Review #14: Cyanogen OS 13.1 (ZNH2KAS1KN) for OnePlus One

I thought I'd do a double header on mobiles this weekend. While the other one was about the past, this one is about the present and presumably the future.

First up, Cyanogen OS is not CyanogenMod. CyanogenMod happens to be one of the oldest Android modifications that is still going strong and has the backing of a large community. Cyanogen OS (COS) on the other hand has managed to incur the wrath of many due to some shady tactics in the past and the fact that they have managed to mimic OEMs in incorporating needless bloatware and "features" in the name of advancement. Having said that, while COS is not the fastest amongst the various Android releases (again contrary to CyanogenMod), it is still the official ROM for the OnePlus One (OPO). While I am admittedly a flasholic, I have tried to take things steady over the past few months by sticking mostly with the stable branch of CyanogenMod. It has served me well for I had more than a few bad experiences with custom ROMs that tend to be updated every day. However, I couldn't resist the impulse of trying out COS 13.1 which is the first release with MOD support (Cyanogen OS with MOD is still not CyanogenMod, get it?). Sheepishly, I will admit that I am glad that Cyanogen Inc. (that's the company in case you are lost) is still extending primary support to the OPO, especially considering that Oxygen OS has failed miserably as the alternate official OS.

The highlight of this COS release then is the MOD support. They are essentially third-party features that can be integrated within the existing system apps, thereby augmenting their functionality in a cohesive manner. For example, the most evident one is the integration of Skype with the Phone and Contacts app or HyperLapse in the Camera app. Most of these are Microsoft integrations at this time including the Cortana selfie feature (not available in India) and OneNote anywhere. The exception would be the Twitter integration with the lock screen. However, only the Hyperlapse integration with the camera seems to be useful and well done. For example, the Skype integration visibly loads quite a bit later after the app leading to a new tab or drop-down suddenly appearing after a few seconds. Cyanogen may label this as "post-app", but it seems to be nothing more than an app within an app.

That aside Cyanogen OS includes the usual bells and whistles listed below. Thankfully, the Xposed framework works fine with it as well so lots of more customizations are on offer. Installation is however not a straightforward process if you are coming from anothe Custom ROM. The latest release is an incremental update (ZNH2KAS1KN), so if you are looking to flash it you need to be on an earlier release of Cyanogen OS (cm-13.0-ZNH0EAS2JK). Not only that, you also need to be unrooted as well as have the stock recovery. Unrooting is straight forward if you have the SuperSU app installed. As for the recovery, you can pick up the recovery.img file from within the full Cyanogen OS fastboot zip file and flash it through an existing TWRP recovery or through fastboot from your PC. However, I decided to do a complete fresh installation using fastboot. For that you need to put your phone in fastboot mode (Power + Volume Up) and make sure you have the Minimal ADB and Fastboot package installed. Thereafter, you can open the command prompt from within the installation folder of the fastboot package (use Shift + right click) where you should also extract the contents of the Cyanogen OS zip fastboot file. The commands to be entered at the prompt are:
fastboot flash aboot emmc_appsboot.mbn
fastboot erase DDR
fastboot flash sbl1 sbl1.mbn
fastboot flash tz tz.mbn
fastboot flash hyp hyp.mbn
fastboot flash rpm rpm.mbn
fastboot flash modem NON-HLOS.bin
fastboot flash cache cache.img
fastboot flash system system.img
fastboot flash recovery recovery.img
fastboot flash userdata userdata.img
fastboot flash boot boot.img
As you are now on a clean COS installation, you will get any official updates (like ZNH0EAS2JK to ZNH2KAS1KN). Once that is done, you may wish to switch to TWRP. The process to do so is the same as what I have mentioned above. You can flash the recovery using fastboot as follows assuming you have the TWRP image at the same place as fastboot:
fastboot flash recovery twrp-3.0.2-0-bacon
The real downside of Cyanogen OS consistently has been its poor battery life (compared to CyanogenMod). Some of it is down to the added bloat and some to poor optimization. Hence, a custom kernel with CPU governor selection (currently using smartmax_eps) and underclocking (currently at 1958 Mhz instead of 2457 Mhz) support might be of some use in alleviating this issue. Once TWRP is loaded, the flashing of custom kernels, SuperSu and Xposed can be done like any other custom ROM and perhaps with a bit of idealism you get the most out of Cyanogen OS unique features that are not part of CyanogenMod (for better or for worse).

List of Cyanogen OS features (not exhaustive but what I have used sometime or the other):

Sounds 
> Launch music app when headset is connected

Display 
> LiveDisplay (reduces eyestrain by cutting down on blue light towards the evening)
> Tap to wake (Double tap to wake up screen)
> Double-tap to sleep (Double tap on statusbar to turn off display)
> Prevent accidental wake-up (using proximity sensor)
> LCD Density (Can be changed in increments of 40 DPI, I prefer 440 against the default 480)
> Show search bar in recents menu
> Battery and Notification lights (customize colou and duration of front LED)

Themes
> Status Bar icons
> Fonts
> App Icons
> Home screen and Lock screen wallpapers
> On-screen control icons
> Ringtone, notification, alarm
> Boot animation

Notifications
> Heads up
> Do not disturb  (Priority rules and audio ducking)
> The Quick Settings tile can be edited from the notification shade itself using the 'Edit Tiles' option

Lock Screen
> New! Lock Screen Mods (Happening on Twitter)
> Pattern Customization (Grids of upto 6x6 and hiding of pattern error, dots)
> Music Visualizer

Buttons
> On-screen navbar with customization
> Hard key backlight duration or toggle
> Power Menu (add screenshot, sound panel)
> End call with power button
> Press power button twice for camea
> Answer call with home button
> Home, Menu button customization (short press, long press, double tap)
> Volume button customization (wake up device, long press to change tracks)

Gestures
> Circle for Camera
> Finger swipes for music control
> V for camera

System profiles
> Triggers to activate a profile
> Wireless activation (WiFi, Bluetooth)
> Volume Override
> Brightness, lockscreen, airplane mode activations

Status bar
> Clock style (left, right, center, hidden)
> Battery style (Icon portrait/landscape, circle, text, hidden)
> Battery percentage
> Brightness control by sliding status bar
> Notificaton count
> Quick pulldown (using right or left edge)

Privacy
> Privacy Guard to restrict apps from accessing personal data
> Blocked caller list to block unwanted calls
> Protected apps (to lock certain sensitive apps)

Developer Options
> Advanced reboot (reboot to recovery, bootloader)
> Animation scale in 0.1x increments (to speed up or slow down system animations)
> Kill app back button (Long press back to kill current app)




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