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The Android custom ROM community is a relatively small one, but it's about to be shaken up in a big way. Roman Birg, founder and leader of the Android Open Kang Project (better known as AOKP), has been hired by Cyanogen Inc., the company that's now formally developing and promoting the CyanogenMod ROM. The move has been confirmed on AOKP's homepage.


AOKP founder Roman Birg, via Google+

Birg hasn't said what he'll be doing for Cyanogen Inc., though the company has been advertising job openings for software engineers. Birg says that he will continue to work on the AOKP ROM while he's employed by Cyanogen Inc.

The AOKP team began releasing builds with Android 4.0 just over two years ago. AOKP is considerably younger and less organized than CyanogenMod, from which it borrows at least some code. On the other hand, it generally allows for a greater amount of user-facing customization and tweaking, which has earned it quite a following in the dedicated custom ROM scene. As of September 2013, AOKP boasted 3.5 million installations across both official builds released by the team and "kang" builds derived from open source AOKP code. Ostensibly, AOKP is the second most popular version of Android developed and released by the community, currently supporting over 60 official devices, some of which have Android 4.4 builds available.

While CyanogenMod is the leader among custom ROM users, it's still a tiny minority of Android as a whole, and the new corporation is essentially a blip on the radar next to even the smaller tier of Android phone manufacturers. That said, early partnerships with Oppo and One Plus indicate rapid growth. It will be interesting to see where Cyanogen Inc. goes with input from the founder of its biggest custom ROM competitor.

Source: AOKP, Google+

Michael Crider
Michael is a native Texan and a former graphic designer. He's been covering technology in general and Android in particular since 2011. His interests include folk music, football, science fiction, and salsa verde, in no particular order.

  • http://www.secretcloset.org/ nekkidtruth

    AOKP has always been my favourite out of all of the customs I've played with. My S3 lived 75% of it's life on AOKP. I'm curious if this is going to effect either project in any major way. Specifically if Cyanogen is going to inherit some of AOKP's customizability.

    • Ramsey

      When I was using custom ROMs on my previous S1, official CM base would always become slower and buggy after a few weeks of usage and eventually freeze until I restart. However, when using AOKP I had no such issue. I would run it for over a month with no random bugs appearing. I also enjoyed AOKP's customization more than CM's, though I appreciated CM's as well.

      • Randroid

        There would be no AOKP without CM, so I'm definitely thankful for CM, but I agree with you on all aspects. I enjoy the extra customizations that AOKP offers, and I think it is (or at least can be) more stable than CM.

        I used CM before I used AOKP (before AOKP was available) but I haven't gone back to CM in quite a while, other than to just check it out briefly.

      • VoiceofSky

        Gonna have to agree with both of you guys..
        I love CM and it has done me wonders as well.. But AOKP was an overall better experience for me with little to no Glitches in radio ,GPS,no freezes ,restarts ect ect.. CM did great for a while then would start to dwindle..
        still love CM but yea,AOKP is more stable while adding more customization ..Win/win :)

  • Justin W

    This was unexpected. I'm surprised he'll still be allowed to work on his own ROM that will more or less be a competitor to CM, though not necessarily in the OEM market place.

    • KingofPing

      Steve Kondik (Cyanogen) still headed up CM when he worked for Samsung.

      This really isn't much different than that.

      • David Trent

        There is a difference. Albeit Kondik worked for Samsung, He wasn't doing developement for Touchwiz and Samsung wasn't working on Google code to implement anything that wasn't a Touchwiz feature. CM and Touchwiz are both overlays of AOSP. Although, both are very different in code implementation, function and features. Neither one having much if any merging ability. CM and AOKP do share a lot of the same features and functions and how they are implemented into AOSP are identical. . Merging those two is extremely foreseeable. I remember the debate that happened when CM incorporate and took with it all the work the team had achieved up until that point. Will the AOKP team feel ripped off if AOKP work and features start showing up on CM.

        • KingofPing

          You make some good points, but when all is said and done:

          ALL builds of Android are AOSP-based. Yes; Even Samsung's.

          As for people's feelings; we're an irrational bunch, us humans, when emotions get involved. I won't even bother trying to make any guesses regarding them.

          Point being: I do not believe Steve or Roman will have any issues with Roman still contributing to AOKP development.

          • David Trent

            Until they start developing their own hardware, everything is open.The benefits can be enjoyed by the whole Android community.
            Everyone developing for Android knows and relishes in contributing to the greater good. Still can't help but think about the nature of the beast when you can say "Hey, that was my work" and now a for profit company is hope to make money off it.

