What Are The Best Custom Android ROMs?

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The moment you realize you can flash your Android phone with a new ROM is a pivotal one. Suddenly, you’re free: Endless customization options, no more vendor bloatware, and, best of all, you don’t have to wait for official updates. But that freedom can soon turn into confusion: There are just so many ROMs out there! Which should you pick?

If you’ve never flashed a ROM before and are trying to figure out what’s the best ROM for your device, this is the post you’ve been looking for. I’ll be covering four of the most important ROMs available today, and then some.

The Mother Lode: XDA

Before we start discussing any particular ROM, there is one thing you need to know: When you need the most current information about ROMs for your device, go to the XDA Developers forums. Don’t do it right now: If you don’t know anything about ROMs, XDA may prove too daunting at first. But after your read this post and have some context, XDA is your #1 authoritative source for up-to-the-minute ROM information. That’s where the ROM developers hang out and showcase their creations.

Now let’s talk ROMs.

CyanogenMod

roms   What Are The Best Custom Android ROMs?

Claim to fame: “CyanogenMod offers the most barebone Android experience coupled with some very powerful tweaks.”

Whereas other Android ROMs are stuffed full of crazy customizations, CyanogenMod works to keep everything lean and mean. It offers an experience that’s relatively close to what is known as “stock” or AOSP (Android Open Source Project) — the pristine version of Android you’d be running if you had a Nexus device.

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CyanogenMod is a very mature ROM. If you’re sick of your phone’s bloated and ugly interface and are wishing you had a Nexus, this is what you need. A rock-solid option for people who just need their phone to work.

Banner features:

  • Offers a clean, uncluttered user interface.
  • Supports themes.
  • Has an audio equalizer.
  • Lets you customize the Quick Settings.

Official website: http://www.cyanogenmod.org

AOKP

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Claim to fame: “With AOKP, you can generally do a lot more with your device than what you could do with the original firmware that came installed on it.”

Where CyanogenMod is restrained and pragmatic, AOKP celebrates the freedom to tweak and customize. Its exuberant website touts its “magical unicorn bytes,” but really, what you’re getting is a boatload of features bolted onto what used to be stock Android. If you like Cyanogen but hanker for something with a bit more oomph, AOKP might be the ROM you were looking for.

Banner features:

  • Vibration patterns: You can make per-contact custom vibration patterns, so you know who’s calling you when the phone is still in your pocket.
  • Custom toggles: These take things a step further than the Cyanogen Quick Settings.
  • Custom navigation ring: You know that ring that pops up when you press the Android home button, which lets you swipe up for Google Now? AOKP lets you completely customize that, adding up to five different swipe targets. Seriously useful (for me, at least).

With AOKP, that’s really just the tip of the iceberg.

Official website: http://aokp.co/

Paranoid Android

Claim to fame: Truly unprecedented levels of customization, with features that aren’t based on stock Android at all.

Where CyanogenMod hews closely to Android’s original vision, and AOKP bolts on interesting customization, Paranoid Android introduces features that are on a completely different level. Their Google+ community has a Features tag which is a long list that shows what each feature does, but see below for a taste.

Distinguishing features:

  • Hybrid Engine: This lets you define the DPI on a per-app basis. In simple terms, you could have Gmail really really tiny (so lots of text fits in), but Titanium Backup nice and big, so that you don’t make any mistakes and delete your entire phone because you missed a tiny button. So, each app has its own size, and some have their own layout, so you can use Gmail’s tablet interface on your phone. An incredibly powerful feature.
  • Pie Controls: This is something you can do with Cyanogen, too: Remove the bottom bar and the top status bar, so that every app takes up the full screen. To access the controls, just swipe from the side of the device and a “pie” menu opens up:

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  • HALO: Think Facebook’s “chat heads” on steroids. This is a powerful way to show notifications from apps. Here’s a video that shows it in action:

Official website: None. There’s a Google Plus page, though.

PAC ROM

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Claim to fame: Offering the best of all worlds.

Can’t decide which of the three aforementioned ROMs is best for you? No problem: PAC ROM combines them all into one! PAC stands for ParanoidAndroid, AOKP, CyanogenMod. It’s a ROM that adds very little original functionality, instead just mashing up everything that’s great about the three ROMs above, for a truly no-compromise experience. That’s my personal ROM of choice, and I’ve reviewed PAC ROM for Xperia Z before.

Distinguishing features:

  • Sensible settings: As you can imagine, mashing up three ROMs can create a nightmare in the Settings screen. PAC resolves this and harmonizes all settings from the three ROMs into something that (sort of) makes sense.
  • You don’t have to choose: That’s the key selling point, really. Enjoy the best features of AOKP and Paranoid Android, along with the stock sensibilities offered by CyanogenMod.

