Ask LH: Can I Upgrade My Old Phone To Android 4.0?

Hey Lifehacker, I have an old HTC Explorer which I have re-purposed as my MP3 player. I would really love to get the Zombies, Run! app on it, but this app only works on Andriod 4 or above and my phone is on version 2. As this is an old model I highly doubt they will be releasing any updates for it. Is there any way I can update the OS myself? Thanks, Zombie Cheapskate

Dear ZC,

As you speculate, it is highly unlikely that HTC will release the latest Android update for its Explorer handset: it simply isn’t popular or high-end enough to make it worth the vendor’s time and effort. However, it’s still possible to upgrade the OS yourself using an unofficial build.

The first thing you’ll need to do is root your phone, which will give you the required permissions to begin tinkering with the OS. If you’re new to the world of rooting, be sure to check out our complete guide to rooting any Android phone; you’ll fine plenty of useful tips in this article including a glossary of rooting terms (handy for following forum advice) and how to root older, less popular phones.

Below is a guide on how to root the HTC Explorer and update its firmware to Android 4.0.4 courtesy of engineering blogger Sheladiya Gautam:

The unofficial build of CyanogenMod 9 is available for HTC Explorer. CyanogenMod 9 is based on Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich and it brings all ICS and other CM goodness to HTC Explorer. Officially you won’t get Android 4.0 ICS update for HTC Explorer but if you want to taste ICS, you can try this ROM. Right now ROM is suitable for daily use but problem may occur as it yet to hit stable version.



  • Phone must be Rooted and CWM Installed on it.
  • Make sure that your phone is charged at least 70%.
  • Backup all your personal data, because this method will wipe everything from your phone (No need to backup SD Card)


Download ROM zip & Google Apps (Optional) zip file from here. Download any one from first five. (around 109 mb)


Instructions to Install CyanogenMod 9 ICS ROM on HTC Explorer:

      I assume you downloaded ROM zip file and Google Apps zip file from above link.
  1. Create folder with name of “Root” and Copy both the files which you download to Root of your SD Card.
  2. Now Disconnect phone from PC and Boot it into Recovery mode ( Press Volume Up + Home button + Power buttons ) Now recovery mode is open and select.
  3. From Main menu, Select ‘Wipe data/factory reset’ and then select ‘Yes’
  4. Select ‘Wipe data & cache’ and then select ‘Yes’
  5. Now go to ‘select zip from SD Card’ option and then select ‘Choose zip from sdcard’. Go on Root folder and select the CM9 ROM zip file you copied in SD card.
  6. Wait for process to complete, After the installation is finished, now flash Google Apps in a similar way (No need to clear cache).
  7. Go back to main menu and select ‘Reboot now’ to reboot your phone in normal mode.


You’ve successfully installed CyanogenMod 9 ROM on HTC Explorer.

One caveat to remember is that rooting your phone tends to void the warranty, although in your case this shouldn’t be much of an issue as the phone is already past its use-by date.

If any readers have alternative solutions of their own, let Zombie Cheapskate know in the comments section below.


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