A little more than a year ago, I went on Craigslist to look for an Android smartphone at a decent price. I managed to get my hands on a Samsung Galaxy S Captivate. It came with Android 2.3. My friend had told me about how one could ‘root’ the device and truly make it your own. Shortly thereafter, I looked into CyanogenMod 7.1. Fired it up and it changed everything about the phone.
CM7.1 was merely an improvement on Android 2.3 (known as Gingerbread). The UI was still somewhat sluggish when compared to the likes of Apple’s iOS. With the release of Android 4.0 (Ice Cream Sandwich) right around the corner, I couldn’t wait to try it out.
Sadly, Samsung refused to update the Galaxy S1 to 4.0. They claimed that the hardware simply could not handle it (which is a lie). My assumption behind this move was simply to boost sales on their newer devices, forcing owners that wanted the “new and upgraded Android” to buy a new device altogether. It was a frustrating move, but not unheard of in the modern day tech industry.
This is where the genius of the Android community really kicked in for me. A team of programmers called teamhacksung ripped Android 4.0 from the Samsung Galaxy Nexus and tweaked it to function on the Galaxy S1. They updated it constantly up until last March 2012. [See the thread here: http://forum.xda-developers.com/showthread.php?t=1363760]
The teamhacksung version intended to be the ALPHA of CyanogenMod 9. Thus, today, I went over to the CyanogenMod website and downloaded a Nightly build of CM9 (that was updated today). I also had to download the latest Google Apps package for CM9 (download here).
I just installed it on my phone a few hours ago, and it is working magnificently, improving over the last ALPHA of teamhacksung. Note that it could be faster at times, but for a single-core smartphone, it’s handling Android 4.0.4 just fine.
As I tweak and fiddle around with the CM9 customization option, I will be eagerly waiting for CyanogenMod to release their spin off of Android 4.1 (Jelly Bean). As soon as it is available, I will test it out and share the details. (Updated!)
Cid: The new CyanogenMod mascot! Click on the image for more info on Cid.
Update (07/05/2012): I played around with CyanogenMod 9 (Nightly Build) on my Galaxy S1 for a few days now. Overall, I noticed significant improvements in customization compared to the teamhacksung Alpha of CM9. Furthermore, performance has also improved with a slightly better battery life and the UI is overall more responsive. However, the notification tray has failed me a few times, displaying just a blank tray altogether. Fear not, a simple reboot of the phone seems to have fixed it.
I really love the addition of the very minimalist weather indicator on the lock screen. That’s something I’ve wanted to see integrated to Android for a long time. I also like the addition of Wi-Fi direct, a way to set up peer-to-peer connectivity from your phone. I haven’t gotten around testing it out, but the concept appeals to me.
As mentioned earlier, CM9 offers a great amount of interface customization; you can even change the overall theme of Android 4.0 easily. For those of you who don’t want to deal with bugs (though minor), I suggest you wait a little longer for either an Release Candidate or a Stable CM9 becomes available for the Galaxy S. As far as I know, for other phone owners, Stable and RC builds of CM9 are already available. Have a look at this list of devices for reference.