2013-09-18 12_41_17-CMInstaller_1.png (760×572)
Last Updated: September 20th, 2013

As part of today's announcement of CyanogenMod as a company, CTO and founder Steve Kondik said one of the first goals the team had was to make the process of installing CyanogenMod easier. Kondik called the current process "hideous" and too difficult for "mere mortals." He also announced that the Android installer companion app will be released to Google Play in the coming weeks.

The Android app is only half of the equation, though – a Windows application will also be released. We reached out to CM team member Abhisek Devkota (AKA ciwrl) for clarification. As of now, he said, both the Windows client and the Android app will be needed for installation, with the Windows side actually doing most of the work. The Android app readies the device and verifies that it's compatible, then the Windows component pushes the files and guides the user through the installation process.

A Mac version of the installer will happen at a later date, but Linux will only be supported if there is enough demand, the reasoning being that Linux users are much more likely to use the manual installation methods and scoff at the idea of visual helper tools.

The blog post makes reference to open and unlockable devices, but that's not the case with a lot of Android handsets. According to Abhisek, the installer will only support users of openly unlockable devices and not those that are locked up by the carrier or the OEM, since those are likely either not unlockable at all or unlockable using an exploit.

Note: Having root is not a pre-requisite for the installer as it can do everything through command line tools, such as adb and fastboot.


CMInstaller_5 CMInstaller_7

And then there's the elephant in the room - Gapps (Google Apps). CyanogenMod does not currently ship with Google Apps installed because they are proprietary and not open-sourced. If you want things like Gmail, Maps, YouTube (you probably do), etc., you have to install the Gapps package separately - surely, this is part of the hideous process Kondik was referring to. Since CyanogenMod is not built in such a way that it can pass Google's certification process to be approved for legitimate Google Apps because it ships pre-rooted, we don't currently know how this situation will be resolved, and no one on the team was willing to discuss it with us just yet.

The CyanogenMod team is doing an AmA (ask me anything) on Reddit right now - maybe we'll get some more answers to our questions there.

Update #1: Koush, Cyanogen Inc's VP of Engineering, has responded to one of the questions on Reddit asking about certification:

We're in an interesting spot, because typically GSF (Google Services Framework) is licensed to OEMs, not software vendors (us). But becoming a legitimate business entity and partnering with an OEM are the first steps to licensing GSF. Most of the technical hurdles have already been overcome (passing CTS - Compatibility Test Suite).

Tom Moss, who is on our board, is the ex-head of Business Developments and Partnerships at Google. He basically drafted all the agreements to license GSF, anti fragmentation clauses, etc. He'll be very helpful as well on this front moving forward.

Update #2: On the subject of the installer, Koush says:

Currently the installer supports unlockable devices and devices that come unlocked out of the box (ie, most Samsungs via Download Mode).

We're still deciding how to handle locked devices. There's legislation (DMCA clause) in the US that allows the user to bypass copy protection to essentially root their phone. We could do it, it's not hard, but we have to make sure that this won't get us into any hot water later.

Steve chimes in as well:

The first release of the installer won't support devices that require exploits. The long-term goal is to open up OEMs to the possibility of supporting us officially- there's zero technical reason for these measures and the best way to fix it is to not buy these devices and speak your mind.

We're going to be adopting a much more firm release procedure, and there will be various options on how you'll get your updates depending on your needs.

Ryan Whitwam
Ryan is a tech/science writer, skeptic, lover of all things electronic, and Android fan. In his spare time he reads golden-age sci-fi and sleeps, but rarely at the same time. His wife tolerates him as few would.

He's the author of a sci-fi novel called The Crooked City, which is available on Amazon and Google Play. http://goo.gl/WQIXBM

  • Todd

    Now, I've never not flashed a gapps package when installing CM, but can't we just download the apps from the Play Store? Or is it a case of you need to start with it to get it, like gmail?

    • William

      Not all of the applications are on the play store.

      • Cherokee4Life

        like what?

        • Pyrotek85

          Like the play store itself, for example.

