CyanogenMod, the free/open port of Android, gains traction

Here's a good brief look at the state of CyanogenMod, a free/open fork of the Android operating system that lets you do a lot more with your tablet/phone. I really like the way that CyanogenMod exerts force on the Android ecosystem: back when Google was unwilling to ship a tethering app (even for "Google Experience" phones like the Nexus One), CyanogenMod gave users the choice to tether. I think that the number of users who went to the fork freaked out both Google and the carriers, and in any event, tethering quickly became an official feature of Android.

Now CyanogenMod is toying with the idea of a Banned Apps store, consisting of apps that were banned from Google Marketplace for "no good reason" (generally because they threatened Google or the carriers in some way). It's hard for users to get upset about functionality restrictions that they don't know about, but once their friends get the ability to do more, they'll clamor for it, too.

And Google has a strong incentive to keep up with CyanogenMod's functionality: once you've rooted your device and installed a new OS on it for the first time, it's pretty easy to keep on doing it for future devices. I know I worried a lot the first time, and laughed through subsequent installs -- and the process just keeps getting easier. It's really in Google's interest that Android users not get the CyanogenMod habit, and the best way to prevent that is to keep up with CyanogenMod itself, even if it means sacrificing a little profitability, and that's good for users.

Given the success of CyanogenMod, it should be no surprise that the project is continuing to evolve and grow into new areas. Koushik Dutta, one of the CyanogenMod team members, would like to see an App Store for root apps and apps that are "getting shut down for no good reason." The idea seems pretty handy from a user perspective, and as Dutta points out, could even help fund the CyanogenMod project.

Apparently, Dutta approached Amazon with his idea of bundling their AppStore in CyanogenMod with the provision that Amazon would give CyanogenMod a portion of the sales. Sadly, Amazon brushed Dutta off, so it would appear that this isn't going to happen in the short term. Still, it appears there are a number of users on Google+ that are excited about the project, so hopefully it will come to fruition. Dutta's proposed store would be open-source so it would be available to any custom ROM, not just CyanogenMod.

CyanogenMod Enjoys User Growth, Considers Launching A Banned App Store (via Digg)


  1. A cyanogen app store is a brilliant idea, and is sorely needed as a counterbalance to Google, Amazon and the cellular carriers. Also a good revenue opportunity to help fund cyanogen development.

  2. Cydia but then for Android. I’d like it.

    Also, I installed Cyanogen just before you posted it… Coincidence?

  3. “even if it means sacrificing a little profitability, and that’s good for users”

    Except that Google makes nearly nothing on each phone, making it up with advertising and app sales, if then. It’s about control, aggregating information, and sell our data to those who want it.

      1. For the actual sale of the phone, for sure – Google gives it away for free. As for profits from search advertising (Google’s primary business), its already a billion dollar business…so I’d say Google still comes out far ahead. 

  4. This is why I prefer Android devices to Apple’s offerings. I don’t have to trust Google or the carrier. I can always install a firmware free of their cruft (at my own risk of course.)

    With Apple I’m stuck with whatever they’ve got (and Jailbreaking being less smooth in some respects, though its gotten better over time I hear.)

  5. First I’d heard of CyanogenMod — I obviously haven’t been watching the Android stuff closely enough. Given that what I want is really a palmtop wifi box rather than a smartphone per se, this sounds interesting

    On that topic: I’m told that one of the phone networks now has a Skype-like app for some of these devices….

  6. Now if only APPLE would take the same sort of hints from people who jailbreak and use the cydia store.

    The first time you see an iPad with a Zagg keyboard and BTStack installed so you can use a bluetooth mouse to move the cursor and select text, you wonder why you are wasting hours pressing and holding to use the cumbersome touchscreen select features.  BTStack makes working on word processing or programming on the iPad actually usable.  The iPad is a beauty of a netbook if allowed to be.  Why apple refuses to allow this app as an optional install for those users who desire that functionality is a mystery to me, but i’m guessing that it has something to do with mac air sales.  It is a shame to have to jailbreak to get functionality that should be standard.  Not to mention that BTStack allows you to use a Wii controller for games.  Other tablets will eventually overtake the iPad if Apple stubbornly refuses to include a feature that should be a standard option, which is a shame.  Seriously Apple, get with it and allow BTStack.  Please?


      1. i know…my hope is probably futile…i love their products, but not the “we know what you want better then you do” attitude.

