Lenovo A8 (A806) Golden Warrior WCDMA 4G Kit Kat Android smartphone review and experiences (Part 2) + how to root Lenovo A8/A806/A808 and install Google Play Store/apps and Xposed with AOSP ROM + English TWRP recovery
In 1st part I described what is current situation in market with mostly MT6592 smartphones and why I chose Lenovo A8. Here are the official specifications (detail photos with disassembled phone + another photos) - 1.66GHz 28nm octacore (8-core) CPU Mediatek MT6592 as in most of the MT6592 phones paired together with Mali 450 GPU and 2GB RAM (1980MB according CPU-Z), 5" 720P display (not Full HD, but whatever - 294ppi (320dpi), at least it should run smoother with lower load on CPU/GPU), 16GB internal ROM storage (12.68GB according CPU-Z, system should take ~2GB out of it, so you should have available around 10.5GB storage) expandable by microSD card slot up to 32GB card (maybe moe unofficially), 4.12mm bezel on sides (by my inaccurate measurement 4-4.5mm) is optically little bit smaller thanks to silver frame around edges of the phone, 2G 900/1800MHz, 3G WCDMA 900/2100MHz, dual 4G TD-LTE + FDD-LTE, 2500mAh/9.5Wh Li-Ion Lenovo BL229 battery, 13MP rear camera with dual LED flash and 5MP selfie (front) camera, next to rear camera mono speaker, single (!) Full size SIM card (no need any cutting or adapters, I ain't missing 2nd SIM card slot at all), dimensions 140.5x70.5x8.99mm with display covering 69.57% of front surface area. GPS, Wifi, Wifi Direct, BT4.0, FM radio are standard. Android 4.4.2 out of the box (although quite difficult to root compared to other Chinese phones, how to root is at the end of the post) with Lenovo VIBE UI 2.0 on top of it, which I upgraded immediately OTA/WiFi to newest official stable 1432 build. Phone (WCDMA version A806) was released to market in July 2014, TD-SCDMA version (A808T) 1 month earlier with 100RMB lower official price - 798RMB for TD-SCDMA+TD-LTE China Mobile version, 898RMB (111EUR) for WCDMA+FDD/TD-LTE China Unicom version, bought from one of the most famous Chinese electronics brick stores Suning (the other one would be Dazhong, these two dominating CN brick el. store market), although I ordered it online, so very fresh model just after release basically without any English reviews.
UPDATE - added English how-to root Lenovo A8/A806/A808 and how to install Google apps (Gapps) like Play Store and other and how to install Xposed and AOSP ROM, together with links for download. Camera sample photos taken in maximum quality, then resized to 1600px and saved sa 88% quality progressive JPEG in IrfanView.
This review is about phone Lenovo A8 aka Golden Warrior which is sold as A808T and A806, with only difference being 3G and 4G network support, A808T is only for Chinese market supporting TD-SCDMA 3G and TD-LTE 4G, while A806 support WCDMA 3G and dual 4G standards - FDD-LTE and also China Unicom TD-LTE, when I will be referring to phone as A806 it's valid for both versions since there is no other difference between these two models ecept modem, but I bought international version A806 which I can use with WCDMA 3G and FDD-LTE 4G. ROMs are NOT compatible, if you flash wrong ROM (A808T into A806 and vice versa) you will have problems with phone modem and you may be unable to call, text or use data.
Phone arrived in very compact cardboard box only little bit bigger than size of mobile with Lenovo verification sticker reading VOID when removed, when removing top shelf with mobile without battery you can find underneath half charged 2500mAh genuine Lenovo Li-Ion BL229 battery (fakes already available on Taobao from 22RMB :-)) with production date in middle of July, compact squared 1000mA USB charger and good quality USB cable, of course some paper books, but that's it, nothing else fancy like headset, screen protector, shell or other gifts. After all this is budget phone and Lenovo tries to save money everywhere they can, they didn't saved much on very good specifications and HW inside, so where they had to save money is of course design and materials of body.
