CyanogenMod 7

These days Android is huge. It has the biggest market-share of all the smart-phone operating systems. CyanogenMod is the most popular custom version of Android, often installed on a phone to replace its default version of Android, be it HTC’s Sense or Samsung’s Touchwiz. Not only is it the most popular custom version of Android, but it’s used as a base for many other OSs.

I’ve been using it on my phone for around nine-months and my experience is very positive. I’m a geeky hacking messing perfectionist and I like to tweak things so they work how I want them to, as long as it doesn’t take much time or effort. CyanogenMod has co-operated with my attempts to reclaim my phone.

First impression

It doesn’t add a lot to the default Android that comes straight from Google. If you’re on a phone like mine, the HTC Desire, or any other similar phone with a custom skin to Android, then that in itself can be enough of a sell. I don’t dislike HTC Sense. In fact it’s HTC Sense that encouraged me to get an Android phone. However, it can be nice to strip out the crap and the silly graphics, go back to basics and take control. That’s exactly where CyanogenMod shines.

It has everything you’d expect from Android and not much else, unless you want to tweak everything possible. You can change themes and launchers, and CyanogenMod makes the associated hassle fairly painless. But, I’m not a big fan of themes and skins and I’ll go for the tidiest option available that works and doesn’t look like crap.

CyanogenMod also shines when it comes to hacking. It has a load of rooting apps for managing permission for powerful apps which need to access parts of your phone they wouldn’t normally be able to access. In the real world, this doesn’t mean anything. Saying that, I’ve extended my phone’s available space onto the SD card with a bit of hacking, and I haven’t run out of space in ages, something which I was getting used to under HTC’s version of Android.

Ease of use

There aren’t many feature changes when it comes to use in the real world, but one thing that’s immediately apparent is efficiency. My phone flew. Every transition, animation and action came across a lot faster. My battery lasted longer than ever, going from a day to two or three. Against the current state of smart-phones, this is rarely heard of.

Despite this I really missed the smart dialler offered by HTC and others. The messaging interface could’ve be a lot prettier too and the stock Android 2 fonts bring pain to my retinas. Fussy things I liked had gone.

There’s nothing stopping me searching around the sometimes friendly but often helpful community of Android developers for a solution to those woes. I just really can’t be arsed.

Experience and polish

Occasionally I got the impression that this thing had been stitched together like Frankenstein’s monster. Like most things open source, it does take from the best components available from the open source community. This is good because it means the programs aren’t bad at all, but they’re not made for CyanogenMod, and they’re not consistent in their approach to user expectations. Menus, graphics, tone of voice, text formatting, etc are all over the place. It really doesn’t cut it when you’ve got the most tight arsed approach to UX being implemented by Android’s rivals.

Pretty is often portrayed as a luxury, but it really isn’t, and it’s a major mistake for developers to think like that. At the same time I don’t see CyanogenMod toting design and beauty as it’s key features. That’s not what they’re about. To do so on almost any Android platform today would be a lie.

CyanogenMod is about making your phone yours. It’s about changing things that annoy you. If you like a stupid font or an awkward lock-screen, you should have every right to use it and feel good about it. Freedom is important in this age and there’s a lot of disrespect for it from other vendors. Just because some jumped-up twat says it’s right, doesn’t mean it is. CyanogenMod is for those people, the decent ones.

CyanogenMod 7 has really warmed to me. There isn’t a lot to hate if you like Android already. But then again, would there be reason to change? If I was given a stock Android phone (something like the Nexus One, Nexus S, T-Mobile G2) I would install CyanogenMod just for the performance increase. It really is amazing to think with what you’d put up with before.

With the release of CyanogenMod 9 (they’re skipping 8), we can expect a taste of the just-landed Android 4, bringing better visual performance by focusing on hardware-accelerated graphics, and a consistent approach to UI, two things that Android is well behind on.

Hopefully the new Android will be able to stand up to it’s rivals. The outlook is very positive. If it does, CyanogenMod 9 is going to be amazing. Google and the talented indie developers out there are doing amazing work. It’s a culture that embraces individuality, something that’s taken a beating in recent years.

I’m very happy to be having a very competitive experience using my phone. I’d recommend this to anyone in a heartbeat.