While Android smartphone owners wait for news about when they download the official Google Android KitKat 4.4 upgrades for their phone, alternative operating system developers are hard at work to producing their beta and first-build versions of the new platform.
Here’s a look at what three ROM – or smartphone operating systems — open source project developers, CyanogenMod, AOKP and Paranoid Android, have to offer. These are certainly not the only developers worthy of a mention. A relative newcomer OmniROM that has been gaining traction has been busy too.
These are popular with users who want a customizable but streamlined OS with user friendly features and freedom from unwanted inbuilt bloatware, which weighs down the performance of the phone.
Each developer has honed its own way to maximize and make better use of screen real estate, personalize appearance and make your most frequently used applications, shortcuts and settings just that bit easier to get to.
Which custom build you pick, if any, will depend on what features are most important to you but may ultimately come down to what phone you use.
While CyanogenMod has released the new operating system for more smart phone manufacturers, including Google Nexus, Samsung, HTC, Motorola and Sony, so far AKOP is supporting more models of Nexus and Sony Xperia. Paranoid Android has been playing catch up so far only providing builds for the Nexus lineup.
As the producers of unofficial builds will warn you, their early versions – released as “nightlies”– are prone to annoying glitches and can be quite unstable. Backing up the device is highly recommended. Some require a clean install. Also phone warranties may be voided.
Anyone who demands their phone to be reliable may not like the idea of being a pioneer – or guinea pig — and instead wait for the developers to deliver their final reliable versions or stick with OEM versions when they come out.
On the other hand for anyone who owns a “legacy phone” and wants the enhancements of 4.4 KitKat may have no option but to go with one of the unofficial build.
For example AKOP and Paranoid Android support the original Galaxy Nexus, which won’t be getting KitKat from Google because it has passed its 18-months update cycle.
It is worth noting that developers at XDA Developer forum have been churning out KitKat Mods using CyanogenMod 11 source code for several legacy phones and OmniMOD source code has brought out the 4.4 KitKat MODS for several Samsung Galaxy, Sony Xperia, Nexus models and HTC One.
Under the Hood Comparison — Cyanogen Mod 11, AOKP and Paranoid Android.
For easier access to the phone’s apps, CyanogenMod allows users to create a lockscreen ring of application shortcuts and Quick Launch shortcuts that is easily accessible from any screen. Similarly AOKP users can add up to five custom shortcuts and apps to a navigation ring and pin “Ribbon” of apps to areas such as the lockscreen or notification menu.
AOKP also allows users to adjust the size and the transparency of the navigation and status bars, while CyanogenMod’s advanced PIE mode puts navigation buttons readily at your fingertips, and customize themes.
Paranoid Android has a Floating Mode that leaves recently used apps to stay on screen.
Both AOKP and Paranoid Android allow users to easily switch settings between phone, Tablet and Phablet layouts.
Among other features, CyanogenMod and AOKP have advanced power menus, something that Paranoid Android is adding into its AOSPA 4.0 Beta . While CyanogenMod lets users adjust the intensity of vibrations, AOKP takes it a step further by allowing users to pick a unique vibration pattern to identify individual callers.
According to the Paranoid Android AOSPA 4.0 Beta version includes a host of new features including built-in SuperSu to provide control over apps; enhanced power menu and volume controls; immersive mode toggle; quick unlock for the keyboard; Google’s native app privacy controls; optional lock screen transparency with blur effect; and quick settings 2.0 to edit tiles from within the pull down panel. Included APKs, Cell Broadcast Receiver, Paranoid OTA, Sim Toolkit, Lightbulb.
Unfortunately some Paranoid Android enhancements that maximize the use of the screen are not ready yet, including Hybrid, which crams more information onto the screen and PIE custom navigation controls that stay hidden until summoned by a gesture. HALO, a mini menu that sits on the side of the screen to make it easy to view notifications and apps easily, is also not ready yet.
CyanogenMod features include customizable themes; built in apps for LED notification light to create profiles; FLAC audio codec support; an OpenVPN client; support for Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, and USB tethering; and performance enhancements such CPU overclocking; lockscreen ring and quick launch ring; quick settings; an advanced PIE mode; and customizable battery display and signal icons.
Paranoid Android AOSPA 4.0 Beta includes built-in SuperSu; advanced power menu; enhanced volume buttons an controls; global immersive mode toggle; notification LED light controls; actionable status bar date/time; keyguard quick unlock; disable full screen keyboard; basic file browser; exposed Google’s native app privacy controls; context aware recent/clear all button combo; screenshot delete added to screenshot notification; optional lock screen transparency with blur effect; optional status bar battery icons and quick settings 2.0 to edit tiles from within the pull down panel.
Paranoid Android allows to easily switch settings between Tablet and Phablet layouts.
The current build of Paranoid Android doesn’t have Hybrid Engine, HALO, or PIE either but developers say they are on their way.
AOKP offers LED Control customization; Ribbon for customizable application shortcuts pinned to lockscreen or notification menu; customized toggles; navigation ring for easy access to up to 5 custom applications or actions; adjust the size and transparency of the navigation and status bars; pin shortcuts and custom toggles to navigation bar; switch settings between phone, tablet and phablet layouts; customized vibration patterns to identify individual contacts, and customized battery status.
All three provide control over privacy allow you to set permissions for individual apps.
Here is a list of MOD-supported phones:
CyanogenMod 11: Google Nexus 5, Google Nexus 7 Wi-Fi 2013 version, HTC Droid Incredible 4G LTE, HTC One (AT&T, Verizon) HTC One XL, Motorola Photon Q, Samsung Captivate, Samsung Galaxy S, Samsung Galaxy S B, Samsung Galaxy SII, Samsung Galaxy S4 (Canadian), and Sony Xperia T.
Look here for download page.
AKOP: Google Nexus 5, Nexus 4, Nexus 10, Nexus 7 (2013 WiFi), Nexus (GSM, Verizon), Samsung Galaxy S3 (T-Mobile, Verizon, , C Spire, Cricket), Galaxy S4 (C-Spire, Cricket, US Cell, T-Mobile, Verizon, Sprint), Galaxy Note 2 (ATT, TMO, LTE-Intl, Sprint, T-Mobile, Verizon), HTC One (ATT, Sprint, Verizon, T-Mobile, Intl.), Sony Xperia Z, ZL, Xperia T and Xperia V.
Look here for download page. AKOP warns users to do a full data wipe before installing the custom ROM.
Paranoid AndroidAOSPA4+ ROM: Nexus 4, Nexus 5, Nexus 7 (3G, WiFi, 2013 Wi-Fi, 3024 LTE ), Nexus 10 and Galaxy Nexus.
Look here for download instructions and download page. Paranoid Android notes that a factory reset is required if users are updating from Android 4.3, stock Android 4.4 or another ROM.
OmniROM: Oppo Find 5, Oppo N1 Nexus 7 2013, Nexus 7 (2012 3G), Nexus 5, Samsung Galaxy S2, Galaxy S4 LTE, Galaxy S3 (LTE, International), Galaxy Note, Galaxy Note 2 LTE, Galaxy S4, HTC One, Nexus 4, Nexus 10, Sony Xperia T, Sony Xperia ZL, and Sony Xperia Z.
Look here for download instructions and download page.