CyanogenMod and ungrateful users

The CyanogenMod logo, featuring a turquoise Android symbol on a skateboard on a black background, inside a turquoise circular arrowRecently, as I posted here last week, I upgraded my main phone (a Nexus 4) to run CyanogenMod 10.2 which is based on Android 4.3 — they are starting work on the next version (11) which is based on Android 4.4, but this is likely to take months if the time this version took is anything to go by (Android 4.3 was released in late July 2013). As soon as the pre-release (which has proven to be more than stable enough for my purposes) was put out, people on the Google Plus page started asking why the CM team wouldn’t just stop working on this version and start on getting a CyanogenMod version of Android KitKat put out, and demanding to know if their particular device was going to be supported — this despite the repeated requests not to demand support for other devices as there are often reasons why they can’t be supported.

I find it quite pointless that CyanogenMod should continue working on one version only until Google releases the next upstream version, and then just move on to that one. If they did that, they would never complete a version, and leave most of them in a semi-complete state. Although I’ve not had any problems with the first pre-release of CM 10.2 since installation, others have, and the installation itself is a tricky process (which they are working on, by making an app out of it) which I wouldn’t recommend to a novice, particularly as it often involves backing up and wiping the data on the phone. CyanogenMod serves a very worthwhile purpose in keeping perfectly serviceable phones up to date long after manufacturers have abandoned them; the Galaxy Nexus, for example, is well able to run KitKat but Google has chosen not to update it. Similarly, my old Samsung Galaxy S could run Android 4 (although with some issues, like the phenomenal battery drain when network data was enabled) while Samsung stopped updating it at version 2.3.7 (Gingerbread), which in my experience was awfully slow. Not to complete a version would mean CyanogenMod could no longer fulfil this purpose.

CyanogenMod is a derivative distribution, similar in some ways to Linux Mint on the desktop (which is based on Ubuntu, which in turn is based on Debian), but unlike Ubuntu, Android is not developed in the open; CyanogenMod cannot even start developing until each version is released. Linux Mint can develop each version alongside the version of Ubuntu it’s based on, and adds different desktop environments, themes and a better updater (previous to the move to GNOME 3 in which Mint introduced Cinnamon, it was just an app launcher, various utilities, themes and the updater). CyanogenMod reworks core apps, such as the Dialler, Launcher and Messenger. So, CyanogenMod have more to do, and have to start later, so it’s inevitable that a stable version will take longer than a stable version of a desktop Linux derivative distro. It’s a long game; the benefits of getting each release right will be felt for years, so it matters less if they’re not felt immediately.

The people who demand “new version now!” don’t seem to appreciate that not everyone using CyanogenMod are regulars on the XDA forums and are not really interested in “hacking” their phone or installing custom kernels. We just want either a current version of Android for our phone, or an improved version or one without irritating carrier or manufacturer modifications. It’s a quality product that’s distributed for free, not just a hacker’s playground. I’m sure the developers would not listen to the people telling them to abandon Jelly Bean (4.3) in favour of concentrating on KitKat right now, but it would be a tragedy if they did. I do understand the frustration of not being able to get your favourite distro on a new phone, but if it bothers you that much, then either hold off buying the phone (the Nexus 5 is new, and they ran out in under two weeks) or put it in the drawer until the right version of Android is released.

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