go from bad to worse. Now I got the error message pictured at the right: "Firmware upgrade encountered an issue. Please use Software Repair Assistant & try again." In this mode, the power key ceased to work, so I could no longer boot into Download mode.

I thought the phone was hopelessly bricked.

And now for the three hardest words for a man to say: I was wrong.

It took a while for me to collect my wits and to see that the tiny little orange-red-gold letters in the upper-left corner of the screen said, "Odin Mode." The phone was not dead, just unhappy.

What a relief that was!

I kept hammering away with various versions of Odin and various tarballs. At one point, I lucked out with some combination of packages and options, and got back into Download mode for a moment. The phone would partially boot, but died with a red screen o' death.

So back to Odin and other tarballs for a few anxious hours.

Eventually, I ran out of things to try with Odin.

Kies to the rescue--eventually

Several sources recommended Kies. I hate Kies.

The sources were right. I--yes, I!--was wrong.

To get Kies to come alive, I had to correctly enter the model number for my phone.

I now know it is SCH-I535, but from day one, I had read that as "SCH-1535." It's the old "1" for "I" error. I haven't fallen into that trap for years!

I wasn't logging the process. It may have taken me an hour or more to finally copy and paste "SCH-I535" into the Kies box. It was practically an accident. I didn't think it would make any difference, but--oh, not again!--I was wrong.

Bottom line

I still want Lollipop and Marshmallow. But now I know I have to defeat the guard dog in order to do so.

Well, not me. Smarter people than I am will have to show me how. And next time I go foolin' around with unapproved software, I will make sure that I'm willing to go back to ground zero if the experiment fails.

"Too soon old, too late smart."