Steve Kondik, CyanogenMod Android founder, leaves Samsung

One of the best-known Android developers is leaving Samsung for a new, as yet unknown project.
Written by Steven Vaughan-Nichols, Senior Contributing Editor

Lots of users love Samsung's take on Android. But will they continue to love it now that Steve Kondik, the well-regarded founder of the CyanogenMod alternative Android firmware, has left the company?


In a Google+ posting about the new Samsung Galaxy S4, Kondik mentioned in passing that he had left Samsung: "I got to spend some quality time with the S4 (final hardware) before I left Samsung."

When Samsung hired Kondik as a software engineer in August 2011, it was regarded as a real win for Samsung. While we don't know exactly what he did for Samsung, we do know that he kept working on the popular CyanogenMod Android distribution.

At CynaogenMod, Kondik and other developers created multiple versions of Android for smartphones and tablets. These have enabled users to upgrade older hardware to newer versions of Android, and added multiple features, such as an OpenVPN client, interface theme support — and wi-fi, Bluetooth, and USB tethering. This has led to Kondik's reputation as a top Android developer who knows the mobile operating system from the firmware on up to the interface.

In his note, Kondik praised the recently released Galaxy S4. "Spec-wise, this device blows the competition out of the water. There are a number of unique features that have a lot of potential (assuming Samsung is opening up an API for them), such as the touchscreen, which can register "hover" events, and an IR blaster. Benchmarks put this device far above the competition (40K on Quadrant CPU) and there should be no reason why it won't run your favorite apps flawlessly. GPS seems to work better than any other Samsung device, with a lock being acquired instantly in almost any condition. The camera is excellent as well, both front and back."

He wasn't so complementary though about TouchWiz, Samsung's user interface (UI) for its Android and Bada smartphones and tablets. Kondik wrote, "TouchWiz has become a bit more consistent with the latest upgrade. There are no more jarring mismatches in different parts of the OS, and it's been lightened up a bit and has a clean "flat" feel. Unfortunately, it feels like it has been sent a few years back in time to the Froyo days. Say goodbye to all of the nice touch-friendly ViewPagers and say hello again to a fully tabbed UI . You'll also enjoy the seemingly endless onslaught of popup windows and modal 'Loading...' dialogs. UI performance is average."

So could it be that Kondik left because he didn't like what was happening with the UI? We don't know. We do know that in a response to his post, he said that he was leaving Samsung "but not because of anything in particular. Samsung was great. Just decided to do something new. Ask me in a couple of months :)" In the same message thread, he also has declined to be interviewed on the matter.

As for the S4 and CyanogenMod, there had been a rumor that the developers would not be porting to this device. Officially, CynaogenMod said that just because some developers weren't interested in the S4 did not mean that it wouldn't be supported. To be precise, the group stated: "CyanogenMod does not pre-announce support or lack of support for devices." And, "As for the team's stance on the S4, there isn't one at this time, and most definitely won't be one before the device is sold at retail."

With Kondik still with CyanogenMod, however, I strongly suspect that we will eventually see a version of the popular alternative Android fimrware for S4 in due time.

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