Google’s operating system for smartphones, Android, runs on most of the smartphones in the world. In fact, there are more than 1 billion active Android users around the globe.

So if one thing is clear, it’s that people like Android. Perhaps one of the biggest reasons people like Android is because it’s open source, which gives individuals and developers in the community at large the ability to customize it based on user preferences, requirements, and tastes. Diversity is in the nature of human beings and many people get bored with using same user interface and having access to the same features day-in and day-out (myself included). But because of the more open nature of Android, there are lots of custom ROMs available which can bring unique features and stylish new UIs to your Android smartphone, giving you a completely new experience.

Android Launchers v.s. Custom ROMs

Android Launchers are the ‘apps’ to customize the UI of your phone (typically the Home screen) without making any changes in the Firmware.

Whereas a custom ROM is an operating systems or firmware itself. Custom ROMs give us more independence and customization options as compared to launchers which are only limited to Home screen and other minor UI changes.

The real benefits of custom ROMs as compared to Launchers are their ability to improve the performance of your phone and remove unnecessary bloatware pre-installed by the OEMs.

Now that you understand what a custom ROM is and what their for, here are some of the best custom ROMs available.

A note of caution: you must root your phone in order to be able to install a custom ROM. The process of “rooting” your phone can void the warranty of your phone in most of the cases. So definitely keep that in mind!

Best Custom ROMs for Android

cyanogenmodCyanogenMod

CyanogenMod is the best custom ROM available for the Android phones. What makes it the best choice to install on your Android phone is its cool UI, exceptional features and a lot options of customization. CyanogenMod is backed by a strong community of developers and it releases reliable nightly builds on regular basis to keep your phone up to date and bug free.

There are a lot of best CyanogenMod themes available out there both free and paid, which you can install and enjoy the diversity. You can install the CyanogenMod on your phone with its one click installer which you can download from their website.

Pros

  • System Wide Themes – which let you re-skin your phone with zero efforts.
  • Pure Lollipop Experience – even if you already have Android Lollipop 5.0 you can experience material design in better way.
  • Custom Profile – With ability to configure different profiles, you can secure your phone to a whole new level. Like you can enable one profile while using public Wi-Fi or enable another profile when using NFC features.
  • Advanced Gestures – are the great way of loading different apps with different gestures. Like draw a circle to load the camera while phone is in standby mode or swiping fingers in a particular way to control music app etc.

Cons

  • No Extreme Power Saving Modes – You will not find a power saving mode in CyanogenMod which is a core feature of Samsung Galaxy S6.
  • CM Bloatware – In future CyanogenMod will be equipped with pre-installed Microsoft apps like Skype, Bing, Outlook etc.

More information on CyanogenMod can be found on the project’s website.

paranoid-android

Paranoid Android

The second best custom ROM to enjoy on your Android phone is Paranoid Android ROM. It gives you an awesome UI and a dozen of additional features along with cool features of Android itself and it is updated on regular basis as well. Not only you can change the color scheme but also you can customize the UI of other Android apps as well.

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One of the coolest features of Paranoid Android ROM is its Hybrid Mode. The hybrid mode gives you the control of your device beyond the imaginations. Not only you can control and tighten the privacy settings it allows the multi-tasking on your device and lets you install different tablet apps on your smartphone.

Pros

  • Custom DPI – The Hybrid engine allows to set app-level DPI settings i.e. what size of screen should the app occupy and how much should it shrink when lowering the DPI.
  • Layouts – The Layouts as lets you choose how the information should be displayed. You can choose from Phone Layout (360p), small tablet layout (600p) and the large tablet layout (720p).
  • Battery Friendly – The Panaroid Android ROM is one of the best Battery friendly ROM which improves the battery life of your pohne.

Cons

  • Less Stable – As compared to other ROMs especially CyanogenMod.
  • Internal Memory Usage – Uses internal memory to install apps.

More information on Paranoid Android can be found on the project’s website.

omnirom

OmniROM

OmniROM is another cool Custom ROM which gives you the power of customization on your phone. OmniROM was developed by ex-CyanogenMod guys and was launched in 2013 first time. Since then it has been that matured that it gives you the Android Lollipop taste on it with lots of customizable features.

You can load the apps by tapping on time in notification menu, it adds a counter for the notifications on the status bar and lets you adjust the brightness quite easily without going into settings. The OmniSwitch feature of OmniROM makes the navigation between apps and other stuff on your phone very easy as well.