        • http://www.androidpolice.com/ Artem Russakovskii

          Play Store, GSF, TTS, PartnerSetup, LoginService, SyncAdapters, and a ton more. Look inside the gapps zip to see what it adds - it's not just user-facing apps, it's a lot of the framework.

          • Cherokee4Life

            fair enough :)

          • http://www.androidpolice.com/ Artem Russakovskii

            Here's the contents of gapps: https://gist.github.com/archon810/6613974

          • Pyrotek85

            Yeah it's got a lot of things that most people think are built-in to the OS. It's not really optional.

          • Cherokee4Life

            well I learned something new today.

    • skitchbeatz

      you cannot access the play store without the gapps package.

    • serotheo

      GApps includes the Play Store.

    • andQlimax

      play store is part of the gapps

      also some important jar files (not apps ) that are not on the play store

      did you ever extracted the gapps zip? there are hundred of files there..

  • Steve

    Are those iphones/ipads to the right in the installer pic??

    • Chris Hutchinson

      Good call. Probably never gonna happen tho.

      • Logan B.

        "Probably never gonna happen tho."

        Why wouldn't it? They can be jailbroken and they're just a hunk of hardware with some software that could be installed over it, right?

        • mlj11

          My guess is that the drivers and binaries of said hardware aren't as accessible as those on the Android side.

          • Logan B.

            Ah, yes. That could be.

        • Squiddles

          It has been attempted before. One project, iDroid ( http://www.idroidproject.org/wiki/Main_Page ), got something kind of usable on the iPhone 3G (my personal first and last iPhone). It worked, it booted, but it just had some significant issues that really stopped me from using it over iOS3.

          In the link I gave, the "Status" link in the Developers column should tell the story pretty well how it went with newer devices. The most recent article under News tells why the project was dropped and where it stands currently.

          It boiled down to drivers and severe amounts of reverse engineering. At least they got 2.3.3 booting.

        • Jose Torres

          Possible? Yes. Legal? No, because Apple doesn't like it and what CYNGN won't do:

          "...the installer will only support users of openly unlockable devices and not those that are locked up by the carrier or the OEM."

          That said, I wonder then which Android phones would be eligible in the first place.

      • brian

        My guess would be the Goo phone.

  • serotheo

    I imagine they can direct a link to a page with the GApps download during the process and have the user select the GApps from the program to flash it.

    That way it doesn't necessarily include it in the ROM and becomes part of the install process, that or (I think) another valid loophole would be having the installer fetch the compatible, latest GApps separately as a downloaded asset (automatically, without asking the user) and flash it after - though, again, not necessarily included in the ROM.

  • andQlimax

    Probably the windows installer could adp pull the gapps files, and then restore after the cm rom installed succesfully

    • http://www.androidpolice.com/ Artem Russakovskii

      The installer can just offer to install gapps as a separate step, but I don't know if that'll be pushing it in Google's eyes.

      • andQlimax

        adb pull files could be more "legal" than download/install an external "illegal" package that have to be mantained by someone, like now

      • cabbiebot

        That is exactly what I'm worried about. Though technically GAPPs aren't bundled with CM, its trivial and effectively bundled with them and they have just looked the other way at this point. I hope this VC funding wasn't stepping over the line here.

    • PhoenixPath

      This only works if the device is running the same base (4.3 to 4.3) and not running something like 4.1 (to 4.3)...any gapps pulled from 4.1 would be useless.

      (...and it's not just apps, but the services framework itself as well. Just installing the gmail apk for instance, won't give you the ability to create a Google account on your device)

  • Cherokee4Life

    Here is what I don't understand.. on all the devices I have ever owned and rooted/flashed... flashing the phone was the easiest part. Flashing a kernel and/or ROm and/or GApps was easy. Rooting the phone was the hard part. If someone has already rooted and unlocked their phone flashing is easy and why would we need this process? If you are familiar with XDA do you really want this installer?

