This story was originally published and last updated .
Android's been around quite a while at this point (Google's Android turned 12 last year), and even Android phones have been around well over a decade now. And while obviously hardware like the HTC Hero matters in terms of where the platform got its start, and ones like the original Moto DROID mark its real entry into the marketplace in a big way, we think there are phones (and even A tablet) that are less remembered or less appreciated for their impact on the larger ecosystem.
After, when's the last time you thought of the Galaxy S2, or the HTC One M7?
The Galaxy S II is an iconic device in Samsung's line-up. It had a big role in changing the public's perception of Samsung's brand and establishing it as a major smartphone player. But in our day and age, at a time when the S7 is about to be announced, the S II is getting long, really looooooooong in the tooth. It's a 5-year old device by now and its specs (dual-core 1.2GHz processor and 4.3" 480x800 display) can hardly be found in the lowest of the low-end Android phones. It does have 1GB of RAM and 16/32GB of storage though, which make it a potential candidate ripe for more modern Android ROMs.
While the legal battle between Samsung and Apple has mostly winded down, there are still some legal loose ends that need to be tied up. US District Judge Lucy Koh on Monday ordered a sales ban of several Samsung phones in the US, stemming from a 2014 ruling that found Samsung did infringe on several Apple patented features. You can probably put down your pitchforks, though. The phones included in the ban are ancient and aren't even sold anymore.
At this point, custom ROMs are the only things keeping old Galaxy S2s feeling fresh and vaguely modern. If you turned to CyanogenMod as your experience of choice, you've been left stranded on version 11 running Android KitKat. Now you're in for a treat. Fresh builds of CyanogenMod 12.1 are ready for download.
These nightly builds bring Android 5.1 to the four-year-old device. That's nothing to take lightly. These nightlies may not provide the most stable experience, but at this point, that old version of TouchWiz probably isn't either.
The downloads come in at around 230MB and are meant for the international model (i9100).
Update 2: Samsung has clarified the issue to Android Central, and it turns out it's actually not all that bad. Here's the gist: if you buy a Galaxy Note 3 (or other region-locked Samsung phone), it must be activated with a SIM in its home region. That means you can't import a Note 3 from Taiwan and then activate it in Europe, for example, and if you try to do that, it will lock itself. If that happens, you can go to a Samsung service center (if such a thing exists) and they will unlock the device for you, free of charge, so that you can then use it.
Talk about a blast from the past: the Sprint Galaxy S II, released way back in 2011, now has official CyanogenMod support. Most of the other international and regional versions of the GSII are already supported to some degree, but I'm sure there are more than a few Sprint customers who are happy to see the most popular custom ROM family come to their devices. There's one nightly of CM10.1 (Android 4.2) available at the time of writing.
The phone's official title is the Sprint Samsung Galaxy S II Epic 4G Touch, because someone at Sprint knows how to start naming a device, but doesn't know how to stop.
If you're reading this on a later GSM-only Samsung device, pay attention. After clarifying their continuing support for Tegra 2 devices earlier this week, the CyanogenMod ROM team wants to let you know about their position vis-à-vis Samsung's Exynos 4 series of chipsets. In a nutshell: devices based on the Exynos 4 will be getting CyanogenMod 10.1 (Android 4.2) nightly builds, and not much else. These phones and tablets will not be getting stable releases of the latest CyanogenMod builds for the time being.
Here's a quick list of the affected devices, running the Exynos 4210 and 4412 chipsets:
Galaxy S II (AT&T and International GSM)
Galaxy S III (International GSM)
Galaxy Note (International GSM)
Galaxy Note II (AT&T, T-Mobile, International GSM and International LTE)
Galaxy Note 10.1 (WiFi and International GSM)
The CyanogenMod team's reason for the lowered level of support includes "various issues surfacing from the binaries and sources we have to work with."
Months after its flighty sibling, the Galaxy S II Skyrocket, received an update to Android 4.1.2, it seems that the vanilla GS2 on AT&T is finally ready for its Jelly Bean bump. Threads on XDA and the official AT&T forums confirm that the update - build number UCMD8 - is now available, just check for an update through Kies.
We don't yet have a changelog for the update, but you can assume that for Galaxy S II users, the number of changes coming from the Ice Cream Sandwich TouchWiz builds won't be huge. You will, though, get some of Jelly Bean's useful additions - rich, expandable notifications and Google Now probably being the most noticeable enhancements.
The Jelly Bean rollout for Galaxy device has been fast and furious as of late, with Samsung making the update available to nearly all of its current and former flagship devices. Today's the day for T-Mobile's version of the Galaxy S II – but the download is only available via Samsung's Kies software.
In order to pull the update, you'll need to be on the latest official firmware from T-Mobile, and must have at least 50% battery. Otherwise, grab the newest version of Kies, plug up, and get to downloading – the 756MB file is going to take some time on slower connections.