While you might enjoy the way your smartphone interface looks and feels, you may not have realized just how different things can be. Custom ROMs give you the opportunity to explore all new designs and UIs for your device, as well as all-new (and often very impressive) functionality. If you are yet to explored the hidden pleasures of the Android community, here is our list of the best custom ROMs for Android.
CyanogenMod 11 - stable, stylish, with frequent updates
CyanogenMod is one of the most well-supported ROMs for Android, with a huge community, and frequent updates; it’s no wonder that this popular Android ROM even managed to find a home on last years OnePlus One.
Features of CyanogenMod include its unique app launcher entitled Trebuchet, personal themes, video screenshots via its "Screencast" functionality, and a mode specifically for viewing left-handed in landscape. Currently supported on more than 50 devices, look out for integration with Lollipop coming soon.
- CyanogenMod updates: which devices have the latest build?
Paranoid Android - Stock Android with subtle changes
The first appearance of the Paranoid Android Custom ROM dates back to early 2013, for Android Jelly Bean. The Paranoid Android ROM doesn't have a radical design overhaul, instead it 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" blends your status and navigation bar color with the particular app background. It's purely aesthetic, but provides a nice transition nonetheless.
Paranoid Android is available for a whole range of devices including the Nexus line and the OnePlus One. To learn more, visit ParanoidAndroid.co.
OmniROM - for the OmniSwitch toolbar
Designed by former CyanogenMod devs (Xplodwild, Chainfire, Dees_Troy, Pulser and Entropy) in late 2013, OmniROM is a no-frills ROM, basically offering the Stock Android experience with some nice extras.
OmniROM supports the ability to launch apps by tapping on the time and date in the notifications menu, it can add a notification counter in the status bar to show the number notifications you've received, and has the ability to manage the display brightness just by sliding your finger along the notifications bar.
OmniROM's standout feature, however, is the "OmniSwitch" shortcut. The OmniSwitch is a quick-menu which you can load with shortcuts and jump from any part of your phone to any app, or vice versa, and it is completely customizable.
Lollipop nightlies for OmniROM will be arriving shortly, head to OmniROM.org for more.
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, but is yet to be ported to any current-gen handsets. Find out more at slimroms.net.
AOKP - for complete control and tons of customization options
Android Open Kang Project, or AOKP, is aimed at serious Android modders, and those with good level of technical know-how. Released in September 2013, AOKP is now compatible with dozens of Android devices, and houses a number of interesting features, like the ability to customize shortcuts in the quick settings menu, and manage the color and blink rate of the LED notifications in several applications.
Additionally, this ROM also includes a feature called "Navigation ring", which acts an an intuitive shortcut for up to five apps. As if that wasn't enough, application permissions management and the ability to adjust processor performance are there, make this one of the most interesting Custom ROMs on android.
Stable releases are far and few between but after a break from October last year, a post on the AOKP website in March revealed that work would soon be starting on "proper" Lollipop builds. We'll be keeping an eye on this one. To learn more, visit AOKP.co.
The custom ROM database
Of course, this is by no means an exhaustive and you might want to do a little more research into other custom ROMs that are currently available. Thankfully, the fine ladies and gents over at the XDA Developers Forum have put together a custom ROM database that compares all the features of the major custom ROMs at a glance. It's a great resource.
What do you think is the best custom ROM on Android? Let us know in the comments below.