Android to be Fragmented by the Big Guns of Mobile?

Sailfish2-970-80

Recently, Microsoft was reportedly an investor in Cyanogen, the rogue Android operating system that Google hopes to kill one day. With the investment, Google probably has to deal with another camp within Android that will split their control over the OS.

This is not the first, Amazon was the big player who decided to go its own way with the Kindle and launched a competing version of Android that has no relations with the Google version. Then came Nokia’s X series, which Microsoft decided to kill off upon taking control on the Finnish company.

Windows Mobile is still a struggling OS. Blackberry isn’t much of contender unless you’re the Snowden type so for the rest of us, it’s just Android and Apple iOS. The others like Tizen, Ubuntu and Sailfish OS have yet to deliver a viable competitor to the old time favorites. So Cyanogen seems to be a good bet, or so it seems. But the folks at Mi (rice in Chinese) have a better idea, why not take Cyanogen and skin that to their ecosystem?

hero_n1

Cyanogen have been given a fresh start with a capital injection rumored to be around 70 million from Microsoft. It was struggling under its own open source weight and could not get enough geeks to support the numerous devices listed on its site. When Cyanogen decided to go commercial, they were not prepared for the task at hand so the money from Redmond will help sort out its own mess. Oppo has partnered Cyanogen in the past with the N1 variant but Oppo has since taken on itself to move forward into the Global market with a Google approved version.

MIUI Alternative

Hugo Barra may have left Google for greener pastures  in China. In Silicon Valley, he’s just another tech guy but at Xiaomi, he’s driving both MI phones and operating system to global markets. Xiaomi is an ass kicker in China. It runs and supports its own eco-system which emulates what Apple has done to some degree.

index_33

For example, Xiaomi’s own MiMarket, which is just like Google’s Playstore, operates on the same principle as Apple’s Appstore in that it weeds out malware apps before listing it on its own store. However MiMarket is predominately in Chinese and is a hindrance to the English speaking world. Even though Mi user interface on Android have been floating around for people to download and install — many still do not know of its existence. MiUI isn’t exactly an ecosystem, what Xiaomi has done is to use the MIUI on Cyanogen Mod for people to experience what they have created on HTC, Samsung and Motorola.

index_21

This means there will be bugs though the support forum is relatively active to stamp those out. MiUI has its own channels in China that supports group buying, videos, music and games. It does not however offer Google type services such as Playstore and Gmail. Your MI account only gives you additional benefits such as a Cloud hosting account but beyond that, it’s pretty much the same.

Licensing Agreements with Google

Whenever a phone manufacturers wishes to use stock Android, it has to sign an agreement and pay a license fee. That fee is paltry, but you must offer standard Google services such as Maps, Playstore, gmail, etc before you can distribute it.

MIUI in China skips this process by breaking the stock google OS and installing its own with access to M i Market. So this means MIUI is a rogue Android OS just like Amazon’s. A rogue OS works best when you craft your own code into it—allowing you to access MIUI APIs that are proprietary. By doing so, it can also break certain app functions that adhere to strict Google standards—making them less likely to work when the app calls certain hardware routines. MI has a team monitoring the MI forums for bug reports and responds to them accordingly. So far, it’s been pretty good at handling concerns for MIUI for MI devices but but there is always a lingering concern that brands other than MI will not be entertained. There are loads of hardware issues that are not addresses and this has to do with Cyanogen Mod since MIUI doesn’t quite include the support for running its skinned OS on Samsung or HTC devices. MIUI is a good alternative to HTC Sense or Samsung Touchwiz but that’s generally where it ends.

Global March is a Slow One

Mi’s primary market is still China. Although Hugo Bara is spearheading its spread to third world nations, the problem with this march is that it is making baby steps instead of giant leaps, MIUI isn’t quite ready to offer the same eco-system that Apple does on a global scale. It is nice to see that Xiaomi has plans for global domination but it probably needs the necessary funding to go global at a more rapid pace.

