The biggest advantage of Android is that it is an open-source project, that allows for many developers to join the community. The Android developer community is quite big, with their biggest feat being the ability to develop custom ROMs or custom Android builds. A custom ROM is an aftermarket firmware production based on the Android source code provided by Google. The main reason why people prefer custom ROMs is the fact that almost every company drops support for their devices after 2 years of their launch. A custom ROM, on the other hand, helps keep your device alive and updated with the latest in the world of Android. Another reason why people seek custom ROMs are the tons of features they offer, and that too without any bloatware that is part of manufacturer skins.
While there are many custom ROMs out there to choose from, not all of them are stable enough to be used as your daily driver. So, if you’re someone who wants to install a custom ROM on their device but is confused about which one to go with, read on as we bring to you our list of the 12 best custom ROMs for Android that you can install:
Best Custom ROMs for Android
Note: Installing a custom ROM requires the user to have an unlocked bootloader and a custom recovery like TWRP or CWM installed. Also, this process may void your warranty. Make sure to always create a backup before proceeding. While the download link for officially supported devices is mentioned below, some of these ROMs may have an unofficial port available for them as well. Also, post-installation of these ROMs require you to flash a GApps package such as OpenGapps or BeanGapps. I have personally tried all the ROMs listed below on my Moto X Play, Nexus 5X, and the Moto G4 Plus, and hence curated the following list.
We start off with the biggest name in the custom ROM scene – LineageOS. While many of you might not be familiar with the name, LineageOS is actually the same custom ROM that started as CyanogenMod. Back in the fall of 2016, Cyanogen Inc. announced that it was discontinuing development and shut down the infrastructure behind the project. Since then, the developer community has kept the project alive, but under the name of LineageOS. Built on top of Google’s AOSP code and adding their own custom code to it, LineageOS works as a standalone ROM as well as the source code for many other custom ROMs out there. It has the biggest developer team under its name and officially has support for over 190 devices. The ROM includes basic but useful features that include but are not limited to customizing the status bar, changing the overall theme, editing the navbar and much more. While Google’s AOSP is barebones, LineageOS gives it a sense of customizability while maintaining stability.
The ROM offers builds for Android Marshmallow (6.x) and Nougat (7.x), with support for Oreo (8.0) coming soon. Also, the list of officially supported devices includes offerings from Samsung, HTC, Motorola, LG, Xiaomi, OnePlus and more.
If minimalism is what you’re looking for, SlimRoms is right up your alley. Possibly the lightest and most functional custom ROM out there, the SlimRoms project is based on the AOSP code while adding useful tweaks to it. The most notable features of the SlimRoms project is the inclusion of the Slim Recents and the Slim PIE. The recents alternative is used to display the recent apps in a sidebar, as opposed to occupying the entire screen. The PIE, on the other hand, comes as a navbar replacement, that proves to be highly useful when using your device in Immersive mode. Other SlimRoms features include a custom dialer, custom Quick Settings tiles, lock screen shortcuts, Privacy Guard, and more. The SlimRoms project offers simple and minimalistic transitions that end up resulting in a clean and neat interface, that can further be customized should the user choose to.
SlimRoms have been around for a while and is available on all major OEMs such as Google, LG, HTC, Moto, Samsung, Xiaomi, OnePlus and more. The latest supported version is Android Nougat 7.1.2, and a build for Android Oreo (8.0) is expected to be released soon.
3. Paranoid Android
Another great ROM that doubles up as a source for many other custom ROMs out there, Paranoid Android is one of the most acclaimed custom ROMs of all times. The development team focuses on bringing a polished and refined experience while using minimum resources. While it may not boast of the plethora of features and customizations that other ROMs offer, Paranoid Android or PA, does promise a soothing user experience overall. It comes with its own unique features such as Hover mode, which allows the user to view and interact with their notifications from any screen, (which was then integrated into AOSP as part of Heads-up notifications). It also offers its own version of the PIE menu, as well as a fully immersive mode for Android. Paranoid Android has long been regarded as the main project from which Google has brought over a lot of features, one biggest feature being the Ambient Mode, which was present in PA as Peek.
While PA did experience a few bumps lately, causing the development scene to slow down a bit, it is now back and is better than ever, with officially supporting Android Nougat 7.1.2, and support for Android Oreo 8.0 to be released soon. It’s available for devices from Nexus, Pixel, OnePlus, Sony, Oppo and more.
