Custom ROMs: A guide for beginners and experienced users

custom rom nexus teaser
© NextPit

In the past, we’ve done some looking into custom ROMS and their benefits. However, it’s easy to get lost in the amount of information out there. With this article, we hope to answer the following questions:  Why would I ever want to install a custom ROM and which ROM is suitable for whom?

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custom rom nexus teaser
Stock Android or a custom ROM? / © NextPit

Why a Custom ROM?

First, it must be clarified as to why you should for a custom ROM. One thing is certain: not every user who owns a smartphone or Android device needs a custom ROM, but it’s still worthwhile to learn about what the Community can do with custom firmware. As such, I see three useful applications for custom ROMs.

Updating an old smartphone

Many users are familiar with this problem: Your smartphone is only a year old, but the manufacturer has decided not to provide any more updates. New versions of Android are not only interesting because they bring new features, but they also include security updates.

A new toy for hobbyists

Custom ROMs brings not only the latest version of Android to your device, but they also provide a plethora of customization options. Whether they are themes, additional options, or overclocking, the possibilities of custom ROMs are almost unlimited.

Ideal for purists

You may have bought your phone because you find that the hardware and the design were particularly appealing, but you’re also a fan of pure Android. Many users find manufacturer ROMs, such as Sense, to be clunky and unappealing. The basis for custom ROMs is the “Android Open Source Project”, or AOSP for short. All ROMs are based on a genuine version of Android, which are subsequently enriched by the community behind firmware modifications.

CyanoGenMod 10 1 teaser
Thanks to custom ROMS, the Galaxy S has seen some more recent updates. / © NextPit

So, which one?

Custom ROMs are a dime a dozen and they aren’t always easy to choose from, especially when looking for one that suits your personal needs.

For beginners and everyday heroes

CyanogenMod is without a doubt one of the most popular custom ROMs out there and it’s pretty easy to see why. It’s fast, stable, and offers many customization options. The settings are specified clearly and aren’t too ridiculous, enabling beginners to the custom ROM scene to not feel overwhelmed with an abundance of options. CyanogenMod is also great for everyday use.

For hobbyists and modders

For those that are constantly changing the look of your ROM and want to be able to control everything down to the smallest detail, the AOKP custom ROM is definitely the choice for you. The setting options for the ROM are virtually unlimited and you can tweak almost everything within it: from the position of the clock on your screen to the colors of almost anything.

aokp rom teaser
AOKP offers as many options as you could possibly want. / © NextPit

For the versatile

Do you have a smartphone but want the tablet look? Check out Paranoid Android as it offers you the option to change the layout of Android apps to be optimized for either a tablet setting or a smartphone setting. In addition, there are a ton of other additional settings that you can play around with, such as the transparency of the status bar.

For the….unusual

Do you want to try something completely different from the standard Android experience? Check out MIUI as your custom ROM of choice. The appearance is that of iOS and uses large icons, a glossy look, and a lot of eye-candy. Definitely not one if you’re looking for something simple, but who knows, it may just catch your eye.

miui teaser
MIUI brings a completely different look to Android. / © NextPit

Of course, this was only a small sampling of some of the custom ROMs that are available. Like I said, custom ROMs are a dime a dozen and more keep on popping up every other day.

For those who just don’t like the idea of rooting their device and installing a custom ROM, you can always check out the countless number of Android Launchers that allow at least some flexibility when it comes to personalization.

What’s your favorite custom ROM? 

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  • Greg1100 Jan 30, 2015 Link to comment

    My S3 with Omnirom V5- 4.4.4 KK on it is great. I haven't seen much extra with Lollipop5, so will probably leave it as it is. No sammyjunk means that it works a lot better, and is definitely quicker. I have A1 type keyboard on it too, cos I find it easier to punch in passwords with the number row at top, rather than keep touching the bottom left key.
    The S4 and Note 4 have a number row, why don't ALL phones.

  • David Ivey Nov 24, 2013 Link to comment

    I'm hoping someone can help me here, I recently rooted an old HTC Droid Eris that I'm not using anymore & it was originally on Android 2.1, so I went to the official cyanogenmod website searched the phone I wanted to root it lead me to cyanogenmod 7 after rooting I'm now on Android 2.3 CM7, so my question is can I improve that even more or was I lead to CM7 because that is the best that old Eris can handle cause I mean it was I nice improvement & I even managed to get the Google apps back so if something ever goes wrong with my RAZR M I think I could handle using it as a temp but if possible I'd like to see it running on 4.0(ICS) at least

  • Sterling Keys Jul 10, 2013 Link to comment

    Anytime CJ! These are the more interesting ones to write up as I always find I learn something myself when doing the research.

  • CJ Brown Jul 5, 2013 Link to comment

    Great article (thank you for posting)!

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