Let me start this by saying "I am an Apple fanboy!" I just want to make that clear. I gave water to the dead the day that Steve Jobs died. I felt personal pain watching Woz on dancing with the stars. I suffered for months with a failing wireless card, and bad memory in my macbook pro because I don't want to go back to a Dell (no offence Micheal). I can't wait for the next Iphone because I am eligible for an upgrade on May 5. That being said, I really like this ice cream sandwich.
After Google released the source for ICS late last year, Cyanogen and his development team went straight to work building Cyanogenmod 9 (Cyanogenmod 7 was based on Gingerbread, they skipped Honeycomb because of it's tablet specific pedigree). Unfortunately my phone, the Motorola Atrix 4G did not have official Cyanogenmod support due to some difficult hardware and Motorola's highly customized OS. I had no hope for ICS any time soon.
Then last week we got an over the air update to the Atrix from Motorola, not to ICS as I had hoped but I figured I would go ahead and install it. The update bricked my phone! Oh yes I was running a stock rom and everything like a good boy, and the update sent me into a boot loop. I spent the better part of a day digging up old procedures for re-flashing my phone using fastboot and getting back to a good state. I immediately downloaded the latest Cyanogenmod 7 and installed some clean gingerbready goodness. I felt instant relief from the latck of MotoBlurr, but then I looked at the bugtracker to see if there was anything I could check with my new pristine rom. It was dormant, no bugs updated since the middle of January, no check ins to source control, nothing...What could cause this progressing, if not buggy, rom to lose all momentum? I could think of only one thing. I gingerly typed "cyanogenmod 9 atrix" into my trusty chrome address bar and was welcomed with more than 10 pages of results. The one that caught my eye was a January 14th post to XDA developers...There was indeed an Atrix Cyanogenmod 9 rom available. I immediately downloaded the latest rom to my phone and installed it. I think I may have even forgotten to back up my working version first.
Oh the eye candy ... The spinning glass boot screen was beautiful, until it was still spinning 18 minutes later. Back to CWM to clear my dalvik cache and reset to factory settings again, and then it actually booted into ICS. Methinks I hear angels singing ... oh wait that is just the android start up chime. So what is so awesome about ICS? Well first, it's a hack! While not the most beautiful part of the new android release, it does bring a wonderful sense of accomplishment (even though I didn't really do anything but stumble on a thread, download a zip and remember to clear my cache). Ok, what else? The new boot loader is pretty, it is super clean and having a widget drawer like the app drawer is nicer than I expected. Drop into settings and suddenly the convoluted painful android settings menu is clean and organized, it's like someone thought about it instead of just adding more options. The notifications bar is even better than it was before with an updated toggle menu immediately available, swipe to acknowledge, etc.(Apple is trying to copy the android goodness, and they just ended up with more to copy). The calendar, facebook, and email widgets just work, no special tweaking, no downloading other apps and widgets just to get them on the screen. All of my existing apps work (at least the 85 or so that I have tried). Gmail's swipe to older and newer mails is so intuitive I can't believe that it took this long to appear. It is truly amazing to me what suddenly makes so much sense and polish. My android phone now feels like it is as user friendly as IOS! I thought for a long time I would have to give up polish in order to have an open system that was hackable (I have felt that way to some degree since 1997 when I installed mandrake 3.1 for the first time, and realized how much could be customized, but I digress). My favorite though is the honeycomb running apps menu when you long press the home button. You can see the app in the place it left off, choose it and continue, unlike IOS or previous versions of android that often restarted the app when you switched back to it (I know sometimes it worked, but not in many of my most used apps like Gospel Library, or Netflix, now it even works with those). This was by far my favorite new feature in honeycomb, and I am glad to see it roll forward into ICS.
And then the unicorn poop started to dry up and get a little crumbly. Angry birds got choppy. Apparently this is due to the 2d video hardware integration which is incomplete. JokerSax (the CM9 maintainer) is working on this one according to the boards. It is still playable so there will be no Taylor riots, crisis averted. The Camera; well the camera was one of the last things to work in CM7 so it was the first thing I tested in CM9. It WORKS, but then it crashed when I tried to open it again until I rebooted :-( The thought that actually popped into my head, was "oh well I can just reboot the phone whenever I need to take a photo" wow this batch of kool aid is strong). I also couldn't change the number of columns and rows in the launcher (well I guess it is like going back to IOS). So, I traipsed back to the forum to see what I could do. A "repair permissions" from rom manager, fixed my camera problem (whew, crisis avoided I won't have to reboot my phone 3 times a day). Then downloading ADW launcher ... well that fixes my real estate problems but it seems so February compared to my new shiney ICS everything else. Enter "Nova" a new ICS launcher that is considerably more mature than the cyanogen "Trebuchet". It allows all of the real estate resizing options I wanted to make my phonetop pretty and functional in both landscape and portrait. Nova is available from the market in free and paid versions with a slew of additional features like hiding apps you don't want but can't uninstall, programmable gestures in the launcher, alternative actions for launcher icons etc. I will stick with the free version right now. I think I will try ICS launcher and Apex which both also seem more mature than trebuchet. All is good in the world again.
After 3 days with CM9 I have noticed a few other downsides: I frequently find family members asking me 3 times to do things because my attention seems to be somewhere else. The cyanogenmod ring town attracts more attention than expected (especially in church meetings). There was also that one episode where Bella picked up the phone and I attacked her screaming "My precious! DON'T TAKE THE PRECIOUS!!!!"
The final verdict: ME LIKEY! I'm using it as my daily driver. There are no defects right now that force me to change back. That being said, I will probably wait until the 2d graphics issue is solved before I update Heidi's Atrix.
Check out the full thread (yes all 5k posts) here:http://forum.xda-developers.com/showthread.php?t=1445052
Screenshots and updates to come.