If you have ever looked up custom ROMs for your android device, you must have probably heard of CyanogenMod, but have you ever wondered what it actually is? There may be several custom ROMs out there for your device. CyanogenMod (pronounced sigh-AN-oh-jen-mod) is basically an alternative firmware which supports several Android devices. The development is based on Android Open Source Project and ROMs are intended to increase performance and reliability over stock Android-based ROMs that is released or preinstalled by vendors and carriers such as Google, T-Mobile, HTC, etc.
Most of the manufacturers ship their Android devices with some kind of overlays, such as HTC phones have something called HTC Sense while smartphones from Sony ship with Timescape user interfaces. These user interfaces look great, but at the cost of making the phone slow and sometimes buggy and this is where CyanogenMod steps into the picture. CyanogenMod ROMs strips the fancy processor intensive RAM hungry user interface from stock ROM, which makes it lightweight, stable and fast. CyanogenMod doesn’t alter the core Android interface, but has some added tweaks which make it run faster on a particular supported device and hence preferred over other custom ROMs. When you install several apps on phone, you will start noticing lag in the device, but with CyanogenMod, you won’t be facing that problem to a large extent.
CyanogenMod 7 or CM 7 is a gingerbread based stock Android ROM. Around 28 devices are supported by this ROM, including, but not limited to – HTC Incredible, Nexus One, Motorola Droid, Samsung Galaxy S, HTC Hero, LG Optimus 2x and Nook Color.
Why should you switch to CyanogenMod? Currently, CyanogenMod 9 RC2 has been released, but I will explain some features of much stable CyanogenMod 7.
Themes: We all love perform tweaks on our smartphones, and when it comes to visual tweaks, things turn really interesting. On stock Android ROM, you can change wallpapers, but that doesn’t get you anywhere, does it? Other option is to install launcher applications like GoLauncher and others, but you will end up making your phone dead slow, something which isn’t desirable, however, with CyanogenMod you won’t be facing any such problems. CyanogenMod 7 comes with Theme Chooser baked into the ROM, which allows you to switch through various themes and thus instantly changing looks of the user interface. CyanogenMod 7 comes preinstalled with three themes, but you can install more. Running a search on Android Play Store for “cm7 themes” will return plethora of themes, both free and paid. In order to apply a theme, all you have to do is tap on the theme name, as simple as that.
Lockscreen gestures: CyanogenMod 7 comes with several modifications done to the lock screen. It brings options like music controls, various types of unlock, but one of the fancy, yet very productive features of CyanogenMod 7 lock screen is its gesture support. You can launch applications just by drawing a gesture on the lock screen. It’s a great feature because, say if you want to launch the camera app, you don’t have to unlock, go to menu and go through all of that time consuming process. Instead, you can just wake up your phone, draw the texture C on the lock screen, and the phone will launch the camera app for you. You can have different gestures for different apps, such as “G” for Gallery and so on.. the possibilities are endless. The gesture has to be predefined and associated with a particular app in order to make things work.
It works great for applications that you use frequently while unnecessary apps can find their place in the menu.
Animations: CyanogenMod 7 comes with some cool eye candy animations such as CRT animation that is seen on Nexus S, which simulates CRT screen’s behavior while turning the screen on and off. Overscroll effect like glow or bounce are available, with which you can reach the end of a list when you scroll a bit quickly. With CyanogenMod 7, you can even rotate the screen 180 degrees so that you can use the phone just fine even when it is upside down, which is a pretty cool feature to have.
Phone Goggles: It asks you to double check your actions such as initiating a phone call or sending a message, which can save you from making an embarrassing call or text. You can define the numbers that you shouldn’t be texting or calling and Phone Goggles will actively filter out those numbers depending on the period you have defined for it to run for. You can enable this feature by navigating to CyanogenMod Settings > Enable Phone Goggles and choose the application you want to filter. If you call a lot, then you can select Dialer, or if you’re a thoughtless text person, select Messaging. You can define start and end time for Phone Goggles to run. It is a handy feature for people with sleep texting illness, but it should be worth noting that this feature will not prevent you from calling the particular number, but just make you think twice or thrice, nevertheless, it’s a handy feature to have by.
Performance: CyanogenMod 7 is really fast, even will all those tweaks that are pre installed. You may be wondering how this is it possible? The secret lies in its built in overclocked kernel. If you have always been enthusiastic about overclocking your device, but stepped back because of countless custom kernels and then the installation procedure, CyanogenMod seems to have made the process a piece of cake for you. Since the overclocking support is built in, you don’t have to install any third party apps such as SetCPU in order to control your CPU frequency.
