Android One opens the floodgates for CyanogenMod on inexpensive smartphones

Android One, Google’s program to standardize and improve low-cost Android phones in markets like India, comes with a caveat that phones in its program must run a Google-approved, virtually unskinned version of Android. But an interesting side effect of reducing the number of differences between phones is that it becomes much easier for tinkerers to modify them, including installing open-source operating systems that Google does not control.

On Monday, CyanogenMod developers released a new ROM, or installation package, for its version of Android, which can be installed on the first batch of Android One devices — including the Spice Dream Uno, Karbonn Sparkle V, and Micromax Canvas A1. The ROM isn’t ready for daily use, as features like dual SIM support and Wi-Fi aren’t working yet, but you can expect the engaged CyanogenMod community to fix those problems fairly quickly.

One of the most important aspects of Android One is that it embraces low-cost MediaTek processors. These ARM-based chips are popular in less expensive devices but lose out on the high-end to Qualcomm chips, which is part of the reason that it’s been difficult to find working ROMs for MediaTek-based devices. But considering that all three currently available Android One devices are using the MediaTek MT6582 chip, there is now a large enough user base to gain developer attention.

CyanogenMod is one of the most popular versions of Android based on the Android Open Source Project and its associated parent company, [company]Cyanogen[/company], is interesting in its own right, having recently been rumored to have turned down an acquisition offer from [company]Google[/company]. CyanogenMod gives device makers the ability to ship phones without Google services pre-installed, which opens the possibility of installing their own preferred apps or media services. Those who use CyanogenMod prefer it over Google’s Android because it is claimed to provide increased performance and battery life.

Although CyanogenMod started as a way for tinkerers to install an alternate operating system on their devices, it’s increasingly starting to come preinstalled on some phones. Chinese phone makers Oppo and One have shipped phones with CyanogenMod out of the box, and both of those devices even come with pre-installed Google apps.

In fact, Micromax, which is an important Android One partner, is already planning to launch a CyanogenMod device by the end of this year. Even with Android One, the biggest challenge to Google’s mobile operating system in developing markets may be other versions of Android.

You can grab the CyanogenMod ROM for Android One devices on this XDA Developers thread.