cyanogenmod - open source phone

This is not exactly a howto since there are already many howtos/tutorials available and exact instructions are always device specific. But since it is a interesting topic here a short summary of my experiences of liberating an old Samsung Galaxy S GT-I9000.

Reasons why you could want to do this:

  • Since at the time of writing the Ubuntu Phone is still lacking some crucial apps
  • Thunderbird contact synchronisation plugin with google contacts at least for me was not that smooth and eg broke after an Thunderbird update without any helpful error messages
  • Ethical / privacy reasons
  • Your android version is way too old and your phone manufacturer doesn't support updates for your device anymore
  • You will learn more about your phone

Reasons why you could not want to do this:

  • You could brick your phone
  • You will definitively spend some time with this :)
  • You will be limited in the range of apps you can use

Components I used:

  • Cyanogenmod: check if your device is supported here (where you also can find device specific installation instructions. On a sidenode: I didn't need the adb - just copying the image to the sd card did the job)
  • F-Droid: similar to Googles play store. You can search and install apps (FOSS) and get notifications about software updates. You could also install Google play store with cyanogenmod but this is kind of like missing the whole point.
  • Owncloud: For your file / contacts / calendar synchronization between different devices. You only need webspace with a supported PHP version - the installation is super easy. The catch: You also will need an certificate (make sure that the hostname / alternate hostname in the certificate match the trusted domains in the config.php of owncloud). Otherwise you will send your data in plain text all over the Internet. If you got an server you could use a self-signed certificate. If you got web space at a provider you usually have to pay a few euros / month for a certificate. The other catch: You now have to take care of the backups yourself.
  • AGPS Patch: This is only necessary if you got GPS problems after installing cyanogenmod. Usually this shouldn't be necessary.

A more complete list of possible software options is available at the Free Software Foundation Europe.

A few notes on the apps:

  • All the basic apps like mail, calendar, (alarm-)clock, etc come with cyanogenmod
  • To sync calendar and contacts between phone and owncloud the app DAVdroid can be used
  • PGP encrypted mails can be read and sent with K-9 mail and APG
  • Mapping / routing application: A thing I really find helpful for not getting lost was Google maps and Googles routing app. But no need to worry. There is the great app osmand~ available in F-Droid which even works with off-line data.
  • Instant messaging: There are a some alternatives in the F-Droid repository (eg telegram). Also you could use Jabber/XMPP clients for messaging. The problem for me was that almost none of my contacts use them. There is always the option to install whatsapp or Threema as an apk file and install it manually. The reason I didn't do this till now is that I am a friend of automatic updates from a central repository. But in case you rely on one of these IM apps this is an option. Also there are apps like ApkTrack which inform you about updates on manually installed apk files.