Cyanogenmod 10.1: the Jelly Bean update for my Samsung Galaxy S II

cyanogenmod

I’ve had a Samsung Galaxy S II since around August 2011, and while the S3 has of course tempted me the cost of the device and/or monthly commitment was too much. I’m hoping that the release of the S4 will see a price cut in the older phone! I also feel the SGS2 is a “good enough” phone for most of the things I want it to do so there was that too.

Meanwhile my S2 has been rooted for a long time but I was running an old version of Android, Ice Cream Sandwich. There’s supposed to be a galaxy s ii Jelly Bean update sooner or later but because of all the tinkering I’ve done to my phone any previous OTA update always fails. Meanwhile, installing Cyanogenmod 10.1 was almost as easy as following the instructions here.

The hardest bit was getting an updated ClockworkMod Recovery on there. In Windows, Heimdall refused to see the phone, or reported an error, “libusb error: -12″ or “failed to initialize protocol” even after running the included zadiag.exe. I tried it in Linux too but had similar problems until in frustration I disconnected the phone and put the Macbook to sleep. When I tried it again 5 minutes later it worked and squirted a new CWM down into my phone!

With that in place my phone wouldn’t boot, if I didn’t go into Recovery mode it just showed a black screen. No matter as I had everything backed up with Carbon backup. I removed the SD card and copied the latest nightly firmware and gapps on there. Booted into Recovery, factory reset, flashed those zip files, did a dalvik clear just in case and rebooted into Jelly Bean, Android 4.2.2! Once I logged into Google it started downloading all my apps again and with Carbon I was able to restore the settings of all my apps.

Photosphere isn’t included in this rom but I found it here in a flashable zip. Here’s what it looks like when I used it on Patrick’s Street, Cork today. iOS has a similar functionality I guess as I’ve seen a few colleagues from working waving their iPhones around while at meetups! The camera on the SGS2 is frankly rubbish but Pixlr Express does a good job of making photos look a lot better.

How does it perform? Very well for the most part.

  • I noticed that if I tether my Nexus 7 with a wifi hotspot then I will sometimes have to bring up an Internet app on the phone to wake up the 3G connection.
  • I noticed two Maps processes going a bit loopy when GPS was disabled and I had launched Ingress. GPS is disabled now and the phone is fine. Odd.
  • As a result of restoring settings from Carbon backup, Greenify had a list of apps to hibernate but because I hadn’t run it interactively then it hadn’t been granted superuser privileges. My phone got really hot as I guess the app was trying to hibernate the Facebook app repeatedly. TouchPal kept closing too but clearing the cache fixed it. Those aren’t Android problems, just a side effect of the restore process and insufficient error trapping in the apps. I’ll contact the authors about those (admittedly obscure) issues.
  • Sometimes there’s an odd slowdown in the UI. Ingress was dog slow for about 30 seconds but then it righted itself and it’s definitely faster than ICS.

I love Google Now! I wish the monthly activity card displayed in Km instead of miles. I like the new mini settings but wish that GPS was there to save me having the Power widget on a secondary homescreen. Photosphere is pretty cool. I wish Chrome had browser extensions so that Lastpass could build support for it. I haven’t yet noticed any huge difference in battery consumption. I don’t care if the FM radio doesn’t work, I never used it. Podkicker and Tunein Radio take care of any audio. The Apollo music player is nice, but doesn’t play very nicely with MP3s that don’t have tags. I had to fix some rips I made recently of CDs as they were coming up as from Unknown Artist, even though the files were in artist/album directories. All the other MP3 players I tried did the same however.

CM 10.1 has an auto update feature that John reminded me of. I haven’t enabled it yet though. I need to do more research and find out how it works and whether it will clobber my app settings and data.

If you have an SGS2 you should definitely give Cyanogenmod 10.1 a spin. I remember the first time I upgraded my original SGS to CM7 and the problems it had with camera support but I didn’t have any similar problems this time. CM10.1 will give it a whole new lease of life!