Why You No Longer Need a Custom ROM for Android Devices
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Not so long ago, most Android enthusiasts would root their phone and flash a custom ROM. It was the norm, even on brand new devices.

But things have changed. Rooting is less important Do You Still Need to Root Your Android Phone? Do You Still Need to Root Your Android Phone? Rooting used to be a necessity for many, but as the years have gone by, is it still as useful? Read More than it used to be, so what about custom ROMs? If you’re rocking a Pixel 2 or a OnePlus 5T, will you really benefit from flashing a new ROM? Let’s take a look.

Why Do People Use ROMs, Anyway?

It’s fair to say that the golden age of custom ROMs has passed. Android phones are better than they’ve ever been, even at the budget end of the market.

But they still do serve a purpose. Here are the main reasons why you should consider installing a custom ROM How to Install a Custom ROM on Your Android Device How to Install a Custom ROM on Your Android Device Ready to revitalize your Android phone or tablet? Installing a custom ROM is the best way to do that -- powering it up with even better performance and features. Read More .

Security and Operating System Updates

We’ve looked before at which manufacturers are most likely to keep your phone updated Which Smartphone Manufacturers Are Best for Android Updates? Which Smartphone Manufacturers Are Best for Android Updates? Android phones aren't always guaranteed updated, so how do you know which manufacturer to go for? Read More . In short, if you have a flagship phone (or select mid-ranger) from a major manufacturer, you can expect two Android updates, plus security patches for two to three years. On any other device, don’t count on it.

Not having Android updates is frustrating. You miss out on new features and performance enhancements. Not getting security updates is a bigger concern. It’s not like our smartphones have a lack of security issues 9 Security Reasons You Should Upgrade to Android 8.0 Oreo 9 Security Reasons You Should Upgrade to Android 8.0 Oreo Android 8.0 Oreo improved the security of the operating system by leaps and bounds -- and that means you need to upgrade. Read More .

If your phone has been abandoned by the manufacturer, installing a custom ROM is your only option for keeping it up to date. ROMs like Paranoid Android and Lineage have wide device support, get frequent updates, and will patch the worst of your system’s bugs.

Privacy and Security

The recent furor surrounding data collected by OnePlus devices (along with a second claim that the company denied) have highlighted the amount of trust we have to place in our phone manufacturers.

This applies more to budget phones that may have security problems Your Chinese Smartphone Might Have A Serious Security Problem Your Chinese Smartphone Might Have A Serious Security Problem A recently discovered vulnerability in many budget Chinese handsets, which could allow an attacker to gain root access, is currently a threat to owners of Android 4.4 KitKat devices Read More . And even the world’s second largest smartphone manufacturer, Huawei, has recently found its US ambitions blocked by US security agencies over concerns about spying.

And even once you get past this, every Android user is handing over vast amounts of personal data to Google Here's How You Can Use Android But Ditch Google Here's How You Can Use Android But Ditch Google Want to use your Android smartphone or tablet without Google? Want to use open source software? Here we take an in-depth look at exactly how to do that. Read More and others every single day.

A custom ROM can help address your security and privacy concerns. ROMs are — or should be — open source. The code is available for anyone to scrutinize. Even if you don’t have the skills to analyze it yourself, you can be sure someone will and flag up any concerns.

why no longer need custom rom android

Lineage OS has numerous privacy controls built in, including a Privacy Guard that restricts how apps can use your data. Plus, you can use it without Google apps if you prefer.

For even more robust protections, take a look at Copperhead OS. This security-centric ROM is available mostly for Google’s own phones.

They Extend the Life of Cheaper or Older Phones

The other possible benefit to a custom ROM is that it can save you money How to Upgrade Your Android Phone Without Buying a New One How to Upgrade Your Android Phone Without Buying a New One Upgrading your Android phone can be expensive, so how can you get the most out of your current device? Read More . If you have an older phone that you’re generally happy with, or were shopping on a tight budget, a ROM can extend its life.

These are the types of phones that rarely get updated, and are often not as well optimized as their higher end brethren. There’s nothing you can do about slow hardware. But a leaner, less-bloated ROM should give you a performance boost. You can often find new firmware that has been designed for longer battery life too.

why no longer need custom rom android
Image Credit: Samsung

In some cases, you might even be able to unlock new functions or find features from newer flagships ported back to older ones. The best place to look for these ROMs is at xda-developers.com. There are individual forums there for almost every Android phone.

Project Treble and the Return of Custom ROMs

Before introducing you to the case against custom ROMs, it’s worth making a brief mention of a new feature of Android Oreo called Project Treble.

