Stock Android has its advantages and disadvantages, but if you’ve grown tired of it, that pros & cons list doesn’t really matter anymore. Custom Android firmware is abundant, and there are plenty of choices to look at.
Many of these custom ROMs combine performance improvements with cool and useful features quite well and perhaps the most important limitations you could come across are the devices they support, build release frequency and stability.
This market is certainly in demand and it’s expanding really fast (even Microsoft is working on a Windows Phone ROM for Android devices if you can believe that). Some younger ROMs show great potential and we’re definitely keeping an eye on their evolution, so we can share it with you when the moment comes. However, our current selection focuses not just on quality, but also on the list of supported devices – so as many people as possible can actually install them.
With that said, here are some of the best custom ROMs for Android you should definitely take a look at this year.
CyanogenMOD has become incredibly popular, because it has an impressive collection of features, a highly customizable UI and it’s also one of the most stable ROMs out there. In fact, the ROM has spread so much, some devices get shipped with CM. CyanogenMOD has a great community, supports a variety of devices and receives frequent updates.
Among its best features, is the Trebuchet app launcher, built-in Screencast functionality and theme engine, customizable quick settings and status bar, a global blacklist and the privacy guard. There’s something for everybody in this ROM, plus it’s also very stable and gets security updates very often.
Furthermore, it has a one-click installer option, so it’s suitable even for those who are not very tech-savy. You can find out more information about CyanogenMOD as well as download builds on its official website.
During the past two years, Paranoid Android had plenty of time to ‘ripe’ and turn into an amazing and functional custom Android ROM. There are many aspects of the UI that can be tweaked – this ROM packs CyanogenMOD’s theme engine, although it provides additional ways to turn your Android device into something entirely unique.
It’s fast, stable and supports a ton of devices, including the Nexus series and the OnePlus One, although for the latter you might want to check out the newly released OxygenOS (a part of PA’s team has contributed to its development) before you decide to settle for Paranoid Android.
The ROM is actually similar to stock Android, but it does offer some very useful features like dynamic system bars, customizable app privacy settings, a distraction-free mode that hides all system bars as you’re viewing apps, and the list goes on.
I find this ROM to very good at simplifying access and navigation, and it gets frequent updates so it’s definitely worth taking into consideration, while trying to find the best ROM for your Android device. Visit the Paranoid Android official website to find out more!
Created by a team of former CyanogenMOD devs, OmniROM will give you a stock Android with a bunch of cool, extra features. A notification counter can be added to the status bar, you can change the screen’s brightness by simply sliding over the notifications bar and tapping on the time & date in the notifications menu to launch apps are just some of OmniROM’s great features.
This ROM has official support for a wide range of devices and the team regularly releases stable nightly builds for those who always want to have the newest features as fast as they appear.
OmniSwitch is definitely the highlight feature of OmniROM – a great app switcher that offers action buttons for application control and navigation like “switch to last app” and “kill all”. With OmniSwitch you can quickly go from apps to system areas and the other way around.
Check out OmniROM’s official website for additional information, device support and available builds.
AOKP Custom ROM
If the geek in you craves for an outrageous amount of system customization, AOKP might just be your cup of tea. The Android Open Kang Project offers support for Android devices from popular manufacturers and includes some handy features like customization of LED notifications and quick settings customizable shortcuts.
The “Navigation ring” is particularly interesting as it offers a 5 slot ring you can add shortcuts for your favorite apps. The Ribbon can be customized to include your favorite apps and it can be pinned to the lockscreen or the notification menu, or access it any time with a simple swipe motion.
Lollipop builds have taken their sweet time to arrive and on the 1st of April Team Kang wrote a blog post stating the delay was partially caused due to their collaboration with Xiaomi for the next MIUI (Xiaomi’s custom Android ROM, more on this later). This was actually a prank, although I think the last part of the post is true (the part in which the team says they have no plans to abandon AOKP and fans should expect new builds soon).
For this reason, if you own a supported device, but you’d prefer rocking Lollipop on your phone, waiting for the related builds is your best option.
Check out AOKP’s official website to learn more about the ROM, its list of supported devices and available builds.
