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The best custom ROMs for Android

Update: LineageOS added

You might enjoy the way your smartphone interface looks and feels, but custom ROMs give you the opportunity to explore brand new designs and UIs. They can also offer new and very impressive functionality. If you have yet to explore these options, check out our guide to custom ROMs for Android and our list of the best.

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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.

Opinion by Cory Schmidt
Custom ROMs are the salvation of older smartphones
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The best custom ROMs at a glance

  Lineage Dirty Unicorns SlimROMs
Updates Integrated into the settings As an app Failed in the test
Root Access With extra zip As a SuperSU app No
Themes No No No
Special Features
  • Trebuchet Launcher
  • Privacy management
  • Volume profiles
  • Better camera app
  • Better music app
  • Screen Recorder

Chromium browser

Dirty Tweaks:

  • Animations
  • OmniSwitch
  • Improved app switcher

Developer tools

Interface options:

  • Status bar
  • Overview of open apps
  • Quick Settings
  • Navigation bar
Equalizer No  No Yes

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 as well for posterity.

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 make the phone muted or 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. 

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

In the coming weeks, we will hear a lot more about Lineage and we'll keep you informed here on AndroidPIT as there are new developments.

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.

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.

Other ROMs

PAC-ROM

PAC-ROM touts itself as the all-in-one ROM solution. The team shamelessly cherry picks features from the other ROMs listed on this page, including OmniSwitch and CyanogenMod's Pie controls, and puts them all together in their own package.

It might seem lacking in personality, or overkill, but if you're looking for the most customizable, option-rich ROM, then this is it. And wait until you see the boot animation — the team deserves some points for that alone.

With nightly builds and well over 50 devices supported, it's a great package. Learn all about it at PAC-ROM.com.

AndroidPIT rom pac rom 1380
PAC-ROM packs in a lot, but doesn't offer much of its own character. / © AndroidPIT

Paranoid Android - Stock Android with subtle changes

The first appearance of the Paranoid Android Custom ROM dates back to early 2013 and Android Jelly Bean. The Paranoid Android ROM doesn't provide a radical design overhaul, but focuses on a number of simple but effective changes to notifications and navigation. 

Immersive mode allows you to view information on screen while hiding system bars, and 'dynamic system bars' blend your status and navigation bar color with the particular app background. It's purely aesthetic, but provides a nice transition.

Early in 2015, OnePlus hired a number of key members of the Paranoid Android team. The project subsequently went into deep hibernation, with one developer announcing its passing and another refuting it. Whether the project has the energy to be resurrected remains to be seen.

Paranoid Android is available for a whole range of devices including the Nexus line and the OnePlus One. To learn more, visit ParanoidAndroid.co.

AndroidPIT rom paranoid android 1384
Paranoid Android offers a great design. / © AndroidPIT

An introduction to custom ROMs

A ROM, for those who don't know, is an operating system build that runs on your device with basic applications such as an address book, calendar, camera, etc.

A major advantage of Android smartphones is that they can be operated by third-party systems and not only with the original ROM. Custom ROMs replace the pre-installed version of Android on devices. The substitution is made by a variation of the AOSP, adapted by volunteers with 'too much free time'.

These volunteers often work more frequently than the manufacturer itself – at least when it comes to updates.

But what is AOSP?

AOSP means Android Open Source Program. It is a version of the open source code of Android, developed by Google in its consortium of brands to offer a pure version of the system, which is available to anyone. It can be modified by developers without the need to follow standards of Google applications.

Thanks to this project, the birth of custom ROMs like CyanogenMod, Paranoid Android, MIUI and others have come about.

Advantages: should I get a custom ROM?

System upgrade for older smartphones

Many Android owners already know this problem: the smartphone is already a year old but the manufacturer hasn't released updates to the device. The new versions of Android are not only interesting because they bring new features but also because they fill security gaps.

Third party firmware uses the official codification of Android as well as a compatible driver for smartphones. This keeps everyone up-to-date on the newest version of Android. And it's not difficult for a custom ROM to be more updated than the original firmware

The smartphone is faster

One of the biggest advantages of using custom ROMs is your smartphone will be faster. Themes and applications preinstalled by the manufacturer are reduced to almost nothing. This saves a lot of memory space and increases the device's performance.

Customization options galore

Custom ROMs not only bring the latest version of Android but also give you many customization options. The possibilities are almost limitless.

androidpit oneplus one hero image 1
The OnePlus One gets along well with custom ROMs. / © AndroidPIT

You have root access (administrative)

With root access, you have control over all of the functions of your device. With the original Android, some functions are hidden. Now the modified firmware gives you unlimited access to all the features of your smartphone. Furthermore, backups are performed more easily.

Ideal for purists

Since custom ROMs are based on the 'Android Open Source Project' they are enriched with more functions and the appropriate driver by the team behind the community firmware. So if you bought a less stocky Android device like a Sony or Samsung you can still get a stocky experience.

Compatibility: is there a custom ROM for my device?

