CyanogenMod on the Orange San Francisco / ZTE Blade

Since my last post about the ZTE Blade went down quite well, I thought I would post a little bit on the latest changes for owners of the Blade, in particular the first steps towards running CyanogenMod on the Blade.

If you’re not familiar, CyanogenMod (CM) is a ROM based on the Android Open Source Project (AOSP) which adds additional features, enhancements and overall improvements both to performance and reliability over the stock ROMs. What’s so special about Cyanogen, at least to Blade users, is that unlike the previous ROMs we’ve been used to which have been custom made and designed specifically for the Blade, CyanogenMod has been compiled for and run on numerous devices from HTC, Google, Samsung etc. From the CyanogenMod site:

CyanogenMod (pronounced sigh-AN-oh-jen-mod), is a customized, aftermarket firmware distribution for several Android devices […] Based on the Android Open Source Project, CyanogenMod is designed to increase performance and reliability over Android-based ROMs released by vendors and carriers such as Google, T-Mobile, HTC, etc. CyanogenMod also offers a variety features & enhancements that are not currently found in these versions of Android.

The most recent version of CyanogenMod is 7 (CM7) , which made ‘Release Candidate’ status a few days ago. This version is based off Android 2.3.2 so satisfies the demand for a Gingerbread ROM for the Blade.

My first impressions

I installed CM7 on my phone last night (download links will follow) and have had it running for about 24 hours now during which time I have been able to give it a good test of a typical days usage. This is my first experience with CM, so I spent a lot of time fiddling around with the settings and discovering what it had to offer. I’ll spare you all that; you can get a list of what CM will bring to your phone from their site or checking out Youtube videos. I’ll try to stick with things specific to the Blade.

What I immediately noticed is the speed and smoothness. Moving from a 2.2 ROM which was already really quick, the interface just zooms along with CM7. Even with all the fancy animations and graphical enhancements which I wouldn’t expect the Blade’s puny hardware to cope with, it’s still remarkably snappy.

After restoring a backup of my applications and data with Titanium Backup, my WiFi mysteriously stopped working. After a little bit of tinkering around with logcat, I discovered this was because of a badly formed wpa_supplicant.conf file, found at /data/misc/wifi/wpa_supplicant.conf. Deleting this file fixed the problem and restored my WiFi settings back to default.

Some applications and games don’t seem to like being installed on the SD Card, which is the default location for installations in CM7, and if tried to run will Force Close (FC) or not even start at all. The only solution to this seems to be to copy them over to the phone’s internal memory.

Angry Birds (and other games) seem to run faster and smoother. I’ve no idea if this is CM’s doing or Gingerbread, but it’s a definite improvement over the 2.2 ROMs available.

Battery life seems to be worse than in the 2.2 ROMs, although it’s far too early to make any real judgement or comment too much on this. Suffice to say that it’s totally run out of juice since disconnecting it approximately 15 hours ago, bearing in mind that I’ve been exploring CM extensively and had WiFi running for a large portion of this time.

Common issues

Most of the issues I’ve mentioned already are fairly well known and bug reports can be found at the CyanogenMod Google Code project issue tracker. You can see a collection of reported issues and even submit your own there.

Screen remains blank after call (Issue #2851): Apparently if you are in a call for over a certain length of time, the screen will turn off. When the call is over, the screen will not turn back on. I think the proximity sensor is to blame for this although I haven’t been in a call for long enough to reproduce this myself.

Camera autofocus doesn’t work (Issue #2852): Pretty self-explanatory. At the moment, the camera will not focus automatically however will still take pictures and video.

CPU Settings force closes (Issue #2859): Again, pretty self-explanatory. When trying to access the CPU Settings option, the app will crash. I don’t suspect there is anything of particular interest in there as the kernel being packaged with the Blade builds of CM7 doesn’t support overclocking (yet).

5MP camera is black and white on photos (Issue #2867): Apparently the camera will only take black and white pictures if you have a 5MP camera. You’re probably not going to want to take photos with the autofocus broken anyway, but it’s definitely a bug.

Certain apps force close if installed on SD card (Issue #2860): This is the problem I ran into earlier.

resources

If you want to go ahead and install CM7 on your Blade, you can find a tutorial with an up-to-date guide at the CM7 wiki. If you’re installing from another ROM, this is the place to look.

The latest release of CM7 for the ZTE Blade can be found here. Nightly builds can be found here.

There’s a discussion thread at MoDaCo which is updated with all the latest information about the daily changes to CM7 for the ZTE Blade.

The Issue Tracker at Google Code is the place to go for reporting and viewing bug reports.

The CyanogenMod Blade GitHub Repository will let you view changes to the ROM in real-time.

There is a ZTE Blade section of the CyanogenMod forums where discussion can take place. Another forum of interest is the MoDaCo ZTE Blade Sub-Forum.

LAST THOUGHTS

Although it’s brilliant to finally have a Gingerbread ROM on the phone, much less CyanogenMod, at time of writing it’s not suitable for day to day use. With that in mind, minus the problems with the screen cutting out during calls, there’s nothing that will totally break the basic functionality you’d expect from a smartphone. If you’re comfortable with having to find a few workarounds for the aforementioned issues (and perhaps any you might bump into yourself), I’d give it a go.

Everything here is correct at the time of writing, but things are likely to change quickly. I suggest taking a good look at the issue tracker and forum posts before even thinking about installing this ROM.