The current state of custom ROM development
Part of the fun of using Android has always been customization. There’s something exciting about the fact that two people using the same device and the same version of Android can have completely different experiences through icon packs, launchers, and custom ROMs.
There have been custom firmware for Android smartphones for nearly as long as Android has existed. At first, making and using custom ROMs was something for programmers, developers, and enthusiasts; however, the creation (and rapid popularity) of CyanogenMod changed the game. As a growing number of developers contributed to the open-source firmware, CyanogenMod was polished nearly to the point of shining as brightly as AOSP. But what really made CyanogenMod important is that it made the use of custom ROMs more viable to mainstream users.
With each new version of Android, the gap between Android and popular custom ROMs has shrunk
Unfortunately, the future of CyanogenMod appears uncertain, after the open source ROM was forced to fork under the name Lineage OS. Fortunately there are already other remixed versions of Android available, with some of the most popular being Paranoid Android, Resurrection Remix, and Dirty Unicorns.
Android has changed a lot over the past several years of tweaking and refining custom ROMs. In fact, Android Nougat brought in a number of features previously only found in custom ROMs and OEMs’ Android skins, including real multitasking and the ability to reply to text messages from the notification shade. With each new version of Android, the gap between Android and popular custom ROMs has shrunk, which begs an interesting question: Are custom ROMs even necessary anymore?
To answer this, let’s take a quick look at the state of custom ROM development as it exists today. Which ROMs still have active development communities behind them? And what, exactly, do the most popular ROMs have to offer us as Android gets better and better?
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