Official website: http://pac-rom.com/

Vendor-Specific Mods

These four ROMs hold one thing in common: They’re device-agnostic. In other words, if you have a recent-model mainstream device, it is likely that all four ROMs will be available for it. That’s why I focused on them. That said, there’s also a completely different breed of custom ROMs: ROMs based off whatever flavor of Android your phone was running when you first took it out of the box.

For example, HONAMiXZ is a ROM for the Sony Xperia Z, based on Sony’s custom firmware. You get a very similar look to what you had to begin with, but with more customization options. This is important for people who like the stuff phone makers put on their phones: Maybe you adore HTC Sense. I cannot cover these ROMs extensively since they change on a per-device basis, but you should know they exist.

Installing: Not Here

One thing notably missing from this roundup of ROMs is how to install your ROM of choice once you figure out what you want. The good news is that now that you know what these ROMs do, you can safely go to XDA and start digging around. When you find the thread for the ROM you want, it will also have installation instructions.

For a MakeUseOf take on installing a custom ROM, check out How To Find & Install a Custom ROM For Your Android Device. This is an abbreviated guide, but it does give a general sense of how to go about things.

What’s Your ROM of Choice?

Are you currently using any of the ROMs I’ve covered? If so, which one? And if not, will you be installing one of these? Let me know below.

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66 Comments - Write a Comment

Reply

Achyut R

I would install the PAC ROM because im the type of person who likes to have but acess to evry feature, but never uses them, :)

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Achyut R

I would install the PAC ROM because im the type of person who likes to have but acess to evry feature, but never uses them, :)

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adamar

Isn’t their some minimalistic rom with only a dialer, sms and play store?

I don’t want/need all the extra crap.

Kev Q

I think that’s like asking for a version of Windows without Notepad, Terminal, control panel, and a whole host of other applications. They’re part of the operating system.

If you want basic, then I would go for Cyanogenmod as it’s the cleanest version of Android you’re going to get without owning a Nexus.

WhyYouSoStupid

I recommend you just use a brick! Just buy a simple $30 phone!

Whorehay

The closest one to this (that I can think of) would be Slim ROM. Don’t need Face Unlock or Voice Dialer? Want the All-In-One package with everything built-in? The choice is yours. A few officially supported devices are listed on their website, but it has been ported to many other devices.

http://www.slimroms.net/index.php/downloads

Navanski

There are many ‘minimalistic’ roms out there. Try Carbon, Slim or Supernexus. They are going to give you more than you want but that’s why they’re called Smartphones. Try a Nokia 3210 if you want real simplicity.

shrikant patil

CYANOGEN MOD.

search for a rom without “BLOATWARE”,

install titanium backup, you will be able to uninstall almost all apps apart from system apps, i have gone far enuff to uninstall – calculator, play store, voice recorder, wallpaper, and many more things.

for more minimalism sell your android phone and buy this one http://www.priceindia.in/mobiles/iball-aasaan-price/

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Saumyakanta S

what about pure android ???

Doc

There’s no such thing as “pure Android” unless you mean the Android that ships on a Google Nexus device; every phone requires device drivers for video, audio, etc., so every device is slightly different.

Saumyakanta S

You mean that we cant install the android provided by google directly to our devices ?

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Kev Q

I personally run Cyanogenmod on my Galaxy S3. As you said Erez, it’s a no frills stock (or as close you can get) that just works. It’s mature, great, and works really well. The best thing about it is no horrible Touchwiz UI, or bloatware.

My girlfriend also has an S3 running the version of Android that comes with it, and the speed/performance on my phone vs hers are just poles apart. She keeps begging me to put Cyanogenmod on her phone…I’m sure I’ll get around to it eventually. :-)

LynR

KevQ, how is the battery life of the Cyanogenmod vs. standard on the S3? Do you get any increase in battery life? My son and I have had S3’s for almost a year and are noticing that the battery life is really declining.

Kev Q

LynR,

I don’t find it to be much better than my girlfriends stock S3 to be honest. I still have to charge it every night. However, like I said, the performance is MUCH better.

You could always use one of the battery saving apps like Juice Defender. I’ve used it for ages and it’s a superb app. Here’s more info about it:

http://www.makeuseof.com/tag/juicedefender-squeeze-battery-life-android-device-16/

Yusuf

install TEMASEK CM11 from xda. (it’s a kitkat)
i installed in in my s3, battery life so much better.

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Meidimi S

I got the CyanogenMod ROM. Its nice and faster than the stock on my Gnex. I tried AOKP and enjoyed the custmozation but I’m so used to CyanogenMod I went back.

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Anurag J

I’m in Love with MIUI
Why isn’t it here ?

Erez Z

Good point, actually. It’s got a bit less traction and isn’t available on as many phones, but I agree that it’s a great ROM (reviewed it for MakeUseOf a while back).

