Cyanogenmod 12 Lollipop initial review

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I just installed CM12 last night on my T-Mobile Samsung Galaxy S4.  Here are my thoughts and experiences so far.  Keep in mind, this is only after a few hours of use.  Also, I’m commenting on both Cyanogenmod 12 and Lollipop.

The Good

  • Battery performance seems to be better.  The jury is still out, but so far, it seems like it’s taking longer for it to drain.
  • New stuff… Just… It’s new, and that gets my jollies.
  • Multiple users – You can now have multiple user accounts, just like on Windows.
  • Super SU is no longer needed.  That functionality is now built in (Settings/Developer Options/Root Access
  • More settings options
  • Uses the more efficient and faster DART instead of the old DALVIK.
  • Lock screen can be set to randomly change where the numbers are on the number pad when you enter your PIN.  This prevents people from determining what your PIN is by looking at smudges on your screen (this is a REALISTIC hacking method that actually works… well, it DID until now).
  • Battery screen shows how much estimated time you have remaining and when charging, tells you estimated time to a full charge.

The Bad

  • Gallery app is gone
  • XPosed framework doesn’t work (that’s not CM’s fault… but still, it’s worth noting because that is so very important to many of us).
  • FolderMount doesn’t work.  Again, not CM’s fault, but holy cow!  A power user can’t really use a 16GB phone without it + an external SD card.
  • Bright backgrounds everywhere cause unnecessary drain on the battery on screen types that are more efficient with fewer white pixels.
  • Bright backgrounds hurt my eyes when I wake up and use my phone or have been in a dark room for a while, like watching TV at night.
  • Lots of things still don’t work on Lollipop that did on Kit-Kat.  Again, not the fault of CM… just an issue you have to consider before upgrading.
  • On the battery screen, the most used item is “Miscellaneous”, which doesn’t help me diagnose what’s using the most battery.
  • Lots of apps crashing… many are Google apps.  And yes!  I did, in fact, flash the latest GAPPS for Lollipop!

The Ugly

This is all opinion, of course, so like or dislike whatever you like or dislike.  Don’t get mad… Seriously!  Don’t get mad!  Here are the things I dislike, visually.

  • Flat… flatness EVERYWHERE!  I know!  The people that LIKE it are VERY VERY VERY vocal about it, so much so that people that do NOT like it feel intimidated to mention that they don’t care for the latest craze in flatness that’s not really new anymore.
  • More white backgrounds… Looking more and more like that other phone platform.  I personally prefer dark backgrounds on most things on my phone for aesthetics, less strain on my eyes, and improved battery performance.
  • When I tap a link to bring up a web page, it prompts me for which browser I want to use, which is fine, but that prompt MUST be broken, because it just looks so wrong.  It’s not a card, like most things on Lollipop.  It’s not a popup window.  It’s a half-window that appears to have failed to scroll up all the way.  The 3rd option in the list is only halfway drawn and is cut off at the bottom of the screen.  This is one of the ugliest UI design element I’ve ever seen.  I’m going to give the benefit of the doubt and call this a bug.  [Update: A reader pointed out that this must be a bug since this doesn’t happen on their CM12 install on their phone]
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My overall impression?

While there are many improvements, the things lacking and the crashing, I’ve already decided I need to go back to CM11 KitKat until Xposed framework and FolderMount are working again and fewer things are crashing.

CM12 is still in nightly builds and has not yet released a stable build, so some bugs and missing features are to be expected and CM12 was only made available for my particular phone in the last few days, so it’s still hot off the alpha press, so to speak.

I shouldn’t have to say this, because it’s so abundantly, blatantly obvious, but…

Your mileage may vary depending on how you use your device and which device you have.  Not everyone uses their phone the same way and not everyone has the SAME phone and not everyone uses the SAME APPS.  So, if it works for you, and my overall impression gets you mad… CHILL!  It’s just an OS, dude!  Smile

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