CyanogenMod CM7: Teach your old Droid New Tricks

Summary:CyanogenMod CM7 brings Android 2.3 "Gingerbread" to a wealth of devices, including the original Motorola Droid.

CyanogenMod CM7 brings Android 2.3 "Gingerbread" to a wealth of devices, including the original Motorola Droid.

Has your Android smartphone's OS gotten long in the tooth? Thinking about upgrading to a new device mid-contract, but can't bear the thought of getting hit with a nasty "early upgrade" fee and paying full retail? Do you want to try the latest features of Android Gingerbread? Then maybe CyanogenMod is for you.

If you've been closely watching the Android space, you're probably aware that Google has recently released version 2.3 "Gingerbread" of its smartphone operating system, which currently only ships on the Samsung Nexus S phone.

Carriers such as Verizon, AT&T, Sprint and T-Mobile are taking their sweet time getting out updates for current model and older model phones such as the HTC EVO 4G, The Droid Incredible, The Droid X and even the original Motorola Droid.

Many of these phones, such as the Motorola Droid which was released back in November of 2009, will probably never see "Official" carrier builds of Gingerbread -- they'll be stuck on Froyo 2.2 forever. The Gingerbread release will be reserved primarily for new models.

However, if you're willing to live a bit on the edge, these devices can be injected with new life and new software, through 3rd-party Android ROM implementations. One of the most popular of these community-driven Android firmware upgrades, CyanogenMod, has recently started releasing nightly builds of beta releases of their Android 2.3 implementation, CM7.

If you own a device supported by CyanogenMod then you can enjoy the benefits of this software.

However, before you can install CyanogenMod, you have to "root" or "Jailbreak" your phone.

Depending on the type of phone you have, this could be as easy as downloading a simple Windows application that you use to connect to your device via USB to run a rooting procedure (aka "Superoneclick" for the Motorola Droid, Samsung Captivate and Nexus One or Unrevoked for various HTC devices) or a more complex procedure that involves flashing your device with a special "recovery" ROM that unlocks the device.

The CyanogenMod wiki has comprehensive instructions for rooting supported devices, such as the Motrola Droid. Another good resource on rooting is the XDA-Developers discussion forum. It should be noted that rooting your phone voids your manufacturer's warranty. However, if your device is a year old or even older, then it's no longer much of a concern, since your warranty coverage is over.

Once this root procedure is complete, you simply download the ROM Manager application from the Android Market. The free version of ROM Manager permits the updating of your device to "Stable" versions of CyanogenMod, such as CM6, which is a highly-modified implementation of Android 2.2 "Froyo".

Installing the ROM Manager will also install Clockwork Recovery, which adds additional functionality to your device's bootloader and permits ROM backup as well as ROM firmware installation by ROM Manager. From the ROM Manager UI, you can back up your existing "rooted' ROM with all of your application data or even revert to original stock factory ROMs.

To get access to CM7, you'll need the "Nightly Builds" which requires purchasing the Premium version of ROM Manager for $5. Installing CM7 is simple -- choose "Download ROM", choose "CyanogenMod Nightlies" and then pick the current build.

This will then spawn a Downloader process that runs in the background, which could take upwards of 10-15 minutes depending on how busy the CyanogenMod download servers are.

As of this writing, CM7 was at Build #3, and even though it is considered beta, I've found it to be quite stable and use it on a daily basis without issues.

The Downloader will also prompt you if you want the Google Apps -- you'll want to say "Yes" to this. Additionally, when prompted, flush your cache. When the Downloader has finished pulling down the new firmware, it will automatically reboot your device, flash the new firmware, and boot into CM7.

Have you taken the jump into CyanogenMod yet? Talk Back and Let Me Know.

Topics: Mobility, Android, Google

About

Jason Perlow, Sr. Technology Editor at ZDNet is a technologist with over two decades of experience with integrating large heterogeneous multi-vendor computing environments in Fortune 500 companies. Jason is currently a Partner Technology Strategist with Microsoft Corp. His expressed views do not necessarily represent those of his employer... Full Bio

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