What’s more, Xiaomi’s current Redmi Note 4G hasn’t got spectacular hardware specifications. 8GB internal storage along with 2GB RAM barely cuts it these days as more Google apps seem to occupy more storage space than ever. To think that the specs will last you 18 months into the future will be a gamble. Apps are getting more storage hungry and by this, you have to get a warehouse of sorts to keep them at bay. Every update of an App seems to swell in size and in the end, it just won’t hold all that without you first deleting and managing those that you seldom use.

Should I or Shouldn’t I?

To be frank, I hated the bloatware that came with Samsung devices. It tired to blend in a complete eco-system but failed at launch due to its lack of interest in competing with Google. As such, much of what you get on the Samsung app market is the same as those you get on Google Playstore. Trashing the Samsung bloatware is the main attraction for me at least.

The only difference is for the Galaxy Note series, where a series of apps were released to support the stylus input through Samsung’s own Appstore. Beyond that, Galaxy device users will find it very difficult to maintain those Samsung bloatware. Bloatware such as health apps and Samsung video and media centric apps cannot be erased.

Microsoft is in a very good position to hijack Android and splitting it from Google’s paws. It has the financial clout to pull it off and even make proprietary versions of it just like Amazon and Xioami in China (Xiaomi’s global march will be powered by an official version  of Google’s Android with MIUI 6 on Lollipop).

With the new investment in Cyanogen, Microsoft has to learn to find the right balance. Cyanogen opens the doors to users from HTC and Samsung that could be Microsoft centric—puffed up with a slew of Microsoft own services from Outlook mail, Bing Maps, Bing Streetview, Office 360 and Bing Search. Such a underhanded tactic could well destroy Google’s hold on Android. Will Nadella take this swipe at a rival after coming onboard as CEO? Only time will tell. Xiaomi does not have the clout to fight off patent lawsuits that will start flying when it enters global markets but Microsoft is already a patent leader in mobile technologies. As a matter of fact, Microsoft makes more money from mobile based patent royalties than it does from Windows Mobile licensing.

The long term view here is that Xiaomi will just be another User Interface for the rest of us while Microsoft could have its own ecosystem embedded in future releases of Cyanogen. That would be, in short, the worst nightmare for Google.

 

Advertisements

Cyanogen Mod Mac Installer goes Beta

2014-01-17-09-51-25-am-620x459

Android jailbreakers take note. Cyanogen Mod has finally landed on the Mac, well at least in Beta. As Guy Kawasaki once said, it is Beta than nothing.

You need to join the group of guinea pigs or large Capybaras to be allowed into this highly secret cabal of testers. They can be found here. From the forum, you can see how others are doing and sad to say, there isn’t much to offer for International users.

Most of the rants are on the Installer failing. Why should it? It is in Beta and that is why you downloaded it. So far, no one has bricked their device, though that is highly probable.

Two Step Processing to One Step

Installing and flashing your device use to be a complicated affair, it is so complicated that only geeks did it in their free time. By releasing Cyanogen Mod with a client software that runs on both PC and Mac, the dudes with code made it into a one step process.

All you need to do is run the Mac installer, plug in your device and things will be done automatically. Please don’t fret, if your device is not supported, it will tell you that it isn’t but unfortunately for Beta versions, this one doesn’t always work but it doesn’t mean you could install a wrong firmware.

Why My Device isn’t Supported?

As I have said before, CyanogenMod is staffed by geeks who in their free time tinker with the Android OS and frees up some of the bloatware that comes with it. It is not a paid profession. Since the launch of Cyanogen Oppo N1, talent has to be diverted to things that need focus, thus don’t expect all of your devices listed as mod-able.

Another problem is the Global version of your firmware. Many ‘modders’ have access to firmwares that is released in their country, this means those with a global or international version will be left out. For now, most country specific firmwares are available while International versions are left out. Local language supported firmware is also missing so if you happen to be Chinese or Korean, chances are there isn’t one for you.

Trial and Error

I have been monitoring the forum on the G+ group and there is good feedback on what works and what doesn’t. Sometimes, you just need to wipe clean your device before modifying it to use the CyanogenMod installer. Most of the devices are US centric, some may even have European firmwares but not all of them are supported.