The aim of Project Treble is to make it easier, quicker, and cheaper for manufacturers to update their devices to a new version of Android. It does this by modularizing parts of the Android framework. It’s all very technical, and you can read more about it on the Android developer website.

why no longer need custom rom android

Here’s why it’s relevant:

Devices that support Treble must be able to run a generic, stock Android firmware. This means you could have a single custom ROM based on stock Android that worked on many devices. You’d no longer need developers to produce builds for each individual handset.

Moreover, every device that launches with Android Oreo or later must support Treble (but not those that have been upgraded from an older version). In the not too distant future, we may start to find a lot more custom ROMs becoming available for a lot more devices.

Why You Shouldn’t Use Custom ROMs

The existence of custom ROMs owes itself to the somewhat ramshackle nature of Android for its first few years.

It lacked anything like the polish or performance of iOS, and the custom firmwares each manufacturer built were bloated, slow, and full of questionable design decisions.

why no longer need custom rom android
Image Credit: Samsung, HTC

But things have changed. iOS is no longer the standard bearer for smartphones, and although every phone’s software is still different, they’re now much more tastefully designed. So are custom ROMs even relevant now?

The Camera Might Get Worse

The camera is one of the biggest draws for any phone, and as their complexity increases, it’s also one of the hardest things to implement in a custom ROM.

why no longer need custom rom android

Many phone cameras now have dual lens setups, fancy HDR effects, and high frame rate 4K video. They all need special tools to drive them, and these are all part of the phone’s firmware. There’s no app that you can simply lift and install on another device. Nor can you replace all of the functionality with third-party camera apps 9 Apps That Help You Get More Out of Your Android Camera 9 Apps That Help You Get More Out of Your Android Camera Your Android camera is capable of a lot more than your stock camera app is capable of. Read More .

Replace the original firmware by installing a custom ROM, and there’s a good chance you’ll be downgrading your camera in the process.

Oh, and if you choose the wrong custom ROM you could potentially lose other features too, like quick charging support or Android Pay.

Stability and Reliability

In the early days of Android, phones were often slow. They’d grind to a halt 5 Reasons Your Phone Slows Down Over Time 5 Reasons Your Phone Slows Down Over Time Is your smartphone suddenly slow? We've got good news: you're not going crazy. That loss of device power hits both Android and iOS users. Devices do slow down over time. Here's why. Read More if you went more than a couple of days without rebooting, and they tended to crash a fair bit.

This no longer holds true. While some manufacturers still have better reputations than others when it comes to speed and bloat, you can generally now be confident that most phones will be smooth, stable, and have decent battery life.

why no longer need custom rom android

ROMs come with no guarantees. The official builds of the most popular ones, like Lineage or Resurrection Remix, get updated often. You can hope for a regular supply of refinements and bug fixes for these. But for unofficial builds, or for less well known ROMs on less popular devices, your experiences may be a lot less positive.

Stock Android Is No Longer the Best

One of the biggest draws of custom ROMs used to be that you could install stock Android on any device. You could replace the bloated software from Samsung, Huawei, or HTC with a ROM based on the open source version of Android. Throw in the suite of Google apps, and you’d have something akin to a pure Android device. This is the principle around which Google’s Nexus phones were built.

But Stock Android is no longer the best How Android Differs Depending on the Hardware Manufacturer How Android Differs Depending on the Hardware Manufacturer Not all Android devices are created equal. See how yours stands out from the crowd with our comprehensive guide. Read More version of Android.

Even Google admits this. The best parts of the company’s Pixel phones aren’t Android. The camera app, Google Assistant, and the fast, streamlined launcher are all proprietary software. They’re developed and owned by Google. In fact, on the product pages for the Pixel phones, Android barely even gets a mention.

It’s true that stock Android is still fast, but it’s now very much a bare-bones system.

ROMs Are Just Not Needed

The main reason why custom ROMs even existed in the first place was to fill in some of the gaps in the Android operating system. There were so many features missing in Android for so long that the only way to get them was by flashing a new firmware.

Among other things, ROMs would give you:

  • Control over app permissions
  • Better power management
  • Improved RAM management
  • More control over notifications
  • Multiple user accounts
  • The ability to reply to messages from the notification shade
  • Support for installing apps on an SD card

All of these are now part of Android and are available on virtually every modern device. Even the old complaint about bloatware has been mostly fixed — you can just disable any built-in apps that you don’t need.

Plus, if you’re tempted by a ROM just to try something new, why not try a launcher app 5 Awesome Free Launchers You May Not Know About [Android] 5 Awesome Free Launchers You May Not Know About [Android] I'm an Android user because I love to tinker with my phone and change it up every once in a while. Android lets me do that easily right out of the box because it was... Read More instead? They’re easier and safer to install, and you can test as many as you like.