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Josh

SlimRoms ;)

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Jason N

I use an unofficial port of CM7 on an older tablet I got for xmas a couple of years ago. It was a big improvement over the 2.2 it shipped with. Unfortunately, the dev behind it lost interest in that project and moved on to bigger better things, and some of the original bugs in his release are still there today.
I still use it as a comic reader and watch some PLEX on it. The tablet still works ok, if you don’t mind inverted cameras or side-loading apps because the Play store doesn’t have any idea what this device is.
The point being, ROMS are great, I’ve flashed one to everything I can ( custom firmware on my router, a couple nice hax on a smart TV, ROMS on every phone and tablet Ive ever had, a Western Digital set top box running a Frankenstein OS a buddy of mine compiled, heck, I’m keeping an eye out for one for my toaster) but keep in mind what the Devs themselves bring to the table – use ROMS with as much support as you can, or you’re going to have headaches. CM, AOKP, etc, all ‘the big boys’ are backed dev communities/groups and you should be safer there, but if you have a less popular device, keep that in mind before you go under the hood – if it’s not a mainstream device, be careful. Some are made by one or two guys in their spare time, or possibly students learning to program, etc…you can easily end up without the support the big releases have. Know what you’re getting into before you get started.

Erez Z

That’s really, really good advice. Few things are more painful than a deserted ROM. I think that’s also one reason not to get cheapo devices in hopes of upgrading them: The devs tend to move on to better devices.

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Bruno C

No luck. None of them works on Galaxy Y Duos (GT-S6102b).

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GodSponge

If I had a phone that supported it, I’d definitely use PAC ROM. However I have a Thunderbolt AKA Mecha. I loved Liquid’s rom for a long time but I had to move to UnSense Jelato because of stability problems. I still wish that I had Liquid’s customizability on the UnSense rom.

InkSlinger

It can be built for your device..All you need to do is get on xda in a thread for your phone and ask…ANY ROM CAN BE BUILT FOR ANY PHONE!!

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Eric B

Totally forgot to login before posting…

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nigger

Yay

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papi92

Anything on Droid-Hive

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Vipul J

MIUI is also a major player now.
Also if someone plans to join XDA, making a “What’s the best rom?” Thread is basically how people get banned!

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Athos

Im using SlinRom on my I777 and stock 4.22 on S4.
They just pick the most popular ones. Of course AOKP and cryanogem must be on any list but… the others are just popular.
There are another options.

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Ismael R

PAC would be great, but AOSP-based ROMS are (my opinion) too much of a pain in the butt, if you’re on a network using PRLs like Sprint/Verizon. I know there are ways to update your PRLs, but it just wasn’t for me. Maybe in the future, if I ever change carriers.

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Tim

What about Miui?

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Matt Kundert

I just went to stock Android so I could switch to the new latest stable version of CyanogenMod for my i777 Samsung Galaxy S II, but after seeing this list I think I’m going to give PACROM a try first. I like the slide-out dial on Paranoid and AOKP just looks great, if it isn’t too buggy this sounds perfect.

Thanks for taking my idea!

InkSlinger

I build and maintain pac rom for my unsupported device. Rom is gorgeous and all the bells and whistles are there.. The bugs come from the devs building for each device…

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Matt Kundert

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NmZq-wItKY4

The AOKP video you linked said it was removed by owner, but I believe this is the same video.

Erez Z

Wow, that’s really annoying! Thanks for pointing that out… It’s weird, too, because this very same video is embedded right on the AOKP homepage, and it’s now broken. I’ve decided to remove the link altogether. Thanks again!

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Eric B

Currently using Avatar ROM, it’s basically CM with some additions, thinking I might try PAC ROM :-/

InkSlinger

Avatar is fun…I built it for my phone and its pretty much a cm base with miui settings…I liked it..

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Saiful Zaree J

Tried Paranoid Android…but returned to TW based ROM…currently I’m on Android Revolution HD (ARHD). The principal is, modification on stock ROM (stock ROM without bloatware, or at least, you can opt in/out)

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Rich Lewis

Cyanogen for my Motorola Xoom. Works perfectly.

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Mark A

i’m still not brave enough to flash my phone…
i’m afraid of it becoming a brick…

using xperia ray, btw. Just some low end hp. :(

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kumarkishore

most informative article.. but my phone is working good.. and i don’t want to loss warranty now.. after that i’ll try.. thank you very much

InkSlinger

youonly lose warranty if you dont know how to flash back to stock ;)

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Haran

Though AOKP does more offer more options than CyanogenMod, the ones you listed are all available than CyanogenMod. I don’t personally use AOKP, but I believe they have features like you can swipe across the Status bar to change the brightness.

