I hate manufacturers versions of operative systems. I hated it back when I had Windows, and any new computer would come with a lot of pre-installed crappy and useless software instead of coming with a brand new and clean install. But it’s even worse when it comes to smartphones running Android, or at least that is my personal experience with Samsung and Motorola.
My first Android phone was a Motorola Milestone (the European version of Motorola Droid). It was a high-end device and came with Android 2.1, which was pretty cool at the moment. But a few months later Android Froyo was out there and I was stuck with the older version. I waited for a good year until Motorola finally released the official Froyo update for my phone, and it was just horrible: the whole phone was terrible slow, the interface design was already out of date and it didn’t seem to bring any improvement, so I searched the Internet for alternatives and found CyanogenMod. A few days later, and after a long time of being a good boy, I rooted the Milestone and installed CyanogenMod 7.1.
It was a pain to get it working. At some point I thought I had no phone anymore, and when I finally found my way (three days later) through it I had lost all my SMS and contacts. Thankfully I still had my old SIM card and most of my contacts where there safe and sound. But it was so worthy: CM7 was already based on Android 2.3 (one version ahead of what Mororola was offering me), but everything worked smoothly and fast, so the phone should have been able to run even faster with Froyo, so shame on Motorola’s developers. Plus I now had total control over my phone instead of the limitations of the manufacturer, which is something I really enjoy.
When I moved to Canada a few months ago I had to change my phone, since the Milestone wouldn’t work with my network of choice (or so I was told, and I wasn’t able to make it work). So I bought a new phone taking advantage of the offers from the company, ending up with a Samsung Galaxy Ace running Android 2.3. Except for the weight of the device, I missed my old Milestone. At first I thought it was mainly because of the physical keyboard, but then I realized there was other thing: I really didn’t like the operative system. It wasn’t slow or anything, but it had some really annoying features like the worst messaging app ever or a very limited desktop. Plus since it wasn’t rooted I couldn’t install some apps and change things to make it better, or just delete useless crappy apps like the “Samsung Market”. So I looked again for my beloved CyanogenMod.
This time I found that I could install CyanogenMod 9 (based on Android4 already!!) thanks to the Galaxy ICS Project. I went again through a painful process during which my phone was literally done for a few hours, until I managed to get the Recovery System updated and then I was able to install the ROM. It was cool (Android4 is by itself really cool), but this was a beta version and many things didn’t work well, plus it seemed to me that Ice Cream Sandwich was too much for this not-so-amazing phone, so I changed it for CM7.2. And I’m delighted: the whole phone is superfast, the interface is cool and full of customizable options, I have total control over everything on my device and I would say the battery lasts longer. I have even noticed that it was Samsung’s on-screen poorly designed keyboard what made me misspell so many words, not that my thumbs where fatter or I was stupider.
I think this gaves a really bad image to the manufacturers. In Motorola’s case, they weren’t able to keep their OS up to date, and after a year working on it their release wasn’t even decent. In Samsung’s case, and considering that CyanogenMod 7 is based on Android 2.3 (same version the phone had when I first got it), it shows that the open community is able to develop a much better OS than one of the biggest companies in the market, making it faster, cleaner and in terms of privacy and control much better for the final user.
So if you have an Android phone and really want to enjoy the experience of it, get rid of your manufacturers ROM and its limitations and look for something open and better. CyanogenMod works for me and the devices I have had, but you might find some other interesting ROMs out there that can rock your phone.