When I was looking to upgrade from my Nexus One, one of my mandatory requirement for the new phone was that it will run CyanogenMod 7 (CM7), or if it hadn’t yet been ported, that at least it has a reasonably good chance of (CM7) running on it. I had enjoyed CM7 (and CyanogenMod 7 prior to that) so much on my Nexus One that I was apprehensive about moving to some other manufacturer’s stock ROM. Particularly since so many people complain about manufacturer’s ROM like HTC’s Sense UI.
It took a long time for the original Samsung Galaxy S (SGS) to see a working CyanogenMod installation, the kind of delay I was not willing to wait. The Samsung Galaxy S 2 (SGS2), however, seemed to be off to a quicker start than the SGS. Samsung released its source code pretty early, CM7 developers reported starting work on it, and Samsung donated several SGS2 phones to those developers. It seems with Samsung’s proactive support behind CyanogenMod, it wouldn’t take too long to see a reasonably workable CM7 running on the SGS2. (By now, you might have heard that Samsung has also brought Steve Kondik, the CyanogenMod lead developer, into their employment.)
Let me share with you my familiarity with the Nexus One’s original pure Android ROM. I’m quite unfamiliar with it, actually. The Nexus One arrived on the 2nd day of the Lunar New Year. There were guests at home, so I just left the Nexus One to charge. When the guests were gone, I played around with the phone just a little bit, then within just a few hours of the Nexus One arriving at my door step, I unlocked, and flashed CyanogenMod. So, you see, the phone barely lasted a few hours with its original stock ROM.
The SGS2 was quite different. The ROM struck me as something looking quite familiar. There are useful improvements and enhancements in several areas. Sure, some things were missing when compared with CM7. In general, CM7 is a lot more configurable than the SGS2 stock ROM. But the stock ROM did not disrupt the interface or try to change how you use an Android phone. Most importantly, it added several usability enhancements that add to improved user experience.
In fact, several things must be useful enough that they are also incorporated into CM7. For example, the power widget in the notification drop down area, and side-sliding pages in the App drawer. Just little things, no doubt.
One of my gripes about CM7 has been with the camera app. In CM6, the camera app had a touch-to-focus function. I like to take photos, and being able to control the focus point was useful. For some inane reason, touch-to-focus disappeared in CM7. Come SGS2, the stock camera app has touch-to-focus, face detection, smile detection, blink detection… oh, so many cool features. How about metering options of centre-weighted, spot and matrix? I don’t know if some of these features might be hardware dependent, but I’m quite sure CM7 camera app could incorporate several more features. How about customizable shortcuts to camera functions that you can place directly on the main camera screen?
An example of a simple user interface improvement is in the Contacts app. You can swipe the contact to the right to initiate a call, or you can swipe the contact to the left to send a message. There are also little icon indicators against the contact to show which data source (e.g. Gmail, Facebook) the contact entry was learned from.
I haven’t tried any of the Samsung’s “Hub” applications (Music Hub, Social Hub, Game Hub and Readers Hub). Social Hub sounds like a great idea, but I’m currently a little lazy to explore new territory. I don’t know if I would like it. Although I’ve read a lot of complaints from netizens, I currently seem to have the sense that generally Samsung is doing more things right than wrong.
Including, like, employing the CyanogenMod guy.