What are the pros and cons of installing a custom ROM on your Android device?

It can be hard to resist the temptation to root your Android device and install a custom ROM, even at the risk of voiding your warranty and bricking your device. Custom ROMs can give you additional features and in same cases, improve battery life. They also allow you to update to versions of Android that are not normally available to your phone, such as Ice Cream Sandwich (4.0). There are tools that make it a quick and simple process, but that doesn’t necessarily make it a good idea. There are risks and extra work involved.

Reasons you should not install a custom ROM:

  • You will void your warranty. The manufacturer or third-party warranty company will not be willing to repair a damaged phone that has been rooted or has a custom ROM installed. While the ROM may not be the cause of the issue, your warranty will still be voided.
  • During the process of rooting, something may go wrong. You could brick your phone. There are ways to unbrick it, but you could potentially need a new phone. Without your warranty (you just voided it), you will have to pay full retail price for a replacement.
  • Custom ROMs may cause you to experience odd issues. I once used a ROM that would crash every two to three minutes during phone calls. It was extremely frustrating.
  • Custom ROMs update quite frequently to fix bugs. (Sometimes causing more bugs, but that’s another story.) You’ll end up having to update every few days, sometimes even having to wipe your data and restore it later. This can be a good thing, because bugs are getting fixed, but it can also be annoying to have to update that frequently.
  • You may accidentally give a malicious app root access, allowing the app to do whatever it wants to do with your phone. It could potentially wipe all of your data, take your files, including private pictures, and send spam to your contacts.

With that said, I have a custom ROM installed on my phone. I was unhappy with the stock ROM due to a bug that caused Android OS to drain the battery very quickly. After that issue is resolved, I may switch back just so I don’t have to deal with keeping my ROM updated every few days and the bugs that can come along with those updates. Below are the reasons you should install a custom ROM, but I want you to think about the reasons not to install it while you’re reading them.

Should You Install a Custom ROM on Your Android Device?Reasons you should install a custom ROM:

  • Speed tweaks. Most ROMs are tweaked to maximize speed and minimize RAM usage. I have a Samsung phone, which comes with TouchWiz. For those of you who have not used TouchWiz before, it’s not the prettiest launcher available, it lacks features, and does not feel very smooth. The speed tweaks of my ROM have made TouchWiz a lot more enjoyable, but I still prefer to use other launchers, such as ADW Launcher.
  • Tethering. While this does void your carrier’s terms of service, and I do not recommend doing it without a tethering plan, custom ROMs usually provide you with the ability to tether without a tethering plan. It is often the only reason people want to install a custom ROM. Again, I do not recommend this because you may eventually be caught and your service may be terminated. It is essentially stealing from your carrier. You’d be getting one of its services for free.
  • Battery life improvements. With root access, you have the ability to calibrate your battery, which usually will fix any issues you’re having with battery life. Some custom ROMs also under clock the CPU to reduce battery usage. With my ROM, I get a few more hours of battery life than I had with the stock ROM, and performance is actually better. If battery life improvement is all you’re interested in, I recommend that you try JuiceDefender. It’s an app that manages your wireless connections and disables them when your phone is locked to save battery life. It enables the connections once every 15 minutes so that you can still get notifications.
  • Apps. Some apps require root access. A good example of this is DroidWall, which lets you keep apps from using data while on 3G. This is great if you’re on a limited data plan and getting close to your limit. I’m also a fan of BatteryCalibrator, which is the app I use to calibrate my battery after flashing a new ROM.
  • Over clocking and under clocking. You can use an app, such as SetCPU, to over clock your phone, giving it better performance, but sacrificing battery life. This may be something you want to do if you’re having trouble running a game you really want to play. Some Custom ROMs are already configured to over clock your phone. You may also be interested in under clocking your phone. Under clocking reduces performance but increases battery life.
  • Newer Android versions. I’m excited to try Ice Cream Sandwich, but a release date for this update, for my phone, has not been announced yet. However, I can install a custom ROM that includes version 4.0 of Android (ICS) and use it way before the official update is released.

I believe that there are more reasons to install a custom ROM than to stick with the stock ROM, but I still don’t recommend it for everyone. You must be willing to deal with getting it set up, backing up all of your apps, restoring them after flashing, calibrating your battery, and updating very frequently. This is something that I’d prefer to avoid, so I’ll likely go back to the stock ROM after the issue that I was experiencing has been resolved. I love the performance tweaks and additional features, but I’d rather not spend the time required to keep up with it. However, you may feel differently. You may think that the benefits far outweigh the extra work involved, and that’s fine. I’d love to hear what you think.

What is your opinion on rooting and installing custom ROMs? Do you do it? Are you against it?