Is Custom Android ROM worth it in 2022? Short answer is – not really, but it depends what kind of user you are.
In longer answer, well, you should read whole post to see what are my experiences using Custom Android ROM’s within last 10 years and is it worth now to get phone with good Custom ROM community.
As long term Android user, I will say that experimentation’s with mods, tweaks, modded apk’s and installing custom ROM’s are nothing new for me, but for lot of users it is.
Nevertheless, here is my opinion about modifying phone firmware and ROM just to get new features or even, version of Android which phone don’t support officially.
For last 4 years, I was on stock ROM’s and firmwares for devices that I used, but I was also lurking into xda-developers forum sections for those devices just to follow what is new, are there any custom ROM developers or device is binned to dust of Android custom ROM community. Just to notice and say something crazy – in long begone era of using Samsung Galaxy Mini 2 S6500D (almost 3 years in that part of community) I was really included into Custom ROM community. No, seriously, on my xda-developers profile you shall all see what I did, what ROM’s did I compiled, updated and modified to my personal preferences. Those were days where I would spend all night compiling Android 4.4 based ROM with tweaks, just to realize after flashing it to phone – well, it failed miserably.
In those times, I was also running Custom ROM’s on my LG devices as well, from my first smartphone LG Optimus One P500, then device which was linked with old company LG G2 mini LTE and later down the line on Doogee Valencia 2 Y100 Pro, and final device which was on some kind of Custom ROM was good old Huawei P9 Lite VNS-L31.
On newer phones from Samsung Galaxy A7 (2018) up to latest Xiaomi Redmi Note 9 Pro and Realme 6s I was like – don’t need custom ROM’s, stock are fine and are updated semi-regularly at least something, and they have latest compatible Android version on it. If I wanted some customization there are visual tweaks which don’t need root, just install app from Play Store/ApkMirror and voila, works great. That include – launcher and their custom icon packs, alternative apps from stock one’s etc.
But now, few years later, I’m back into action of custom Android ROM’s. You might ask: but why now, aren’t stock ROM’s great? Answer is simple: have some old phones which still have solid community support like dad’s old Samsung Galaxy Grand Prime G530FZ or even my old LG Spirit 4G H440N. Those two devices still have community support, OK, LG have just few ROM’s after I migrated to Huawei and those are updated to at-least Android 7 while on old Samsung Galaxy Grand Prime there are ROM’s with Android 11 base. You read it correctly, 7 years old mid-range device got Android 11 in LineageOS variant and LineageOS GO Edition (based on Android 11 GO Edition).
Within those experimentation’s and testings of newer Android versions got me thinking – Realme have pulled out support from Realme 6/6i/6s series of phones with Android 11, RealmeUI 2.0 (slimmed down version without Google Drawer and their Smart Assistant, minor things) and security update from early in this year, let me see… Oh my God, this series of phones have Custom ROM’s based on Android 12/12L dayum son. As Realme 6s is my secondary device and can be used for testings of apps and other things that got me thinking of returning of rooting, bootloader unlocking and at final step – installing custom ROM for it based on Android 12.
With this in mind I got myself few days of researching how-to do few things and yes, how to recover phone from almost bricked state as I was bit too excited to flash Custom ROM and well, bricked device.
Easiest part was allowing phone to get bootloader unlocked and unlocking it, it was easy as installing Deep Testing app from Realme, allowing access to IMEI and opening Windows Terminal in Powershell mode just to execute 2 commands (yup, 2 commands only, one for unlocking bootloader and another to reboot device, both in fastboot mode).
Hard part was my fault – I actually had installed wrong Custom Recovery as I was excited that all is going fine. It went sour after one of recovery’s is based on RealmeUI 1.0, while I was on RealmeUI 2.0 and phone went into infinite bootloop. Thankfully, there is solution, a good tutorial on xda-developers how to unbrick phone using unofficial apps (I used SP Flash previously on Doogee, but older version just to flash custom recovery in those days) to latest firmware which I found on RealmeFirmware site, do some magic within locked firmware to decrypt it and… It all went wrong on my workstation, screw you old drivers which I couldn’t remove and got lot of BSOD’s while doing few steps for mitigating Realme/Oppo methods so users can’t revert firmware or flash it themself later on. This hard part took me 2 days and using original cable on another computer without messed up drivers and hold and behold – it works fine, phone is back to stock but with unlocked bootloader.
After this, hard part which took me 2 days I got safe and secure version of TWRP Custom Recovery which works on RealmeUI 2.0 ROM’s and with those base. It was messy, but after finding this version installation was easy.
Last part is choosing which ROM to install. In my case I used PixelPlusUI ROM as it is mostly, and I really mean mostly stock as AOSP can get and as close as Pixel phones got it. There are some tweaks like return of button navigation and few more visual tweaks but nothing special and too much skinning. In this case, I didn’t rooted device as I don’t need root part (yet), and it is fully stable.
Below are screenshots from Realme 6s RMX2002 running PixelPlusUI ROM.
In conclusion: is it worth it – yes, and no. If you like experimenting and using unofficial versions of Android then yes, otherwise, nah, stick to stock firmware and replace device if need support for few years in future.
As my main device: Xiaomi Redmi Note 9 Pro – it got officially Android 12 based on MIUI 13 lately, so it will stay on it until I get new phone, and then will install custom ROM on it.
All links are for educational use and to showcase what devices have great community support.
Post is updated on 24. September 2022. as links to Customex YouTube channel and tutorial are down, channel is removed from existence and TWRP link is moved to personal Google Drive as backup.
Cover image is my own creation using Canva.