If, as me, you own a Galaxy S6 Active (SM-G890A) from AT&T, and you can’t update to Android 5.1.1, here is your solution.

Over the last year, I busted two mobiles :

  • I missed my pocked when trying to fit my phone in : the floor didn’t missed it, especally the screen
  • The other one tried to swim without protection, whereas I put it into an airtight bag, in an airtight box, to prevent any issue … long but funny story

Whatever … Next to these issues, I decided to get a rugged phone to ensure that I won’t bust another one or at least, not that fast. I googled for some time, avoiding the regular Chinese models you can find all over the place. Two models came out this digging : the one from CAT S30 (the S40 was not yet available) and one from Samsung (the S6 Active). I decided not to go with the CAT one, based on several reviews I got from both. Unfortunately, the Samsung Galaxy S6 Active was only release in some countries (as in the US) and only through some carrier contracts (as AT&T in the US). Luckily, I had to do a quick work trip in the US. Thanks to some colleagues, I was able to buy a brand new S6 Active. I won’t got through a full review of the phone, as you can find a ton of them online. I bought the phone on early July 2015. On August, AT&T released a branded update based on Android 5.0.2. The update was available to all the owner, even not in the US nor on AT&T. The update was fine for lots of thing but there were some glitches as some slowness or some random micro-freezes. One solution, due to Android 5.0, was to move to Android 5.1 as it solved most of the issues. But, as there is no way to root the phone yet, and as it’s not a stock version of Android, there was no way to update it as-is. Waiting was my new friend. On the root side, there is even a bounty on the XDA forum, if you want to take care of it. On November, AT&T released an update based on the 5.1.1. But, and here is our common issue, this update is available only if you’re in the US and if you’re using AT&T : it’s an OTA update (Over The Air). I can’t go to the US as I go to my local bakery nor I can’t ask my employer to pay for a new trip in the US just to get my update. I was struggling for months with this. But, some days ago, I found out about some Samsung tools that could be useful : Samsung Smart-Switch. Here, I won’t focus on the mobile version of the tool as it’s not useful for us. But the computer version (available on Windows and Mac OS X) is our Grail. So, install it on your computer. If, as me, you’re on Linux and can’t find someone with a Windows close to you, visualization is your savior.  Install Virtualbox, install a VM with Windows and then, Samsung Smart Switch. Note that you better have at least 2 cores and 2 GB Ram enabled on your VM. Another trick regards the USB :

  • add your current user to vboxusers
usermod -a -G vboxusers francois
  • logout/login your session
  • edit  the VM settings to ad a permanent USB filter for your phone (it has to be plugged in prior to this)

Now that you can use Smart Switch, plug your phone, go to the upper right corner on “Plus”, then “Emergency recovery and re-initialization”. Wait for a couple of second, the phone will get detected and recognized. If it’s legit (not declared as stolen), the system will detect the version and propose an update from Android 5.0.2 to Android 5.1.1. You can also for the update via the re-initialization process, thanks to your serial number (on your phone, Settings / About the phone / State), but this will wipe out all the data so do not forget to backup your phone first. If you’re using a virtualized Windows, when the phone reboots the first time, Smart Switch will continue to ask you to connect the phone so it can detect it : just right click on the USB settings of the VM, and change the USB filter from Remote “No” to Remote “Any”. At the end, you may have to do it the other way but this is optional. Now, you have a fully functional Galaxy S6 Active from AT&T, working on an up-to-date and official branded Android 5.1.1 without bothering with AT&T.