          • KingofPing

            "Still can't help but think about the nature of the beast when you can say "Hey, that was my work" and now a for profit company is hope to make money off it."

            That's because the "beast" is suffering from a logical fallacy; likely caused by an emotional reaction vs. a rational one.

            The best OSS devs see it this way: Any contribution to an OSS project is for anyone and everyone. The author can maintain it or not; but no longer claims any ownership of it (ownership being anathema to Open Source; counter to it's purpose).

            By extension this implies that if someone else chooses to use that code in a project that makes them money; More power to them. The code used was donated freely and without strings attached.

            Any other reaction to this is emotionally driven, and as such, generally runs counter to reason.

          • David Trent

            Not disgreeing or arguing with your points at all. CM is what it is and what it is going to be. Their contributors have moved on to other projects and those projects will benefits us all as well .Any "emotional" thoughts were short lived. I hope to see more teams built and prosper. Long live the practice of working for the greater good.

          • KingofPing

            "Not disgreeing or arguing with your points at all. "

            Wasn't targeting you there, but the folks you mentioned who might be "feeling ripped off". Didn't mean to imply you were being irrational. If you took it that way, I apologize.

            "Long live the practice of working for the greater good."

            You bet. The whole reason OSS exists. :)

          • David Trent

            Didn't take it that way at all. I did enjoy the conversation tho. :)

          • KingofPing

            This one? Heck, you should see the one below. I do believe I may be suffering some mild MPD this Friday... ;-)

  • RL010

    it's all about the money

    • h4rr4r

      You do your job for free?
      Are you upset that Linus Torvalds does not work for free?

      • RL010

        yes i do work for free.

        I work at the foodbank here to give food to the poor people and i do that for free.

        Not every person in the world gives about money

        • Randroid

          How do you survive without a paid job? I'm sure that you have another full-time or at least part-time job that is paid, or else you wouldn't survive.

          • RL010

            no other job, and yes i have a way to pay my rent and a way to get my food. But that's just for te basic stuff.

            i still don't care much about money. if your life is about money and you need it to be happy then you're a very sad person

          • h4rr4r

            So you have some income, thanks for playing.
            I don't care that much about money either, but like you I have bills to pay. Just like the fellow in this news article.

          • Bluewall

            So you have no job with money income but you still can have internet access, food, appartement (or house?) How ? That seems pretty cool !

          • RajivSK

            Clearly a troll, you ask how he doesn't starve? This! This is exactly what he feeds on.

          • Josh Legoza

            Actually he (as well as his girlfriend's uncle) works from home on his computer and makes over $8,000 a week! I knew I should have clicked on the links in those stupid comments... :-(

          • RL010

            Screw you,

            You don't know anything about how it goes in the Netherlands

          • RajivSK

            Haha grappenmaker

          • Wesley Modderkolk

            I'm from The Netherlands.

            Here in the Netherlands you still need money to pay for food, rent, internet and what not.

            You get a small pay from the state for your volunteer work, which certainly will happen at the foodbank. This pay is nowhere enough to rent a place, have food on your table 3 times a day and have internet.

        • Michael Gillenwalters

          If you actually volunteered at a food bank you would know it's not "poor people" you are helping.

          Unfortunate circumstances land a multitude of the people in difficult situations.

          • RL010

            and who am i helping then.

            i'm working for more then 2,5 years there.So please don't tell me how it works

        • Michael Gillenwalters

          Btw, court appointed community service doesn't count as a job.

        • brkshr

          Do you work at the foodbank full time for free? How do you pay your bills?

          Roman Birg has worked on AOKP for free for about 3 years now. Now he has a job working on one ROM to pay the bills and he stated that he will continue to work on AOKP (for free). What more do you want?

        • Marcantony Lightyear

          +1 not everyone
          Just ones with money, Altruism is still greed, symbiotic in nature

  • http://www.androidpolice.com/author/cody-toombs/ Cody Toombs

    I think it's safe to say this will affect AOKP, at least to a degree. I doubt CM will preclude Roman from contributing to his own project, but he'll surely have an obligation to focus on his employer's goals.

    Having said that, the point about them being competitors could be seen from two different angles. In a sense, CM and AOKP were only competitors in the space of free 3rd-party ROMs, but CM's business of providing firmware to hardware partners is not a competitor with AOKP at all. From that standpoint, this is potentially great for both ROMs, especially if it could somehow lead to better collaboration.

    On the other hand, it's possible that Roman saw the financial backing for CM as a sign that the company might become overwhelming to the point of crowding out the other custom ROMs. I honestly doubt this is the case, but it popped to mind and I thought it worthy of saying out loud.

