Androidthe well-known mobile operating system from Google, has its origin in Android Open Source Project (AOSP), so in its original form it is free software. This opens the door to the creation of the well known Custom ROMswhich, in addition to serving the system from a different perspective, end up offering advantages compared to the implementations provided by mobile and even iOS manufacturers.
There are currently a large number and variety of custom Android ROMs, most of which allow you toÂ to extend the life of a smartphone. Unfortunately mobile devices do not usually have a useful life exceeding 3 years at least with Google’s system, an amount of time that once exceeded means losing software support and updates.
Running software without updating is always a great risk for the user mainly for two reasons: first, because with the passage of time is losing compatibility with applications, although developers usually take into account the pronounced fragmentation existing in Android. Second, because security patches are not received, leaving the system and the user exposed to malicious actors.
As you know, the world of mobility, more if we talk about Android devices, is closely linked to aggressive policies of planned obsolescence created with the purpose of the user to renew its terminal almost every year, a habit that unfortunately many have with the consequent generation of waste or accumulation of useless or unused objects in the home.
The fight against aggressive planned obsolescence policies is something we should all be involved in, so we are going to mention six powerful reasons to use a custom Android ROM.
It wrests dominance over the device from the manufacturer
Receiving updates is a sign that the device still has a useful life for its manufacturer. When you see months go by and you don’t receive new versions of Android, there’s a good chance that means the phone is no longer supported.
As we have already said, custom Android ROMs allow you to continue to receive security updatesbut not only that, they also open the door to receive new versions of the operating system with new features.
But at this point the most valuable thing is to be able to take away the manufacturer’s control over the device, making it fall back on the custom ROM. However, this solution is not perfect, because although it is possible to continue updating the device, it does not cover the incompatibilities of the applications with the hardware.
Gain privacy by staying away from Google
Many custom ROMs do not preinstall Google’s battery of services and appsand seeing that the Mountain View giant is quite challenged in privacy matters, here is another compelling reason to replace the mobile operating system.
There is no doubt that google’s services and many of its applications are of high quality, but their ‘free’ nature often translates into asking for access to user data. Of the company’s entire catalog, possibly the main target of criticism is Chrome, the browser, which has even been accused of being spyware, but services such as the search engine and Gmail are not far behind. The fact that everything official from Google is proprietary software, although probably derived from open source projects (and in some cases explicitly so), is another reason to distance oneself from the corporation.
Another front to keep in mind is the Play Store, the Google store that is initially responsible for supplying Android apps. Fortunately, we are not on iOS, so the Play Store can be replaced by another more ethical option such as F-Droid, to cite an example focused on Open Source.
You can get a more transparent system
AOSP is open source, but uses the permissive Apache License 2, so the creation of proprietary derivatives is allowed.
In other words, Android is originally open source, but the implementations offered by the vast majority of manufacturers are not, so it is not possible for them to be freely audited by a third party and only the manufacturer itself has access to the source code. This opens the door to the introduction of malicious mechanisms that can be used to stealthily track user activity, to cite a common example.
Fortunately, there are custom Android ROMs like LineageOS that are Open Source to the extent that they can. The public availability of a high percentage of the source code allows anyone to audit it without compromise, thus facilitating the detection of security flaws and possible malicious activities. It is true that this is not a perfect solution, but it is better than relying solely on the manufacturer’s word of mouth.
Get that bloatware out of there!
This reason has been watered down due to the increased power of mobile phones in all ranges, but it remains valid nonetheless.
In addition to being proprietary software, android builds supplied by mobile device manufacturers are often loaded to the brim with unnecessary applications and unwanted applications. Why would you want Netflix if you are not subscribed to the platform and have no intention of doing so? To make matters worse, you may find that you can’t uninstall them, but disable them at best.
But here we not only find unwanted applications that probably can not be uninstalled, but also the customization layers added to the system by manufacturers, which in many cases, far from improving, what they do is worsen the performance and spoil the experience by incorporating bugs that are not present in AOSP.
For example, this server was left for a month without being able to set his favorite music as ringtone on his POCO X3 PRO. The terminal has some very good hardware features within its price range and its rear camera offers quality to spare if one is not demanding on that front, but Android Mi or MIUI is an operating system with redundancies, with a somewhat strange arrangement of the elements and that, from time to time, drags bugs that tarnish the user experience.
YES, there are custom Android ROMs that are better operating systems than those supplied by the manufacturersso, if you are unhappy with your current device, try a custom ROM custom ROM, because you might be surprised and what at the time was a fiasco becomes something pleasant to use.
