UPDATE: As pointed out in the comments, it might have been more appropriate to title this piece “Are Custom ROMs Overrated” instead.  We hope you will sting the piece enjoyable nonetheless.

I decided some time ago that I would root my phone after an app came in the market proclaiming that I could do the process with the click of a button.

Why root?  The advantages were obvious. The enhanced browser with multi touch, root access, one click GPS activation, and the list goes on. I installed the custom ROM without any problems and immediately I set about exploring my new Android. I had installed the stable Cyanogen 4.0.4 ROM and I played on my phone for hours exploring the new features. Honestly it was fantastic.

The best thing about using a custom ROM was the ability to install apps to your SD card. This allowed you to install as many apps as your card would allow. I could install apps to try without worrying about using up space on the phones internal memory and that was a nice thing to do.

Over the next few weeks I started to follow the custom ROM community and became a bit more confident in flashing different ROM’s. I tried Hero ROMs and loved the look of it.  It was then that I started to use the experimental Cyanogen ROMs.

But that’s when the problems started.

When using custom ROMs I think you have to accept that not everything is going to work the way it should and I started to run into problems that may have been trivial to some, but to me they were frustrating and getting in the way of using my G1 how I wanted.

There was an issue with syncing your Google calendar and no matter what I tried I couldn’t get 2 way syncing. Trivial I know, but I had to re-flash my phone and I lost ALL my calendar entries on my phone because it wouldn’t allow the online calendar to sync to the phone. There were a lot of entries so the thought of having to enter them all again and then remove the duplicate entries on my online calendar proved too much. Also, one of the most frustrating features was the fact that the solution to a lot of the problems was to “wipe the phone, reformat and repartition your SD card and re-flash”. The growing number of times I had to reinstall my apps was getting annoying. All my SMSes were backed up to email and obviously my email and contacts were all synced to my Google account so that wasn’t so bad.  Taking advantage of saving the apps to SD helped getting all of the apps -reinstalled too, but it was agitating nonetheless.

This wasn’t what made me move from custom ROMs. What did it was the fact that I became increasingly obsessed by when the next update would come. Features were promised in future updates and I wanted them….I wanted them now! I felt as if the ROM I was using that had miles more features than the official one, was getting out of date. Unbelievable. I was being spoiled and I wanted more. The small bugs were fixed quite quickly but some things took a while and I found myself using a phone that was always missing one thing or another – Things I felt I needed.

The Hero ROMs didn’t have Bluetooth, I mean come on! I needed Bluetooth. The latest Cyanogen ROM ( had an issue displaying Google maps and this affected apps I that was trying to review. I also realized that the majority of things that came with using a custom ROM were just bonuses and not necessities. I didn’t need phone wide search so desperately and I didn’t need the new market that showed me the same app 3 times due to some bug. So I weighed up the pros and cons and decided that I would go back to a stable, official ROM.

Some may say I copped out but honestly I just wanted a phone that worked without all the hassle. Yes I miss some features and I am trying to convince myself that I did the right thing, but I haven’t had 1 force close and ALL my apps are working as they should.

When I decided to move back to an unrooted phone there was a cease and desist order served on Cyanogen. This was just coincidental timing and this had nothing to do with why I unrooted.  After my experience of using custom ROMs I have nothing but praise and admiration for custom ROM builders such as Cyanogen and Drizzy. They provide something that people want and maybe if Google utilised their skills then people wouldn’t have to mess about getting the features they want. If some guy sitting at home can create a version of Android that people are asking for then what are the Android team at Google doing?

So is rooting your phone overrated? Yes I think it is. It’s not to say it doesn’t have its advantages but if Rooting = Advantages + Lots of Hassle, then I am quite happy on my unrooted G1.

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  1. Nice to hear about your experiences. But you do not criticize rooting itself, you criticize custom roms (in special, that they are unstable). And rooting can be used for different things, not just for installing custom roms. So, the headline of this post is missleading :)

  2. I always use the latest rom out there. And i must say, it can be pretty unstable sometimes :p But people like Cyanogen always worked as fast as they can to get the bugs out of it. And he needed people to test his roms to find out the bugs.
    If you dont like bugs, just use the stable version of a rom and wait for the next stable. it will always be faster then the official google android updates. And with extra's in it.

    I just like the roms. The possibility of choosing different themes, apps2sd, a lot of other apps like open overclocker, proceskillers and more like that.

  3. there is a reason it was an experimental rom. You didnt read the warnings?
    personally, rooting the phone adds so much extra value that i would never buy an android phone that couldnt get root access on.

    choose a stable rom if you don't want issues. if you want cutting edge then you will have to live with a few issues. I have 2 android phones- a magic and a G1. G1 has latest experimental cyanogen and magic has a stable Amon_RA ion rom. ion rom is stable and G1 is a bit more experimental but have no issues at all with it….

