(Mini)review of CyanogenMod 13.0 on the Verizon Samsung Galaxy S5

CM 13.0 shows just how bad hardware OEMs are at software.

Advertisements

In my previous post, I showed you how to install CM 13.0. Now here’s a mini review.

The Good:

Responsiveness

CM 13.0 is fast. And not fast* with an asterisk used for phones that only stutter every now and then, but very fast. Even loaded up with apps, this thing screams and is very responsive.

On TouchWiz Lollipop my S5 was routinely outpaced by my Nvidia Shield K1. With CM 13, the K1 doesn’t remotely keep up.

Android Lockscreen Bug Finally Fixed

CM 13 finally fixes a bug that’s plagued every Android device I’ve ever owned: the Motorola Droid 1, Samsung Galaxy Nexus and Galaxy S5, and the Nvidia Shield K1 tablet. Across 3 OEMs every Android version from Froyo to Marshmallow, waking an Android device from the lockscreen has been a major PITA.

First of all, the power button might not wake the screen, or the lock screen may take a while to appear. When it does appear, it may simply not respond to touch input for a while, or be so delayed at doing so it messes up pattern unlock. Finally, the delay between a successful pattern entry and the lockscreen clearing is often multiple seconds. Sometimes the device will fail to wake entirely and has to be rebooted.

CM 13 is the first Android build I’ve used to NOT have this issue. I can’t help but wonder how CM managed to get right but Google, Motorola, Samsung, and Nvidia couldn’t.

No More Lockscreen Privacy Violations

TouchWiz Calendar will plaster your lock screen with event notifications even if you set your lockscreen to not show any notifications. Even worse, the fullscreen notification reveals other app notification icons (thankfully not content).

CM 13, on the other hand, actually respects lockscreen privacy. No notifications means no notifications show up, PERIOD. Which is exactly how it should be.

Pattern Unlock Now Displays Lower on the Screen

Not sure why no other developer thought of this before, but putting pattern unlock smack in the middle of a 5.1″ display was never a good idea. CM 13 mounts the pattern in the lower half of the screen so you no longer have to stretch your thumb or fumble with the phone to reach it.

Seriously, why didn’t anyone consider that before … it’s baffling.

RAM Consumption

About the same or less than TouchWiz Lollipop, but RAM consumption is largely irrelevant on Android anyway.

Storage Consumption

I had 10.54 GB of 16 GB free after CM 13.0 installation and 5.21 GB free after 100+ apps installed. IIRC TouchWiz leaves you with barely 8 GB free and then even that fills up rapidly, probably due to some combination of Samsung’s custom ART implementation and the fact that TouchWiz duplicates apps in the system.

This is isn’t totally surprising; bad things generally happen when hardware OEMs develop software and Samsung is no different. For all of TouchWiz’s great features – most of which have some CM equivalent – its performance on the S5 was never this good.

Adoptable Storage

Samsung (and LG and Sony) lied to us. There is absolutely no slowdown from using adoptable storage IF you move your data to the SD card but keep your apps on eMMC. As shown in the previous section, there’s plenty of space on the latter for at least a couple hundred apps. Used in this manner, adoptable storage is the phone equivalent of keeping your Program Files on an SSD and moving your document libraries to a slower HDD in Windows.

Samsung and every other OEM that denied us adoptable storage for performance and user confusion reasons lied to us.

Excellent Root Implementation

No futzing with SuperSU here. Root in CM 13.0 is managed by a simple, self explanatory toggle in Developer Options. You literally couldn’t ask for a better setup. It makes you wonder how/why the feature isn’t a part of stock Android.

Bluetooth

Word in forum threads is that this is bad, but I’ve had zero problems with it so far. Bluetooth functionality and call quality is excellent.

The Bad:

Bootup Time

Much longer than stock – like “Go make a sandwich” long – though this may be due to me having adoptable storage enabled. The OS also takes a longer time to detect and initialize the SIM card during boot, resulting in a “No SIM card” error being displayed in the notifications. The error goes away once the radio initializes and before startup is complete.

Camera Performance

To put it mildly, if you use your phone primarily as a camera (I don’t, and I rarely take pics) CM 13.0 will be a huge disappointment out of the box. The native Google Camera absolutely mangles pictures and can’t seem to focus on anything properly.

That said, Camera MX takes pics that are pretty close – if not absolutely as good as – stock.

Speaker Volume

Nearly 4.5 years later, audio volume is apparently still an issue with AOSP-based ROMs and Samsung hardware. You can boost the volume in apps that have that feature, such as Player FM, but speakerphone during calls is low enough to make listening outdoors with passing traffic a struggle.

