Want to get KitKat early? Dodge the Android bloatware? Here are four ROMs to try

Want to get KitKat early? Dodge the Android bloatware? Here are four ROMs to try

Summary: Most consumers just live with the version of Android that manufacturers ship with their device — and the updates they choose to deliver — but that doesn't need to be so. Here's a look at several alternative versions out there to pick from.

TOPICS: Android

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  • Time and again, customers see the maker of their handsets refuse to rollout the latest version of Android to their device, excluding them from new features the OS brings.

    As some Android enthusiasts have long known, one way around this problem is installing an alternative version of Android, often called "after-market firmware" or a "custom ROM", which is based on the bare-bones version Google submits to the Android Open Source Project.

    One of the main reasons Android customers swap their stock Android OS for a custom ROM is to bypass the often-long wait for vendors to release their Android firmware updates. But there are a few other benefits that are hard to ignore, such as stripping out 'bloatware' that often comes with Android phones, and adding different privacy controls, customisation, and multitasking options that might not be available in OEM's firmware.

    One argument against the practice would be that, in certain cases, a device needs to be rooted before an alternative ROM can be installed, which in some cases voids a device's warranty. On the other hand, there's a tiny list of hardware makers, such as Oppo, that actually support the process of installing alternative firmware.

    Read on for a sneak peek at some of the main Android ROMs out there.

    Image: Google

  • CyanogenMod

    The best known firmware is of course, CyanogenMod (CM), which is known to be installed on nearly 11 million devices. Flush with venture capital funding, CM's maker Cyanogen Inc is taking out some of the complexity of 'rooting' a device and 'flashing' new firmware by way of new Windows and Mac installers.

    Founded by Steve Kondik, CyanogenMod has built a reputation for swiftly taming Google's latest Android builds and bringing its take on the OS to Nexus, Motorola, HTC, Sony and Samsung devices. So when Google released KitKat, Cyanogen Inc launched it in the form of "nightly" (unstable) builds of its CM 11, well ahead of OEMs.

    Features include 'Privacy Guard' to help prevent apps from accessing things like contacts, messages and call logs on the device. It's also integrated PIE mode from another ROM, Paranoid Android (read on for more), and a range of options to customise how the device operates, from CPU performance to tiles.

    The company has recently partnered with Chinese hardware maker Oppo to preinstall the OS on its N1 handset. OnePlus, a new startup, expects to launch its first device in the second quarter with its own version of CyanogenMod. CM's latest versions also integrate encrypted messaging support for multiple apps.

    Image: Cyanogen Inc

Topic: Android

Liam Tung

About Liam Tung

Liam Tung is an Australian business technology journalist living a few too many Swedish miles north of Stockholm for his liking. He gained a bachelors degree in economics and arts (cultural studies) at Sydney's Macquarie University, but hacked (without Norse or malicious code for that matter) his way into a career as an enterprise tech, security and telecommunications journalist with ZDNet Australia. These days Liam is a full time freelance technology journalist who writes for several publications.

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  • Idiot Slide Shows

    PLEASE get rid of thsee stupid slide shows and fix it so we can scroll down the screen to read your stuff!

    These slide shows are clunky and a holdover from slide projectors of the 1960s!
  • OmniRom

    Moved to this rom since CM went commercial (they are not far to slow for a number of devices - ie. Samsung will probably beat them to the Note 2).
    Fast, stable, good battery, and some cool new features.
    Just tried omni switch for the first time in the Tab yesterday.
    Great multi-tasking feature....
  • sorry

    *they are far to slow.........
    • re sorry

      Don't you mean ... they are far too slow ... ?
  • Install KitKat at your peril

    A bunch of stuff stopped working properly when I upgraded to KitKat in my Nexus 4, spell checker, activity notifier, network certificates, and on. Most worrying is battery lifetime, that is now under half of what it was with Jelly Bean.

    There is deluge of messages at the Google support website from folk asking how to revert from KitKat back to Jelly Bean.
    Luís de Sousa
    • Thanks for that info - from a Jelly Bean user

      I don't understand the almost universal demand for the latest OS versions. "If it ain't broke, don't fix it" has been my view for many years. If the phone does what you want, why bother with the uncertainty of an upgrade? I recently had an upgrade which happened automatically and the predictive texting no longer learns frequently used words, like my name. I haven't looked into it yet so I can probably fix it, but it's irritating when useful features disappear and no obvious benefits are gained. I shall only experiment with alternatives when I have a spare smartphone or tablet to experiment on. But it's good to know what's out there - thanks Liam.
  • ROMs for Tablets?

    Are there any ROMs out there for Tablets, in particular Tablets which are not significantly skinned or customised?

    I would like to install Kit Kat but the manufactiurer does not provide updates, as is the case with many many Tablets.
    The Former Moley
    • Of course there are

      Go to Cyanogenmod and/or XDA Developers and search for your device. There are even ROMs for some of the generic/noname Android tablets that can be purchased for $50 or so. But you need to do some homework to make sure you choose a ROM that's compatible with your device (which you didn't mention in you post). You probably need to learn how to root it and install a Recovery app as well.
  • Except that Verizon ~ Samsung blocked bootloader

    My S3 was out of warranty so I went ahead and rooted it last November and tried out a few 4.2 and 4.3 JellyBeans. Not particularly happy with the ROMs I tried I restored my 4.1.2 backup and was back to using stock when I got wind of the fact that Verizon had released a 4.3 OTA update.

    Problem was they didn't include the information that accepting the OTA update removed root and worse yet locked down the bootloader which so far makes it impossible to replace stock ROM with a custom ROM. It is possible to get root back and use a hack called safestrap to load other ROMs but stock ROM must be maintained or the phone will be bricked. I lost the use of my phone for two or three days until I found a debrick method that brought me back to the stock ROM. For now I've just rooted the ROM and used Titanium Backup to "freeze" bloatware which leaves them on my phone but keeps them hidden from my sight and prevents Play Store from notifying me about "important updates" to my programs. If the folks at XDA Developers figure out a way to completely unlock the bootloader on the Verizon S3 I'll be all over it. Until then I await my contract expiration so I can say goodbye to Verizon and hello to a pay as I go plan.