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9 min read 92 comments

These are the best custom ROMs for Android

Update: More ROMs added!

If you want to use your smartphone for more than two years, you will likely get reliable and up-to-date software only with ROMs.They also give you the opportunity to explore brand new designs and UIs, and offer new and impressive functions. If you've yet to explore the world of ROMs, here is our guide and list of the best it has to offer.

Custom ROMs: A dying hobby?

Good custom ROMs are characterized by an active community and support for many different devices. Unfortunately, this is not the case for many third-party firmwares. Many smartphone manufacturers have taken on important criticisms of their original firmware and proved users wrong. Here are some examples of the updates:

  • Previous security updates
  • Less pre-installed software
  • Improvement of the user interface

After about two, in a few cases three years, security updates are over. If you want to continue using your smartphone, you have to accept security risks or at least replace the software.

However, additional issues are waiting for the modders: protection mechanisms from SafetyNet. Because of these, apps refuse the service and games do not start. Well-known examples are Pokémon GO, Super Mario Run, Snapchat and Netflix. So, we have extended the feature table with the appropriate tests.

The same applies to the vendor image, whose closed-source components often have to be installed separately, which takes time. However, some ROMs already include them in their images and make installation and updates easier. Others deliver the matching images to the same location where you find the system firmware.

The best custom ROMs

Good custom ROMs are characterized by an active community and the support of many different devices. Unfortunately, fewer and fewer third-party firmwares match these criteria. Those who want to keep their Nexus 5 or his Galaxy S5 still up to date have only a few alternatives. If your smartphone needs a better user interface, less bloatware and earlier software updates, then you should consider a custom ROM.

Custom ROM features: quick comparison

  Lineage LineageOS for microG Dirty Unicorns Paranoid Android Resurrection Remix SlimRoms
updates Download in the settings, installation via TWRP Download in the settings, installation via TWRP As an app Integrated in the settings Integrated in the settings Manual via TWRP
Vendor-Image Separately Separately Separately, even server Integrated Separately, same source Separately
Root Access Optionally as a zip Only ADB as opt-in; optional as zip No No Only ADB, opt-in No
SafetyNet / Pokémon GO No / Yes n / A n / A Yes / Yes Yes / Yes Yes / Yes
Themes via substratum via substratum; not available without Play Store via substratum Per color engine or via substratum via substratum via substratum
Special features
  • Trebuchet Launcher
  • Privacy management
  • Volume profiles
  • Better camera app
  • Better music app
  • Screen recorder
  • F-Droid with extension pre-configured for automatic updates
  • Google-free replacement services
  • Rest like stick lineage

No browser

Dirty tweaks:

  • animations
  • OmniSwitch
  • Improved App Switcher
  • App Ops
  • Completely CAF-based
  • PA Browser
  • Shuttle + Music Player
  • PIE controls (new design)
  • Burn in Protection for OLEDs
  • Privacy Guard
  • Volume profiles
  • No browser
  • Developer tools

Interface options:

  • Status bar
  • Overview of open apps
  • Quick settings
  • navigation bar
equalizer AudioFX AudioFX MusicFX Snapdragon Audio + AudioFX MusicFX

LineageOS (the legacy of CyanogenMod)

Lineage is the legacy of CyanogenMod. Fans of the mod have to say goodbye to CyanogenMod and their favorite features. CyanogenMod was ideal for beginners, since the Wiki offered a great collective wealth of knowledge. Lineage was able to hang onto some of this in the form of its own Wiki. A backup copy of the old wiki was created for posterity, as well.

cyanogenmod 13 home screen
Lineage has its own interface. / © AndroidPIT

Lineage has a compact launcher, a feature-packed camera app and few pre-installed apps which leaves you with a lot of free memory. It also has volume profiles, which can mute the phone or make it loud under certain defined conditions. The privacy feature also sends incorrect data to apps that whose privileges aren't normally escalated. And the best thing: Lineage makes old smartphones fast again. 