I don’t use my phone for calls much so I don’t find this a dealbreaker, but if you depend on your speakerphone in noisy environments you might.

HD Voice/VoLTE?

It’s unclear as to whether this works, but AFAIK it’s only possible with other Verizon or AT&T users who also had phones supporting the feature. None of the people I talk to frequently fall into that category and call quality is excellent otherwise so I don’t mind its absence.

Display Modes

As far as I know, there’s no way to change the display mode, so you may be stuck in the oversaturated Dynamic mode.

External Downoad Speed

Seems slower. Not enough to make the phone unusable, but definitely enough to be noticed. LAN file transfer speed, however, is unaffected.

Conclusion

CM 13 is worth it for the mindblowing performance upgrade alone. I cannot overemphasize how much faster my S5 is with it compared to TouchWiz. If you were considering replacing your S5 because of the latter, CM might give you a year or more of phone usefulness. The only flagship shipping with an OEM ROM packing features equivalent to CM’s is the nearly $700 HTC 10, so CM will save you quite a chunk of money too.

There’s so much here that makes the OS a joy to use and will make you fall in love with your device all over again. CM is absolutely the best mobile OS I’ve ever encountered. Install it as soon as you can.

How to safely update your rooted Verizon Samsung Galaxy S5 to to the NK2 build

Because xda-developers instructions – like most forum guides – are poorly written.

This post assumes you’ll be updating from the NCG (Android 4.4.2) build the Verizon Samsung Galaxy S5 (SM-G900V) was released with. This method will not affect your files or apps on internal storage or the SD card in any way, so don’t worry about your phone being wiped.

  1. Ensure drivers for your phone are installed.
  2. Ensure towelroot is installed so you can easily re-root later.
  3. Ensure the System Updates app, SDM 1.0, is enabled. You’ll need it for the OTA update in a later step.*
  4. Ensure SuperSU is already installed.
  5. In Settings, tap Security.
  6. Under FIND MY MOBILE, uncheck the Reactivation lock box to prevent your SIM card being borked during the process.

    Note: do NOT proceed to Step 7 until Steps 1-6 have been completed.
  7. Download G900V_NK2_Stock_Kernel.tar.
  8. Download G900V_NCG_Stock_Kernel.tar.
  9. Download G900VVRU1ANHA_G900VVZW1ANHA_VZW.zip.
  10. Download ODINv3.10.rar.
  11. Decompress all the above .zip and .rar archives only. Do not decompress the .tar file(s).
  12. Turn off the S5.
  13. Hold Volume Down + Home + Power simultaneously to enter Download Mode.
  14. Press Volume Up to continue as indicated onscreen.
  15. Launch Odin from its decompressed folder.
  16. Connect the S5 to your PC via USB 2.0+ cable. This should result in Odin detecting the phone as below:

    Note the highlighted slot and "Added" message which indicate Odin's detection of the S5
    Note the highlighted slot and “Added” message which indicate Odin’s detection of the S5
  17. In the Odin window in the Files [Download] section, check the AP box.
  18. Click the AP button and select the G900VVRU1ANHA_G900VVZW1ANHA_G900VVRU1ANHA_HOME.tar file, found in the decompressed G900VVRU1ANHA_G900VVZW1ANHA_VZW.zip folder.
  19. Click Start. The S5 will update and boot into to the NHA build.
  20. In the S5’s Settings, tap System Updates.
  21. Tap Check for new software update.
  22. Accept, download, and install the available OTA NK2 update.
  23. When the S5 has successfully rebooted, turn it off.
  24. Put the S5 into Download Mode again as in Step 13.
  25. Repeat Steps 16 to 18 for the G900V_NCG_Stock_Kernel.tar file, with the exception that the S5 will now boot into the NK2 build, albeit running on the *NCG kernel.
  26. Open towelroot.
  27. Tap make it rain and wait for the rooting process to complete.
  28. Reboot the phone if towelroot doesn’t do that automatically.
  29. Open SuperSU and let it update the binary normally if it prompts you to do so.
  30. Repeat Steps 22 to 24 for the G900V_NK2_Stock_Kernel.tar file. The S5 will now boot into the NK2 build with matching kernel and root access.

*If you forget to do this, you won’t be able to OTA update in Step 18. In that case, follow Step 23, boot into the NHA build on the NCG kernel, and then root. Reboot and re-enable SDM 1.0, then continue the process at Step 18.

Credit JTidler & muniz_ri for the above instructions. I wrote this guide as an easier to understand and follow version for users like myself who don’t flash kernels and images as a matter of course.