Speaking to what would traditionally be the target audience for custom Android ROMs at the Big Android BBQ, Steve Kondik of the newly-incorporated
CyanogenMod Cyanogen, Inc. spent a little time laying out the future prospects for the company. As we would expect this close to the announcement of its plans, we were given much of the same information.
Yes, a so-called "one click" installer is on its way. As are several new and inventive features like cloud backup and secure messaging. The Oppo N1 will even be released in short order as the first phone to ship (at least in some capacity) with CyanogenMod pre-loaded.
And even with 8.2 million users of its custom firmware, there are clearly still hurdles in CyanogenMod's future.
The biggest one of all is likely the issue of perception. Steve spoke candidly about the fact that there's no easy way to talk about what CM is or how you should get it on your device. Anyone who has dabbled in custom ROMs knows that the process isn't easy for an average user, and that idea has permeated throughout those who follow the Android world.
CM plans to "solve" this problem with the one-click installer, but that still doesn't change the fact that it's hard to convince people why they should go through with that process — no matter how easy it may be — in the first place. Even after the technical hurdles are gone, you still have to convince people to hook up their phone and push the button.
It's all about creating a value proposition for the potential users, and right now CM is working to build that offering. Features like a "Recent Conversations" folder and device themes are nice, but they aren't going to convince anyone to re-flash their phone from a stock state. The basic set of features that CM has traditionally offered appeals to those who have already made the leap to custom ROMs, not the general public.
Biweekly software updates, a system built on a user-contributed code base and the ability to simply enable root aren't features that the average Android buyer is clamoring for right now. CM has to show users what it can actually do for them — how it can make a meaningful difference in their smart phone usage and their life. Showing off a handful of system-level services doesn't do that.
Maybe the best road to success really is partnering with hardware vendors. Maybe it's just building up an irresistible pile of software and services that just stands out against the rest. But whatever the final plan of attack for increasing market share is, it's clear that
CyanogenMod Cyanogen, Inc. still has a lot of convincing to do.
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Andrew was an Executive Editor, U.S. at Android Central between 2012 and 2020.