        Sadly the trend across the board with new technology seems to be devices that are less and less open, from cell carriers to hardware manufacturers we are seeing our digital freedoms removed one byte at a time. :-(


  7. Rooted my mother’s phone, installed Cyanogenmod — she had wanted wireless internet for her laptop but I knew she’d never use it. Putting Cyanogenmod on there allowed me to tether her laptop and avoid throwing $35/mo down the drain. Also got rid of the weird crapware that came on the phone.

    1. What carrier do you use where it would cost you $35/mo for tethering?  Mine (T-mobile) does not charge extra, and I don’t need any stupid app to tether, either.  It’s built into Android itself.

      1.  I actually just switched to T-Mobile yesterday, and out of curiosity, I inquired about tethering – they told me $15/month.

        (Looking forward to rooting and installing CM7 when my phone arrives Monday)

  8. I am a big CyanogenMod fan.  I have been running it for ever a year now and have never even considered going back Sense UI, complete with my free and totally uninstallable NASCAR app and other shitty offerings.  Some of the root features are also nice.  If nothing else, it just lets me customize the crap out of my phone and cut out the fat.  

    Finally, I just don’t trust carriers or manufacturers, and rightfully so.  Even when their intention is not overtly evil, their action lead to it.  Carrier IQ is a good example.  Even if they were doing nothing wrong with the data, law enforcement was using it as a way to snag piles of data without a warrant.

    A phone is a pretty personal piece of equipment.  For that reason I saw, open source or GTFO.  The fact that it curb stomps the crap that manufactures bloat their phones with is just icing.

  9. I run an unofficial fork of Cyanogenmod on my LG Optimus V (I installed it in order to upgrade my Froyo phone to Gingerbread) and I haven’t looked back. It made my phone faster, freed up a ton of space, and made upper level features available on a phone that was supposed to be a baseline Android phone.

    I got a Nook Color ereader tablet for Christmas from my dad. Without even turning on the NC and running the original Nook Android variant, I stuck in a pre-prepared SD card with Cyanogen on it and now have a fantastic cheap Android tablet. And now I’m running the unofficial Cyanogenmod 9 Ice Cream Sandwich port for the Nook Color. Works great.

    My favorite thing is that even if your device isn’t part of the official coverage of Cyanogen, there’s probably some people working on a version of it for your device. That’s what happened to my Optimus V – Cyanogen doesn’t officially support it but they are happy to let folks mess with their code and build on it to support even more devices. Love.

  10. Woo hoo. We could upload the ~90 games we have that Google Market banned and won’t tell us why. ~3 million downloads from all of the various Android app stores and Google won’t even respond to our emails sent to their Android developer support.

    1. I would guess it’s because of all the licensed property you have in your games. I would guess a Simpsons license would cost a fortune. Not to mention that fact that the Disney Gestapo would have your skull as an ashtray for the use of Hanna Montana.

      1. The third party games other developers have submitted to our site have nothing to do with games we ourselves publish to Android. Proper DMCA channels should be followed for any third party content appearing on our site. All of our Android games are available via Amazon Appstore which is arguably harder to get approval on than the Google Market.

  11. Interesting news :)

    Must admit the only reason i’m not running cyanogenmod is that i’m too used to the HTC Sense UI, was using a version of it for years (long before android was even released) on HTC’s older win mobile handsets.

    Still been using custom ROMs, just those with sense on them… Maybe i’ll be brave and try it some day!

    1. I LOVE Cyanogen. Installed it about a month ago and I would never go back. My phone is faster the battery lasts longer and it’s no longer bogged down with crap. Highly recommend you go for it!

  12. I bought a Viewsonic G Tablet in December. Out of the box the tablet couldn’t access my email or allow me to purchase apps from *anywhere*. It is not compatible with the Android Market. I mailed it to their third party tech support company on Friday to be rooted. Such a task is beyond my skills. And if they do it my warranty is preserved. This will cost my $90. I was on the phone with their tech department five days in a row before someone told me to get my tablet rerooted. I believe they will be installing this version of Android. I certainly hope it functions better than the TapNTap version the useless thing was sold with. I’d really like to like Android.

    Any suggestions for a good general Android reference? I am a complete Android noob.

  13. I’m a very happy Nook Color owner primarily because of of CM7 and I’m eagerly following the progress of CM9, their ice cream sandwich android version.  Basicially their developers took a jumped up eBook and turned it into a full fledged tablet. I think that the activity of anyone’s prospective device’s CyanogenMod community should dictate their purchase at this point. 