Pros

  • Open Source – The OmniROM is completely open source which lets power users customize it as per their needs.
  • Quick Setting Panel – The Flip tiles features help to adjust settings quickly by flipping in between the tiles.

Cons

  • Less stable – Being Open Source in nature makes the OmniROM a little unstable.
  • High Battery Consumption – The OmniROM is not very battery friendly and many users have faced the quick battery drain issue.

More information on OmniROM can be found on the project’s website.

aokp

AOKP

The next Custom ROM we are going to share with you is AOKP custom ROM based on Stock Android. In short, Stock Android is the original version of Android which different OEMs use to make their own Android ROMs. The AOKP ROM gives you different customization features like changing the dimensions of navigation bar and changing its color etc. The AOKP custom ROM gives most of the customization in the navigation area. Like you can add shortcuts of the apps in the navigation bar. You can create a ribbon of apps and pin it to the lock screen and you can add vibration for different tasks and alerts.

Pros

  • In-depth Customization – The AOKP custom ROM offers unlimited ways of customization beyond the user’s imagination.
  • Custom Vibrations – You can set different vibration alerts for different notifications and contacts.
  • Dual Panel – The dual Panel mode or the Tablet UI mode for navigation Bar lets you feel tablet like experience on your phone.

Cons

  • Uses CM Tree – The AOKP ROM uses CyanogenMod development tree as a base of it which limits its chance to expand.
  • Limited Device Support – The AOKP ROM supports only the handful of devices for now.
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More information on AOKP can be found on the project’s website.

slimbean

SLIM BEAN

If you are satisfied with your Android UI and want only basic and simple tweaks to your Android UI, the SLIM BEAN Custom ROM is the best available option for you. It is the most simple and easy yet powerful and bug proof custom ROM for Android.

What makes the SLIM BEAN perfect is performance focused design. You can get the latest updates with just one click instead of installing the ROM again. The custom Kernel of SLIM BEAN boosts the performance of the processor of your phone and improves the battery life as well.

Pros

  • Easy Installation – The SLIM BEAN ROM can be installed quite easily and flawlessly as compared to other ROMs.
  • Light Weight – As the name suggests, it cuts a lot of bloat-ware from the devices making them perform better.

Cons

  • Limited features – It offers the limited features and customization to the user.
  • Requires Backup – To restore your data and contacts once the ROM is installed.

More information on SLIM BEAN can be found on the project’s website.

pacman

PAC-MAN ROM

If you are a geek and always are experimenting with stuff on your own, the most exciting custom ROM for you will be PAC-MAN ROM. The PAC-MAN ROM brings all the major features of CyanogenMod, Paranoid Android, and AOKP in one place, making it a crowd favorite for many. It also doesn’t hurt that it has an amazing interface and is incredibly stable.

Pros

  • All in One – As discussed earlier, PAC-MAN ROM has combined features of CM, Paranoid Android and AOKP.
  • Customized Gestures – Customized gestures lets you open different apps wit ha quick gesture.
  • Floating Mode – With Floating Mode, you can access the recently used app while staying at the current app without switching between the apps.

Cons

  • Heavy on Hardware – The PAC-MAN ROM consumes a lot of hardware resources.
  • Bloatware – While other ROMs offer less or no bloatware, the PAC-MAN ROM comes with its own bloatware to run.

More information on PAC-MAN ROM can be found on the project’s website.

Should You Install A Custom ROM?

Now that we’ve covered our six favorite custom ROMs, I know you probably have one big question: should you install a custom ROM? Here are some key points to consider before you take the plunge into the world of custom ROMs.

  • If you only want a ‘change’ in UI, you can go with any of your favorite Android Launcher to start. You can have a look at some of best Android Launchers as well.
  • Do not install the custom ROMs on new devices, especially when you have little or no experience of rooting the Android devices. Use older devices instead to experiment.
  • Most of the custom ROMs work with a few devices, so make sure to choose the ROM which is compatible with your device and offers good support.
  • As discussed in the beginning, warranty of your device will be void when you root it in most of the cases.

Conclusion

There are many custom ROMs out there for Android smartphones, whatever one you pick (if any), make sure you do your homework prior to installing it. This includes (but is certainly not limited to) making sure it supports your device, reading into the stability of the custom ROM, check on any bug/security reports, and ensuring the ROM is maintained and will receive regular updates and patches.


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