You’ve got yourself an Android device, but you hate the manufacturer’s User Interface. When you boot it up, you find a ton of bloatware pre-installed from the factory. After a few days you simply don’t like the look of things or how they behave. To top it all off, the newest version of Android has been released, and you’ve found that your phone isn’t supported.
Do you just grin and bear it? Do you jump ship to Apple? Maybe you’ll shun smartphones altogether and pull your Nokia 3310 out of whatever drawer its been living in for the past 15 years. Before you do anything that drastic, consider installing a custom ROM on your Android device.
Installing a custom ROM is easy; however, it does require that you have root (administrative) access. Be aware that rooting your phone is something that almost always voids your warranty. Flashing a custom ROM can also permanently brick your device, although occurrences are rare if you follow the installation steps properly.
Cyanogenmod is one of the most popular custom ROMs available, and for good reason. Its user interface is attractive, and the level of customization is jaw-dropping. In addition to offering a plethora of tweaks and a slick UI, Cyanogenmod is known for how well supported it is. A large community of users ensures frequent updates are always available. Cyanogenmod also boasts compatibility with most Android devices out there, so you can jump on the bandwagon as soon as possible. Cyanogenmod also earns brownie points for name dropping the ROM in the default ringtone.
2. Paranoid Android
If you prefer the look and feel of stock Android, you’ll be right at home with Paranoid Android. The ROM doesn’t look to reinvent the wheel but rather to improve upon the stock Android experience. The Paranoid team has included Immersive Mode which hides your system’s notification bars in order to give your apps more screen real estate. They’ve also integrated Dynamic System Bars which merge the status and navigation bars with the surrounding content. While it doesn’t share the same official compatibility list as Cyanogenmod, communities like XDA Developers have brought it (unofficially) to a number of devices.
3. Resurrection Remix
They say imitation is the best form of flattery, so every other ROM on this list should be blushing at the mention of Resurrection Remix. Self-confessed cherry pickers, the team behind Resurrection Remix proudly admits to adopting the best features of other popular ROMs. The end result is an insanely customizable Android experience with very little you can’t tweak. If you like playing around with everything, you might want to give this one a flash.
If you’ve got the need for speed, look no further than XenonHD. While this custom ROM offers similar customization tweaks to other ROMs on the market, its main focus is performance. By embracing a barebones philosophy, XenonHD is a buttery smooth Android experience with snappy performance and zero lag. XenonHD may not be as feature rich as some other ROMs available, but it’s simple to use and wicked fast.
Well known as the default ROM shipped with Xiaomi devices, MIUI “borrows” its aesthetic from iOS, and for good reason, as it is absolutely gorgeous. The Chinese company has always proudly worn its inspiration on its sleeve, and MIUI showcases their love affair with Apple. However, this ROM isn’t just a case of style over substance, as it adds new features, themes and a high level of customization. Xiaomi has also made MIUI available on a number of devices, including some that are fairly dated. If you’re looking for a ROM that can breathe life into an old phone and looks fantastic, give MIUI a shot.
Honorable Mention: OmniROM
Aside from a handful of tweaks, a unique feature called OmniSwitch earns OmniROM a mention here. OmniSwitch is a quick launch menu that allows you to jump to and from nearly every facet of your phone with a flick of the finger. This makes navigating the ins and outs of your device simple, easy and fast.
The five custom ROMs mentioned above are far from the only ones on the market. In fact, with so many custom ROMs available, there is literally something for everyone. Finding what suits you ultimately boils down to flashing a ROM and trying it out. If you’re interested in testing out a variety of different ROMs on your device, consider installing ROM Manager, an easy-to-use app that allows you to flash new ROMs from your SD card.
What are some of your favorite custom ROMs? Let us know in the comments!
Image credit: CyanogenMod 6