Take a quick look at your household, and count how many devices do you use on a daily basis. Of these devices, how many of them run on an Android platform? One of the great things of living in our age of connectivity is that customizable technology is literally at your fingertips.
With the accessibility of custom ROMs, we are able to tweak the operating systems on our devices to our personal needs and satisfaction.
In this article, we are going to discuss the best custom ROMs for Android devices and tablets, how to choose the best custom ROMs for your needs as well as the pros and cons of custom ROMs.
What Are Custom ROMs And Why Do You Need Them
For the uninitiated, purchasing an Android tablet is as simple as choosing the size, weight, and color. As long as it works, it should be fine right? This is the case for many of us who may not concern ourselves with the operating systems, and have very basic requirements. However, there is value in discerning and differentiating between stock Android ROMs and custom Android ROMs.
First, understand that the Android operating system is open source. Android devices are pre installed with a stock ROM which refers to a device’s firmware, regardless of the brand. Stock ROMs are built by developers contracted to the brand whereas custom ROMs are essentially stock ROMs that are edited and customized by developers who are passionate about modifications.
Aside from tablets, custom ROMs are available for phones, media players, smart watches and other devices that operate on Android. Customized ROMs have a modified interface, appearance, and behavior.
Why you would require custom ROMs is entirely dependent on the user. For the average user, the pre installed firmware is sufficient and therefore would not require a custom ROM. However, if your preference leans towards the ability to rid your device of unused apps and speed up the operating system, perhaps a custom ROM might be a better fit.
7 Best Custom ROMs for Android Tablets
This is one of the most popular custom ROMs available. Fluid, lightweight, and minimalist, the CyanogenMod is a collaborative effort of professional developers. Majority of users who support the Stock Android or AOSP based firmware that runs on Nexus devices often prefer using CyanogenMod for their devices. This particular ROM is recommended for users who are keen to maintain a simplistic UI.
One point to note about the CyanogenMod is that it is only avaliable for use in selected devices such as Samsung, HTC or Nexus after testing.
Features of CyanogenMod:
Tweaks: Users of this particular custom ROM gain access to an unlockable bootloader, root access, status bar customization and soft buttons.
CPU overclocking: This feature allows for users to boost their device’s performance.
Toggle notifications: Users can pick and choose their access to specific apps.
The basis for Paranoid Android ROM is the Android Open Kang Project (better known as AOKP). Users of Paranoid Android are able to tweak the appearance and functions of apps that are not usually permitted by the factory firmware. This includes LED controls, vibration patterns, toggles, ribbons, navigation rings, permission controls and CPU overclocking.
Features of Paranoid Android:
Halo: one of the most notable features for this custom ROM, the Halo is a floating bubble that allows users to see their notifications without leaving the current screen.
Pie: users will note that the Pie is an on-screen replacement for navigation buttons. The top and bottom bars are removed, and each app runs on full-screen. If users want to see the buttons, they just need to swipe in from the edge. This feature provides a definite enhancement to the user interface.
Yet another Android Open Source Project project that aims to enhance the Android stock experience, the team behind Dirty Unicorns have their own following for this custom android ROM.
Back in 2012, Alex Cruz kickstarted this project off the Jellybean version. Fast forward 5 years later, this custom ROM has gained recognition. However, do note that Dirty Unicorns currently support a short list of brands that include HTC, Nexus and Oppo.
Features of Dirty Unicorn:
Fling: Useful gesture navigation for apps, contacts, settings and shortcuts. This feature has the capability of recognizing number of taps or length of swipes.
SmartBar: Yet another navigation feature, the SmartBar is particularly useful for devices without hardware keys. It can be tweaked for either 7 or 10 shortcuts (depending on the type of device). These shortcuts can either be for an app or activity.
Pulse: This feature activates when user opts to play music. With a gorgeous design, the music equalizer sits in the navigation bar.
AOKP ROM (Android Open Kang Project):
The general idea of AOKP is to enhance performance and reliability of the device, as opposed to only relying on official stock firmware. There are a wide range of devices that are able to use various versions of AOKP, including Samsung and Sony tablets.
Features of AOKP:
Toggles: Users can easily customize their ‘Quick Settings’ by adding or removing.
LED notification and vibration control: Colors, pulse and vibration patterns can be customized for different apps.
Ribbon: Swiping gestures anywhere on-screen, as well as custom app shortcuts and actions.
Permission control: Users can revoke permissions from apps to wake the device or to operate the camera.
CPU overclocking: This allows users to increase operating speed of the device, thereby enhancing the performance.
Consider the PAC-man as the custom ROM with the best features from Paranoid Android, AOKP and Cyanogen. Though it may seem unoriginal as the developers work to combine existing features, the fact remains that the PAC-man ROM maintains the most options that are customizable.
Features of PAC-man ROM:
OmniSwitch: An open-source project designed to cater for growing RAM in phones and tablets. This feature provides accessibility to switch between apps using OmniSwitch using a single swipe and click.
Pie: one of the same features for Paranoid Android, users will note that the Pie is an on-screen replacement for navigation buttons. The top and bottom bars are removed, and each app runs on full-screen. Users need only to swipe in from the edge to see the buttons.
Originally built for Xiaomi phones, the custom ROM is based off the Google Android operating system. Today, MIUI can also be flashed and used across brands such as Sony, Samsung, and HTC among others. Indeed, MIUI prides itself on being one of the easiest to use Android IU on the market.
Features of MIUI:
App transition: Ultra smooth and intuitive, the MIUI app transition is unencumbered and has a strong visual appeal.
Specific UI for tablets: As this custom ROM is built for tablets, the layouts work wonderfully in portrait and landscape mode.
Customization: Quite possibly the only custom ROM on the market that offers plenty of options to personalize the look and feel across almost every element.
Based off the Android Open Source Project, the developers behind SlimBean have been collaborating to produce a custom ROM. Simplicity and minimalism is at the core of the SlimBean’s design.
Feature of SlimBean:
Pie: an on-screen replacement for navigation buttons. Each app runs on full-screen and users need only to swipe in from the edge to see the buttons.
Customizable notification drawer and lock screen apps: For those who prefer easy access to apps other than a dialer or camera, this customization definitely comes in handy.
Disadvantages: Why You Shouldn’t Get a Custom ROM For Your Android Device
While there are multiple advantages stated above for a custom ROM, there are also valid reasons to maintain official firmware.
For those who are new to custom ROMs, it may get tricky during the process of installation (also known as ‘flashing’). In the event that the custom ROM is not installed properly, the tablet may be suffer permanent damage.
Before considering any customization to your tablet, it is important to first acknowledge that there is no such thing as a perfect ROM, custom or stock. Any ROM is bound to have bugs. If you are comfortable with the current ROM installed and it serves your needs, the advice is to just stick with it.
Custom ROMs are meant for individuals who would like to use a device that is optimized based on their needs. It is also worth noting that devices that have had a custom ROM installed would have the warranty voided. This is because prior to installing a custom ROM, the tablet needs to be restored to factory settings.