When you navigate to Performance settings, the first option you’ll find is the CPU settings. Here you can define the Minimum and Maximum CPU frequency. Please note that that the minimum and maximum range will differ from device to device. Under CPU settings, you can choose from range of governors, including Performance, On-demand, Conservative etc. These governors will vary the CPU frequency accordingly. For instance, if you choose Conservatie governor, the processor will be underclocked to lowest frequency possible so that battery life is maximized, while choosing Performance governor will overclock the CPU to maximum frequency possible, thus you will attain performance boost in exchange for battery life. Other governors include On Demand, which will overclock or underclock the processor depending on the situation.
Input Tweaks: Input settings will let you customize few functions that are bound to the hard and soft keys on your device. Apart from personalizing haptic feedback, CyanogenMod 7 allows you to change the behavior of hardware keys. For instance, you can assign home button to either open an application or show some of your recent applications in case you execute a long press. Similar changes can also be done to search key such that it behaves differently in case of short press or a long press. You can change the behavior of search button in such a way that a short press on the key will perform its normal function while a long press will launch an application, say Facebook. This is a neat feature and surely enhances productivity.
Browser Privacy: The team behind CyanogenMod has performed several improvements on the Android browser. The browser will rapidly reflow the text in case of pinch to zoom.
AMOLED screens consume least power to get a pixel dark and consumes highest power to get a pixel white, but the case is exactly opposite in the case of LCD displays. Making use of the fact that most of the web pages carry white background, it makes sense to invert the colors in order to lower the power consumption on AMOLED screens, and CyanogenMod 7 has this feature inbuilt.
Other tweaks include its ability to fake user agent so that websites are tricked into recognizing as if you’re accessing the webpage using an iPhone, Mac or even a Windows based computer, but the winner feature, however, is the Incognito mode. If you are a hardcore user of Google Chrome like me, you would know how handy Incognito mode can be. Incognito feature works similar to Private Browsing mode on Firefox, and it will basically delete all browsing or downloading history and your cookies when you exit the browser.
Power widget in notification bar: If you’re a power user like me and like to get things done faster than thoughts, you will love this feature. With this feature, you can have options like data, brightness, WiFi, bluetooth and other toggles readily available in the notification bar. Additional customization such as the number of toggles appearing there, their color, order, and behavior of notification bar after using the feature can be set in the notification power bar widget. Again, this feature enhances productivity to great extent and cut shorts the time required to manually switch those options.
Other performance tweaks: Apart from the significant speed improvements. It allows you to manage things such as RAM in a better way and offers more flexibility. For example, sometimes there is a risk of you losing some messages due to messaging application being force closed as a result of low RAM. To avoid such cases, you can lock the home screen and messaging app in RAM so that it never closes, even if the device is out of RAM.
DSP Equalizer: If you own a pair of costly headphones which you think your device isn’t doing justice to, DSP Equalizer can rescue you from your misery. DSP Equalizer is something similar to Beats Audio software that ships with HTC phones these days, but taken to a whole new level. The application enhances the device’s sound processing capabilities. It lets you adjust various audio parameters such as bass boost and offers 5 band equalizer. Other effects include virtual room effect for all system audio. You may change your opinion about music experience on your beloved smartphone after using this equalizer.
Open VPN: If you are a geek, you will be happy to know that CyanogenMod supports OpenVPN natively. OpenVPN is an open source software application which makes use of virtual private network (VPN) techniques in order to create secret point-to-point or site-to-site connections in routed or bridged configurations and remote access facilities. You can tunnel networks over NAT or create secure ethernet bridges using virtual tap devices.
Conclusion: CyanogenMod is one of the largest teams which release stable custom ROMs and support a large number of devices. The user interface used on CM is of stock Android, which you may feel is pathetic after using overlays such as HTC Sense, and you will find yourself performing extra steps in order to execute certain simple tasks that you could do easily on stock ROM, nevertheless, you will get used to it, and once you have acquainted the interface, you will realize how fast things are on this ROM. Besides, nobody is stopping you from customizing it according to your taste. Recently, the team released CyanogenMod 9 RC2 which supports numerous new devices such as Samsung Galaxy SII and Samsung Galaxy SIII, apart from several other devices. If your phone is rooted and is listed on supported device list, I suggest you to at least flash this ROM on to your device, just to experience the difference.