    • Guest

      the installer should also unlock the device and flash the recovery, where possible

      • Cherokee4Life

        yeah but unlocking the device can't be done automatically. At least not with the Devices I have. I had to go to the manufactures site and get a code and agree that its off warranty and do all that nonsense.
        There is no way this will do that for the user, I have a feel it would be too legally entangling on Cyanogen's side to even deal with. Now I think they should have a 'wiki' of sorts built into the installed with instructions on how to do it (XDA) but then again non tech savvy people are going to start doing this and bricking their devices and wanting to hold Cyanogen liable.

        The way I see this is that this is a fancy Recovery + Aroma Installer built into a Windows program to ADB files and do eveything for them. But that being said I don't know how many people flash their phones or tablets right at their computer desk. I do everything while on the go mostly.

    • Qliphah

      I'd have to say the hardest part is formating and resetting all the data on the device. That's fine for new/fresh installs but for those that have used a phone/tablet for a year or more will they want to give up all their save data. or will the installer include something like Helium/Carbon or DataSync?

      • Cherokee4Life

        true, I don't know if I am in a select margin but everything I NEED to be backed up in in Titanium so at any given time I can factory reset my phone and flash a new ROM. I don't get the need to backup texts and shit

      • joeljfischer

        Koush (one of the CM devs) created Helium/Carbon, so that's certainly a possibility.

      • Kevin Johnston

        Titanium ??

    • andy_o

      You don't need root for this.

      • Cherokee4Life

        you don't need root for what? The Cyanogen App? true, possibly but you need to be unlocked which in my opinion is worse than getting root access.

        • andy_o

          adb oem unlock or something equivalent. It does say it's for openly unlockable phones.

          • Cherokee4Life

            true. but at this moment how many phones/tablets are openly unlockable. Even more to the point how many types of devices that run cyanogenmod are on unlocked phones (without exploits). That would be interesting to see as well. Because I have a feeling a LOT of the user base for CyanogenMod is from devices that are not openly unlocked. personal opinion.

          • SickoPsycho

            Bootloader unlock is not better or "worse" than root access. They are different alltogether. A rooted phone gives you access to all partitions of the file system, obviously including / (root). With this access you can easily mess up your OS. Bootloader unlock allows for installation of unsigned OS- allowing you to easily mess up your phone (brick it) if you dont know what you're doing. Both potentially void your warranty- just different uses for the different processes. On your other point (how many phones /tablets are openly unlockable)- tons. and tons. As the article said- every Nexus device, almost all Samsungs- hell even Motorola (THE NEMISIS of many a rom maker for their locked bootloaders-) even sells a "developer" model of a lot of their phones now, unsubsidized and without warranty, of course-
            You are correct, though... A LOT of cyanogenmods user base IS on devices that are not factory unlockable but development for these phones isn't done by the team technically. These ROMS come from other independant developers who find tricks, workarounds, 2nd inits or whatever methods possible to get the fork or kang of CM onto the device. Sorry for the rant- this is what I do, though- flash phones. Maybe somebody learned something-

          • Cherokee4Life

            good points.

    • Mike Reid

      It will be between "exceedingly difficult" and "effectively impossible" to automatically root etc. a wide variety of devices.

      As it is already now, with the best skills of a command line junkie, there are devices that are impossible to unlock and stock ROM releases (at least) that can't be rooted.

      I wish them luck. I'm a low level dev but hate it everytime I have to learn how to root etc. another new device; I have 20 different test devices at present.

    • brian

      it probably limits the possibility of flashing bad files (md5 sum's dont match). the "mere mortals" probably dont check or dont how to check. The more automated the process, the better and the more users will adopt custom ROM's

  • Pyrotek85

    This sounds like the Nexus 4 toolkit for windows that I use to flash and push things to my phone. Pretty convenient for users who don't do this stuff all the time, there's little worry of screwing anything up. I wouldn't mind trying out something like that only tailored for cyanogenmod.

  • Paul_Werner

    Glad to know that (at least in Steve Kondik's eyes) I'm more than a mere mortal based on the fact that I've installed CyanogenMod.

