It's made of tasty, tasty Gingerbread
Android 2.3, as implemented in CyanogenMod will clean up some of the low-level memory management issues in Android. Specifically, Gingerbread has so-called concurrent garbage collection. On older versions of Android, you could easily detect brief system slowdowns from time to time. Often times, that is the system doing garbage collection, moving unneeded data out of RAM. Gingerbread is doing this all the time. As a result, your system is more fluid, with fewer strange hang ups during use.
The Gingerbread keyboard is also a big selling point, and CyanogenMod 7 includes this feature. From the improved text prediction to the honest-to-goodness multi-touch support, we like the Gingerbread keyboard very much. It is a vast improvement over the Froyo keyboard, and a marginal enhancement when compared to the various alternatives in the Market.
That keyboard update also comes with much better cursor control. Now, tapping on text in CyanogenMod will get you an arrow you can grab to move the cursor around for improved accuracy. Word suggestions can also be pulled up by positioning the cursor in any word. Advanced text selection is also part of the package.
full support for near field communication (NFC) tags. NFC is a radio frequency technology for sharing small bit of data without wires. Holding a device with NFC up to a tag will allow it to receive and transmit data. Currently, the Nexus S is the only available Android device with NFC support, but more phones are expected to follow, and it's good to know CyanogenMod can take full advantage of this interesting feature.
Cyanogen add-onsIt wouldn't be CyanogenMod if there weren't some cool new goodies specially designed by the team. One really interesting feature is the addition of SMS gestures in the messaging app. Users will be able to assign various canned responses to a gesture, then draw the corresponding shape to insert the canned response.
This is a really neat feature that will likely appeal to people that find themselves too busy to pick up the phone and type out responses to every SMS. Or maybe you just send common phrases a lot? In the same vein, there are lock screen gestures that can be used to launch apps or activities. Both features can really save users time.
entire system at once. Just pop open the app, and pick a theme. The phone will think things over, and switch to a totally new look of your choosing.
SetCPU is a mainstay of the root community, but CyanogenMod now includes its own CPU under and overclocking. This can be used not only to increase performance during use, but to save battery while the phone is asleep by lowering the minimum clock speed.
CyanogenMod takes advantage of new Gingerbread APIs and includes an built-in app called DSP Equalizer. This allows users to adjust audio properties on the phone like bass, reverb, and has a 5-band equalizer.
On the less serious, but still crazy useful side, CyanogenMod now includes a feature called Phone Goggles. This feature is similar to Mail Goggles on the desktop. Phone Goggles lets you filter outgoing calls and texts to make sure you don't do anything embarrassing when you've been living life a bit too hard. If you can't solve math problems, you probably shouldn't be calling your boss at 1AM. Phone Goggle is completely configurable, and is a fun addition to the ROM.
Is it for you?If all those features sound good to you, check this list for your device. If there is support, the next thing to consider is are you comfortable rooting and flashing a custom ROM. It's much easier these days with apps like ROM Manager and the fabulous community to help you. But the process is not free of risk. You are technically voiding your warranty, and an error on your part could brick the device.
If you go down the custom ROM path, you become responsible for your updates. As Cyanogen is updated, you'll need to update your device to get bug fixes and new features. This means more work, but you also have control over what goes on your phone. Considering the wait for OTA updates from the carriers, you'll probably be ahead of the curve.
If you've tried the final version of CyanogenMod 7, let us know how you like it. Anyone planning to take the plunge for the first time?
Image credit: CyanogenMod