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Guide and Review: The new CyanogenMod Installer

Written by Andre Yoskowitz (Google+) @ 17 Nov 2013 10:55 User comments (9)

Guide and Review: The new CyanogenMod Installer In September, CyanogenMod, the popular custom Android developer became a real company, Cyanogen Inc., and raised $7 million in venture capital funding as it provided plans to become the third biggest operating system in the world behind Android and iOS.
Founder Steve Kondik admitted at the time that in its current state, installing CyanogenMod was not accessible to the average smartphone user, as rooting and flashing are not the most simple of processes, even for experienced Android owners.

To remedy the situation, Cyanogen Inc. began work on the CyanogenMod Installer, an app that walks you through the process of get your phone to the latest version of CyanogenMod. It requires a PC currently (OS X support coming soon) and there are only a handful of phones that can use it so far, but the eventual goal is to make it available to all Android handsets.

For this guide and review, I used an unlocked Google Nexus 4, running on stock Android 4.3 Jelly Bean. Read ahead for the process and initial thoughts on the operating system.

Why CyanogenMod?




The first question most of you will have is, why CyanogenMod? The operating system runs a stock version of Android, stripping carrier bloat, and adds a plethora of additional personalization and added security features. CyanogenMod is also updated very rapidly, meaning if there is a major update from Google there is also a major update from Cyanogen coming. You will no longer have to wait for your manufacturer or carrier to test and approve operating system updates. As some smartphone owners have learned the hard way, this process can sometimes take months, if it happens ever.

For the time being, check the above screenshot to see if your device is approved to use the CM Installer in its current beta state. All HTC One models are also supported, but were cut from the list above.

Guide: The Installation Process




The first step in installing the operating system using the new installer is to head over to the Google Play Store and search for "CyanogenMod Installer." Once the application comes up, download and install as you normally would any other app. At this point, if you have not already backed up your data, use your favorite method to do so, as the installation will completely wipe your phone of any existing data and even doing a recovery to stock later will not bring it back.



Once you are done, open the app for the first time. You will be greeted by a welcome screen explaining that you need a PC vista Windows Vista, 7 or 8 and a USB cable. I would recommend using the OEM cable that came with your phone if possible, but any should do. Hit 'Begin' to get started.



The next step requires a quick fix to your media connectivity settings. You will be taken to the settings page to select "Camera (PTP)" rather than the standard MTP option. That's it. You are done with the manual portion of the installation on your phone itself (with the exception of one quick step detailed below). The page will now prompt you to go to http://get.cm which redirects to beta.download.cyanogenmod.org on your Windows PC.



At the site, download the .MSI file and run it once it is done. You can now plug your device into the computer and wait for CM to detect it. (Shouldn't take more than a few seconds). After connecting you will be asked to begin the downloading process. CyanogenMod needs to install the recovery software, the OS itself, and Google Apps.



Once the downloading is done, the installer will discover what device you are running. You hit 'Install' to get started. Keep the device on a flat surface, recommends CM, and do not touch it except when the installer asks you to confirm USB debugging. The process should only take a few minutes, and you will see your phone go into recovery mode multiple times as it properly flashes the new operating system.



Review: Running CyanogenMod




CyanogenMod, at least in this form, installs as Android 4.3.1. It will be very familiar, especially to Google Nexus 4 owners, who were already running the same version of the operating system including Google Apps such as the Play Store, Maps, Gmail and all others. However, CyanogenMod, besides adding speed tweaks, also has a number of features, new native apps and appearance options that your standard OS did not have.

Under the settings page, there are quite a few personalization options. "Home Screen," "Lock Screen," "Themes" and "Interface" are now available each with their own options. Drawer gives you options for the app and widgets drawer, allowing you to choose the orientation of the scrolls, transition effects and even the ability to hide apps and widgets.

In the home screen options, there are some very cool features. You can choose the grid size (rows/columns per home page) up to 7x7, allowing for a lot of apps on each page. Once again you can choose transition and fade effects and you can also make the Google search bar "persistent" meaning it follows you to every home page.

"Interface" is a gesture users dream, as it allows you to create your own quick launch shortcuts for when you gesture from the bottom of the screen. The standard center gesture is Google Now, but there are other options to choose. You can also personalize even more, choosing to hide the top status bar, the battery style and much more.



Another feature that is welcome is the addition of the "Torch," basically the flashlight app that every Android owner has from a third-party. The torch is available from the status bar the same way it is available for new iOS 7 users.



The lock screen has also been revamped, allowing you to use shortcuts right from hitting the power button. Those options are adjustable.