4. Resurrection Remix
For all those users who like to boast about the tons of features that their device has, you can’t do better than Resurrection Remix. Probably one of the most famous custom ROMs out there, Resurrection Remix (RR) has been around for a long time now and is preferred by a huge number of people. RR’s ideology has been to offer the maximum number of features available to the user, and it delivers it in a great fashion. It uses AOSP, LineageOS, SlimRoms, and Paranoid Android; all as its main source code, and then adds extra features to it. While most ROMs cherry pick selected features and add them to their code, RR adds just about anything and everything there is to offer. This does, of course, come at a cost. The ROM itself is quite hefty and seems to be a bit heavier on system resources. Also, having tons of features all mixed up in the code do end up making the ROM unstable at times.
RR currently supports all major devices from manufacturers like Samsung, HTC, LG, Moto, Lenovo, Huawei, OnePlus,and more. Also, it is one of the fastest ROMs to be delivered, so expect Android Oreo 8.0 anytime soon.
5. Dirty Unicorns
If I were to describe Dirty Unicorns in my own words, I’d have to say it is the stable version of Resurrection Remix. This is because of the plethora of customization features it offers is great, and it does so without any loss in the stability of the ROM. This is because the major difference between DU and RR is that while RR simply merges the various codes into one main project, RR’s team actually rewrites the entire code from scratch to ensure system stability. While this does mean that updates come a little slower, they are still able to deliver fortnightly updates. Also, DU has its own DU-SmartBar as well as FlingBar, that are both navigation bar replacements. While the former one functions to add more buttons to the normal navigation bar, the latter one replaces the navbar with a gesture-enabled panel that you can customize. Lately, the development team behind DU decided to remove certain features from the ROM, but those features were simply the ones users like to have on their device but never use it in real life. As a result, the latest versions are stable than ever and goes easier on the system’s resources.
DU currently supports Android Nougat 7.1.2 , and Oreo 8.0 is expected to be released in a couple of weeks for all major devices from Samsung, Moto, LG, OnePlus, Nexus, Pixel, and more.
6. AOSP Extended
As the name suggests, AOSP Extended is built directly from the AOSP source code and adds various cherry-picked commits from multiple other projects. Like all custom ROMs out there that are based on AOSP, AOSP Extended provides a smooth and lag-free experience out of the box. The AOSP Extended is also not short on features (or as the dev team likes to call it – Extensions), boasting of multiple customizability options available to modify the status bar, lock screen, and other Android settings. It also exhibits DU’s navbar/Flingbar, as well as other carefully selected features that mix well with Google’s imagination of Android. The development team behind AOSP Extended is also highly active, rolling out timely updates at the start of each month. AOSP Extended is in most ways, one of the most dependable custom ROMs out there that can be used as a daily driver.
It’s currently available for many devices including the likes of LG, Xiaomi, Lenovo, HTC, Samsung, OnePlus and more, and currently runs on Android Nougat 7.1.2.
7. Pure Nexus
Imagine being on your device’s stock ROM, but with slight tweaks here and there that allow you to customize your device to your choice without losing out on the stock stability. Well, if you own a Nexus or a Pixel device, this is easily possible for you. The Pure Nexus project has been around ever since Nexus 4 and has grown on to support all the Nexus and Pixel devices, with active development on all of them. It offers the same AOSP experience that’s exclusive to Google’s lineup, along with truly tested features and minimal or no bugs. In my experience with this ROM, the battery life was just the same as the stock ROM, but I was able to customize a few things here and there. To put it into better words, think of Pure Nexus as custom ROM that delivers the same experience that you’d get if you had installed Xposed and Gravity Box on the stock AOSP ROM.
The Pure Nexus project is only officially available for the Pixel and Nexus lineup, though it has been ported to other devices as well. It already has support for Android Oreo 8.0.
8. Carbon ROM
To define Carbon ROM would take up more than a couple of words. In your first run of this ROM, you’d find it similar to just about every other custom ROM out there. Use it for a couple of days, and you literally start experiencing the true beauty of Carbon ROM. One of the first ROMs to successfully implement Substratum (initially RRO and Layers), Carbon ROM is regarded as one of the most stable ROMs out there. The added functionalities in the form of CarbonFibers include tons of mods for the System, Status bar, buttons, lights, gestures and other various options. While it still lacks behind RR in the race for maximum customizability features, Carbon ROM still manages to hold its ground. Longtime users find it really hard to switch to any other ROM, for even though the features may be present on other ROMs as well, the smoothness and stability is unmatched.