Phone is of course for this price made of plastic, ~4mm plastic silver frame going around phone seem to be good quality imitation of metal. Back cover is just horrible - slippery glossy black plastic which is permanently getting dirty a lot and I knew already when ordering I won't like it, just hoping there will be soon alternative matte battery covers to replace it. At the moment only official shiny white and black battery covers are available, together with imitation of leather which comes with front flip cover which I don't want. You can always resort to putting outer matte shell on the phone which I don't want since phone is already quite big (thick/wide), but after 2 months waiting (10/2014) for alternative battery covers I resorted to this option since slippery back is really annoying and unbearable. At wife's TCL S950 (Alcatel Idol X) it's different situation, phone is narrow, as are screen bezels and very thin, so matched together with good quality thin shell it's still very compact (smaller than A806 without any shell). Actually in case of another popular budget phone Huawei Honor 3C you can go as far as basically changing design of the phone by replacing battery cover which is taking also sides of the phone and not just its back, so what was once phone with rounded sides can become copycat of iPhone design. Although this won't happen with A806 since 4-5mm silver frame is unforgiving and ireplacable.
Left side of the phone is completely lacking any buttons, same situation awaits you in the bottom where is only hole for microphone, right side is accommodating Power button and volume rocker and on top of the phone is jack/headphones slot and USB slot. Back battery cover except being shiny is also dull, there is 13MP camera protruding outside of body with very strong dual LED flash (I can also imagine battery consumption when used as flashlight) and next to it 33 holes of mono speaker. Front side with display has 5" display with 4.12mm bezels (including silver frame making it optically smaller, the black part itself let's say 3-3.5mm, just to put it in perspective Xiaomi Mi3 has 5.7mm bezel like from medieval age), on top of the display is speaker, proximity sensor and 5MP front camera without auto-focus, nothing really worth mentioning. Under the display are Lenovo mediocre designed 3 capacitive buttons - Menu, Home and Back button on right as I am used and it's more friendly to right handed people. These buttons DO NOT have any backlight at all (!), although it doesn't seem to be problem even in night since you can guess where is Back and Home and nobody really use Menu anymore (just force Menu overflow button through Xposed+GravityBox after root and if backlight is serious issue for you, you can always enable on screen navigation bar).
Removing a battery cover proved to be extremely challenging and I already wanted to smash phone against the wall completely pissed off unable to put battery in new phone. I can understand they want to hold battery cover strong in place without gaps, but this is just too much. Even when I understand how to theoreticall do it, that you place your fingernail in special hole in bottom right corner and then you should slowly go with fingernail between silver frame and battery cover and it should start clicking it just didn't work for me, neither for my wife's fingernails, it's just too tight from factory and it took me really maybe 10-15mins 1st time to finally angry open back cover and then I had to think twice if I will put there just battery and full size SIM card or will place there also Micro SD card to avoid this experience again (on the other ocassions it goes easier). Now I understand much more producers deciding to produce unibody phones without removable covers just with side slots/drawers, none of those were so annoying as this. There is not much to see under battery cover, just regular mSD and full size single SIM card slot (no dual SIM card, quite unusual for China), so I still don't have to cut my card. What you may notice is that the phone without cover would be actually pretty thin and that camera is HUGE protruding maybe 2mm out of body itself. I wish Lenovo would opt for shorter camera making body at least 1mm thinner.
As for dimensions compared to TCL S950 (Alcatel Idol X, one of the smallest 5" phones), length is pretty same, A806 is of course wider although not that significantly, but the thickness is just mindblowing, those 2mm difference you notice immediately. As for weight A806 feels quite light even compared to TCL S950, but it maybe because of plastic materials, while S950 feels for sure like much better premium quality materials and overal much better more solid body (well it's unibody after all). OK, so let's finish HW part - capacitive buttons seem to have normal=good sensitivity compared to crappy sensitivity of TCL S950 which is really annoying (although bottom bezel is very short, so you can always use navigation bar to resolve this problem). Screen has probably 2-3 dead pixels as I noticed in night in total darkness when checking camera, there were 2-3 red pixels on black screen next to each other, although when trying to reproduce it on other black or other backgrounds I could not spot them anymore, only 1 which seem to persist always. Maximum screen brightness is weak, very average, don't have high expectations from screen, although I can't complain about pixels and can't really notice difference between Full HD and 720P, but TCL S950 has for sure more vivid colors and much brighter display. As for screen sensitivity everything is fine without any issues.
Phone would be comfortable to hold in hands due to rounded sides, if you replace shiny slippery battery cover, until then it's dangerous easy to slip out of hands. Oh yeah, the screen, there is preinstalled matte screen protector on display without bubbles, which would be fine if it would not be getting amazingly dirty compared to other screen protectors I experienced.
