As much as I love stock Android sometimes you just need something different, and that’s essentially been the guiding mission of the folks over at Cyanogen Inc.
They’ve made plenty of strides with their customized version of Android over the past few months, but now they’re on the verge of a big milestone — after officially revealing the thing back in September, Chinese OEM Oppo announced earlier today that its first Cyanogen -modded smartphone will launch internationally in December.
Wait, what? Who’s Oppo?
To really get a feel for what’s going on here, we need to flash back to mid-September. Cyanogen raised $7 million from Benchmark Capital at the time, and the company not-so-subtly hinted that it would forge partnerships with some honest-to-goodness smartphone makers to bring their modified version of Android to a wider audience than just avid phone tinkerers. That first hardware partner wound up being none other than Oppo, a curious Chinese OEM who may be best known for its Blu-ray players that has managed to cultivate a reputation for churning out some impressive (and impressively cheap) Android devices.
The specifics of the arrangement were… interesting, to say the least — Oppo developed its N1 smartphone in such a way that owners can easily flash Cyanogen’s custom Android build, but they’re also producing a limited quantity of those N1s that will ship to consumers with CyanogenMod pre-loaded onto them. It’s worth pointing out that the N1 is no slouch either — it sports among other things a 1.6GHz quad-core Snapdragon 600 chipset, 2GB of RAM, a 6-inch 1080p display, and what the company refers to as the world’s first rotating camera so a single camera module can handle selfies as well as it can landscapes.
Now this is a nice turn of events for Cyanogen fans but this launch could prove to be an important barometer for the Cyanogen team. The Cyanogen-laden version is being pegged as a limited edition release so Oppo isn’t going nuts churning these things out, so an international launch means that both companies will be better able to gauge the sort of demand for honest-to-goodness CyanogenMod phones. And this more widespread launch goes well, Oppo has that much more ammo in its arsenal if it tries to ink similar deals with other OEMs down the road.
That’s not to say the team can just call it a day though — one of their bigger priorities is to complete a dead-simple Cyanogen installer built so owners of existing Android devices can swap their current builds for something a little different. The Cyanogen team has been rounding up beta testers to work on early versions of the installer (which will ultimately wind up in the Google Play Store if everything goes according to plan), but only time will tell when Ma and Pa will be able to flash their smartphones without getting bogged down in the minutia.