Should you install a Custom ROM?

So what is all the fuss about?  What is all this you keep hearing about rooting your phone, installing a custom/cooked ROM?  Is there really a need to do it?  Is it safe to meddle around with the system software of your computer?  Can things go wrong?  Can you recover?    How do you actually install a custom ROM?  Should you install a Custom ROM?

There are so many questions floating around in the minds of Android users.  Well today, we will try and address these questions.  This is the first post in a series of posts where we will tell you all you need to know about custom ROMs and how to install and use them.

This particular post is a prelude, a detailed introduction so that you are familiar with all the terms of the Android custom ROM world.  Bookmark this page and keep visiting for updates to this post.

 

Terminology

Before we start, let us define a few key terms:

  1. ROM:  Comes from the computer world, this is an abbreviation standing for Read Only Memory.  This literally means nothing in the Android world but is used to refer to the “system software” or “operating system” of your phone/tablet.
  2. Stock ROM:  The default software that comes on your Android phone.   This is based on the core Android code managed by Google and refined by the mobile vendor i.e. Samsung, HTC, Motorola etc.
  3. Rooting:  Getting root or rooting your phone is the process of modifying the operating system that shipped with your device to grant you complete control over it.  This means you can overcome limitations that the carriers and manufacturers put on your phone, extend system functionality, and even upgrade it to a different version of Android.
  4. Custom/Cooked ROM:   Exactly the same as a Stock ROM, but this has been customized by an individual/team to perform “better” than the stock ROM.   There are several ROMs for every Android phone, each having its own pros and cons.  Some Custom ROMs are more popular than others due to the fact that they are developed/maintained by renowned developers.
  5. Kernel Part of the ROM, the kernel is the brain of the entire software.  It is responsibile for controlling speed and battery amongst other things.
  6. Donut, Eclair, Froyo, Gingerbread (GB), Ice Cream Sandwich (ICS), Jelly Bean (JB):  These are all names of different Android versions released by Google.  The two most popular ones are GB and ICS.

 

Advantages of Stock ROM

Before we look at the advantages of Custom ROMs, let us quickly look at the key benefits of Stock ROMs:

    • Based on an official release by Google means a lot of testing has gone into it.  Also means that every feature has been well thought out and planned
    • Further improved by the mobile vendor to add more functionality to the ROM and again tested to ensure more stability and reliability
    • Supported by both the mobile vendor and Google!  Also keeps your warranty intact

 

Pros and Cons of Custom ROMs

Now having said this, let us discuss the pros and cons of Custom ROMs.  These will also highlight some disadvantages of Stock ROMs.

Advantages Disadvantages
Faster due to no obligation to include bloatware i.e. Samsung includes TouchWiz (its Launcher), Samsung Widgets, Samsung Account etc. etc. Requires you to completely wipe the phone i.e. you need to take a backup of the data.
Updates released faster because there is no bearaucracy i.e. no strict steps/guidelines.  This is because the ROM releasers are usually one person or a team working for their own passion At times versions of ROMs are released with major bugs, which means installing another ROM.  This can be time consuming and quite irritating at times.
Faster fixes of bugs due to several beta testers and developers working together on different communities In some countries installing a Custom ROM may result in your warranty being void.  This particularly applies where you recieve your phone from a mobile carrier.
Mostly available for free with optional donations if you can afford to make one It is a difficult task selecting the right ROM.  There are so many options available for the more popular phones that selecting can be difficult.
Faster access to newer Android versions and features.  Often a new version of Android is released but the mobile vendors take their time in making it available for their phones.  
Updates available Over The Air (OTA)  

As you can clearly see, the pros of Custom ROMs clearly outweigh the cons.  To be on the safe side, take the following precautions before installing a Custom ROM:

    • Get a warranty if you got your phone from a Carrier i.e. Mobile Operator
    • Completely backup everything on your phone (this will be shown in another post very soon)
    • Backup EFS:  EFS is actually a internal place in your android device which contains some important and some basic info related to our device identity like Wi-Fi address, Bluetooth MAC address and the very main IMEI address.  If this is accidently deleted then your phone won’t be able to connect to the network, thus becoming unusable.  We will show how to take a backup of this in another post very soon.

Carefully think over the pros and cons before installing a Custom ROM.   And remember, although not likely, there is a RISK of something going wrong and you may end up “bricking” your phone.   I personally have installed hundreds of Custom ROMS os several of my Samsung/HTC/SE phones without any major problems.

Please do give your feedback on this post and keep reading for more updates very soon.

 

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  • joel

    Thanks ! it helped deciding me whether to install a custom ROM or not.

    [Reply]