Judging by this ROM’s name you might already suspect what its strong point is. SlimROMs is a lighter version of Android which you can expand to your liking, while keeping the OS bloat-free.
It’s among the cleanest aftermarket ROMs for Android, with a bare layout that’s easy to work with. SlimROMs baked the PIE features from CyanogenMOD and Paranoid Android into its own recipe for menu controls which can be personalized in more than one way.
The Privacy Guard feature is similar with those found in other ROMs (but useful nonetheless), allowing you to fully control app permissions. There are lots of SlimROMs builds for a variety of devices, based on older Android versions. Lollipop builds have been released a short while ago, with more devices planned to get support soon.
If you’re interested in trying out a more essential Android ROM you can find out more about SlimROMs on the official website.
If you’re having trouble deciding between the impressive amount of custom ROMs for your Android device, you might just find PAC-man ROM as the ideal solution. This ROM is a Swiss army knife, taking some of the best features from several other ROMs including CyanogenMOD, AOKP and Paranoid Android (yes, the PIE is there as well) to give you the most feature-rich Android experience possible.
Except for the newer builds, which may have some stability issues, Pac-man ROM runs smoothly, despite it’s large collection of features.
Lollipop builds have already started to roll out and the ROM has quite the list of supported devices, which you can see for yourself here. More information on PAC-man ROM can be found on the official website.
Carbon is another one of those custom ROMs which took advantage of the many already existing names on the market and implemented some of their best functionalities. The AOSP-based ROM includes features like PIE, various lock screen options, the ability to customize software and hardware keys, unofficial support for Voodoo sound and many more.
According to an official announcement, from now on, KitKat-based nightly builds will only include bug fixes and other stability improvements as the team behind Carbon ROM is focusing on developing Lollipop builds. No release date has been offered, but the devs say Carbon Lollipop is going to bring some significant changes that will make it worth our wait.
Real-time automated updates, speed and responsiveness, the built-in CyanogenMOD theme engine are just some of the features that make Carbon ROM a really attractive option.
There’s a pretty extensive list of devices that can be flashed with this ROM and you can see all of them here. Additional details and the latest news straight from the developers are available on the Carbon ROM official website.
I’m not sure why there’s a growing trend on developing new ROMs which for the most part rely on their older and ‘cooler’ siblings. Sure, CM, PA and AOKP have some great features, but I think many people are looking for something new and fresh when they decide to move away from the already established names on the market.
Vanilla RootBox definitely fits this pattern as it combines the super powers of the above mentioned ROMs, but it certainly doesn’t mean it’s bad. Offering a light installation and very stable releases, RootBox packs a cool set of features among which you’ll find Per app UI, Colors and Expanded Mode, AOKP’s permissions, a bunch of camera goodies and many others. Furthermore it offers OTA updates – the most effortless way to keep your device up to date.
There’s just one problem with this ROM: the latest builds are based on Android 4.1. Who knows if and when we’re going to see Lolilipop builds for Vanilla RootBox? With that said, it’s still a great ROM so be sure to visit its XDA Forums thread for more information and supported devices.
Xiaomi’s custom Android firmware is nothing short of amazing. The ROM is performance optimized but it manages to deliver a highly customizable UI and tons of handy features.
Highlights include MiSpaces – a new and superior version of the classic home screen, a revamped app switcher, a large number of personalized themes and lockscreens, as well as security features including Anti-Spam, Anti-Virus, device finder and Permission Manager.
It supports a variety of devices from the most popular manufacturers and the download section of MIUIs official website is incredibly well organized – check it out here.
This CyanogenMOD-based ROM comes with a robust set of features – some exclusive and some taken from other custom Android firmwares. You’ll get OmniROM’s OmniSwitch, Gesture Anywhere and Screen Recording from Chameleon OS, Xposed framework, HALO, that beautiful dark UI from Slim ROMs and OTA updates so you won’t need to flash the ROM files everytime you want to perform an update.
Additionally, it offers the exclusive Custom SmoothProgressBar and an extensive list of settings and layout customizations. It doesn’t have Lollipop builds (yet) but feel free to check out AOSB’s official website to learn more about this custom ROM and find out when 5.0 builds become available.
What custom ROMs have you tinkered with on your Android device and which one is your favorite? Share your experience in the comments section!
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