If you can’t wait to kick ass your device into hyper speed, I suggest you wait till the Mac installer software is more stable, but if you can’t, heck, just give it a shot now.

Cyanogenmod: The begining of the End?

phone

Cyanogen Mod is a great little addition to a rooted device, but it never really worked well. You have to understand that Cyanogen Mod was never really intended to be commercial, at least until now.

Oppo, the branded Android gadget from China has made its debut in USA. That said it is a commercial grade release under the Cyanogen Mod brand name. Hardware wise, the Oppo rocks, but I really have no idea if the Cyanogen brand name will stand up to scrutiny.

Why do the Mod?

Speed, performance and removal of bloatware. What started out as a forum for would be geeks to tinker with Google Android code led to the development of Cyanogen ROMS, which has to be flashed onto your hardware device. What’s the advantage?

Pros

  • Remove unwanted programs (“bloatware”) installed by your carrier
  • Receive more frequent security updates (ie, get the latest fixes from Google in the newer OSes)
  • Having access to the most current version of Android available (including new features)
  • Better performance
  • Extra features

Cons

Common concerns include the following:

  • Some device manufacturers or mobile providers may offer a limited or voided warranty after modifying
  • It is possible that by installing a rooted operating system, you may be introducing new potential security issues (although this argument could be switched– older operating systems may be insecure as well…)
  • Non-stock firmware could contain malicious code – which is a good argument for making sure you download custom ROMs from a trusted source, or even better, learn to build it yourself!
  • Stability issues may arise when using an experimental operating system. However, for many people, CyanogenMod has proven to be more stable than most ‘official’ ROMs.

I would like to highlight the claim on the last line “CyanogenMod has proven to be more stable than most ‘official’ ROMs”.

This is not true. Any firmware modification will affect the performance of the hardware. Some of the most frequent complaints are that the device camera or Wifi connection doesn’t work. Still it hasn’t stop legions of followers from rooting their devices.

Rooting for Freedom

Android has many variations, those from Samsung and HTC are similar in operation but are different in design. Think for a moment about the Google stock standard camera app and you’d know what I mean. Google released its Photosphere feature with a 4.3 update but this was not featured in updates by Samsung for obvious reasons. If you are still keen to get a Mod, you can get it here.

N1-CyanogenMod1

This app isn’t just for anyone so please read the following section before installing.

The Dark World of Rooting

In the iOS world, the art is known as Jailbreaking, but for Google Android it is known as rooting. Like Yin and Yang, they both co-exist in the app ecosphere. Android however has one advantage, you can choose to install apps outside of the appstore if you so dare whereas Apple absolutely forbids it.

Google recently removed the OneClick app for Cyanogen installs from the Playstore. As a competing operation system, it was expected that they get the thumbs down.

Not all devices have rooted ROMS. The OneClick app made it much easier to install and flash your ROM but it is your responsibility to find out the common issues (bugs) associated with the release. They do not guarantee you a glitch free buttery smooth operation even though there are certain advantages to removing the bloatware.

Telcos often include a host of stuff, sponsored none the less by conniving brands that occupy space in storage and RAM. Samsung on its own loads it up with WTF ? apps which you won’t bother using but can’t remove. This again occupies the limited internal storage space and there are no avenues to move it to external storage.

Older Devices to Benefit from Cyanogen Mod

This is true. Devices with 1GB of RAM and 8GB of internal storage with no access to external SD card are prime targets for rooting. Dealing with the bloatware will be a welcomed move and there is no two ways about it.

With newer devices, with between 2GB to 3GB of RAM, the attraction of rooting your device diminishes with the amount of internal storage you have. 16GB is probably quite ok as long as it is supplemented with external card storage.

So if you have an old device that needs a breath of fresh air, you can do no wrong by heading down to Cyanogen Mod and installing the OneClick app.

Cyanogen’s move to a more commercial platform like Oppo will ultimately mean one thing, a signal to an end for Cyanogen Mods for other devices. Software engineers who have tinkering with it for fun will have to be paid and resource will be focused on Oppo style Cynanogen Mods of commercial quality.

So this will be the End for Cyanogen Mod and the beginning of Oppo Cyanogen Mods.