    • Thanks for the comments. During my time on cutsom ROMs I used several different ones and each one posed it's own problems. I used the stable and experimental ROMs but you can't get round the ifact that stable ROMs still have some problems (Calendar sync on Cyanogen, Bluetooth on Hero ROM). As I said some of the issues may seem trivial but all it takes is one thing to not work and you have a phone that doesn't fulfill it's purpose.
      As I have also said these are my experiences and there is no way that I would say not to install a ROM I would just say that for me it wasn't for me.

      • The only problem is that you seem to be the only one having these problems. I haven't heard of anyone else having those calendar syncing issues. Are people on the dev forums also claiming to have these problems?

        I've been running the stable Cyanogen for at least a month now, with zero problems whatsoever. If anything, the custom ROM has improved stability on my phone due to the several ways that it improves performance (hitting the CPU and memory harder, apps2sd frees up space, etc). I get far fewer force closures on my phone now.

        I just think your article is a little disingenuous. Are you certain that you had those calendar sync issues on the stable Cyanogen, and not the experimental? Your article certainly leads the reader to think that.

        Anyway, to sum up, I absolutely cannot go back to the stock build of Android. It will make my phone unusable.

  4. I strongly disagree with the comment that people mostly root phones so you can load a custom rom, just have a look in the android market at all the apps for rooted phones, none of these have anything to do with custom roms.

    WiFi tethering for example is an absolute must for me regardless what rom I have loaded on my phone.

    • "regardless what rom I have loaded on my phone." Surely having a rooted phone is having a custom ROM. The official "uncustomized" ROM doesn't have root. Rooting your phone "customizes" your ROM and invalidates your warranty and will not be supported by Google or your mobile provider for this reason.

  5. While I whole-heartedly agree with the author and will only give back my rooted-cyanogen 4.0.4 myTouch and G1 when they are pried out of my cold dead fingers; it is regrettable that T-Mobile never offered the developer's edition as counterparts to stock Android for those of us who understand the risks of root access but are willing to have the rewards as well.

  6. I really think you will change your mind. Once you have rooted, it is hard to go back. In my opinion rooting and using a stable ROM such as ION is the best of both worlds. You have the apps on your sd card and a very stable ROM.

    I can't get away from Hero ROM now even though sometimes it is slow. Can't give up the features.

    • I loved the Hero ROM. It was actually quite smooth for me but bluetooth was a major issue. I do sometimes think that I will miss some of the advantages but so far I have been able to do everything I want without seriously regretting going back to an official ROM.

  7. Recently my unrooted HTC Magic bricked itself (blue light of death?). Rogers (Canada) sent me a free replacement via UPS, but said they may investigate the returned phone to ensure it wasn't customer caused.

    I was teetering on loading a custom rom before, but counted myself very lucky I didn't. I'm not sure if they would look beyond water or physical damage, but if I were them I would.

  8. I've only ever used stable Cyanogen releases and I have NOT had any issues you experienced. The problem is you can't just keep changing ROMs and expect everything to be fine. Parts of the previous ROM could still linger over and cause problems on the next, hence the "wipe, reflash" method. If you stick with the same ROM (i.e. only apply Cyanogen stable updates), I think your experience would be smoother.

    Also I think you're out of bounds by criticising the stability of EXPERIMENTAL ROMs. That's the whole point of why they're experimental, they're not stable yet. It's clearly disclaimed, and it's there for people to help find bugs and work towards the next stable release. By stating "that's when the problems started" you're just putting custom ROMs in general in a bad light. You're pretty much reviewing an incomplete system as a final version, which is bad journalism.

    • Thanks for the comment. I wasn't criticising experimental ROMs I was reporting MY experience with them. If people didn't try the experimental ROM how would stable ROMs come about? The whole point I was trying to make is that you get spoilt with the features and want to try the new version just so you can get new features before everyone else. I fell into the trap of wanting features as soon as they became available and thus encountered all the problems I did. The only criticism is that of my over eagerness to have the latest ROM.
      You and many others haven't had the problems I had, but just search xda for problems caused by rooting/ROMs and you will find hundreds who did.

  9. I did root my Hero and installed some "recommended" apps to speed things up etc, but in all honesty they just made my phone very buggy.
    I come from Windows Mobile and on this platform I always used custom ROMs as the OEM ones had loads of bugs.
    I found at least with my Hero the ROM is stable and working fine so I went back and since then I have flashed the new ROM from HTC and all is good.
    dont get me wrong I am the worst for wanting new features but must have all basic functions (wifi BT etc) first before I would consider it again.
    Also apart from Tethering and remote wipe apps etc there is nothing I need root for personally.


  10. I’ve been fortunate enough to not have any problems with my Cyanogen 4.0.4 Stable. No Calendar sync issues for me.

    By the way, changing the article title/theme is good, as rooting =/= to Custom ROMs, however I’d be willing to bet not one person rooted and stayed with RC29. It’s too gimped. There’s no reason to root and then not go to a custom ROM.

  11. What hassles? My calendar syncs perfectly with 4.0.4. I was having to factory reset the tmo build on a weekly basis, but I have been running 4.0.4 for over 3 weeks with out any problems at all. So seriously, what hassles?