I didn't noticed any problems with mobile network signal reception or Wifi reception, average compared to other devices, I can find plenty of neighboring Wifi networks from other apartments and my wifi router in same room few meters away has around 40-55dBm depending on position.
After launching the phone for first time you will notice heavily modified Android/Aliyun OS 4.4.2 with Lenovo VIBE UI 2.0 on top of it, which is bad joke looking like some coloring book for kindergarten. Same goes for NOT customizable toolbox sliding from Status panel, where you can rearrange order of icons, but not remove unwanted. What's even worse is Status bar heavily modified as well with mobile network signal in left corner and everything else including huge horizontal battery icon in right corner so Lenovo is wasting your whole status bar area. Things go that far that even normal Battery setting from Settings is replaced by some Power manager from Lenovo where you can't find stock consumption chart (although (small) chart is in the system, accessible through 3rd party battery apps). Dialer/Contacts, Messaging, Calculator, Clock, Camera/Gallery, Recorder, FM radio etc. - everything replaced from stock Android by crappy Lenovo apps. Of course everything ss running from Lenovo Launcher which is once again crap even without app drawer, so 1st thing I've done was replacing it with Apex (7 rows + dock + 5 columns homescreen, everything works fine in Apex, drawer can't handle more than 6 rows even if set higher number), continuing with Clock app, Dialer/Contacts replaced by Touchpal Contacts/Dialer (although will return to vanilla Android when possible I guess, but when living in China Touchpal is useful to block advertisement calls, but Lenovo Dialer could block them too, but doesn't allow changing themes using very bright colors so no option for me) since I could not even add unknown number to existing synchronized Outlook.com contact. It's also impossible to find setting to Restrict background data and switch off Auto-Sync - what you can do is go to (Lenovo) Contacts / Menu / Account setting and finally there you will find Auto-sync option hidden.
All of this is still nothing, the most evil thing Lenovo installed is called Lenovo Security which is going through all phone/settings and somehow I restricted background data there AFAIR. While you can uninstall/freeze without root plenty of crappy apps like Lenovo (app) store, game store and other apps nobody sane is interested about, one thing you can't disable without root is Lenovo Security. Hoping that update will bring some improvements I updated this app, only to find that after update it's missing even English localization, so I had to uninstall update and revert back to factory version which is at least in English. Oh yeah, phone has only 3 languages Simplified and Traditional Chinese + English, forget about German, Russian etc., this phone at least with this ROM/firmware for now is clearly targeted only to Chinese market, only way how to get there other languages is to use multilanguage custom ROM. But let's get back to evil Lenovo Security which has Charge Guard (not possible to disable) where you can set up which app can dial call, send SMS/MMS, enable BT/Wifi/mobile data. Another option is Anti-virus which you can in theory disable through Virus Monitor but anyway when downloading APK it seem to be checking every APK for viruses wasting my time at each installation by answering additional questions. Then there is App manager (can't be disabled) which can help you uninstall, move or freeze apps and check installed apps and APKs in phone, although of course forget about sorting by size/install date/name, only sorting available is by size. Anti-spam blocking calls/SMS depending on hours/blacklist/whitelist/online data is one of few apps of Lenovo Security which can be disabled. There is even Ad Blocker which allows you to disable ad engines of some apps, but mostly only English ones and Chinese, not really if you have some local app from your home country and allows to control also notifications displayed in status bar by apps, once again not possible to disable globally but you can choose not to use it for any app. Speed-up allows you to clean cache, APK files, media files, end running apps, control auto-start of the apps (remember this option, it's very important) and it has Ignore list for apps to be ignored when switching off. Then there is Privacy guard which is same thing as Charge Guard, although allow to disable more capabilities for each app or make some apps trusted to have access to anything (it doesn't equal root access). Last item is Data Usage which is monitoring your data usage and has also firewall for apps to forbid then access to wifi or mobile data. Other hidden apps from main screen of Lenovo Security are self-explanatory Vault, Anti-theft, Safepayment (checking browser when paying through CN banks, useless abroad) and System Test (dead pixel test + system info).
