Finally the official ICS for Galaxy S2 is out and there is very slight difference from the leaked ROMs which were available from Jan. The same boring Touchwiz for a launcher. Though this is actually a minor annoyance. Nova and Apex are available in the market now and they are brilliant launcher replacements for Android 4.0. BUT what actually is the biggest deal breaker for me are the other changes, the default apps, and lockscreen. The People App, The Dialer, even the Gmail App have been spoiled by Samsung.
Stock ICS vs Sammy's Touchwiz
The lockscreen is a joke compared to the ICS lockscreen. Infact the older one for GB with the sliding lockscreen image was better. And when you get a call there is no slider to answer the call, its just an icon which you have to move to answer the call something similar to the lockscreen which is blasphemy for me after seeing how beautifully its implemented in ICS.
I decided that the solution to all this was to go to AOSP Rom. AOSP stands for Android Open Source Project which is roughly the stock Android in all its glory with no crapware. And the most popular AOSP ROM out there is Cyanogenmod and there is a reason for the popularity. At the moment the CM ICS ROM for S2 is a nightly which means it is still under development. But trust me I have been using it for a month now and as long as you follow the instructions you will not get any problems whatsoever. I have tried many custom ROMs based on Sammy’s android. I dunno how the developers call their ROMs stable. The custom ROMs were buggy with many freezes and force closes(called FCs). CM9 I have had a freeze once, just once when using the CM Music player (a delight of a player compared to Sammy’s default player). I restarted the phone and haven’t had a problem since. And mind you, that was an older nightly. The current nightlies must be even better.
But I want to warn you before you jump over to CM9! There are few issues which were never a big deal for me but it maybe a big deal for you.
1. The Video recording has been fixed 🙂
2. The FM Radio does not work. A pretty minor annoyance and according to the developer they are not bothered about it. Which means it might never work. Realistically most of us like our FM Radio being there but never really use it. So I don’t think its a big deal. And we have podcasts and streaming radios which work perfectly. And you can use an App called TuneIn Radio Pro which has many local radio stations which you can listen to. I have a pretty good data plan so streaming music is more then enough for me when I am bored with the 5gb of music already stored on my phone.
The MTP to transfer data through the data cable does not work. It might seem a big deal but it really is a very minor annoyance if you have a wifi network nearby to which both your computer and phone should be connected. If you do, use Airdroid or something similar to transfer files to and from the phone. And I like this method so much more now that I doubt I would use the cable to transfer data even when it starts working. BUT this might be a big issue if you do not have a wifi network nearby.The MTP issue has been resolved 🙂
4. The facebook sync has been broken in the latest nightlies. There is a solution to it using HaxSync from the Play Store which actually gives you a little more syncing options. But it is a paid app though pretty cheap.
Issues reported by some users and not experienced by all:
- Wifi issues reported by some. I do not have a proper idea about it because none of the people I know have experienced it.
How to Install:
Now if you are OK with the issues and want to experience true ICS awesomeness read the first post in here for detailed instructions on how to get CM9. I would just dumb it down a bit for you.
- Root your phone and get a working Clockwork Recovery.
- Download the latest CM9 build and the Gapps for CM9 from the link in the XDA Post.
- Copy both the zips to your phone memory.
- Reboot your phone into recovery by shutting down and when the phone is starting holding the Volume Up + Power + Menu button.
- <Optional> Do a Nandroid Backup if this is your first time experimenting (A good choice even otherwise).
- Flash update-cm-9-2012*.zip (The latest build which you downloaded)
- Flash Gapps.
- Do a Data Wipe/Factory Reset.
- Reboot and Enjoy AOSP ICS 😀
Awesomeness of CM9:
Even though CM9 is still in development it already has some pretty cool features apart from the fact that it gives you a pure untainted Android experience without any crapware. But before that maybe we could see the benefits of having AOSP Android as against stock:
- The default theme, UI, Launcher everything looks so much prettier.
- Default ICS lockscreen is awesome when compared to the joke by Samsung.
- You get proper re-sizable widgets.
- Fullscreen caller images when making and receiving calls.
- The Dialer and People App look much better and the swipe left right switches Tabs instead of Calling or Messaging as in Samsung’s ROM. Some might not like this but for me its much better then reaching out to the top of the screen to switch tabs. The Tabs are also better organised.
- The ICS Clock App is a fully functional Bedside clock replacement with different color schemes to suite your taste.
- The Calendar and the Calculator apps also have been improved.
- The signal bar changes colors to indicate the status of whether your phone is synced with Google or not. Grey – Not Synced, Blue – Synced.
- You don’t see time in the Status Bar when the screen is locked as the time is already displayed on the lockscreen. As soon as you unlock it the time is there on the status bar. Very subtle and thoughtful.
- CRT Off effect when you lock your phone. Eye Candy but pretty neat! 🙂
What CM9 Adds to AOSP:
- The CM Music Player: Functional and the Album Art at the background is a nice touch. Nice player compared to the Stock or Sammy’s Music player though it needs little work and it is a work in progress.
- The Battery Percentage at the indicator.
- DSP Manager
- Profiles – Something similar to old Nokia phones. A pretty neat feature where you can set predefined sound settings for different situations like Work, Home etc and change them easily.
- Awesome Default Ringtone! 😀
- Custom CPU Governers
- Running Android 4.0.4 even before many Nexus devices!
These are some of the things I could think of. There are plenty of other features on the way! And the ROM is very fast, stable with no FC or restarts till now unlike the other Custom ROMS based on Sammy’s Android. Give it a try and it will be really really hard for you to go back to Sammy’s ROM even if you miss the video recording.