Part of the appeal of the Android operating system is the great customization and configuration that it gives users due to its open-source nature, and many developers have taken it upon themselves to offer up customizations of the stock operating systems for various reasons, including speed, aesthetic, feature-set, and others. Because of the wide distribution of Android ROMs out there, it can be tough to decide which one you want to test-run. We’ve taken a look at a few and we’ve picked out our top 5 Android ROMs to help you decide which ROM to run on your Android phone!
CyanogenMod is arguably the most popular ROM on the market today, and for good reason: it’s been around for quite awhile, and it supports a great deal of different phones. CyanogenMod is beloved not only for its customization qualities but also for the quality of its build. The official builds of the ROM are rock-solid stable, and even the unofficial builds are in general quite stable as well (though some of the unofficial ones aren’t, so tread carefully and do your research before deciding to flash an unofficial CyanogenMod ROM on your device). Besides its stability, however, CyanogenMod is well-known as being quite customizable. CyanogenMod 9, the most recent build, has sacrificed a little customization for stability and wider device compatibility, but it’s still a very good mod that offers a great mix of customization, stability, and speed.
MIUI is most certainly a ROM that’s built with an aesthetic in mind. That said, it is an absolutely beautiful aesthetic: MIUI was miles ahead of both Froyo and Gingerbread in terms of look and feel, and even though Ice Cream Sandwich is a marked upgrade in terms of how the stock ROM looks MIUI is still beautiful. The developers take the aesthetic response as their primary design, and it shows: the UI is slick and stellar, with beautiful gradients and silky smooth animations. In addition to this, it can be visually changed further by an impressive theme engine and a great amount of themes can be found for the ROM since it has a large and active theme community. It can be a bit difficult to play with, as there are a few bugs now and then with the builds, but the phone’s aesthetic and the great speed the ROM offers are often cause for many to ignore the rather slight bugs and flash their phones with this ROM.
3. Android Open Kang Project (AOKP)
The Android Open Kang Project is a newcomer on the block, but it’s caused quite a stir because of just how customizable it really is. It’s taken the design philosophy of CyanogenMod’s complete customization and run with it: instead of CyanogenMod’s new focus on rock-solid stability, AOKP is instead forging ahead and making sure that the ROM is as customizable as it can be. In fact, it even looks a bit like CyanogenMod at first glance- once you start delving into the quite dizzying array of options and customization tools available to you, however, you’ll begin to see where CyanogenMod and AOKP have parted ways on design philosophy and have started to delve into different niches. AOKP’s development team and community is a bit smaller than Cyanogen’s, so you’ll perhaps find a few more non-supported devices and quirks that you might not find with the larger mod, but if you’re looking for speed and customization look no further than AOKP.
4. Liquid Smooth ROM
Liquid Smooth ROM is designed for one thing: speed. The developers of this particular ROM have decided to forgo the endless customization and feature-set that many of the other ROMs on this list choose to include, and instead give you the fastest user experience available. The feature-set isn’t destroyed- you won’t find yourself missing the most simply features from other ROMs and stock ICS that you’ve come to know and love- but it is true that there are far fewer options for extremely detailed tweaking with Liquid Smooth (though their theme support isn’t too shabby). The only problem with this ROM is the limited number of devices it actually supports- officially only the Droid, Droid 2, Droid Incredible, and HTC Thunderbolt are supported, though you can find some unofficial builds for other devices if you poke around. It’s an extremely smooth and fast ROM, and if you have a supported device you wouldn’t go wrong by downloading it and giving it a test drive!
5. Slim ICS
Some might call this the companion ROM to Liquid Smooth ROM: it’s designed to be a bare, spare, and fast ROM that removes all the cruft it can find. It’s also only available for Samsung devices at the moment, but the design philosophy seems quite close to Liquid Smooth’s: as a result, this ROM is a very viable alternative to Liquid Smooth if you don’t have a supported device for Liquid Smooth’s limited device support set. It’s very fast and not cluttered down, but it does suffer somewhat from a small developer base: that doesn’t stop them from releasing every week or so, however, and the support for third-party mods is pretty solid. Definitely a good choice for anyone jonesing for Liquid Smooth but having a Samsung instead!
Android’s open-source nature makes it possible for independent developers to create custom ROMs with their own unique design philosophies and aesthetics that can be, in many cases, quite different from that of the stock AOSP ROM’s development. Each of the ROMs above are very good in their own way, whether it’s speed, aesthetic, or customization, and anyone with a supported device should try them out. Even if you’ve got an old favorite, try a new ROM and take advantage of Android’s unique, open ecosystem and the power of choice it brings you. You never know- you might like one more than another and make the switch!