So, Do You Still Need Custom ROMs?

The case against custom ROMs is growing. Android has no obvious missing features, stock firmwares are better than ever, and a ROM might not even be able to get the most out of your phone’s hardware.

The answer seems straightforward. If your phone is older or very cheap, has bad stock firmware, or has been abandoned In Today’s Android World, Up-to-Date Software Is Only for the Privileged In Today’s Android World, Up-to-Date Software Is Only for the Privileged If you own an Android phone, there's a good chance you rarely get Android security updates. And you can blame it on the Google Pixel. Read More by the manufacturer, then it may be worth trying a custom ROM.

But for everyone else — whether you’re using a flagship, quality mid-ranger, even a few budget phones, or are just happy with what you’ve got — there’s almost no benefit to using a custom ROM.

Do you use custom ROMs? Or have you recently given up on them? Share your experiences with us in the comments.

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  1. Jef Fowler
    February 10, 2018 at 4:14 pm

    Interesting article. I have an older nexus 7 (2012) that worked OK when I got it (used from a friend in 2015) but upgrading to Android 6 killed it. Basically useless.
    Tried Lineage unofficial build for it and wow! Night and day. Works great now, crashes if I change the wallpaper so I live with the default.
    Note that Netflix won't work with custom ROM's.
    So older devices can be useful still with a new ROM.
    I also like the idea of having more control over apps and bloatware but if newer iterations also include that then I could be happy with 'standard' proprietary Android.

  2. Frank John
    February 8, 2018 at 3:20 pm

    I use a custom ROM because the Chinese phone I'm using had a horrible experience. If you use a Xiaomi, Huawei or LeEco device you'll see what I mean.

    • Paraph
      February 12, 2018 at 10:36 am

      I installed Lineage OS on my Redmi Note 4 just to get rid of the heavy bloatware that was taking too much RAM.
      Also, I've always been fond of pur Android experience.

      • Frank John
        February 12, 2018 at 11:02 am

        I've long since dumped that stupid Chinese ROM. Using Resurrection Remix v5.8.5
        However, the trade off is that I lost the fingerprint reader and proper camera support. I'm using Footej but it's not as fast as the stock camera app was neither does it have panorama. The IR blaster only works with the manufactures ROM.
        I'd rather use with my phone like this than use that awful EUI.

  3. Shikhanshu
    February 8, 2018 at 4:37 am

    The two major reasons why I use a custom ROM (unrooted):
    1. Complete theming of the OS (and third party apps) using Substratum
    2. Many small tweaks like - night light (on devices that it's not available by default), volume button swap on orientation change and many, many more that make it a pleasure to use the phone.

  4. Armakuni
    February 8, 2018 at 4:28 am

    The only device I had on which I switched to a custom ROM was the Optimus Black from LG. It was the only alternative because LG didn't get it to make a good update for this device.

    Actually I have a Honor 6X and there is no need to root it or to switch to an other ROM.

    Rooting or alternate ROMs are not the best alternative. The manufacturers should do their work, even on low-cost devices.

  5. NNTB
    February 7, 2018 at 11:15 pm

    The real reason to use a custom rom is to get rid of uninstallable bloatware. to use roms that accomplish things like slimming down the phone experience and speeding it up. if you do it right you can use custom roms to get more out of your phone then stock roms. this article is ill informed and not sure who paid for it to be written. but obviously it has a anti consumer feel to it.

    to be fair i have a galaxy s8 i cant root. becuase if i did knox would break along with other stuff. why would i root my s8 and put a custom rom on it? well i live in japan. and even though the s8 has English language on the Japanese versions. it dosnt have bixby voice. a feature thats advertised heavaly in the usa. and if you use a custom rom you can get bixby working on the s8 on a forign phone.

    but in doing so you break knox security.

    its really a catch 22 and i am so unhappy with my experience with android so far. because i am stuck on a stock rom.

    • Karay
      February 14, 2018 at 1:08 am

      I feel similar about this article. The writer has curved mirror.
      Updating to the newest version isn't the best solution in all time. My HTC 10 received Android 7 update and I install it. Unfortunately I lost some functionality (e.g. "menu" button availability on "app switcher" button). I hoped there will be better when Android 8 update arrived. I lost some functionality again, my phone slowed down and there are some misbehavior.
      We can't trust in Google, Apple and Microsoft because of massive surveillance. Actually we aren't customers anymore because our data is the real product and they want to sell it. This is the reason why we need alternative OS on our smartphones. Unfortunately we have very limited options.