Rooting and flashing a custom ROM on your Android device isn’t for everyone, but CyanogenMod’s latest ROM offers some great improvements over pretty much all stock versions of Android out there, making it one of the best custom ROMs available.
But what if you don’t want to flash an alternative ROM on your device? It turns out you can still benefit from many CyanogenMod features without going the full ROM route.
Downloading a custom launcher from the Play Store is the quickest and easiest way to transform your Android experience. A launcher changes your entire homescreen and app drawer, allowing you to customize it nearly any way that you like. One of the best options for this is ADW Launcher, which we have a done a full review of.
By default, ADW Launcher will look very much like stock Android, but you can download all sorts of custom themes. When opening up the launcher for the first time, it runs you through a useful setup screen to help you understand the many customization options. A nearly endless number of themes are available on the Play Store as well, allowing you to truly make your homescreen your own.
The launcher that comes with CyanogenMod, called Trebuchet, isn’t available on the Play Store, but Bazooka Launcher is similar in functionality. It has a large amounts of themes available and even replaces the lock screen by default.
Both of these launchers allow for creating folders, changing icons, and being used in landscape orientation. I really think that every Android device should ship with a more customizable launcher experience like these launchers offer. Download both and give them a try to see which you like better. ADW seems to offer a better stock experience, while Bazooka seems to be all about themes.
On Cyanogenmod, the cLock widget is famous for being highly customizable and gorgeous. It can be put on your homescreen as well as your lock screen if you’re running Android 4.2 or newer.
It shows the time, any alarms you have set, the current weather, and it can even show upcoming calendar events. Recently, a few changes took place: it had a name change and became Chronus, and it stopped being a CyanogenMod exclusive. You can find it on the Play Store if you’re running Android 4.1 or above.
Stock Android, before the introduction of Quick Settings in 4.2, didn’t have any toggles for settings from the notification drawer. Some phone makers changed that like Samsung with their TouchWiz interface, but even then, they’re usually not very customizable.
With 1Tap Settings, you can do a lot from your notification drawer. Toggle your GPS, WiFi, Bluetooth, even launch certain apps or put contacts in there. The possibilities are endless, and it brings you one step closer to the Quick Settings found natively in CyanogenMod.
The phone dialer in CyanogenMod bears resemblance to the stock Android dialer, and for good reason: it’s a great dialer. Unfortunately, lots of manufacturers muck up stock Android with their interfaces, often cluttering up the dialer and making it all the more annoying to use.
Swipe Dialer Free offers a nearly stock Android dialer experience with a few added extras. Contacts will pop up as you type them in using the number pad — which is only available on stock Android 4.3 or some manufacturers’ skins like Samsung’s TouchWiz — and it has a fourth tab for favorites. Additional customizations are available in the Pro version that costs $1.59.
Many manufacturers bundle some kind of calculator with their software, but nothing beats the CyanogenMod calculator. It offers a simple interface while retaining the ability to do more complex calculations.
Swiping from side to side in the app allows you to access the different types of text entry panels, and tapping the blank bar near the top will hide the panels so that you can see your history.
Another CyanogenMod app to recently hit the Play Store is Focal, the simple yet powerful camera app. It’s actually no longer available in CyanogenMod builds after the developers had a bit of a falling out, but at least now it available for all in the Play Store.
By default, the shutter button and focus ring are the only things visible on the screen. Options can be found by swiping in from the left side and the gallery can be accessed by pulling down from the top. To access other shooting modes, you hold the shutter button and swipe away from it.
CyanogenMod is a great ROM, but I’m certainly happy to see that more pieces of it are becoming available on the Play Store. Releasing apps on the Play Store is a fantastic way to reach the largest number of users, rather than trapping apps inside a specific ROM. Besides, not everyone is comfortable rooting their device or has the time to do it.
If this isn’t enough for you, though, we do have a handy guide on how to install CyanogenMod. Plus, it does look like the CyanogenMod team will be releasing a One-Click Installer on the Play Store soon, so don’t despair if the process seems too complicated right now.
Do you use CyanogenMod, a different ROM, or do you just customize your device with Play Store apps? Are there any apps that we missed? Let us know in the comments.