You might enjoy the way your smartphone interface looks and feels, but custom ROMs give you the opportunity to explore brand new designs and UIs. They can also offer new and very impressive functionality. If you are yet to explored the hidden pleasures of the Android community, check out our list of the best custom ROMs for Android.
If your device is rooted then ROM Manager is a solid addition to your device. If you haven’t rooted your phone and want to then you should check out this guide. Remember, rooting your Android device will void the warranty, so be careful.
ROM Manager does what the name says: it manages your ROMs. It manages them from a simple interface. You can organize and run backups, use your SD card to install your ROMs and flash your recovery. All of these features are free but if you want automatic backups and incremental update zips, you have to pay for a premium account.
Once you have a ROM on your SD card you can go into ROM Manager and securely download it from there. It will track it and give you updates when necessary. If you want to download them from the app itself you need a premium account, which is a bit annoying.
CyanogenMod 12 – stable, stylish, with frequent updates
CyanogenMod is one of the most well-supported ROMs for Android, with a huge community, and frequent updates. It’s no wonder that this popular Android ROM even managed to find a home on last year’s OnePlus One.
Features of CyanogenMod include its unique app launcher entitled Trebuchet, personal themes, video screenshots via its Screencast functionality, and a mode specifically for left-handed landscape viewing. CyanogenMod currently supports more than 50 devices and the team are hard at work on a Marshmallow build.
PAC-ROM touts itself as the all-in-one ROM solution. The team shamelessly cherry picks features from the other ROMs listed on this page, including OmniSwitch and CyanogenMod’s Pie controls, and puts them all together in their own package.
It might seem lacking in personality, or overkill, but if you’re looking for the most customizable, option-rich ROM, then this is it. And wait until you see the boot animation — the team deserves some points for that alone.
With nightly builds and well over 50 devices supported, it’s a great package. Learn all about it at PAC-ROM.com
Paranoid Android – Stock Android with subtle changes
The first appearance of the Paranoid Android Custom ROM dates back to early 2013 and Android Jelly Bean. The Paranoid Android ROM doesn’t provide a radical design overhaul, but focuses on a number of simple but effective changes to notifications and navigation.
Immersive mode allows you to view information on screen while hiding system bars, and ‘dynamic system bars’ blend your status and navigation bar color with the particular app background. It’s purely aesthetic, but provides a nice transition.
Early in 2015, OnePlus hired a number of key members of the Paranoid Android team. The project subsequently went into deep hibernation, with one developer announcing its passing and another refuting it. Whether the project has the energy to be resurrected remains to be seen.
Paranoid Android is available for a whole range of devices including the Nexus line and the OnePlus One. To learn more, visit ParanoidAndroid.co.
OmniROM – for the OmniSwitch toolbar
Designed by former CyanogenMod devs (Xplodwild, Chainfire, Dees_Troy, Pulser and Entropy) in late 2013, OmniROM is a no-frills ROM, which basically offers the Stock Android experience with some nice extras.
OmniROM supports the ability to launch apps by tapping on the time and date in the notifications menu, it can add a notification counter in the status bar to show the number notifications you’ve received, and has the ability to manage the display brightness just by sliding your finger along the notifications bar.
OmniROM’s standout feature, however, is the OmniSwitch shortcut. The OmniSwitch is a quick-menu that you can load with shortcuts and jump from any part of your phone to any app, or vice versa, and it is completely customizable.
Lollipop nightlies for OmniROM started back in June. Head to OmniROM.org for more.
SlimROMs – bloatless but feature-rich
SlimROMs made a name for itself by offering a completely stripped down version of Android and letting you determine exactly how much of the Google Play services you want bundled in. Otherwise, SlimROMs is characterized by the ability to modify the DPI of fonts and icons and make everything as tiny as you need it to be. The Slim family currently supports almost 50 devices.
An alpha Android Lollipop build is out, but things are moving slowly at the SlimROM camp and updates are currently infrequent at best. Find out more at slimroms.net.
AOKP – for complete control and tons of customization options
Android Open Kang Project, or AOKP, is aimed at serious Android modders, and those with good level of technical know-how. Released in September 2013, AOKP is now compatible with dozens of Android devices, and houses a number of interesting features, like the ability to customize shortcuts in the Quick settings menu, and manage the color and blink rate of the LED notifications in several applications.
Additionally, this ROM also includes a feature called Navigation ring, which acts an an intuitive shortcut for up to five apps. As if that wasn’t enough, there is also application permissions management and the ability to adjust processor performance, making this one of the most interesting Custom ROMs on android.
Stable releases are few and far between. After a break from October last year, a post on the AOKP website in March revealed that work would soon be starting on ‘proper’ Lollipop builds, but things have remained quiet since then. We’ll be keeping an eye on this one. To learn more, visit AOKP.co.
The custom ROM database
This list is by no means exhaustive and you might want to do a little more research into other custom ROMs that are currently available. Thankfully, the fine ladies and gents over at the XDA Developers Forum have put together a custom ROM database that compares all the features of the major custom ROMs at a glance. It’s a great resource. The page was down at the time of writing, but keep an eye on it, as it may well be back up soon.
What do you think is the best custom ROM on Android? Let us know in the comments below.