Why I spent so much time talking about stupid Lenovo Security app? Well it's simple - because it was driving me crazy almost destroying my new phone. One of the most important things for me in the phone is calendar and it's notifications, while Lenovo Calendar and it's crappy notifications worked, my favorite Business Calendar (Pro) was refusing to show any notifications, no matter if sound or vibration making it pretty useless, until I've found it has disabled auto-start in Security/Speed-up which would not be big deal, if there would not be disabled also capability to open lock screen which is essential to pop up any notification. I wasted long time checking settings of BCP, researching online if other people have similar problem only to find out maybe one person which had issues because of some security app in the phone, which I checked and found (hidden under tons of sub-apps and subsettings) the explanation. I had same issue with WeChat instant messenger. So be very careful what settings you will change for apps and be sure that your essential apps can show you notifications and are between trusted apps and have allowed auto-start for everything.
Next day after receiving mobile I spent of course researching how to root phone annoyed by tons of crapware from Lenovo to reach result that while one click root shoulda coulda woulda work before at some previous build of ROM, but it doesn't work anymore, no matter if you use one click root APK tool or you try it with PC, so don't waste your time after upgrading to newest ROM. I also tried to push inside through MTK flash tool some Chinese recovery which was supposed to root phone automatically and while pushing recovery inside seemed successful (just connect the phone and quickly press Download, of course after installing drivers) I end up with same result as before pushing - if I start phone with Power+Volume Down button I will end up stucked on dual language screen telling me something that phone is in Meta mode and only way to get out from there is remove annoying battery cover and remove battery. Actually correct way (as I've found later) to enter recovery when powering on phone using physical buttons is to hold Volume Up + Volume Down + Power button, all at same time and you will go directly to Recovery mode. Another option how to get to Recovery in friendly way is go to Settings/About phone/System update/Menu/Toolkit and choose Reboot in Recovery mode which will restart phone and let you go into official Lenovo recovery mode which seem pretty useless. When trying different combinations for hours I end up even with deleted Outlook.com account in phone (my main account to synchronize contacts/e-mails/calendar since Google services don't work in China anymore and also don't work in official Lenovo ROM, almost all of them will crash on launch, but of course outside China this is after installing different recover possible to resolve by installing gapps update. Anyway I use Cool Market and Xiaomi Store to download APKs, all have apps localized in EN). Only way how to restore Outlook.com account again in the phone was uninstall and install again Outlook.com app, so after these annoyances with notifications issues in Business Calendar, WeChat and trouble with Outlook.com account in phone (which is essential for calendar reminders and contacts) I gave up for while trying to fight with Lenovo system. Btw. Record My Call which is also quite important for me to record all my calls for future doesn't work either, it will record nothing.
Call quality seem normal, nothing stands out, but it could be louder since even maximum volume ain't that loud, ringtone (speaker) volume it's OK, loud enough.
As for Chinese logic, if you have "Pocket protection mode" enabled you can be amused as me, when in night I wanted to check something on phone lying on my night table plugged in charger and phone was telling me how to unlock screen by pressing Back capacitive button and then something, because that's very logical to have pocket protection when charging and lying horizontally on night table, that's how looks typical pocket scenario according Lenovo engineers. Next morning I disabled whole pocket protection nonsense so I can unlock my phone when lying on night table plugged in charger.
Phone has also another smart functionality like double tap on screen off to unlock the phone. It seem useful, I'm just afraid about battery life, since it pretty much means that phone at all times monitor touch sensors instead of shutting them down completely during sleep (screen off), not sure how much battery these sensors and CPU processing data from them consume, impossible to find in battery statistics, so I did quick research online and didn't find anyone complaining about double tap feature draining battery, except Nokia owners (well, those hopeless guys praising how great ship is the Titanic, I prefer even jailbroken iSheeps over them) where the feature doesn't even seem working properly when phone randomly wakes up in pocket. I just quickly checked Lenovo implementation that double tap must be in same spot and quite fast, if it's slower in same spot it won't work and even if it's very fast in different spots it won't work. As for LG pioneer of this feature (although Nexus developers developed it, just didn't implement), it should be directly implemented in kernel and it should not affect battery life (they say, if you believe in Bible, Quran and other fairy tales), although I find that hard to believe just because of very simple fact of additional monitoring of touch sensors compared to no monitoring at all with this feature disabled, so in the end I decided not use this feature (unless someone explain me how is monitoring touch sensors and processing this data not consuming ANY additional energy compared to all of these disabled, but I guess that won't happen because we would have perpetuum mobile engine, so I would be fine at least with someone telling me it consumes like 0.1% of system resources and effect on battery is in matter of minutes of battery life) and I am fine with waking up with any of 3 buttons on right side (Volume+Power), same as on wife's TCL S950 where it's necessity since Idol X has Power button on top which is major annoyance.