Unfortunately, Lineage OS recently announced that it's dropping support for over 30 devices. You can find the full list here.

cyanogenmod 13 features
Lineage has adopted many CyanogenMod features, but the equalizer (right) is missing. / © AndroidPIT

LineageOS for microG: Android without Google

Common to all custom ROMs is that they ship without Google apps. Anyone who wanted to use Android without Google anyway, is not yet well served. Important Google Suite souvenirs such as location services, play store, and theft protection should not be missing. Alternatives for some of these components are present in the microG version from Lineage. After installation, you can update your smartphone with ordinary LineageOS images.

Dirty Unicorns

Dirty Unicorns is designed for Nexus, Oppo, OnePlus, Xiaomi as well as some HTC and Samsung devices. It has similar features to Lineage and provides root access via apsp and regular updates for security and stability.

dirty unicorns nougat home
DU presents itself as tidy and up-to-date. / © AndroidPIT

DU supports a wide range of devices. Also, the update frequency is exemplary.

dirty unicorns nougat tweaks
OmniSwitch and Dirty Tweaks. / © AndroidPIT

Thanks to OmniSwitch, you can easily multitask. Dirty Tweaks contain important settings options which are missing in conventional Android.

Paranoid Android is back

Paranoid Android is one of the oldest custom ROMs and is a popular alternative to CyanogenMod & Co. After a brief awakening in summer 2016, the third-party firmware once again fell silent. Following May 2017 though, there has finally been a big update again and an equally big promise: more frequent updates.

AndroidPIT paranoid android 6
Paranoid Android looks good, and offers PIE Controls. / © AndroidPIT

This new version brings Android 7.1.2 Nougat to smartphones. The CodeAuroraForum (CAF) drivers are expected to make more Snapdragon-based devices compatible with the ROM. In addition, we can expect more frequent updates from changing the substructure.

On the positive side, there was no need to install an additional vendor image for the Nexus 5X in conjunction with OpenGapps' Google apps. This effort makes operating system updates easier to handle compared to Lineage OS, where you have to get and flash the vendor images additionally.

paranoid android update marshmallow 601
Paranoid Android returns / © AndroidPIT

Resurrection Remix

Resurrection Remix has a large user base, supports several devices and offers the fewest range of functions. In our January 2018 test with the Nexus 6P, no variant of Google Apps allowed installations from the Play Store (bug 963), so we can make no statement regarding SafetyNet.

SlimROMs: bloatless but feature-rich

SlimROMs made a name for itself by offering a completely stripped down version of Android and letting you determine exactly how much of the Google Play services you want bundled in. Otherwise, SlimROMs is characterized by the ability to modify the DPI of fonts and icons and make everything as tiny as you need it to be. The Slim family currently supports almost 50 devices.

An alpha Android Lollipop build is out, but things are moving slowly at the SlimROM camp and updates are currently infrequent at best. Find out more at slimroms.net.

OmniROM

OmniROM is the true spiritual successor of CyanogenMOD. Developed by former members of the MOD team and based on the Android Open Source Project (AOSP), it is one of the best custom ROMs around. It supports a wide variety of smartphones, including OnePlus, Xiaomi, Nexus, Motorola and Sony devices.

Capture32432432
OmniROM supports a variety of devices. / © AndroidPIT (screenshot)

One of its best features is the Advanced Settings app, which gives users access to various customization options. This includes the Flick2Wake tool, which allows you to flick the phone to turn on the screen. Pick2Wake can also be useful, as it wakes the device when put in a vertical position.

The notification drawer is also customizable - you can adjust the brightness of the screen by sliding across the status bar, change the position of the date and time, adjust how the bar is opened and much more. The list of launcher options is also quite expansive, making OmniROM one of the most interesting custom ROMs around.

