[GUIDE] CyanogenMod 10.1 - review and features
- CyanogenMod 10.1 - part. 1
- CyanogenMod 10.1 - part. 2
- Useful links related to CyanogenMod
When it comes to the custom ROM scene for Android, the one name that instantly comes to our minds is CyanogenMod, and for good reason!
Let's take an in-depth look at CyanogenMod 10.1 and all the features it offers that make it one of the best custom Android ROMs around.
Look And Feel
Credits for this guide must go to HQRaja
One of the key philosophies behind CyanogenMod is to focus on functionality rather than design
, and that’s been a great thing since ICS when Android’s design got revamped to what it is now. That’s why on the surface, CyanogenMod 10.1 may look just like pure vanilla Android, and for good reason, since it is based on pure vanilla Android, meaning you wouldn’t find even the slightest traces of HTC Sense, Samsung TouchWiz, MOTOBLUR or any such manufacturer-customized version of Android in it, as you can see below in the home screen and the app drawer of CyanogenMod 10.1.
That said, there are a plethora of changes under the hood that set it apart from plain vanilla Android. The launcher itself may look like that of stock Android, but it’s actually CyanogenMod’s own custom version called Trebuchet. If you try dragging an icon somewhere, you’ll start seeing the extra options it offers, and that’s just the start.
As you can see lower, you can not only remove the icon, but also edit it. Furthermore, CyanogenMod ships with a collection of wallpapers of its own (CM Wallpapers), in addition to Android’s default ones.
You must have noticed a few extra apps in the app drawer screenshot above. None of them have been added from the Play Store (that screenshot was taken immediately after installing the ROM), but rather ship with CyanogenMod itself. They include a media player, a file browser and a terminal emulator. The former two are CyanogenMod-exclusive while the terminal emulator is same as the Android Terminal Emulator app available on Play Store.
Also, while the messaging app may look exactly like the stock one, it is in fact heavily modified to deliver a much more powerful and customizable experience. Lastly, you’ll notice an icon for Sound Recorder in the app drawer. It is actually a system app that comes as a part of Android itself, it is hidden from the app drawer by default and is accessible as a recording feature within other components of the OS; CyanogenMod adds an icon for it to provide users direct access to it.
The inclusion of a media player and a file manager ensures that if you choose not to rely on Google’s ecosystem or just want to use the ROM on a device that you want to keep offline, you already start off with all the basic apps that you’re going to need.
There is also a DSP Manager app here, as well as the cLock app that doesn’t show up in the app drawer but can be seen as a widget right on the home screen as well as the lock screen, but we’ll be taking a look at both these in the Settings section, as they are both configurable from there.
CyanogenMod 10.1 Settings
What makes CyanogenMod truly powerful is the plethora of additional settings it offers for customizing the ROM and having a more complete control over Android’s features. All these settings can be found within the default Settings app, laid out in the same settings interface that you’re already familiar with. Let’s take a more detailed look at them in the order they appear. Note that we’ll only be reviewing the settings that have been added by CyanogenMod, and will therefore skip the unmodified sections.
For most part, the ‘Wireless & Networks’ section of the Settings remains close to stock, though you’ll notice one new option under the ‘More…’ option by the name of Cell Broadcasts. This basically lets you choose which cell broadcast messages you want to receive, and opt out of the ones you don’t want to bother you. These include alerts for extreme and severe threats, AMBER alerts, ETWS (Earthquake Tsuname Warning System) alerts and CMAS (Commercial Mobile Alert System) broadcasts. In addition to opting out of them, you can also choose change alert settings such as notifications, sound, vibration, sound duration, text-to-speech for speaking out alerts, and showing opt-out dialog after displaying the first CMAS alerts to be able to easily disable them (other than presidential alerts).
As mentioned above, CyanogenMod ships with Trebuchet as its home screen launcher, which looks identical to the stock Android launcher but is way more customizable, and this is where you can tweak it to your liking.
Many Android users complain about the lack of landscape mode for their home screen. Trebuchet takes care of that by adding support for landscape mode and auto rotation, which you can enable here. And if you have just customized your home screen to your liking and fear messing it up by mistake, you can set everything to stay locked in place. You can also hide the status bar to extend the home screen further, though we’d suggest you read on and see what else is in store for you in the full screen department, and you’ll forget about this option alltogether!
In the Home Screen section, you can tweak a lot of options pertaining to the way things are displayed on your home screens. Each option comes with a description to make sure you don’t feel lost.
The Drawer section lets you customize how apps are displayed in your Apps and widgets drawer. You can choose between transition effects, join the sections together and even hide apps selectively.
Lastly, you can customize the dock by changing the number of apps it displays, adding more pages to it that you can then access by swiping on it sideways just like the home screens, and more.
CyanogenMod’s lock screen comes with a bunch of additional features, and the first one that you’ll notice is multiple shortcuts to directly launch the apps of your choice.
What’s more – these shortcuts are fully customizable! Just hit ‘Slider shortcuts’ under Lock screen, and you’ll be able to easily assign a different one to each slot and even select a custom icon for it.
In addition to these shortcuts, you can choose your lock screen security type, and tweak several options for the selected one such as making the pattern visible, choosing a 4×4, 5×5 or even 6×6 pattern in addition to the default 3×3 one, toggle visibility for pattern, errors and dots, and set separate custom delays for automatic screen lock after timeout and manual screen off, etc.