You can also draw C on screen off to launch camera (E for browser, M music, V video), double tap on Home button when screen off to take photos, unlock the phone by Volume rocker (although this seem quite useless since Power button is just next to it, but it's easier to find one of them than just Power, so I activated it, but I can understand appeal of this function on other phones) and some pretty useless functionality like:
- Floating button (overlay quick access button everywhere on top of everything, quite annoying if you ask me, I hate this stuff on desktop PC as well),
- Mercury keyboard (keyboard follows direction of leaning phone to left/right side like mercury or any other liquid (or rounded object), it could be called as well Water, Ball or Pee keyboard, but it would not sound as fancy as Mercury), not really much help and anyway keyboards can be customized nowadays in any way in their setting,
- One handed micro-screen (minimize whole screen to smaller window in bottom right corner, then why the heck you bought 5" phone if you don't want to use whole screen?).
Btw. English localization of the phone is similar to my crappy English (or maybe even worse) since Lenovo doesn't bother even to hire native speaker to check their crappy localization which is amusing and says a lot about Lenovo international market ambitions, when they can't even localize phone properly into English apparently they don't give a fuck about expanding to other markets than Chinese.
As for battery life, I installed some battery stats apps, but I am always connected to wifi at home without Wifi sleep, I can play a lot with phone, lot of games and downloading and get through day, being easier on Wifi I guess it would not have much trouble to get through 2 full days of normal use with gradual battery discharge without any sudden jumps. OK, so after 1-2 days after installing like 3 battery stat meters/apps I just noticed they can't really read/produce any stats, they can show you what's current status at the moment, but probably due to limitations of Kit Kat and missing root they can't monitor battery life, so in the end I checked hardware stats in Lenovo app - phone has 43% of battery after 20h 3mins of standby, 13h 25mins of WLAN working (this is probably not real, since I use Smart switch for WLAN during sleep with setting "Switch on when there is data transfer", otherwise sleep during sleep, I could check real Wifi battery life with "Always on" if some is interested) and 4h screen time (low brightness, I don't like too strong light, although I tested during this period few camera apps which were using full brightness and other sensors), so we should be talking about 6-7 hours of screen time with ordinary (wifi) apps without heavy games, I do a lot of news reading and checking apps as Digg, BBC, browsers, Booking.com, Business Calendar.
Camera is providing very mixed results (judging by few photos I took with stock Lenovo Camera app) - night photos are noisy as expected, I was not expecting anything else from mobile camera, this is common problem with most mobiles. Photos of food from short distance (and in general photos from 1m distance in interior) can be very sharp with nice colors (maybe little bit cold temperature), not too saturated, seem quite realistic. As for outside snapshots I took photos mostly in quite dark cloudy smoggy Beijing weather so results are very bad - blurry, noisy, hard to believe how bad they are. Interior photos are hit or miss, mostly miss, sometimes sharp with spot on colors, many times too bright and not sharp, practically never too dark (underexposed), very commonly overexposed. In general photos miss color contrast (although JPG seem overprocessed too sharp even on Medium setting sharpness so I lowered it to low to try), colors seem quite washed and bright with horrible "black" color which is grey. Camera seem to be big disapointment, I will try to use different camera apps I already installed and set it for results closer to reality. Front camera doesn't have auto-focus so expect quite bad blurry photos. I took also only very few short videos (maximum quality is 1080P, format is horrible 3GP wasting lot of space with bitrate ~1MB/s), but it seem significantly better than photos. I don't like as well placement of the rear camera in the middle of the phone where I naturally put my middle finger when holding phone horizontally (in landscape mode), so it's quite difficult to hold the phone only with thumb and index finger, trying to squeeze my middle finger on edge of the phone way from camera. You can judge camera quality by my real life photos in album taken with DSLR camera app in maximum resolution/quality, then in PC resized to 1600px and saved as Progressive JPEG 88% quality in IrfanView, you should be aware that these are best quality photos, I always take many photos because you can't rely on camera focus and you can only hope some of the photos will be OK.
