It’s a big week for unofficial Android updates. The CyanogenMod team has started releasing nightly builds of CM10.2 for a handful of phones and tablets. Developer Koushik Dutta is updating his ClockworkMod Recovery tools for a number of Android devices. And there are new versions of the Google Apps available for custom ROM users running builds based on Android 4.2 or Android 4.3.
The folks behind CyanogenMod have been building custom firmware for Android phone and tablets for about as long as anyone, and the team has earned a reputation for offering stable software that looks and feels a lot like the stock version of Android you’d get with a Nexus device — but with more customization options.
Recently the CyanogenMod team has started adding some interesting new apps and features including the Apollo music player, Focal camera app, and enhanced security and privacy features.
CyanogenMod 10.2 is the first build based on Google Android 4.3 Jelly Bean. It’s still a work in progress and uses may experience bugs. In fact now that nightly builds are available, there’s a chance that installing a new build every day could fix problems from earlier builds while introducing new problems.
But for folks who like to live on the bleeding edge, you can now test drive official nightly builds of CM10.2 for a number of devices including the Google Nexus 4 and Nexus 7, Samsung Galaxy Nexus, Galaxy Note, and Galaxy S3 and S4, HTC One, and Sony Xperia Z.
It’ll likely be a while before we start to see stable builds of CyanogenMod 10.2 for those devices, so if you find a nightly that works well for you, there’s no reason to update your software every day.
When you buy a Google certified Android phone or tablet it doesn’t just come with the Android operating system. It also includes a number of Google’s Android apps such as the Play Store, Gmail, and Google Maps.
While the operating system is open source, those apps are not. So custom ROM builders have made a habit of not pre-loading them in their firmware. That’s why software such as CyanogenMod, AOKP, and Paranoid Android don’t have the Google Play Store when you first install them.
Instead, you can install a separate Google Apps package. Now there are new builds available for folks running custom ROMs based on Android 4.2 and Android 4.3.
These new builds aren’t recommended for Paranoid Android users, since the PA team maintains their own pacakges. But most other custom ROM users can now grab the 20130813 update for Android 4.3.0 or the 20130812 update for Android 4.2.2.
If you’re running Android 4.2.1 or earlier, you should avoid these builds.
The latest versions include Android 4.3 versions of apps wherever they’re available, recent versions of the Google Play Store and Google Play Services, and a few other tweaks.
Note that you won’t get GalleryGoogle from these apps, which means you can’t take Photosphere-style photos unless you install it manually from another source.
The easiest way to install a custom ROM, flash a Google Apps update, backup or restore your device, or make a number of other changes is to install a custom recovery on your device.
All Android devices have a recovery utility, but they’re not always easy to access or use. Popular custom recovery tools include ClockworkMod and TWRP, and they make it easy to update your device, wipe your entire system, create a full backup or restore from that backup, among other things.