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Juan Pedro

Cyanogen all the way. Clean and works.

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Jessica

I have a Galaxy S3 and I use Clean ROM. It uses Touch Wiz, so the Samsung apps are easier to use, but without as much bloat.

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saraswathi

I would install the PAC ROM because im the type of person who likes to have but access to every features.

i like to share one think Samsung Galaxy Ace s 5830.Samsung brought making brilliant job.I brought this Samsung in Ezeekart with 55% discount its amazing

know just make use of it like me.
http://www.ezeekart.com/p-176/samsung-galaxy-ace-s5830-%28black%29.html

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Kilroy238

On my S3 my favorite ROM is UltimaRom. It’s been great and I’ve never had any trouble with it.

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TraZe

PAC 4.3 Mango !!!

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Joseph G

Quite agree with the ParanoidAndroid selection. Currently running PA+ 3.60 (Android 4.2.2) on GT-i9300 variant of the Galaxy S3. Benchmark scores exceeded that of TouchWiz on 2 out of 3 occasions:

Geekbench 2 – 1822 (TouchWiz – 1719)
Quadrant Standard – 5216 (5378)
AnTuTu Benchmark – 18565 (17828)

Not had an opportunity to test AOKP or PAC ROM but I certainly will as they look pretty good. As for Cyanogenmod, I’m very disappointed that there still is no stable release of CM 10 for i9300 yet. Yes, there are nightly releases but as my phone is my “daily driver,” I can’t really go that route.

As it stands, PA is the best ROM I’ve ever used. Magnificent stuff.

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Spaz

i cant seem to find a working paranoid dl

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Jon S

This is REALLY interesting.
I just got a new WM8880-MID, & was already thinking about a ROM.
Here’s a ?:
*IF* I flash it, what are the odds that I flash-back to OEM/stock?
Thanks for good read.

Erez Z

Before you flash it, you’ll have to install a recovery (such as ClockWorkMod, also known as CWM). Within the recovery, you will find an option called “Nandroid” or “backup”. This will create a 1:1 image of your phone’s memory, which will be saved on your SD card or internal memory.

If your new ROM is giving you trouble, simply boot to recovery, and restore the nandroid backup you took before flashing that ROM. Your phone will then be exactly as before.

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Dwayne

I like Slim ROM on my T-Mobile GS II. It’s, by far, the most stable ROM (with the most features as it’s built on Cyanogen) for my device, and I’ve tried them all except PAC man ROM. I suggest using TWRP for as your recovery, though.

I used to really love KANG. But the unicorn power ultimately proved too unstable for me.

Reply

hp2vid

Hi!
I’m using the Bam rom (http://bam-android.com/). It includes CyanogenMod, AOKP and Paranoid Android.
In short, this is the 3 best rom in 1! Awesome, is not it?

Reply

sl0j0n

Mucho thanks, “Erez Z”.
The forum at techknow.me says that the WM8880_MID stock ROM is broken.
Paid apps can’t be installed, apps can’t be moved or installed to SD card, & most root apps fail.
I’ve downloaded the WM8880 “Driver CD”‘ & the “VIA V7 WM8880 firmware 20130704″, awa jre_7u45, windows-i586 & windows-x64, adt-bundle-windows-x86_64-20130917.zip, & eclipse-standard-kepler-SR1-win32-x86_64.zip.
Since I can’t find any ROMs for the WM8880 except stock, I’m thinking about downloading the most popular custom ROM, comparing it to the stock ROM , & using the base code from both to hack the stock ROM.
Any advice?

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Albin P

Note that Paranoid Android has ceased CDMA support, sadly.

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Renkyz

I’m currently running Cyangenmod 10.2 on my SGS2. After reading up on PAC ROM I’m really interested in trying that one out now :)

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Parker S.

I would choose Cyanogenmod. I’ve used it before and it works great. Even NIGHTLY!

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Nizwan

Cyanogenmod – Always Best

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Rish Ananthan

Desperate to try out the latest Paranoid Android release.

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Viral_infection

i want to know if there are any ROMs that are usable on the DoublePower (DOPO) D7018

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Chekhn

“They’re device-agnostic. In other words, if you have a recent-model mainstream device, it is likely that all four ROMs will be available for it. That’s why I focused on them.”

Wrong, Paranoid Android only supports Nexus phones (officially). So your statement is wrong and misleading. But yes people port different roms but in that case there are other roms with a bigger number of usage/download. So Paranoid shouldn’t be on the list if that is your reason.

Erez Z

Third-party PAbuilds are available for Galaxy phones, Xperia ones, and others.

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molsndry

I installed cyanogenmod 11 on a samsung galaxy s4 and now have no sound at all and cannot find a fix.

Erez Z

That’s frustrating! Did you try asking on XDA Developers or MakeUseOf Answers?

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