CyanogenMod is the most popular custom ROM for Android devices. While it’s an unofficial build of Android, it probably provides an experience closer to Google’s original vision than the software on your current Android phone or tablet does!
We used CyanogenMod 11 for this article. If it supports your device, it’s easier than ever to install thanks to the CyanogenMod installer app.
Up-to-Date, Stock Android
CyanogenMod provides you with an up-to-date version of Android. It’s also a pure, stock Android experience. Yes, CyanogenMod adds lots of their own tweaks and a handful of apps. However, they respect Google’s interface. The tweaks CyanogenMod adds don’t feel out of place — many of them are just added to the Settings screen as new options. Because it dispenses with the additional bloat a lot of manufacturers and carriers add, it’s also very fast.
This is the biggest reason to install CyanogenMod. If it supports your device, it will provide you with a pure, up-to-date Android experience. It’s a way to revitalize old Android devices that manufacturers are no longer updating.
CyanogenMod also has integrated OTA (“over the-air”) updates, so you can get new versions with a few quick taps — no ROM-flashing required. There’s a good chance CyanogenMod may update your device more frequently than its manufacturer does!
Privacy Guard lets you control which permissions installed apps can use, and which permissions new apps will get by default. This gives you an iOS-style permission experience on Android, so you can decide whether that app should be allowed to access your location, contacts, and other private data while still using the app. This is based on an Android feature called App Ops that Google removed access to.
Privacy Guard also displays a notification when you’re using an app with blocked permissions. If an app isn’t working properly, this notification will remind you that you may want to re-enable some permissions. You’ll find this under Settings > Privacy > Privacy Guard.
The Superuser screen integrates root permissions into Android’s Settings screen. This interface functions as a traditional way to allow and disallow superuser requests from apps, but it also allows you to enable root or disable it for your entire device. You don’t have to connect your phone or tablet to your computer and run any commands, and you won’t lose root when upgrading. CyanogenMod gives you root access if you want it and allows you to disable root access if you don’t need it.
The Themes panel allows you to install and choose theme packs, styles, icons, fonts, sound packs, and even boot animations to customize your device. Most of these options are unavailable on typical Android devices. Do you dislike the Holo theme Android uses throughout its interface, or are you just looking for something new? You can change your Android’s system-wide colors and look by installing a CyanogenMod theme pack.
The Cyanogen Theme Showcase allows you to easily browse and download themes.
The Interface settings screen is packed with options. You can tweak the status bar, quick settings panel, notification drawer, and navigation bar. For example, you could reorder the buttons on the navigation bar at the bottom of your screen, or rearrange the order of the tiles in the quick settings panel.
The Status bar pane has a Brightness control toggle, which allows you to adjust your device’s screen brightness just by sliding your finger back and forth on the notification panel at the top of your screen. It’s a great way to increase screen brightness if you can’t see your screen in direct sunlight, for example.
The DSP Manager app provides system-wide equalizer controls you can use to adjust the sound coming from your device, enabling bass boost, activating an equalizer, and selecting presets that match the music you listen to.
Use the Buttons screen to control what your device’s buttons do. For example, you could long-press the volume buttons to switch music tracks. This is a great solution for skipping between songs without pulling your phone out of your pocket if you don’t have a headphone cable with an integrated remote.
CyanogenMod even includes the ability to enable keyboard cursor control — your volume keys will move the text cursor when your software keyboard is open. This could make typing more efficient, allowing you to adjust the cursor without having to move your finger a pixel to the left or right on the touchscreen.
CyanogenMod includes profiles, which you can find under Settings > Profiles or by long-pressing the power button and tapping the Profile option. Profiles are groups of settings. For example, you might always set your phone to vibrate mode and disable mobile data at work, so you could group those settings into the Work profile and switch to the Work profile whenever you want to change the settings rather than changing each individual setting. You can also activate profiles using Tasker.
CyanogenMod also includes a handful of its own apps, like the Trebuchet home screen launcher, the clock home screen widget, a File Manager with root file access, the Apollo music player, and a terminal emulator. Many of these apps can also be installed on other Android devices, and they can all be replaced with other apps you may like better.