Today at Mobile World Congress, Cyanogen and Alcatel announced the Hero 2+, a 6-inch smartphone that will come with Cyanogen OS preinstalled. The Hero 2+ is a variation of the Hero 2 Alcatel released globally last year, and features a 6-inch, 1080p display, a 2GHz octacore Mediatek processor, 2GB of RAM, a 13-megapixel camera, support for LTE on AT&T and T-Mobile, and a stylus. It will be available in North America this spring for $299 unlocked.
Cyanogen OS is already available on a handful of smartphones across the world, including the Oppo N1, OnePlus One, and devices in India. The Hero 2+ will run Cyanogen OS 11, which is based on Android 4.4.4 KitKat, though it will likely be upgraded to newer version of the software as it is released. Alcatel says that the Hero 2's unique features, including the snap on LED covers and stylus will be supported in the Hero 2+ with Cyanogen OS.
All of the Hero 2's unique accessories and features will work in CyanogenMod
Cyanogen has grown as a company since it was just a modification for Android phones designed to make the devices perform better and be easier to use than with their original software. The company's mission is to spread an "open Android" that is less reliant on Google's services. "We want to eliminate the problem of bloatware by enabling more powerful apps that hook deeper into the system," said cofounder Steve Kondik in a recent interview.
Not everyone shares Cyanogen's vision however. In a talk earlier today, Google's head of product (which includes Android) Sundar Pichai noted that he doesn't yet know the value proposition in Cyanogen OS, or versions of Android that bypass Google's services, such as the Play Store, Maps, and Gmail, in general. "I’d question the premise of building something without Google’s services ... these are services users ask for on their devices," said Pichai.
For its part, Cyanogen OS does offer Google services in all of the countries where they are supported, and Kondik says the whole platform is Google compliant. Earlier today, Cyanogen announced a new partnership with Qualcomm that puts its software on reference devices Qualcomm provides to handset makers. The reference devices with Cyanogen's software will be low-end to mid-range devices, and should benefit from the performance enhancements Cyanogen OS generally brings to underspecced phones.
Alcatel and Cyanogen say that the Hero 2+ is just the first fruits of a partnership that will result in multiple devices this year and next. Perhaps one of those will be a new Idol 3 running Cyanogen?
Correction: The article originally said that Hero2+ ships with CyanogenMod. The included software is known as Cyanogen OS. We've updated the post to reflect this.