I haven’t blogged much (at all) about Android here yet. Lemme esplain. No, is too much. Lemme sum up. Loving me some droid, have learned so much about Android via my AT&T Samsung Captivate (a Galaxy S phone) and my Nook Color.
I used the stock version of Android on my phone for a little less than a week after I first got it. I knew I wanted to do things Samsung and AT&T wouldn’t let me do. To start with, I wanted Froyo, Android 2.2. And when I bought the Captivate in December, it was stuck at Eclair (Android 2.1) with Froyo due “any day now.” So I rooted, installed a custom Froyo ROM I found on XDA-developers.com and was off to the races.
Since then, I’ve flashed my phone countless times, sometimes several times a day (fortunately Titanium Backup for Android is excellent, but requires root). I tried so many custom ROMs, felt like I got to know the developers putting them together, often from source code. These ran so much better than stock that I kept running them even after the official 2.2 for the Captivate finally arrived from AT&T.
But there was a nagging problem. These ROMs were great, much better builds of Android than stock. But in most cases they were supported by a single developer, sometimes a small team. They were volunteer projects and would only be developed/supported as long as the developer felt like it.
And recently, that has begun to crumble. I’ve seen several devs jump ship from the Captivate to new generation Android devices like the HTC Inspire 4G and the Motorola Atrix. I didn’t want to be left behind.
All the custom ROMs on XDA-devs are forks, or variants, of various production ROMs leaked or taken from related devices. For example, they’ll take a new build of Android designed for the Georgio Armani Captivate, a similar but not exact sibling to the North American version, and modify what they needed to make it work on our hardware. It was all top-down development, tweaking and optimizing what Samsung gave us.
Now that the Galaxy S 2 is on the way, I don’t expect Samsung to give us any more. 2.2 will probably be the last official release of Android for that phone. But the thing is, I like this phone. It feels like Palm’s old Tungsten line more than yet-another-iPhone-clone like its Galaxy S bretheren. (The T-Mobile Vibrant can easily be mistaken for an iPhone 3GS at first glance.) So what was I to do?
Well, as it turns out, due to a leak of a different Gingerbread (Android 2.3) build for the Galaxy S line recently, the CyanogenMod folks finally had the drivers they needed to get the Gingerbread-based CM7 working on Galaxy S phones like the Captivate.
So what is CyanogenMod? If custom ROMs are a top down approach, CyanogenMod is bottom up. It’s a massive, multidev open source effort to port the Android Open Source Project (AOSP) code to as many devices as they can. Other than carrier or hardware specific stuff like modem drivers, it’s as open source as possible, and just about constantly updated and improved. The ideal of CyanogenMod is to be able to use the device you want with the current version of Android. CyanogenMod is also available for my Nook Color, should I decide to install it there as well.
So how is it? I’m pleasantly surprised. The battery life is nothing to write home about, but not significantly worse than stock. Once it’s out of beta and they remove all the debug code, I expect that to get much better. But it’s stable, smooth and does everything I need it to do. The custom ROM I was using did a great Gingerbread impression on Froyo, but this is the real thing, and it’s (and this is the important part) completely independent of Samsung and AT&T.