  12. I never had the syncing issues you talked about, I use the calender all of the time and cyanogen 4.11.1 Although I don’t know why you would complain about a rom labeled as ‘experimental’ not running to your standards. Its experimental for a reason. I have to say its well worth the hassle to be able to install more than 15-20 apps on my G1, plus the battery life is slightly improved, 1 click GPS, Linux swap partition, back up settings. All of these things should be on the vanilla build its really pathetic they aren’t. Until then I’ll be running rooted roms.

    • As I said in an earlier reply I wasn't complaining, I was detailing my experience of it. Of course I knew the risks but it doesn't mean I had to accept the ROM as it was. Things didn't work and it still doesn't change the fact that I had to re-flash several times when using ALL the different ROMs including the "stable" version. And I agree these features should be part of Android which is why I asked "what are the Android team at Google doing?"

  13. I think rooting and sticking with stable builds like 4.0.4 is a good middle ground. If you have really low risk tolerance, yeah, don't bother rooting. If you want the bleeding edge and don't mind bugs and hassles, go for the experimental builds. With 4.0.4 the main hassle for me was backing up and then restoring all my apps. A bit of a pain, but in the grand scheme not that big of a deal.

    The only bug I've experienced with 4.0.4 is that I no longer get new vm notifications from the Google Voice app. This is far outweighed by the advantages (primarily apps2sd), especially since I'm set up to get email notifications of new vms from Google Voice.

  14. so um… In Australia, "rooting" and "to root" are vernacular terms for having sex. I must say since getting my HTC Magic and getting into custom ROMs, the Android community has been a source of much unintended mirth around my place =)

    No, rooting's not overrated in my experience

  15. I have to saw that roting my G1 was the best choice I made. Having flashed every ROM available I settled on Enomther's Official Roger's because it gave me the functionality that I needed and wanted and I have not had any force closes with any app and only 1 issue with an App not performing as it is intended. Is that a trade off? Yes a small one but the intergrated Exchange Sync I now have that my G1 did not ship with more than makes up for it. There is no way I could go back to a stock ROM.

  16. For me, the only reason I'm thinking of rooting my Hero is that I still only have access to the free portion of the Market (I live in Sweden). Most of the other stuff people talk about (multitouch, exchange sync etc.) are already included in the stock rom. As for installing apps to the SD card, it might become an issue for me when my phone's mem runs out, but for now I have more than enough space for all the apps I want installed. There just aren't that many apps on the market I think are worth installing. Most are utter crap, IMO. I'll wait for now.

    Btw, this is from a former WM user who always used custom roms. But that was mostly because the custom roms were both faster and more stable. I don't have that issue with the Hero.

  17. Love the article and completely agree with you. The only reason I haven't rooted my phone and installed a custom ROM is discussed here. I much rather have my applications that work just fine on my phone than getting a bunch of "cool" apps that just aren't stable enough yet. Like you said, too much hassle, custom ROMs just aren't for everyone!

  18. Completely agree with your article. I love apps2sd but the frequency of force closes even on the stable rom (Cyanogenmod 4.0.4) is a pain that is difficult to live with.

  19. I appreciate your comments, but you can't criticize all ROMs as being unstable just because the experimental ROMs were. Experimental ROMs are unstable by definition. They aren't released so you can have the latest goodies before everybody else; they are released so the community can vet the bugs. So, unless you're willing to contribute to the troubleshooting process and not complain about the inherent problems that you were duly warned about… stick with the stable ROMs.

  20. Honestly, no offense to G1 users, but the only complaints with root access and custom ROM usage I've really heard are from G1 users. I have a mytouch3g running cyanogen and I've got no issues. Even google maps has been behaving. The hardware of the G1 just isn't designed for that kind of pressure, even with apps to sd taking some pressure off of the main storage space. But that's just my opinion.

  21. If you are not going to stay on top of it, and have no specific reason to root (i.e. wifi tethering, etc.) then you shouldn’t bother with me. But like was said before me, the onlt way I give up my rooted phone is out of my cold dead hands. I am a root junky and live on the forums learninf everything I can do. For me, being able to write scripts as su is a super important reason to root. Apps2sd as well (I have 350 installed now). Linux-swap for speed. The list goes on. I love to be able to do what I please. I had the stock ROM for less than a day before I rooted my phone. Now I take them out of the box and root them. I wouldn’t use the phone any other way.

  22. Oh, and the losing data after wiping issue goes away if you have the right tools. There are ways to become an expert "flasher" and avoid all the pitfalls that come with chronic flashing. But again, you have to want to do it. For me, it's my hobby so I love it. My father, for example, has me update him to the latest stable Cyan ROMs when they come out so it's something he does only once in awhile.

  23. I am running a very fast and stable HERO ROM on my HTC Magic with no problems. I still can't receive bluetooth files but I couldn't do that with the stock ROM… ha ha ha. This ROM just turned my Magic into a Hero without the extra 1.8mp camera and cost. I used 1 click rooting and haven't look back. If I go back to the original stock ROM it will be to sell the phone.. ha ha ha.

  24. It was nice to hear your experience but keep in mind, the problems you had was because they were experimental roms, and that's the reason why they are experimental…

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