If you’re finding things to be a but too dull and completely stock so far in terms of looks, your patience is about to be rewarded. CyanogenMod ships with a powerful theme engine that can change the look of the entire UI based on the theme you choose. Some themes may change just the app icons on your home screens and in the app drawer, some change how the menus look, some apply to widgets as well, and then there are those that change pretty much everything. We like Android’s own stock looks but are big fans of transparency, and the awesome HOLO GLASS theme lets us apply that to the stock settings app as well as many other components of the OS, as you can see in the screenshots below.
Although no extra themes are shipped with CM by default, you can find countless options available in both free and paid variants on Google Play, XDA-Developers and many other Android modding communities – just search on Google for it and you’ll find more options at your disposal than you’ll know what to do with.
Before we move on to the next section, here’s how HOLO GLASS has changed our Dialer and Messaging apps. The background is actually our desktop wallpaper, not just a static background applied to these apps.
This is perhaps the most extensively customizable section of the entire ROM. Here, you can tweak major UI components such as the status bar, the quick settings panel, the notification drawer, the power menu and the navigation bar as well as toggle the expanded desktop (full screen) mode and Pie controls (yes, CyanogenMod 10.1 includes Paranoid Android’s famous controls), and customize LED notifications.
When it comes to the status bar, you can show/hide the clock as well as choose AM/PM display, and change the battery and signal icon styles from several available options. You can even set the status bar itself as a brightness control slider that will change brightness as you swipe your finger along it.
Quick Settings panel
Starting with Jelly Bean, Android ships with a section in the notification pull-down that acts as a quick settings panel. CyanogenMod basically supercharges it, letting you customize it to your liking.
You can add, remove and reposition toggles, and also specify how some of them behave. There are plenty of options available to add, pretty much for every feature you’d want. We have customized ours to add the features we need to quickly access most often, as you can see in the second screenshot below.
For quick and convenient access, you can even set this panel to always appear by default when you swipe down from the edge of your choice (left or right) on the status bar.
If you don’t fancy the above controls and would rather have a small list of toggles right in the regular notification shade, the Power widget can do just that for you.
You can select what buttons display in it, specify their order, and tweak some appearance & behavior settings for the widget.
Want to utilize your screen real estate to the fullest? Why not get rid of the status bar as well as the navigation bar? Just choose whether you’d want the status bar to remain visible or not in this mode, and you’ll then be able to go full-screen by selecting the option from the power button’s long-press menu.
Here is how the home screen and your apps will appear while expanded desktop is enabled. As you can see, I have set the status bar to be hidden in the first one and visible in the second one, while the navigation bar is hidden in both in this mode.
When you long-press the power key, you get more options in CyanogenMod than in stock Android, as you must have noticed in the screenshot shown in the Expanded desktop section above. A great thing about these options is that you can choose the ones you want to be displayed in the menu.
In the second screenshot, we have stripped down the power menu to the bare essentials, removing all the additional options except for ‘Reboot’ from it to get back to basics.
CyanogenMod ships with a clock widget of its own called cLock that works on both the home screen and the lock screen. It’s the same widget that you have seen on the home screen and lock screen images above. In addition to the time and date, it is capable of displaying weather conditions (from Yahoo! Weather) as well as your calendar events, and all this information is customizable from here.
For the clock, you can choose between analog and digital items, toggle the display of any alarms that you have set, and customize the clock’s display colors and font.
When it comes to weather conditions, you can toggle them on/off, choose weather source, set a custom location if you want (it uses your current location by default), and tweak several visual aspects of the weather display. For your calendar events, you can specify what calendars to display events from, how far into the future to look, what types of events to show and hide and what information to display for each event, along with visual tweaks for how the events are displayed. The settings will apply to the widget on both your home screen and lock screen.
To what extent can one customize sounds of an Android device, you ask? Just take a look at the Sounds section of CM settings – it spans three screens, and that’s excluding any sub-sections! As you can see below, there are options for everything ranging from volume controls, ring mode and volume panel style to music effects, quiet hours, ringtone choice, system sound toggles, headset-related tweaks and more!
As you can see above, it’s hard to think of a sound-related option that hasn’t been considered here. All options available here are self-explanatory, as you can see in case of the volume panel style below.
This section houses two great features namely Quiet hours and Music effects (DSP Manager). Let’s take a more detailed look at each of them.
The Quiet hours feature is pretty awesome; it lets you specify times when you don’t want to be disturbed, and even lets you choose the type of alerts you want to disable for notifications during these hours, including sound, haptic feedback, vibrations and notification LED.
Music effects (DSP Manager)
Remember the app icon for DSP Manager that we mentioned when taking a look at the CyanogenMod apps? It is a killer app that can tweak the sound output of your device in a way that you’ll find it hard to believe your ears!
You can enable features such as bass boost, dynamic range compression and a full graphic equalizer separately for your phone’s speaker, wired earphones and Bluetooth headsets.There are several equalizer presets available, and you can choose the strength level for any effects you apply.
Unlike the ‘Sound’ section, you wouldn’t see a plethora of options under Display, but that’s because the UI tweaks have already been covered to the extreme in the earlier sections and there’s little to do with the display beyond that. However, CM still manages to squeeze an extra option in here in form of customizable auto-rotate settings.
In addition to the default on/off, you can now specify the angles your device can rotate to, and even set the volume buttons to automatically swap when in landscape mode (volume-up becomes volume-down and vice versa) that can be more optimal on some devices (depending on the volume button position).