After running some GPS tests outside using AndroiTS GPS Test I was able to find 9-11 sattelites and lock position with 5 during walking, which takes totally around 1.5 minute to lock your position, although the phone can see 5-10 satellites basically immediately, so not sure what takes so long time to lock/fix position. According GPS Test 1.2.9 (by Chartcross Ltd) I had 10 satellites in view and 9 in use as well with accuracy 10 feet and first fix time according this app was 1:27, I can provide screenshots from both apps if you are interested. Of course together with mobile data it's locking position significantly faster (but this is useless abroad in expensive roaming). Phone doesn't have compass.
For those interested in Antutu synthetic benchmark then with my 1432 official ROM build I get in Antutu 4.5.3 score 29238 (faster than Xiaomi Hongmi or Samsung S4, although I saw some people getting even 30-31K from A8, so with some optimization performance it can improve almost to the level of 2GHZ MT6592 in TCL S960 which has scores around 31K, so really except design (+FHD screen) 50% of price difference is not justifiable by maybe 5% performance increase) and in Antutu X benchmark 5.0 Beta 1 I've got 32289, so quite impressive scores for phone for such price (111EUR in China) but let's not forget it's running on 720P screen so it's not as heavy on CPU/GPU as Full HD. NenaMark2 - 61.7FPS, expectable and very smooth at 720P. 3DMark Ice Storm v1.2 (720P) score 7419, graphic score 6950, physics score 9711, Graphics test 1 24.9FPS, test 2 38.3FPS, physics test 30.8FPS. Ice Storm unlimited v1.2 score 7253, graphics score 6593, physics score 11164.
Headphones output is complete shit, there is constant noise/hiss making listening to music unbearable when someone come from TCL S950 or MP3 player Cube C30 or any decent audio device. If you are deaf or use shitty 1$ headphones then it will be OK for you, but for me it's unbearable and can't listen anything from mobile through headphones, this is biggest letdown of the phone.
Summary/TLDR - phone seem to have nice hardware, runs smoothly, but it's heavily dragged down by annoying Lenovo VIBE customization (especially Security app is hell prior rooting), together with AOSP vanilla ROM it can be good deal for cheap 4G phone with octacore CPU. Of course shiny slippery battery cover must be replaced by some matte cover since it's extremely annoying and this way together with AOSP ROM it will be nice phone. Camera seem to be big letdown, below average quality,
but will give it more chance with different apps/settings, since I can't believe how bad it is, after 2 months of using phone I still consider camera at best mediocre (the best results seem to be with DSLR camera app), usually just below average. As for people who like to listen music with good headphones avoid this phone by miles, it's utter noisy crap. GPS is slow (without mobile data/Wifi) but that's normal with Mediatek, with mobile data switched on it's OK but pretty useless far abroad. If you don't mind slow GPS, at best average camera and especially horrible noise/hiss in headphones, then after rooting and replacing shiny back cover it's nice phone. :-) I don't care that much about slow GPS and average camera + slippery back and Vibe ROM are possible to fix, but sadly audio output is the biggest disapointment of this phone. If I knew what I know now I would probably not mind sticking together with Amoi for another period of time and would probably choose Amoi A928W despite it's boring design and lack of 4G and Kit Kat or would wait longer for Jiayu G4S which two weeks later after I bought A806 became finally available in beginning of September, although it has also its own fair share of issues (GPS, camera, fucked up ROM with Facebook app not working for example, headphone output will be probably crap too, but at least body is better and smaller than A806 and battery 20% bigger).
I am sorry for lack of photos (+other, both albums are accurate representation of phone and not just some astroturfing), but both Picasa and Flickr are blocked in China, so I have trouble to upload photos to some reliable hosting providing hotlinks and don't wanna waste too much traffic on my domain hosting, although I took some photos and screenshots and prepared them for review.
EDIT: So I finally rooted the phone in the end, the problem when I was flashing new Chinese TWRP recovery was that it was not enough just to shut down phone by software/button, but battery needs to be removed for complete shutdown, also this time I didn't let phone automatically boot after successful flashing but removed battery immediately when it started to boot to shut it down after successful flashing (green icon on PC) and repeated process again for 2nd time (needs to be done), after this was phone finally flashed with TWRP recovery and I could root it through TWRP or install my preffered SuperSU superuser app. Linked files below are for A806 specifically - international WCDMA/FDD-LTE version, A808T will have same steps, but need different scatter loader and anyway can't imagine who would use it outside China.