    Sometimes I just like to look at:,status:open,n,z  to watch the development happen.

  14. With all the gushing about CM going on, I thought I’d sprinkle a bit of salt. CM is good, you remove all the crapware, your phone becomes lightning fast. But it lacks a certain… polish. Things that you could do in two or three swipes on senseUI, take one or two more swipes. Lock ups are more frequent. Sometimes, my battery would drain rapidly, for no real reason. Ultimately, I switched back. Later on, I had a new samsung phone, and took less drastic measures. I started by replacing the kernel to fix a bug that made typing anything more than LOL a serious task. Then I tried the bonsai android remix, which was the best $5 I ever spent. I missed the flashiness and flexibility of CM, but ultimately, I had to have a phone that worked.

        1. I believe he probably facepalmed because bonsai is based on CyanogenMod. I can’t tell exactly what you get for your $5 (you can’t even read the forums without registering, and there is very little information elsewhere) but I guess it’s for a bit of extra polish, and ensuring that it works as bug-free as possible for your specific device (I guess bonsai is just for the samsung epic?)

          However, your experience is typical for many people who try these kinds of things. Though I will say that while the time frame involved is ambiguous in your post, things have improved dramatically in the last couple major versions of stock CM and the polish level is quite high compared to what it was in the past.

          1.  @boingboing-02227d5b50561c3c323b13380ff907dc:disqus I honestly don’t know anything about Bonsai – I originally wrote a very different response to you because I misinterpreted what you were saying (which I expanded upon and turned into a separate comment below) but then I was really curious about the facepalm and tried to figure it out.

            All I could find with a (n admittedly rudimentary) search about Bonsai is their website – – which doesn’t really give much information. I presume there’s more in the forums, but as I said you can’t even read them without registering and I don’t want to register. However, on the side there’s a list of recent forum threads including one titled “Bonsai CM7 Beta COMING SOON!!” – this is how third-party CyanogenMod ROMs (or is that fourth-party) on the xda-developers forum often refer to their customized versions based on CM.

            If it truly is respun from the source code your link refers to that of course makes it much more interesting, but I think reality may be a combination of the two. Based on the available evidence I would guess that it’s CyanogenMod, but with Epic-specific code from the source spliced in for as-good-as-possible compatibility. Still rather interesting if true, as that type of compatibility is not always achievable with stock CM on all devices.

  15. “CyanogenMod, a free/open fork of the Android operating system”

    Wait. I thought Android was open source already. Can I look forward to the open source fork of CM at some point in the future?

      1. It happened when I was editing my post. I went back to edit several times because I copy-pasted my comment from where I wrote it in Chrome.

        I will take this opportunity to note that I can’t ever post comments from Chrome – it gives an error saying to check to see if I’m actually logged in, no matter what I try. Pretty much every day I forget that this is the case (stupid me) and I write a comment in Chrome, and then have to open Firefox and I copy-paste my comment. This results in tons of formatting errors.

        Today it acted strangely while editing to fix the errors – it took ten or more seconds to respond to the “save edit” button, and the second or third time it threw up an error I hadn’t seen before (unfortunately I don’t remember the wording) and then apparently didn’t save the edit but instead created a double post.

        edit: Also it didn’t notify me when you replied, but it did notify me when Morgan replied to my other comment above (as it normally does) which is the only reason I noticed your comment – not sure why that would be.

        edit 2: I just edited my earlier post again because I spotted a typo. I hit “save edit” and it looked like it was working for a couple second then just stopped. I hit it again and it worked, but popped up an error along the lines of “a moderator needs to approve your post to appear here” which is what it said earlier when my double post appeared but it seems not to have made another post.

  16. I could never go back to a non-rooted, non-custom-flashed phone – my perception of what a smartphone is has changed so that I think of it as carrying around a truly general-purpose computer, not something limited by the software it can run in any way. But, I recognize that for most people it isn’t worth the hassle (even though the actual hassle involved is rather small as Cory points out – there is the potential for complications, particularly but not exclusively if you’re not technically literate).

    To really appreciate what custom ROMs do for you, there needs to be something specific you need or at least greatly desire to do with your phone that you can’t otherwise. Tethering is (was) the big one for many people, but there’s much more than that possible.

    If there isn’t something specific, you may need to just spend a lot of time exploring the possibilities to “get it”. You’ll either be unable to live with going back to the Android version your phone came with after using a custom version for a few days, or you won’t care – in which case obviously it isn’t worth it to you!

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