How to... re-energise your Android smartphone's OS
Customise your phone with CynanogenMod
Generally, users have two beefs with Android. One, handsets often don’t get updated when a new version of the OS rolls out from the Chocolate Factory, and, two, many of the bespoke overlays and ROMs cooked up by handset makers and telecos are more akin to painting a moustache on the Mona Lisa than adding anything of value to the user experience.
Luckily, you can fix both these problem, and fix them quite easily by installing a new ROM to replace the entire operating system with a better version. There are several out there, some generic, others coded for specific handsets. Probably the best one is CyanogenMod.
CyanogenMod: revamp your Android
The latest version - at the time of writing; updates are frequent - is CM7. It's available for a wide range of devices, including HTC’s Desire and Desire HD; Samsung’s Galaxy S; and even Dixons/Advent’s Vega tablet. There's a visual list of supported handsets on the CM website. I installed it on an Orange San Francisco - aka ZTE Blade - kindly lent to me by Orange.
I had toyed with the idea of sticking it on my own Desire HD but since that was already running Android 2.3.3, on which CM7 is based, there was little to be gained and I was haunted by fears of bricking my main phone. When it comes to phone operating systems I’m with Oddball: I only ride 'em, I don't know what makes 'em work.
The San Fran is in many ways the ideal candidate for a fresh ROM install. Currently, it’s lumbered with Android 2.1 and has a rather unattractive Orange - in both origin and hue - UI. It is also network-locked.
A shiny new ROM should improve things on all fronts and let you get the most from a handset that for £100 and with a 3.5in, 480 x 800 screen is still a bargain. Fingers crossed that when the £150 Orange Monte Carlo arrives - it's expected imminently - Orange will make the San Fran ever cheaper.
I don’t want to get too bogged down in how I got CyanogenMod onto my San Francisco because there are dozens of walk-throughs on the net. In a nutshell, you need to root your phone, install ClockworkMod Recovery (CMR), download your chosen new ROM as a Zip file, stick it on your SD card and then install it using CMR.
Next page: Installing CyanogenMod
Misleading Title - Agreed
This isn't a "how to" at all. This is more of a "look what I did!!1!eleventyone!!" article. A "how to" tells you, you know, *how to actually do something*.
How do I root it and what are the risks? What's the link to the files/application I need to root? How do I check which version of the phone I have? What is the best source for ROMs? Which ROMs are generally acknowledged to be the most stable? How do you boot the phone into Recovery mode in the case of a bad flash? What's the best way to back up? Can I make a backup of my phone exactly the way it is now in case I don't like it or screw up? If you can't be bothered to write all this up, then can you at least give me a link to someone who has actually bothered to do so?
Incidentally, don't bother telling me to google it. I've been flashing ROMs on mobile devices since the days of my Compaq iPaq PDA over 10 years ago, and pretty much every phone I have had since then has had it's ROM/firmware modified in some way - including my Desire (which is running GingerVillain, by the way). Hell, I even managed to get FroYo running natively (i.e. without haret.exe) on my 4 year old HTC Kaiser. Suffice it to say that if I wanted to install a custom ROM on a ZTE Blade, it wouldn't exactly present a challenge. My point is that the title of this article included the words "how to", and didn't actually tell you how to do it.
Article Title Fail
I already have CM7 on my Desire so it doesn't affect me, but I like that you call an article "How to... re-energise your Android smartphone's OS", and then skip over the "How To" bit entirely.
Wow August and the Reg have just cottoned on to what we've been doing for 8 months.... most of us will read this topic as un-news and we'll all feel more stupid for reading it.
Still credit where its due, you used the best phone to test a cracked rom. ZTE Blade is a fantastic wee phone for the money. I got mine back in January for £89 when colleages were buying the HTC wildfire, with its slower processor, poorer quality screen, massively inflated purchase price (basically double the ZTE), oh but it had build quality (aye you'll need that when you have to keep the phone for 12 months longer than the blade to make it cost effective).
Cyanogenmod 7 is one of the most stable ROMS i've tested, in fact its currently in everyday use by my fiancee (Non-tech savvy, all she wants is txts and internet).
I've been using Cyanogenmod for months...
I originally had the stock HTC sense ROM and installed a Modaco mod to rid it of all the Orange branding and other cruft. I used that for a while, until it dawned on me that this was just another layer of cruft slowing down my phone.
I discovered Cyanogenmod - and the fact that it runs Android as it *should* be run is just a winner.
My phone is fast, has no restrictions - such as tethering - and just looks and runs better than the HTC crap.
Once you go CM there's no going back. When I used the HTC Sense that came with my phone, I had a whole mess of klugey widgets just to do simple tasks like turn wifi and 3G on and off. Now they're right in the windowshade along with the flashlight, brightness control, etc.
All the Apple fans who say that Android is a shitty ripoff of iOS really ought to see the cool things people are doing with open source ROMs. I agree that the locked-down crappy ROMS that come preloaded are just as locked-down and crappy as iOS, but who cares? That stuff's for the moms in minivans. Use CM, use some good widgets (Pure Messenger, LauncherPro), you can make a very different experience from anything that Apple, MS, or Google's partners are offering.
Google's not innovating enough? So what. That's why open source is nice. Unfortunately, this isn't a retail-friendly message, and Google seems poised to kill off AOSP... :\