Finally, CyanogenMod adds three new native apps, two of which are related to music. CM has long had its own music applications, taking advantage of Google's lack of good apps (originally) for the services. The "Apollo" music player allows you to control your own music and also makes it easier to sync music over from your PC using a USB cable.

The "DSP Manager" app allows you to boost the bass, use an equalizer or select presets . You can even select a virtual room effect when connected to headphones. There are different settings for speaker, headsets, Bluetooth and docks. In my opinion, these options are excellent.

CyanogenMod has also installed a built-in file manager that rivals my current app for Android, ES Task Manager. Additionally, with CM, you get a Terminal Emulator app, especially helpful if you are into the most advanced features of the operating system and root access.



Final Thoughts



Overall, Cyanogen Inc. has made the installation process of their operating system as simple as possible and this is a great thing. The operating system itself is excellent; fast and with personalization options that Google should actively look into.

As long as the company keeps its promise to make the Installer available to as many Android device owners as possible, and keeps updates as rapid as they have in the past, the company has an absolute winner on their hands. Unless you are a fanboy of your manufacturer's user interfaces and its plethora of bloat, I see no reason to not give CyanogenMod Installer a try.

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9 user comments

117.11.2013 13:42

Some important notes:

- Not every cable will do! Even some data (as opposed to charge-only) cables are not sufficient. This comes straight from the CM forums. That said, my bog-standard Radio Shack retractable USB cable (which is quite thin, frankly) worked fine.

- If you're on a sub-carrier, such as Ting, beware! I use Ting, and encountered an issue where the device APNs were incorrect. In essence, the CM installer assumes a "Sprint" phone (Ting uses the Sprint network) needs all-Sprint settings. This killed MMS and standard 3G and 4G LTE, although if I turned off 4G entirely, 2G still worked (2G doesn't use APNs). I was able to fix this problem via the process shown here; if you have a different sub-carrier (or a different phone model), the files will be different, but the process will be the same. I can verify that my phone now works just fine with Ting.

- There are enough different kinds of supported phones, with enough different possible problems, that there is NO guarantee that even CM devs and knowledgeable users can help you if you encounter issues, especially outside of the install process itself (no one on the CM forums actually were able to help me with my Ting problem). Remember, this is a beta! That said, you can find the official CM forums at http://forum.cyanogenmod.com/ . I've actually achieved better results, however, including the information that told me I had an APN issue, at xda-developers ([url]http://forum.xda-developers.com/]/url]).

This message has been edited since its posting. Latest edit was made on 18 Nov 2013 @ 15:25

218.11.2013 4:54

Quote:
It will be very familiar, especially to Google Nexus 4 owners, who were already running the same version of the operating system including Google Apps such as the Play Store, Maps, Gmail and all others.
Does the installer actually show you the .zips that are being pushed and flashed? I haven't followed CM properly for a long time and I'm curious to know if they are still not allowed to incorporate Gapps into the main ROM - you always had to flash it as a separate .zip after the CM install due to legal issues with Google.


318.11.2013 11:46

If you pay attention to your phone, it does show you at least some of the steps and .zips that are flashed, as it installs the ClockWork recovery, then uses that to continue. Up-to-date Gapps was installed automatically in the process, when I installed CM through the Google Play app. It's quite possible, even likely, they merely automated the process of a separate d/l and install, without actually including it in the main ROM.

Remember, the installer performs many formerly discrete tasks; it doesn't consist only of installing the ROM, itself.

418.11.2013 13:47

Yep. I've been tinkering with my Android phones since the G1, I'm familiar with it. Anyway:

Quote:
It's quite possible, even likely, they merely automated the process of a separate d/l and install, without actually including it in the main ROM.

This is probably the case, yes; my angle was more the legal aspect though.


518.11.2013 15:23

Having Gapps be a separate, transparent install also makes sure that your Gapps install is always up-to-date, at least upon install, without the CM devs having to do anything extra.

622.11.2013 18:29

Quote:
Unless you are a fanboy of your manufacturer's user interfaces and its plethora of bloat, I see no reason to not give CyanogenMod Installer a try.

When he says 'give it a try' that seems to imply that the process could be reversed if the user does not like it. Does this mean that if you do a factory reset then the original OS will return?
Also, does anyone know of a way to save app (game) data prior to installing CM?

722.11.2013 19:54

Yes, you can restore the original ROM. No, it's not as simple as doing a factory reset.

You can save game (and other app) data with Titanium Backup.

822.11.2013 20:10

Is there a guide to restore? (T-mo galaxy s4)

922.11.2013 20:14

Certainly. You'll find that on the CyanogenMod and xda-developers forums.

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