HOW TO ROOT LENOVO A8/A806/A808
0. Download and install USB driver (pwd:x5jw, but you can find plenty of drivers I used different from some other forum, in Windows 8.1, maybe you need restart computer in advanced startup mode to disable driver certificate verification) + MTK Flash tool (pwd: g96v, international mirror without password) + Chinese TWRP 2.8 recovery (pwd:l6mr, international mirror without password), I didn't experience any problems with driver installation so don't ask me for help, you should figure it out.
1. Launch MTK flash tool, choose appropriate scatter loader file (alston_fddopen for A806) + choose MTK_AllInOne_DA.bin,
2. shut down the phone completely by software and then also by removing battery (it won't work without battery removed, I got stucked on this for days),
3. when phone is completely shut down, connect USB cable to phone, but don't connect other end to computer, click on DOWNLOAD in MTK flashtool and quickly connect other end of USB cable to computer, phone should be recognized and flashed in few seconds with pop-up window with green icon about successful flashing. If you will get COM port error, then you are plugging USB cable too early or too late after pressing DOWNLOAD button, just give it 2-3 seconds after pressing button. Or of course your drivers are fucked up, but in that case don't bother me.
4. After successful flashing (green icon on PC), phone will start automatically booting, but during this boot remove battery to shut it down completely again and unplug it from computer again.
5. Repeat 3rd and 4th step for 2nd time, once should not be enough, it must be flashed twice.
6. Now, phone is flashed twice and it's shut down. Press and hold all physical buttons = VOLUME UP + VOLUME DOWN + POWER at same time to boot into new Chinese TWRP recovery 2.8.
7. Touch bottom left icon (ADVANCED) in TWRP,
8. touch top right icon, confirm fixing permissions by sliding to right,
9. if there is ROOT button, click on it and/or slide to right again to confirm rooting, after finishing process phone will automatically reboot and there should be preinstalled app Superuser if I remember correctly.
10. If you remove Superuser app by accident like me when trying to install my SuperSU app, which didn't work later, then download flashable SuperSU from http://download.chainfire.eu/supersu (international mirror without password) then put downloaded ZIP file to root folder of your storage (in my case internal storage, since I still don't bother with SD card) and reboot phone again into recovery by booting phone with VUP+VDOWN+POWER.
11. In Chinese TWRP recovery choose top left button (INSTALL) and select SuperSU ZIP file by swiping to bottom and taping on ZIP file, confirm installation by sliding to right, then reboot the phone and SuperSU will be installed. SuperSU will ask you by notification at first start to update it, in my case Normal update was not successful, so I used automatical TWRP update, which automatically reboot phone into recovery and update itself but in my case I end up in same situation. SuperSU itself is working and able to give root permissions to app, but if I go into SuperSU manually it always ask me to update and don't let me to use its normal options.
I reuploaded MTK flashtool + recovery image with scatter file + this tutorial + newest flashable SUperSU ZIP file inside one package here and here on multiple filehostings for easier download outside China. It's missing driver but that one is supplied even with the phone itself on virtual CD driver phone assigns and there are plenty of USB driver mirrors for Lenovo.
Finally after rooting the phone I was able to backup and freeze (using Titanium Backup Pro) fucking evil application Security and as well useless Power Manager, Theme Center and Lenovo Launcher/Store and Game Center + Clocks (Lenovo version, since I used mine), don't freeze Notification Lenovo apps, your Status bar will disappear and mine wallpaper turned black and stopped working in Apex. Anyway with evil Security disabled it's much better experience and the system is already OK, although what must be said when I tried to install Xposed I was warned by Xposed app that this is probably Chinese fork of Android called Aliyun OS and it's dangerous to continue so I end up not installing Xposed since I don't want softbrick/bootloop my phone and I doubt Xposed (+GravityBox) would change much on such heavily modified odex ROM.
How to install Google apps/Play Store after installing TWRP recovery:
1. Download GAPPS package from here, I downloaded newest Kit Kat package, place it inside your phone (preferably root folder)
2. boot into TWRP recovery through software or using Volume UP+DOWN+POWER at same time,
3. in TWRP top left icon - choose GAPPS zip package and confirm installation by sliding to right,
4. after finishing installation use on-screen Back arrow to go to TWRP home screen, then bottom right button, then top left button to restart the phone,
5. wait for phone to boot and update apps and then you have finally all Google apps working, in China you need to use proxy for them to connect to your account since Google servers are blocked.
