9 Android devices getting an unofficial Ice Cream Sandwich upgrade

Android 4.0 ("Ice Cream Sandwich") is the latest version to show up on smartphones and tablets, but many devices are still being sold running an older version of Android, the most common being Android 2.3 ("Gingerbread").

However, a community of mobile hardware modders, CyanogenMod, has been working to port ICS to older-model Android devices. These volunteer developers are best known for bringing Gingerbread to such devices, naming their port CyanogenMod 7.

CyanogenMod 9, currently being developed, will enable the porting of ICS to a number of specific devices. Here are some of those. (Note: When you upgrade a device with firmware not officially supported by its maker, you are responsible for damage that can occur to your device if you don't follow carefully the installation instructions.)

Captivate and Vibrant

Maker: Samsung

Carriers: AT&T (Captivate) and T-Mobile (Vibrant)
Original OS: Android 2.1 ("Eclair")
Officially supported by CyanogenMod 9 community

Underneath their housings, these are essentially the same phone. Both come with a version of the Android OS that's so old most probably don't know or can't recall its codename. Yet these phones feature a pretty large screen at 4 inches, and 1GHz processor. You can install CyanogenMod 7 on the Captivate and Vibrant already, and you'll be able to use an official port of CyanogenMod 9 on them.

Droid 2

Maker: Motorola

Carrier: Verizon
Original OS: Android 2.2 ("Froyo")
NOT officially supported by CyanogenMod 9 community

The follow-up to the original Android phone that was the first to seriously challenge the iPhone, the Droid 2 has an official version of CyanogenMod 7. As of this writing it hasn't been announced if it will get support for CyanogenMod 9. Nevertheless, other modders have managed to plug the CyanogenMod version of ICS on it. This makes it unique since the Droid 2 is one of the few Android phones with a slide-out keyboard to unofficially run the latest Android OS.

Galaxy S II Epic 4G Touch

Maker: Samsung
Carrier: Sprint
Original OS: Android 2.3.4 ("Gingerbread")
NOT officially supported by CyanogenMod 9 community

Here's a top-of-the-line Android phone that you can buy right now, but for unknown reasons it has yet to be announced whether Samsung will provide an upgrade to ICS for it. The Epic 4G Touch sports a large 4.52-inch screen and dual-core 1.2GHz processor. As of now, there are two ports of CyanogenMod 9 being made by separate developers which you can install and try out.

Galaxy Tab

Maker: Samsung
Carriers: AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile, Verizon
Original OS: Android 2.2.1 ("Froyo")
Officially supported by CyanogenMod 9 community

Here's one of the first Android tablets that managed to compete against the iPad with regard to price. Running an earlier version of Android that's the same used on smartphones, the original Galaxy Tab was criticized for essentially being a large-screen phone minus the voice-calling functionality. (Nowadays it's not uncommon for many Android tablets with 7-inch screens, especially those sold for cheap, to be running earlier versions of the OS, usually Gingerbread.) What sets the Galaxy Tab apart is that it comes in several versions that support the 3G networks of all the major U.S. carriers.

Galaxy Tab 10.1

Maker: Samsung
Carrier: T-Mobile
Original OS: Android 3.2 ("Honeycomb")
Officially supported by CyanogenMod 9 community

This Galaxy Tab with a larger, 10.1-inch screen is one of the few Android devices to be sold to the public with the version of Android that Google's developers quickly put together for tablet use. The tablet also raised the ire of Apple, which sued Samsung in several courts worldwide, claiming that the design looked too similar to the iPad. A German court agreed, and so you cannot buy this tablet in that country. For some reason (a result of this lawsuit?), Samsung hasn't announced plans for upgrading the Galaxy Tab 10.1 to ICS, but this probably doesn't matter since it will get an official CyanogenMod 9 port.

myTouch 4G Slide

Maker: HTC
Carrier: T-Mobile
Original OS: Android 2.3 ("Gingerbread")
NOT officially supported by CyanogenMod 9 community

Like the Droid 2, the myTouch 4G Slide is an Android smartphone with a slide-out keyboard. And like the Droid 2, unfortunately, it might not get an official support for a CyanogenMod 9 port, though it does have it for the previous CyanogenMod 7. It's a more powerful, current-model Android phone than the Droid 2 (dual-core 1.2GHz processor versus the latter's single-core 1.0GHz), and is still currently being sold and supported by its maker.

Nook Color

Maker: Barnes & Noble
Carrier: Not applicable; Wi-Fi only
Original OS: Highly customized version of Android 2.2 ("Froyo")
NOT officially supported by CyanogenMod 9 community

One of the early Android tablets that device hackers fell in love with because of its price-and-decent-hardware-specs ratio, the Nook Color received not only a port of CyanogenMod 7 (officially supported by the community), but it also saw early builds of Honeycomb running on it. The Nook Color's hardware is underpowered to support the full features of ICS, yet that hasn't stopped modders from trying to bring CyanogenMod 9 to it (their work is currently not officially sanctioned). This tablet retails for $149, making it the cheapest tablet choice in this slideshow to play around with ICS.

Triumph

Maker: Motorola
Carrier: Virgin Mobile USA
Original OS: Android 2.2 ("Froyo")
NOT officially supported by CyanogenMod 9 community

The Triumph is currently the top-model Android phone you can buy for use on the pay-as-you-go Virgin Mobile network. With a 4.1-inch screen and 1GHz processor, it's not too shabby at a retail price of $299 when you consider plans start at $35 per month that include "unlimited" 3G (throttled after you gobble up more than 2.5GB of data) with no contract. So it quickly gained a following among the Android device modding scene, and CyanogenMod 7 was ported to it. Despite the fact that the CyanogenMod community has yet to officially support it, there also exists a port of CyanogenMod 9 for the Triumph.