If you are using the CyanogenMod firmware instead of your phone’s stock firmware, I’d suggest using GApps (Google Apps) from the Paranoid Android project.
There’s two advantages to using the PA Gapps:
- Unlike the CM GApps, the PA GApps has all the Google Apps that come on Nexus devices by default. The CM GApps, for instance, does not include the PhotoSphere version of the Camera – which is how I stumbled upon the PA GApps in the first place. I am a fan of most Google Apps so I like to have all the stock apps in whatever custom ROM I use.
- One could potentially install a minimal version of the GApps and then download the additional apps from the Play Store. But this has the disadvantage in that the downloaded apps are installed to the data partition of the phone leaving less space for your data.
Nowadays I use the CM 10.2 nightlies along with the PA GApps. I am impressed with CM. It seems to be a conservative ROM, focusing on stability and patiently introducing new features, unlike PA which is more bleeding edge. I found PA slower too on my Galaxy Nexus phone, and I didn’t like Halo add-on either. Too confusing. Thanks goodness the CM developers too feel the same so Halo won’t be making an appearance in CM any time soon.
CyanogenMod includes an updater too. For some reason that updater didn’t work today – maybe it’s something to do with the fact that CM has now formed a company and possibly did some some changes to their update mechanism. It was working fine up to last week, which is when I last updated my phone; but when I tried today it would keep looping while searching for updates. (Tried this on both the Galaxy Nexus and Nexus 7 – same results). Not a biggie – I downloaded the latest nightly manually and updated. Post update it does not loop when searching for updates, so looks like the new nightly is fixed.
Even if you don’t use the CM updater you can download the nightly manually, reboot into recovery, and flash it. But it’s more convenient having the updater do the work for you. You can also skip the CM updater and use ROM Manager or Goo Manager. I used ROM Manager today to flash the downloaded nightly – it is neat in that along with flashing the new ROM it offers to backup the existing one. Useful in case the updated ROM has any issues.
My workflow for updating the ROM regularly is to (1) check for updates and download, (2) take a backup of the existing ROM (needs a reboot and you can either do it via apps such as ROM Manager or reboot into a custom recovery such as TWRP or Clockwork Mod), (3) flash the updated ROM. No need to download a GApps update – that happens automatically for each individual app via the Play Store.
Before running CM 10.2, I was a Carbon ROM user. That’s a good ROM. No slowness like PA. I was on Carbon ROM 1.7 for many months, then upgraded to 1.8 but didn’t take a backup before updating. Something wen’t wrong post update because the phone app kept crashing and so the phone was unusable. I got it working by erasing the user data, but once I did that I thought of trying other ROMs and checked out PA and CM. Must try the Carbon ROM 4.3 nightlies sometime. Carbon ROM includes Goo Manager – that’s what you can use for getting newer versions of the ROM. Goo Manager can be configured to automatically check for updates too.
Today I changed the kernel on my Galaxy Nexus to leankernel. It’s a minimalistic kernel – good for battery life and lean & fast – and I had read good reviews of it somewhere. Installing the kernel is pretty easy: just download the kernel (it’s a zip file) and flash it as you would a ROM.
There’s also an app called Franco Kernel updater (free as well as paid, with the latter having many more useful features) which lets you download both the leankernel as well as another popular kernel called Franco. The paid version of the app also lets you tweak various kernel configs. CM by default does not include such features. On the other hand, Carbon included some of these by default.