One of the biggest advantages of Android is its open-source nature, giving manufacturers, users, and enthusiasts endless possibilities for customization and optimization. While manufacturer overlays such as HTC’s Sense UI, Samsung’s TouchWiz, or Motorola’s Motoblur are increasingly considered bloatware (especially with the release of the beautifully designed Android 4.0 ICS), custom ROMs have been steadily gaining in popularity.
CyanogenMod, probably the best known custom ROM, enjoys massive popularity, thanks to its well-thought design and carefully optimized code. The various flavors of CyanogenMod provide a more flexible user experience, increased customization options, a wider set of features, and, in general, better device performance. Some of the “extra” features include better WiFi, Bluetooth, and USB tethering, continuous focus when shooting video, and a special incognito browser mode that leaves no browsing trail behind. This custom ROM also comes closest to the stock Android experience, which is an important requirement for a lot of users now.
Testament to the growing popularity of CyanogenMod is the 1.7 million-strong install base it now boasts, with almost 300,000 installs of its latest stable version, CM 7.1 (based on Android 2.3). Below are a few of the stats that are available on CyanogenMod’s website.
|Unofficial Installs (KANGs)||897,859|
|Last 24 Hours||9,423|
You can find the full list of statistics and device distribution here. It’s interesting to note which are the most CM-friendly countries on the world. The highest numbers of CyanogenMod installations (normalized by population)
CyanogenMod is currently working to deliver CM9, which will be based on the Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich OS. With a lot of devices being ignored by manufacturers for an official update to ICS, is likely that CyanogenMod will only grow in popularity as more and more people will adopt the custom firmware to access the latest Android experience. Check this flowchart to see if you can get CM9 for your device.
Any such customization comes with a standard set of warnings. Changing a phone’s firmware is not entirely foolproof, and there is a small chance that you end up with a bricked device. Only go ahead with rooting and adding custom ROMs if you are confident that you know what you are doing. Also, in most cases, installing a custom ROM and rooting the smartphone voids the device warranty.
If you haven’t yet seen what CyanogenMod has to offer, here’s a nice video introduction, directly from the CM team.