âBuildâ your own Android
The Android implementations supplied by manufacturers are in the vast majority of cases modified. While the user can still customize the system, even the one that has been modified, wouldn’t it be better to start âbuildingâ from a cleaner base?
AÂ custom ROM leaves the door more open to features such as the installation of custom themes to modify the aesthetic finish of the system, something that adds the possibility of obtaining more configuration and customization options which can include things like overclocking and/or underclocking. The former improves device performance at the cost of sacrificing battery life and probably stability, while the latter improves battery life at the cost of reducing processor performance. For basic use it is difficult to justify an overclock, but if the battery is no longer going very far, it may be preferable to consider an underblock, especially as computers (mobiles, tablets and laptops) make it increasingly difficult to remove and replace the battery.
Another point to consider in terms of customization is the possibility of having access to ârootâ, the Linux administrator or superuser account. However, we recommend using it very carefully and only for what is strictly necessary, since abusing this resource can end up introducing a security risk typical of Windows.
You can get more options about the permissions granted to applications
Some custom Android ROMs provide more detailed mechanisms to configure the permissions granted to applicationsthis is an important privacy and security enhancement. As a result, better tools are likely to be available to prevent, for example, GPS location tracking by apps such as Facebook, Chrome and messaging apps.
Beware, custom Android ROMs are not paradise
As we said when we published the reasons to use Android instead of iOS, the main virtue of Google’s operating system is customization, something that in some custom ROMs is reinforced, maybe even greatly reinforced depending on the case.
However, and despite the virtues they offer, this does not mean that all ROMs are good, but rather it is necessary to know how to choose the best one for the device in possession of the user. Here we run into the dynamics of Linux distributions, where there are a large number of projects maintained by very few people and therefore it is very likely that they will not be able to offer solutions and support for incidents.
If you do not know which ROM to install, the best thing to do is to go for the easy way, that is, to resort to the larger projects, which on paper have more resources to resolve bugs, issues and offer help to users who have questions or problems. Returning to Linux distributions, we can mention the example of why it is advisable to use the most popular ones instead of resorting to small projects to play with.
Some of the most popular Android ROMs
We can’t talk about custom Android ROMs without mentioning at least some of the most popular ones. Go ahead, in the following list we will only mention a few examples that would have to cover the needs of users for different (few) contexts:
- LineageOS: Possibly the best known ROM, especially because it is the heir of the disappeared CyanogenMod. Some criticize that it is not the most diligent when it comes to introducing new things, but it has in its favor that it supports a large number of devices. For years it has been maintained as a community project and open source, which guarantees its independence from companies.
- Pixel Experience: For many, the best ROM today. In addition to supporting a wide variety of device, it stands out, as its name hints, for bringing features of Google Pixel smarthpones such as Assistant, GCam support and Pixel wallpapers to other mobile brands such as Xiaomi, Realme, ASUS or Samsung.
- Corvus: Here we begin to enter a more conceptual terrain because this is a ROM more oriented to the gaming. To fulfill its mission, it is responsible, at least allegedly, for optimizing the use of the device resources, and among its features is the possibility of using various gaming-oriented kernels such as Ryzen and Hydra. It also features font customization, theme programming, lock screen functions and more.
- Revenge OS: Based directly on AOSP, it focuses on serving little more than the essential components to make it lightweight and more user-friendly. As a result, we have an operating system with design trends towards minimalism and a sleek finish.
- Arrow OS: Also based directly on AOSP, it is a lightweight OS with some interesting features, such as Android 10 gesture navigation, the Recents screen and an option to choose the system emphasis color, custom quick settings tiles, lock screen shortcuts, privacy protection obtained from LineageOS and a custom call section.
As we said, these are just a few examples we have compiled. When it comes down to it, this is like when you ask for the best Linux distribution. You always recommend the most popular and well-known ones, but then the user discovers that the one that works best for him is another one that probably doesn’t get so much of the media spotlight.
Put another way, figuring out which is the best custom Android ROM for you is something you can only find out by researching and testing.
As we see, the use of a custom Android ROM not only allows to prolong the useful life of a mobile device that has been discontinued by its manufacturer, but also opens avenues to improve the user experience in case of unhappiness and even to better adapt it to the context for which it is most used.
The originally open source nature of Android allows the introduction of many possibilities and approaches, but it is a pity that its permissive licensing and the enormous freedoms granted by Google have led to excessive power on the part of manufacturers, the vast majority of which apply aggressive policies of planned obsolescence.
Have you felt like installing an Android ROM? You can check our tutorials on how to install them and ADB basicswhere you will find materials that will be of great help for this task, but don’t forget to also consult the instructions and documentation of the ROM of your choice.