Today we’ll be looking at my two favourite custom ROMs for Android. Okay, to be honest CyanogenMod isn’t really my favourite, but it’s the one I always end up flashing when something invevitably goes awry with whatever other ROM I’m using. Since May of this year that ROM has been SlimKat.
I’ve had a few random reboots with SlimKat lately, so over the weekend I flashed Cyanogen. Then I remembered why I prefer SlimKat. In case you were interested, here’s what I see as the major differences between the two.
First, a bit of background on each…
CyanogenMod was the first-ever homebrew firmware for Android devices. It’s now a privately-funded corporation, aiming (I think) to partner with Chinese handset vendors to bring Eastern smartphones to Western markets. Their biggest success to date has been the OnePlus One, powered by a customized version of CM11. You can get a standard build of CM11 for your device right here.
SlimKat is the name given to KitKat ROMs built by the team at Slim. What drew me to this ROM was the “dark mode” and innovative app switcher—both of which you can see in action in a previous post. I’m also a big fan of how SlimKat handles app permissions; more on that in a moment.
You can find a list of SlimKat-supported devices here.
I’ve written a few times about MIUI having what I consider to be the gold standard in Permissions Managers. Well, here’s some great news: the Cyanogen team have basically copied it. Just set it to “on” by default and you’ll be notified every time an app requests access to your personal data. You can grant any app a one-time or permanent permission; in this particular case Swarm (Foursquare) kind of needs your location to work properly, so you’d best grant it permanent access.
Here’s the permissions manager for SlimKat. It’s maybe a bit tricky to explain: what you’re actually looking at is a drop-down menu accessible via an icon similar to the one in the top-left corner of the previous CyanogenMod grab—for whatever reason it momentarily disappears until you close the menu.
The important thing is, SlimKat gives you individual permission controls right up front, whereas with Cyanogen you’ll have to burrow deep into the settings to find something similar. Both permissions managers work as advertised, though, so ultimately it’s a matter of personal preference.
One thing CyanogenMod has gotten really good at is OTA updates. Install CM once and you’ll never have to flash it again; so long as you have a supported custom recovery (ClockWorkMod or TWRP) your device will update and reboot itself. Pretty slick.
“SlimOTA”, on the other hand, is a bit misleading. You can absolutely download a ROM and/or compatible gapps directly from this panel, but you’re going to have to flash them yourself. Boo.
So here’s a grab from Google’s own camera app, running on CyanogenMod. Notice that there’s no option for HDR. I know that the CyanogenMod team takes great pride in their native camera software, but I like HDR. CM’s camera app doesn’t currently have it, and when you run Google’s camera app on CM you don’t get it either.
Ah, there it is… Thanks, SlimKat!
This may be an issue specific to my device (the Nexus 5), and I haven’t tested any other camera apps, either. But HDR is one of the reasons I’m sticking with SlimKat. Here’s another:
For some reason AdAway never seems to work when I’m running CyanogenMod.
There are steps one could take to fix this. AdAway is only available via F-Droid, and with F-Droid you can “roll back” to a previous version of any installed app. But I found an easier solution…
… I just reinstalled SlimKat instead. And AdAway works great!
None of this is to suggest that CyanogenMod isn’t worth your time; if, for example, you compare the list of devices that each ROM supports you’ll find that SlimKat is definitely lacking. Plus, every device is different, so the issues I’m having with CyanogenMod on my Nexus might not affect you or your sidearm of choice at all.
Every custom ROM has its own unique features and quirks; the key is finding one that’s right for you. Now get out there and flash your damn phone! 😎