UPDATE 10/2014 - Xposed is not possible to install on this phone, since it's running Aliyun OS, fork of Android, you will end up in bootloop, you can install Xposed without bootloop only by deodexing ROM, see links below. LewaOS and MIUI ROMs are in development so hopefully soon we will get rid off of all annoying Lenovo software, there is no word about building proper AOSP/CWM/clean/vanilla real Android (not Aliyun!) ROM I guess since Mediatek didn't release source code for MT6592 yet. I also upgraded from official ROM build 1432 to 1443 through official system OTA update, this preserve all settings and apps including deleted Security app, but replaces Recovery so you need to repeat process of pushing recovery and rooting again, but with how to it's not big deal.
UPDATE 11/2014 - I just installed AOSP 2.0 ROM, which is prerooted with GAPPS and Xposed disabled by default over my official 1443 rooted ROM with Chinese TWRP, everything following steps went fine, first boot takes 2-3 minutes actually, much faster than expected 5mins, Xposed together with GravityBox after installing/activating and two reboots work fine! Your personal data (photos, MP3, etc.) on internal storage after wiping cache/dalvik/data are preserved in "0" directory, so I didn't need to waste time with doing backup but better be sure. Wifi, SMS/messaging, calls, Miracast all work fine, IMEI was preserved as well (so not really needed MTK NVRAM tool). Outlook.com contacts and calendar synchronization work both fine, I don't use GMail/Google blocked in China, but with VPN they all worked fine showing me my data. Can't test 4G since I don't have 4G data plan.
By default is selected Dalvik runtime, not ART, didn't try if it won't affect Xposed functionality, not really big fan of ART since it's still buggy with some apps.
There is Magic touch option, but could not figure out what is it doing, double tap on screen doesn't switch on the screen.
There is no problem with Xposed+GravityBox except I can't make status bar transparent and I can't change color of signal icon and remove 3G next to it, but it's minor annoyances compared to Lenovo ROM.
What to fix for developer:
1. Hardware information (in About) is displayed wrong as 1.4GHz + 1GB RAM + 8GB ROM + 5.5" 720P display, should be pretty easy to fix, but it's minor annoyance not affecting usage at all. Machine total capacity in storage is also displayed wrong as 8GB again, although it's correctly displayed in File explorer.
2. SuperSU is in Chinese, but can be easily changed to English by installing update from TWRP, which I later did to newer version and experienced no issues.
3. Preinstalled Camera+Gallery apps are not Kit Kat stock apps but Lenovo apps (no problem to uninstall them, they are not even system apps), I don't understand why and later I installed stock APKs for Google Camera (Play Store, but I am using DSLR camera app anyway) and Kit Kat stock Gallery. iFlashlight app seem completely useless as well since there is Torch in quick tiles.
The latter two should be easy to fix to replace lenovo camera+gallery by Kit kat Stock, remove useless iFlashlight and change SuperSU to English.
So now finally after almost 3 months I have decent phone with normal AOSP ROM with Xposed+GravityBox and without shiny battery cover (which I replaced with shell, since I ran out of patience waiting for matte battery cover from 3rd party producers) and everything seem to be working properly except signal color and not transparent status bar (+incorrect hardware info in system settings).
UPDATE 2014/11/26 - New easy way how to localize Chinese TWRP I was using until now since I don't trust that English translation coming from Spain after reading some reviews of users. Install new Android Lollipop Material design theme and except changing colors it will automatically localize TWRP into English. Steps are very easy:
1. download one of the dark, light or play themes from here (not multirom) and rename it to "ui.zip" (without quotation marks of course),
2. on SD card (preffered internal storage) open TWRP folder and create folder "theme",
3. copy ui.zip to theme folder,
4. restart to recovery and theme will be automatically loaded and you have English TWRP with nice design! Verified, works fine with original Chinese TWRP 18.104.22.168 by WT and AOSP 2.0 ROM, so finally completely localized phone without flashing new recovery.
Official Lenovo A8 forum
YDSS (Mobile Uncle) Lenovo A8 forum
Russian 4PDA Lenovo A8 forum
Greek MyPhone Lenovo A8 forum
XDA thread how to root Lenovo A8 and other informations about phone
All official stable/developer ROMs hosted at Baidu filehosting
How to install Xposed in MT6592 phones running Aliyun OS fork of Android like Lenovo A8 does
If you have any questions/comments feel free to write them in comments - Meno=Name, you can submit comment using invisible white button below the fake grey one.
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