Saturday 10 May 2014

CyanogenMod Installation on my Samsung Galaxy S3.

On Thursday the 8th May, Samsung announced that it will not be bringing Kit Kat to the Galaxy S3 (and S3 Mini), which is rather annoying to say the least! Apparently because they only have 1GB RAM so neither can handle the bloat of Samsung's Touchwiz interface, Kit Kat is supposed to run on as little as 512MB! The 2GB RAM LTE version of the S3 will get Kit Kat. Also of course Samsung also want you to buy a new S4 or soon an S5!

I have also finally got tired of the lag that Touchwiz causes and decided to take the plunge and install Cyanogenmod on my S3. I didn't do this before since I was worried about the camera not working properly, as I had already had a bad experience with my Atrix 4G. I was also worried that I would have to use Windows (I don't have a single Windows Vista, 7or 8 install, nor do I want one!).

It seems it is easier to install a ROM on the Galaxy S3 than I expected, and it is fairly easy to do without Windows and without even having to root the device too. I followed Cyanogen Mod's guide for the i9300. I decided to install CM11, M6 Snapshot, since I didn't want to go too bleeding edge with a 'Nightly' but I didn't want to stay on Jelly Bean with a 'Stable' release. For all I know the Nightly might be perfectly stable, I was just being cautious, I can always install another ROM later on.

Since I was using Linux Mint, for Step 1, I installed the Heimdall for 13.04 deb package and used it to install the custom recovery in step 2, which installs when the phone is in Download Mode. The Windows-only step 4 is skipped, then continue the tutorial to the end.

Once the Recovery image is installed it's just a case of flashing the correct CM image and Gapps in Recovery mode. I was amazed how quickly it took compared to my Atrix which spent about 30 mins on the boot screen! My S3 was done in minutes. The only step I had trouble with was putting the CM image on the MicroSD card. I could not be bothered to figure out how to get adb installed and working on Mint, I merely took the card out and used a multi card reader on my desktop to drag 'n' drop the image onto the card. One thing I wish I had done before factory reset and wipe was backup my Nova Launcher config! I had everything else backed up. I use Gcloud Backup to regularly backup my SMS messages.

Default Trebuchet Launcher setup and CM wallpaper

Upon first boot with CyanogenMod 11, I was greeted with the nice CM boot screen then the usual account wizard. There was a slight glitch when the Cyanogen account setup crapped out on me but was no big deal. It was then just a case of waiting for Google Play to reinstall all my apps, including Nova Launcher which I prefer over Trebuchet since I can install my favourite custom icon set, RoundOS and I like the unread message plugin for Nova. Here's how my Home screen looks now:

I found the wallpaper in the Wallbase app and you can also grab the wallpaper here.

 Pretty much the first thing I tested once I had my S3 all setup was the camera, and it works very well, at proper resolution and everything, except I found that it does not have Photosphere mode because that is apparently proprietary. Then I tried to install the official Google Camera available in Play. It installed fine but crapped out on trying to take a photo.

For now, I have settled on using the default camera app for general photo taking, Camera MX for HDR and other effects, and Panorama 360 for Photospheres, or equivalent of at least. If anyone has any better suggestions for alternate camera apps, please comment below, I'll gladly give them a go.

I think if I could afford a new phone right now I would probably not go for Samsung again, I would get either a Nexus 5 (for vanilla Android and updates) or a Moto X (the next best thing). I really like what Motorola are doing with bringing smartphones to every budget with the X, G and now the E.

Overall am I very impressed with the speed of my S3 with Cyanogenmod, it feels like a new phone again, no Touchwiz lag! I have not done a proper battery test yet since I have been using my phone a lot more the battery has gone down quicker since I have been trying apps and such. Though rooting was not needed for the install I rooted after install because it's very useful for other stuff, particularlythe excellent DriveDroid which allows you to use your phone as a virtual live Linux CD - I booted up a spare PC with Xubuntu 14.04 using nothing but my phone and charge lead!  Well I am happy with my S3 again thanks to CyanogenMod, just need to sort out a camera app and it'll be perfect.

Update: I have upgraded to a Nightly build since it apparently fixes the camera problems somewhat, specifically this build:
I am now upgrading pretty much every day to each Nightly build, which can be done in the update manager built into the ROM's settings.

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