CarbonROM is available on a plethora of devices, thanks to its long-running development, and officially supports major offerings from Samsung, HTC, LG, OnePlus and more. It currently runs on Android Nougat 7.1.2, with support for Android Oreo 8.0 coming soon.
Another ROM based on the AOSP Gerrit but having its own custom mods is the ViperOS. You might not have heard of its name, considering its a rather new project, having surfaced around the launch of Android Nougat 7.1 only. Despite being a relatively new project, the ROM has quickly evolved into becoming a very stable and reliable ROM and gives plenty of other competitors a run for their money. A simple and neat ROM, ViperOS does not feature multiple customizability options but instead offers a great balance between battery and performance. The ROM recently even updated their source code for the latest in Android, that is, Android Oreo 8.0. Personally, I feel ViperOS is a near perfect mixture of stock ROM with several customizability features and amazing battery life.
Since it is a growing project, it doesn’t have a long list of supported devices, yet, but is soon expected to grow to support all the major devices, with support for Android Oreo 8.0 already been announced.
You’ve probably been living under a rock if you’re unaware of Xiaomi’s biggest project – the MIUI. What started off a custom ROM project that later on gave rise to an entire smartphone and electronics company, the MIUI is one of the biggest success stories of the past decade. Even though on paper it says that it is based on Google’s Android OS, MIUI in itself is a complete overhaul of the Android user interface. It features an iPhone like experience, having all the apps on your home screen, and making everything inside your device colorful and vibrant. The biggest USP of this ROM in my experience has been the background optimizations. The battery life on MIUI is by far the best in all the time I’ve used it, and I could actually make more out of my device. If you prefer a Chinese version of iPhone but made especially stable for the Android ecosystem, give MIUI a whirl. While the ROM may have mixed reviews, considering how different it is from the general Android experience, MIUI in itself is definitely worth giving a try.
While officially it is available only for a handful of devices apart from Xiaomi’s, such as Huawei, Meizu, Oppo, Moto, etc., it has been unofficially ported to many other devices as well.
Okay, let’s be honest here. Sony’s Xperia lineup has had a quite differently themed version of Android in their devices, and the overall experience is quite nice. While many people might not like the general Sony experience, one cannot deny the fact that the Xperia lineup offers the best overall video and sound quality. And this is the same ideology that the Xperia Open Source Project (XOSP) follows. Apart from including certain tweaks to the customizability and functionality, XOSP vastly enhances the overall sound quality of your device. Pair that with Sony’s Walkman app, and you can enjoy the best music experience of your life. While one can get sort of the same experience by making use of the Walkman app’s port and combining that with Viper4Android, the XOSP project makes things much more simpler. The XOSP custom ROM is a must recommend for all the media lovers out there.
It currently has stable builds for Android Marshmallow (6.x) and Android Nougat (7.x), though builds for Android Oreo (8.0) will be announced once Sony releases their own official version of Android Oreo.
Okay, so if you’re located just about anywhere outside of China, chances are that you haven’t heard of FlymeOS. Well, FlymeOS is the official OS that powers up Meizu’s range of devices, and it does it amazingly. Originally developed by and for Meizu, the custom ROM project has since then been ported to support other OEM devices as well. FlymeOS stands as a direct competitor to MIUI, having more or less the same interface, combined with a great mixture of colors and details. Some unique features of FlymeOS include an in-built Toolbox that offers a compass, a leveler, a ruler, and toggles for various Android settings right from the corner of your screen. Then, it features its own Security Center as well as support for FlymeOS themes. Lastly, the ROM also comes with mBack key and gestures, that allow you to navigate through the entire UI using just the home key and a couple of gestures. If you’re bored of the stock Android look and MIUI looks a little too cliche for you, FlymeOS might just be what you’re looking for.
While Flyme officially supports Android Marshmallow, with its beta announced for Nougat just a couple of weeks ago, the ROM’s features more than makeup for the slow development.
Make More Out of Your Device With the Best Custom ROMs for Android
Custom ROMs bring out a new experience in themselves to your mobile devices. While no ROM out there will ever be as stable as the stock ROM, having a custom ROM does give you the liberty to sacrifice a few points of stability in order to gain tons of features. As a developer and a tester myself, I never stay on a ROM for more than a week, so I’ve tried pretty much every custom ROM there is out there. For your sake, I have cherry picked the best custom ROMs for Android above. But what about you? Let us know about your favorite ROM in the comments section below.