    • Randroid

      I think it will mean great things for both ROMs. Hopefully some more customization in CM, and maybe some extra goodies (or quicker development) in AOKP.

    • My name is….

      How will they let him work with competitors?

      • KingofPing

        Steve Kondik (Cyanogen)still worked on CM when he worked for Samsung.

        This really isn't much different than that.

        • My name is….

          How is Samsung-CM compared to CM-AOKP?

          • KingofPing

            Both are OEM-ROM.

            In relation to the original question of "working for competitiors":

            Steve contributed to his project while working for an OEM, Roman will do the same while working for this OEM "partner". There's little difference between the two situations.

          • My name is….

            Samsung was sending phones to CM team back then.
            They wanted to show a different face.

            And of course its a totally different story.

            Samsung and Cm were never direct competitors.

          • KingofPing

            "Samsung and Cm were never direct competitors"

            Before CM Inc.? Sure. Now? Not so much. Via CM Inc's OEM partners, they are *definitely* competing.

            Not directly; but then, by that logic: AOKP and CM Inc. do not directly compete either (though AOKP and CM "compete", and have always been amicable.)

          • My name is….

            Of course they compete, AOKP is free (donations only) and CM now makes money or plans to start to.

            Guess what will happen if AOKP increases popularity? Less money for CM.

          • KingofPing

            CM will only "make money" off of devices sold with it, through their OEM partners. AOKP doesn't "compete" in that space.

            By your logic CM competed with Samsung by replacing their services/apps on their devices.

            We're obviously not going to come to any sort of agreement. Let's just agree to disagree, hmmm?

          • Tim242

            You make too much sense for most of these people to understand. They prefer nonsense. Kudos for trying though. : )

          • Mike Reid

            Ummm. We don't know ALL of CM's future money making strategy.

            They MUST have a few secrets up their sleeves that prompted investors to cough up their cash.

          • KingofPing

            I'll be the first to admit I was wrong when they start making money off of fairy dust and pipe dreams. :)

          • Randroid

            CM isn't making money from donations anymore, or at least that's not their plan for the majority of income. The plan is to get OEM partners, which is already happening, and investors, which is already happening, so that they can rely less on donations.

          • Tim242

            CM is not selling to consumers. They are selling to OEM's. Cmon dude...

    • http://twitter.com/rohanXm Rohan Mathur

      AOKP is not going anywhere anytime soon :)

      • Josh

        "AOKP is not going anywhere anytime ever :)" there I fixed that for you! (At least I hope.) Like I said in another reply, Roman is doing something us android coders/tinkerers only dream about. Getting paid to do what he loves. Obviously he is partial to the unicorn, job or no job, so I hope he will take what he learns from the equally as awesome CM team and help apply it to AOKP to help make it shine harder than ever before.

  • Detonation

    As long he doesn't bring any of the pink/unicorn nonsense into CM I'm ok it.

    • Ramsey

      Never understood what that nonsense is all about... I thought it was a random developer putting that into the AOKP Roms. I would immediately use TB to remove the APK.

      • KingofPing

        It was a joke in the beginning that flourished and they eventually just threw their hands up and made it official.

        Besides, Unicorns are bad-ass.

        • mathewmakio

          Unicorns are not bad ass and pink is for Bradley Manning. It was brandable because it was original, but other than that, in essence, it was complete shite

          • KingofPing

            The great thing about the internet sir, is that you are entitled to your opinions...even when they suck. :)

          • mathewmakio

            And you can bet your ass I make good use of it

          • KingofPing

            It's why we're all here.

            (well, not specifically for your opinion, but to post our own.)

            ...and to give other people a hard time.

          • mathewmakio

            I'll guarantee you I could have made something more popular via the logo alone.

            Think about it, who wants something pink? A girl generally. Do girls like Custom ROMs? Generally no, they are scared outa their brains about ruining the device.

            If your girlfriend feels otherwise, then congratulations

          • KingofPing


            Next you're going to try and tell me that only girls like Unicorns.

            What is this world coming to?

          • mathewmakio

            Generally. I said generally. Business is general. I enjoy patting unicorns on my days off as much as the next person.

          • KingofPing

            "I enjoy patting unicorns on my days off as much as the next person."

            Of course you do.

            ....because they're bad-ass.

          • mathewmakio

            No, I'm a bad ass, but on my days off I'm a big softy. You're missing the point entirely.

          • KingofPing

            Well, yeah...

            I try to miss the points as much as possible. You gotta watch out for those things. Those Unicorn horns will go through ya like ... like a giant Unicorn horn through people.

