CyanogenMod: A Closer Look

CyanogenMod is an alternative firmware which is available for Android powered smart-phones and tablets. It is based on the Android Open Source Project and is a highly customizable firmware. Basically, it provides several additional features and enhancements which you will not find in stock Android ROMS.

The HTC Sense, Motoblur and Timescape interfaces are brilliant eye-candies for Android users [some readers might disagree – Ed], but they are quite slow. CyanogenMod ROMs are lightweight, stable and fast — without altering the core Android interface — which is why most people prefer this particular ROM over other stock ROMs.

A stable release of CyanogenMod 9 is on its way, but while we wait, let’s take a detailed look at what makes CM7 so great.

See also: 10 Reasons You Should Try CyanogenMod and 5 Tricks to Stick With It

Simple Homescreen on CyanogenMod

Features

As the CyanogenMod ROMS are based on AOSP, the default features such as the camera and music player are the same as vanilla Android. The ROM does comes with ADW.Launcher installed by default, though, and this is a fantastic launcher in terms of speed and features.

But it’s the customization and the additional features of the ROM that attracts the attention of most users…

Lock Screen Gestures

These gestures lets users quickly open up different applications from the lock screen. Just draw a symbol to launch the corresponding app.

Gesture to launch Skype from the LockScreen

You can also assign gestures to other tasks – for example, you can create a gesture ‘U’ to unlock your phone, or a lightning bolt to turn on the torch.

Gesture to Unlock Phone

Theme Chooser

Another fantastic feature is the Theme Chooser, which lets you easily choose and apply a theme. On other ROMS, you need to flash custom zips in order to apply a full theme. The ROM comes with three default themes which you can choose from, but there are custom themes as well which can be downloaded from the XDA forums and even from the Google Play Store.

Theme Chooser on CyanogenMod

The Theme Chooser

In order to install a theme, you just need to download the APK and install it on your phone. Then, you can apply it using the Theme Chooser. This thread on the CM forums keeps a list of all the available themes with download links — this should give you a good idea of what’s possible!

DSP Manager

DSP Manager is an equalizer application built by the CyanogenMod team. This is possibly the best application if you are looking for the best music experience  using your headphones on an Android phone. DSP Manager comes with several features including Dynamic Range Compression, a 6-band equalizer, Bass Booster and a virtual room effect.

DSP Manager equalizer

Once you use DSP Manager, you will not need any sort of paid equalizer app from the Play Store.

It’s possible to install this app even if you don’t use CyanogenMod. See my guide for more information.

OpenVPN

This is a more advanced feature: OpenVPN will let you create or access a private network over the internet. If your company has a secure office network, you can use this to access the files on it, while still keeping everything encrypted.

OpenVPN settings on CyanogenMod

Notification Menu and Power Control

The Notification drop down menu is black and transparent (pre-ICS!).

Notification Menu and Power Control

An additional feature in the Notification menu is the Power control settings on the top. You can add buttons to toggle Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, brightness, GPS and various other settings. You can also remove and add more buttons using the Settings menu.

CyanogenMod Settings

The Settings menu is the same, but with an additional tab for CyanogenMod Settings. This is where you can customize the ROM and can use additional tweaks.

Advanced CyanogenMod Settings

A few particularly useful settings:

  • If you are running low on internal storage, then you can change the default installation location to your microSD card.
  • The default Screen On and Off animations are similar to a television; these animations look cool but you might want to turn them off.
  • You can also use the Render Effects settings in order to save battery — for instance, you can tell CM7 to use only the green LEDs.
  • Various items can be added to your status bar, including the clock, battery status, headset icon and signal strength indicators.
  • Max and Min CPU settings can be changed here for under/overclocking, and there are several performance tweaks available — although these are for developers and advanced users only.

Another good option for advanced users lets you lock your launcher and the messaging app in memory. At times of low memory, the messaging or the launcher app will be closed which can result in you missing messages. However, if you lock these from the Performance settings, then they will remain in memory all the time.

Overall, the CyanogenMod team has done very well, and the CyanogenMod ROM is really impressive. If you have a rooted phone, then you should definitely try it. You can download stable versions of the ROM from cyanogenmod.com/devices (or get newer versions from get.cm) and can install it on your phone using ClockworkMod recovery.