There are numerous points of contact when seeking out third-party firmware. Community forums like the AndroidPIT or XDA-Developers are very well organized, reliable and generally quite friendly. You'll be able to find a wide range of sub-forums for special devices and advice for updating.

Disadvantages: why not to get a custom ROM

Custom ROMs are wonderful but before you decide to change your device's original firmware you should familiarize yourself with the disadvantages of the process.

They void the warranty

If your phone is still under warranty, you could have the possibility of voiding it if you decide to install a custom ROM. There are just a few manufacturers that will tolerate changes to the device system. Xiaomi is one of them.

They're a lot of work

Custom ROMs are perfect for those who love a good challenge. But if this doesn't sound like you then you won't like custom ROMs. Between updates, the system root and unstable versions of a device, your patience could reach its limits.

The lack of Google applications

Third-party firmware comes with very few Google apps. The Play Store applications have to be installed again. The Google apps that you will need to install again can be found on the site OpenGapps.org.

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 don't understand the basic idea behind custom ROMs. Do we need them just because of variety? If they really prune android to its bare minimum, how are they different from stock Android which we get on Pixel? And since they seem very hastily thrown together, I'm surprised they aren't buggy.

    • Custom ROMs are good for devices that manufacturers have stopped updating. They allow you to get the latest version of Android on an older device.

      • That is a good point for custom ROMs. Apple definitely seems to be doing a good job rolling out updates promptly and keeping almost all devices still being used actually equipped with the latest iOS. Steve Jobs' fascination with complete control of the end-user experience does seem satisfying at times. Most Android users, on the other hand, are stuck with older versions of the operating system.
        One thing, however. The targeted market of custom ROMs doesn't just consist of users with pretty old devices which are no longer getting system updates. Hobbyists who like tinkering with and modifying their phones are a part of this market too.

      • Bastian Siewers
        • Admin
        • Staff
        3 months ago Link to comment

        Yes, they are, and the main reason for using Custom ROMs are features. Most CRs offer so much more than any stock Android version. You can basically tinker around with everything, while it takes some time it's also a lot of fun :)

      • Thanks. Although I am fascinated by custom ROMs, sadly I can't find a proper one for my Samsung Galaxy A7 model SM-A700FD. I want a proper one, not just a nightly indie modification. If you can suggest something, I'll be grateful.

      • Bastian Siewers
        • Admin
        • Staff
        3 months ago Link to comment

        Well, there are smartphones that are greatly supported by the community and others sadly are not. The A7 is one of those phones that do not really interest the community :(

  • Dwarfer66 3 months ago Link to comment

    For me Echoe Rom Nougat is the best TOUCHWIZ rom, screw Aosp style roms they are so boring. There is now way I would use an aosp stlye rom on my s7 edge.

  • blausand 4 months ago Link to comment

    Cory, nobody cares about ten year old minor UI features like dim bars.

    What possibilities to start a life without vendor lock-ins comes with each ROM team?
    - StockyROM for example, introduced a wizard that lets you decide exactly what to kick off BEFORE the first login.
    - CyanogenMod's team had a love affair with microsoft venture capital - and no code audit afterwards. Can their code be trusted in any way?
    - Which ROM brings native support for free standards such as CalDAV or CardDAV for synchronizing with your own cloud?
    (Hint: Apparently, none as of now. Sadly, even alternative software repositories such as F-Droid have to be installed manually.)
    - Explain the negative meaning of "original firmware" against the meaning of "stock". Original means none less than "completely hijacked"!

  • blausand 4 months ago Link to comment

    This article is bullocks, really.

    Author completely fails to nail the different motivations behind the teams.
    On top, this tells lies like a general "need" for Google Apps. Living without is a basic motivation for custom ROMs.
    Sorry i can't deliver better (as of yet).

  • Gohar Ali 4 months ago Link to comment

    PC-Man Is Best Roms

  • I thing OmniROM is the best for advanced user.

  • I want a custom rom for infocus m330
    Is there any custom rom out there please need it badly

    • You might try some of these?
      Try - needrom or these others....search their sites and find your device. (Since I can't post the actual links just add the ",com" to the end of them when you search!

      androidmtk
      leakite
      kriztekblog

  • RATHISH 7 months ago Link to comment

    My phone is intex aqua hd power .there is no update for my phone. Then how can my phone with lollipop version .i got my phone before 1year till now i didn't get any update.pls help me. I need custom ROM for intex aqua hd power _v08_indian.

  • I need a ROM for Intex Aqua Star 2 (8GB) please any one help me out !!!!

    I don't a ROM in my phone unfortunately deleted

  • I have a rooted Samsung Note 4, what is the best Camera friendly ROM as I am running CM13 which is very unfriendly with my camera and I am a photography hobbiest and going crazy with my phone resetting everytime I want to get a good pic and have missed so many awesome shots,Please help...

  • thenext 8 months ago Link to comment

    thank you for article

  • ahtiahti 8 months ago Link to comment

    Pokemon go

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