CyanogenMod 7.0—Gingerbread in the House
In order to run the latest version of Android, users normally have to be using the “flagship” Google handset. Unfortunately, that often requires using a different cell-phone provider, and it limits purchasing options significantly. In fact, it limits options to a specific handful of devices like the Nexus One and Nexus S. Because the Nexus devices don't have a slider keyboard and come on the T-Mobile network, they're not a viable option for me.
For users comfortable with rooting their phones, CyanogenMod offers many, many more features than the stock ROMs available for supported handsets. I have an original Motorola Droid from Verizon, and if I stick with the stock ROM, I will be stuck with Android 2.2. The current version of CyanogenMod, version 7, includes the Android 2.3 operating system. Code-named “Gingerbread”, Android 2.3 includes all the latest bells and whistles from Google that normally would be available only on the Nexus S. Thanks to the CyanogenMod team, we can have those features now—features like:
New on-screen keyboard with better responsiveness and a cleaner layout.
Easier selection tools for copying and pasting.
A new Marketplace application with a Web-based companion for installing apps from your desktop browser.
Integrated VoIP calling.
Although the new 2.3 features are great, the real beauty behind CyanogenMod is the customization options. Some of the same functionality can be added to the stock ROM for your phone by adding a replacement launcher, but CyanogenMod includes most of the bells and whistles by default. Some of the more exciting features include:
The ability to change the lock screen's layout.
Highly customizable ADWLauncher installed by default.
Improved pull-down status bar with power options.
Visual improvements like screen snapping shut when powering off, customizable virtual desktops, resizable widgets and more.
CyanogenMod is so customizable, it's often frustrating to show off, because it can look so drastically different from install to install. To answer the question, “What does CyanogenMod 7 look like?”, the best answer is truly, “However you want it to look!”
If you want to have the latest version of Android on your phone, but you don't want to wait for the cell-phone provider to release an update, or if you have an older handset (like my original Droid) that likely never will see an update beyond Android 2.2, CyanogenMod is the tool for you. Most phones are supported after rooting, and even older phones perform well with Android 2.3, especially if you overclock them. For more details or to download the latest version of CyanogenMod, check out www.cyanogenmod.com. The easiest way to install it on your rooted phone is with ROM Manager, however. It's a simple download from the Marketplace, and the free version includes support for the stable version of CyanogenMod.