One of the biggest selling points of an Android powered phone is the customization. T-Mobile has gone to length finding well known and unique celebrities to help sell the customization of it’s myTouch 3G phone. Verizon has poked fun of the a well known competitor who “iDon’t customize” as well. A number of cell manufacturers have taken it upon themselves to add some additional customization to the base Android OS as well, such as Motorola’s MOTOBLUR, HTC’s Sense UI and Samsung’s TouchWiz interface. It’s all about the ability to make each Android phone unique and customized for each individual. With that idea in mind, a number of users have taken the time to build their own ROM for use on Android phones. It’s all about making the device yours.
The first thing most new Android phone users do is change the background images, add some widgets, get some apps from the market. These are all fairly easy to accomplish and require no real work outside of playing with the phone itself. These are the simple things that the carriers, manufacturers and Google itself want you to do freely. they encourage it. Download some apps, have fun, make the phone yours and if you happen to purchase a few apps off the market, that’s all good news for the pocketbook of the companies behind it. However, some users, myself included, aren’t satisfied with just a few apps and some widgets. We want a whole new experience. We want the bleeding edge of technology. With custom ROMs we can make Android “Better than [it] was before. Better, stronger, faster.”
At this time, the majority of custom ROMs are available for the HTC Dream (T-Mobile G1) and the HTC Magic (T-Mobile myTouch 3G). However, as of a few days ago, the Sprint Hero has been rooted and I know of at least one custom ROM for that phone. The customization usually starts with a base Android build, after which parts of the kernel are optimized. Often times, additional OS options are introduced, such as increasing the number of home screens or changing options for locking the phone. Additionally, developers of the custom ROMs like to add apps that they find useful, many times it’s widgets from other builds or development apps like terminals. I have personally tried a very popular custom ROM, CyanogenMod, and found it very good. With all the good ROMs you typically get a performance enhancement and tweeks. If you are looking to get the most out of your Android, and don’t mind a little extra leg work I highly recommend trying out a ROM for yourself. If you don’t like it you can easily roll back and continue with the Droid you have now.
Here is the process for a myTouch 3G as an example:
- First step involves downloading some files and placing them on a formatted SD Card.
- Next you flash your phone with those downloaded files, basically taking it to Version 1.5 of Android.
- Then you download and install the Flash Recovery app, and build a new recovery image, which enables you to install the custom ROMs.
- Finally, you download and install the custom ROM you want.
This was a general overview of how it works. Seems simple enough right? If done correctly and taking the time to read everything twice, it takes maybe 30-45 minutes. Maybe less if you are really fast. Just be sure to follow the directions for creating a backup (Nandroid) and do this only once with your current phone as is. This will ensure you can roll back everything should you choose to do so. For a more detailed process follow the directions here. They are for CyanogenMod, but can be used with most any ROM available. For a list of available ROMs, I highly recommend Androidspin’s great list. What’s your favorite ROM?
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