            If that's not badass, you just don't know the meaning of the word.

          • mathewmakio

            I gotta tell ya, I thoroughly enjoy your wit, but it arrives late...like a Unicorn

          • KingofPing

            There you go...trying to force them to your standards.

            They keep their own time, man. They're bad-ass. Honestly, how many times do I have to tell you this?

            They don't have to conform to our standards of punctuality.

            You be like; "Hey, Unicorn! You're late!"

            Unicorn be like; "Screw you, man. I'm a Unicorn!"


          • Tim242

            You have some major issues to work out.

          • andy_o

            You always have to wonder about somebody who will show his homophobia while discussing pink unicorns.

          • KingofPing


            bad-ass pink unicorns. Why does everyone forget the most important part?

            (There are a couple of pansy-ass ones out there but they tend to avoid going out in public so they don't get laughed at.)

            I'm sorry, guys. I really am. It appears the owner of this account has gone a little sideways...

          • Marcantony Lightyear

            I feel like this whole thread has been a troll with not understanding what a unicorn means to a developer... w/e.... I never used CM i went straight to AOKP on my Galaxy Nexus and it was amazing.

  • Egnimatic_Foolishness

    I Don't see the conflict. Presumably Roman was working on Aokp in his free time and he had paying job elsewhere. Now he gets the best oboth worlds, his full time job is working on Android Roms plus he gets to keep doing Aokp on his free time . ALeast that makes sense to me.

    • Matt

      He was a student for a long time. I think he was 19 or so when he started AOKP. He probably got out of undergrad recently.

  • mathewmakio

    It says he is joining Cyanogen but it never stated he was leaving AOKP. My point is, what if he managed to bring in Cyan stability into the AOKP. What am I missing here that makes that not possible? Not possible to work for two companies? I'm sure he still has close allegiance

    • Nickamina

      AOKP is NOT a company.

      • mathewmakio

        Don't burn me on a technicality. This website might not legally be enrolled as a company but it still could make/has the potential to make a lot of money.

        What if this enhanced AOKP is what I'm saying

        • KingofPing

          Already does. AOKP and CM have tossed code back and forth since AOKP originally re-based off of AOSP. I am certain this will continue. Maybe not with the new CM "proprietary" bits, but the rest will likely continue as is.

    • mathewmakio

      Don't burn me on a technicality. This website might not be legally enrolled as a company but it still makes/has the potential to make a lot of money.

    • Guest

      From experience I'd say AOKP is more stable than CM.

    • Tim242

      AOKP is far more stable than CM...and has more features

  • Nomaan

    Android 4.0 was released just over 2 years not 3

  • Dan Lupescu

    likely any code he comes up with under the employ of cyanogen inc will be the property of cyanogen inc.

    If you don't believe me, ask the guy who invented the bratz dolls how it worked out for him.

    • Cj

      During office hours or on Cyanogen hardware, probably.

  • Cj

    Not sure why people keep saying this should bring more AOKP features into CM.
    They hired and individual Software Developer not the AOKP team or brand. If CM wanted AOKP features they could have incorporated them long ago (either as direct ports or modified) it's open source after all. I'm quite sure CM will remain CM... they have their own philosophy on what they want Android to be

  • Tim242

    Using CM on a Samsung phone is out of the question for me. It does not have the display saturation setting. I like more natural colors, so I set mine to movie mode. On CM, you just get the highest saturation. AOKP includes this major missing CM setting.

  • ArclightX


    Whoopsie! I mean KANG!!!!

  • merman1983

    Happy he's going to be able to make a living doing what he does. I dunno - I guess I'll have a problem when there's actually a problem. For now, I'm happy these folks are in a position to do what they do full time and get paid a bit. Maybe I'm not as well informed as I should be, but in my mind CM Inc. is just the FUBU for the root n' ROM super nerd community.

  • Barnassey

    AOKP does NOT use any CM code anymore the 4.2.2 builds broke clean from it.

  • Paul

    A little code? lol. AOKP borrows a lot from Cyanogenmod, and they also borrow from other ROM's and such. But not in a bad way, Cyanogenmod err's on the side of being easier, not overloading the user with a thousand options. Cyanogenmod is great for my brother, sister-n-law, wife, etc. but AOKP is better for me, because I like to really get in there and play with the settings. AOKP rocks. I'm glad Cyanogen Inc. will allow him to continue working on AOKP.

  • Josh

    Roman, most android devs/tinkerers only dream of what you are doing. AOKP is my rom of choice and likely always will be, so bring what you learn from CM to AOKP (in your spare time or on company time =P) and it will be even moar great than it is now. Congrats!