CyanogenMod 10.2 and the Nexus 4

Screenshot of a Nexus 4 Android phone's home screenI bought a Nexus 4 a couple of months ago when it was reduced to clear, having previously been using a Galaxy Nexus which ran CyanogenMod 10.1, which was based on Android 4.2. This past week, Google released the new version of Android (4.4 Kitkat) and a new Nexus 5 phone to run it. Other devices are going to get upgraded to Kitkat “soon”, which means weeks. In the meanwhile, CyanogenMod have just released the first “milestone” version of their version of Android 4.3, which I had been waiting for eagerly as I had seriously missed some of its features which are lacking in stock Android. Google have also announced that they’re not making Kitkat available on the Galaxy Nexus, a major disappointment to those of us who bought that phone more recently.

Google’s excuse is that the phone is two years old and therefore outside their “window” of 18 months for updating the OS. The problem is that a year ago, it was the only Nexus phone and was available new, and surely many people have a phone that they bought new a year ago or a little bit longer. I bought mine in March 2013 secondhand, and I bought that one because the Nexus 4 was unavailable due to the stock problems that are well known. It was and is a perfectly serviceable phone. I paid £240 for mine; that is more than I later spent on the Nexus 4. Looking on eBay today, with the Nexus 5 now available and the Nexus 4 probably being sold off, Galaxy Nexus handsets fetch a maximum of £100 on auctions (there are still people trying to sell them for £170 or so on a “buy-it-now” basis). True, CyanogenMod will probably make Kitkat available for the GNex, as they did for other abandoned phones like my old Galaxy S, but that’s unlikely to be for months.

A few months ago I wrote about installing CyanogenMod on the GNex and most of that still applies. However, I found that those instructions are insufficient on the Nexus 4 if you’re coming from stock Android 4.3: you need to wipe more stuff from your phone than just format the /system partition in the recovery utility. I found that I needed to do a “factory reset” from the ClockworkMod recovery program’s main menu, format the /data partition and wipe the main cache (in the recovery program’s main menu) and the Dalvik cache (in the Advanced menu). In other words, you need a completely clean phone. Make sure you back up any data you want to keep as this process will destroy all of it. My post on installing CM on the Galaxy Nexus has some links to apps that can help you transfer all your old data onto the new setup.

I’ve only had CM on my phone for a night, but it feels like a new phone and as I said on Twitter, it’s diminished my ‘need’ to get the new Nexus 5 phone (which would be my third in well under a year). Stock Android has caught up with CM a bit, such as including number predictions in the dialler (which CM has had for years), but the configurability is what really sets CyanogenMod apart, much as is the case with KDE on the Linux desktop. On CyanogenMod you can configure the buttons on the bottom of the screen, the “tiles” on the quick settings (and you can configure an easier way to access them that really does make them quick), have more icons on your home screen and get rid of the search box … there is just so much more flexibility and it’ll keep your phone alive and up to date long after Google have dumped it for the latest model.

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