  • PhoenixPath

    So big question:

    HTC: Anything unlockable on HTCDev *should* be supported, right?

    ...or are they talking devices that either ship unlocked or require nothing more than a fastboot unlock command?

    My One wants to know. (Pretty sure my Nexus10 will be supported)

    • guest

      Itll likely walk you through HTC dev,

      The whole non unlockable part was in instances like most verizon phones

    • guest

      Although if you already have it unlocked or know how to do it, why even bother with a PC to install CM?

    • http://www.androidpolice.com/ Artem Russakovskii

      I was told that htcdev unlockable devices qualify for the installer.

      • PhoenixPath

        Excellent news, Sir. Thank you!

      • Vidfreek

        So that "should" include the new HTC One on Verizon, it was and technically is unlockable, its just that Verizon made HTC take the phone off their Dev site right? This would be pretty cool and easy if it works for phones like mine :)

        • http://www.androidpolice.com/ Artem Russakovskii

          No, the phone needs to be unlockable via htcdev at the time of the unlock.

  • Drew M

    I hope Google sees the opportunity here, and offers a license to CM on reasonable terms. Google wants users and users generally want Google services. It's a no-brainer.

  • Jay

    I have a Nook HD+ that I hope is supported with this. I rooted it, but man, the flashing thing boggled me. So an installer that I could use would make me giddy.

  • Albert H

    "Linux will only be supported if there is enough demand,
    the reasoning being that Linux users are much more likely to use the
    manual installation methods and scoff at the idea of visual helper

    Hey hey, don't assume Linux users can't be lazy, too! A pretty GUI Linux installer would be very much well received! Even better, if you release the installer as open source software, us Linux users will be happy to fork it and recreate it with GTK+ or Qt...

    ...buuuut of course, I would like a CLI installer that allows me to "sudo ./install_cyanogenmod" too. :P

    • Jay T

      My first thought when reading that line was, "Right, because us Linux users LIKE doing it the hard way.... "

      • woofa

        Even many of us that don't spend that much time in Linux love doing it "the hard way."

    • SickoPsycho

      lol- yeah i read that and it got me cracking up. There is something to be appreciated about going in and adb or command line install- but then again there is something to be said for a "1 click" gui installer once YOU know you know what you're doing. =)

  • H@P
    • http://www.androidpolice.com/ Artem Russakovskii

      That's sim unlocking though, not bootloader unlocking, isn't it?

      • H@P

        Apparently I don't use Disqus much. You replied 15 days ago? *sigh*

        Yup, you're right. The story just was about unlocking "so that users can easily switch between carriers"... SIM unlocking.

        I think it was just wishful thinking on my part.


  • gierso

    its weird to see the iphone ipad shapes in there...
    maybe they partnered with apple to let people void their warranties... by allowing to install this.. who knows.. probably not. anyway

    even if they dont support not unlockable devices, maybe the ones unlockable by loki will be supported unofficially who knows

  • Jose Torres

    GApps is a big issue with flashing new ROMS, specifically with finding out which versions are compatible (although dev tools like EasyGApps help with this).

    I hope Cyanogen Corp. figures THIS out or better yet, I hope Google streamlines their apps for universal comaptability (may never happen) :(.

    • sounder

      The installer will probably just download the correct version of Gapps separately.

  • Gordon Christie

    Would like to see this if it works and wonder if other developers would do the same. Always wondered if it was possible with an older or even a new phone to decide whic ROM I wanted wether it is stock Android, Sense, Touchwiz or other form of OS like Ubuntu which is coming out soon

  • Ben

    release date plz

    • http://nettgrunder.com/ Bjørn Kjelstadli

      Yes, waiting for this!

  • Kevin Johnston

    Any news on how to use this with a Mac computer???

  • Matt Zed

    Linux version please. Cmon its a linux based kernel shouldn't be too bad. I'd make it myself but...I 1 don't have super-badass programming skills 2 don't have permission.