AOSP Extended

As you can guess from its name, AOSP Extended is based on the Android Open Source Project. The custom ROM not only looks like sleek and modern, but also provides a smooth user experience and great performance. It offers a variety of features, many of which focused on customization.

http imgur.com px8hQ9T
Screenshots of the ROM in action. / © AOSP Extended

If you are a programming enthusiast or a more advanced user, you also take advantage of its open source code by contributing or creating your own build. The best part, however, is that the AOSP Extended development team is active and committed - you can expect monthly updates with security patches, as soon as they are released by Google.

Pixel Experience

If the new Google Pixel 3 and 3XL are bit too expensive for your taste, but you love their aesthetic, Pixel Experience is the right choice for you. This custom AOSP ROM will transform your phone into a pure Google device, with all the Pixel goodies included - launcher, icons, fonts, etc.

pixel experience rom
Pixel Experience: true to its name. / © AndroidPIT

The ROM OS version is 9 Pie. A great number of devices are supported, including some of Google's own Nexus phones. The updates are timely and you are going to have a great experience with this ROM overall.

Conclusion: to mod or not to mod?

Custom ROMs can be the salvation of older smartphones and tablets. They can also clean up new smartphones and remove bloatware. Often, they speed up smartphones and add more features. But, the threshold is high for those who want to mod, as it can be a confusing process for beginners. This threshold is less of an issue thanks to LineageOS, which is much simpler and is well supported by many from within the vibrant CyanogenMod community. 

What do you think is the best custom ROM on Android? Let us know in the comments below. 

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  • I have one device I'd vaguely like to change from Android 4.3 JB - would be largely for the fun - but the only good reason would be to overcome restrictions on App2SD functionality that were introduced after Gingerbread. The Acer tablet has a perky Intel processor but only 8GB of internal storage, so don't want to wipe that out with a massive new Android. But if a mod could restore the grand old days of full, fast, unencrypted microSD use I'd be interested. It's a good working device still in active use so I'm not about bricking it just for the heck.


  • Sir, would you recommended a "Panasonic p55 max" for compatible ROM??? Plzzzz Sir...i hope that, it will be very soon for me...√√√
    Have a Glorious blessed Tuesday be with youu All!! 🌹☕🌹👍✔


  • Lineage OS is very good, but ever heard of pixel experience ROM? It supports many devices and feels more clean than los, stock like


  • nice my MI4 is really outdated since most dev retired the only custom rom updates is lineage 14.1 and no news for oreo, but there is also mokee 8.1 what do you think about mokee?


  • FU NDA 6 months ago Link to comment

    Paranoid Android sucks. Home button doesn't work. Installed it twice.


  • Sorin 7 months ago Link to comment

    It's the ideal time to play with custom ROM on an old phone that now has Android 2.2.2. Yes, it is very old and almost nothing goes on ...


  • What happens if you try one and it doesn't work/load is the device bricked? Or is there a way to revert back to last know good boot?


    • the only way is if you made a backup beforehand. when flashing a custom rom you should always back up your current working setup


  • Love custom roms, except for one thing. When development stops, it really stops, for a particular phone. The developers will lie, and tell you the updates coming, but they just want you to keep interest. I had to tell posters on another site, that was it for dev on a phone, but they posted I didn't know what I was talking about. 8 months later, nothing, but there are posters that still will say updates are coming.


    • Before you install custom rom download unbrick file from xda forum for your device. In case you brick your device you can easily bring your device back. Sorry for late answer


  • You do realize there are Samsung based custom roms as well not just AOSP?

    And again a rehash of old articles. Considering the cost of a Samsung phone (and quality) I would never use a AOSP based rom on such a great device.

    In fact I now have a S8+, and have no intention of putting on a custom rom Sammy based or not.


  • Would you recommend a BlackView R7 compatible CUSTOM rom please


  • Would you recommend a BlackView R7 compatible CUSTOM rom please


  • Where is Resurrection Remix?


  • Would you recommend a BlackView R7 compatible rom please


  • Would you recommend a BlackView R7 compatible rom please

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