Someone recently asked me how my experience has been with a couple of ROMs I have tried on my Android phone. Which reminded me that I need to write a post detailing my ups and downs during the journey.

History

I owned Moto G (Falcon) till OnePlus 5T was launched last year. I have used many ROMs on that phone. But in 2015 I switched to LineageOS and kept using it. I still have that phone, and it is still running LineageOS. When I got OP5T, I had to wait a little for OnePlus to release the sources. When that happened, I kept an eye on XDA forums for some sane ROM to appear. Soon enough, OmniROM was released which I installed. I have been using it for quite a while now (IIRC, since Jan/Feb 2018). Last week I tried LineageOS. Unfortunately, I have had to flash OxygenOS a few times during the period.

When I got my first Android phone, I had no idea about the ROM scene back in 2010 or so. A friend in college told me that I can get “root” access on my phone. That was a surprise! I eventually discovered XDA and started downloading ROMs after ROMs. I remember flashing 2 ROMs a day because it was just so much fun. At that time, I did not care about privacy, did not find Google so evil and other services as data hoarding monsters (exaggerating, but hey). Therefore the options were many.

But with Moto G, I saw a curve in the way technology progressed into what it is now. I started moving (slowly) to FLOSS life. While scrolling XDA, one day I discovered LineageOS. I pinged their IRC and they told me to download from the official page. Since then, I have trusted LineageOS with all my data and mobile computing needs.

I can go into this historical aspect of OP5T as well, but it will get boring that way.

ROMs

Lineage and Omni both are amazing ROMs. They give a lot of power to us - the users. Lineage even comes with a dedicated utility to prevent apps from accessing any personal data. They do not have Google Play Services inbuilt.

LineageOS is this sane, mature person who doesn’t do any ridiculous thing (no signature spoofing, for example) and allows only some customization out-of-box. Omni is more customizable version of Lineage. I do have some preferences over the two, but they are small enough to not be talked about right now.

I use f-droid for all apps. (Give list of apps being used?) I have yalp installed for Slack. I have installed MicroG on OmniROM to get OsmAnd to work. Magisk gives root access whenever needed.

Pros

I will not talk about how FLOSS is great and therefore all the apps I use are also great. That is implied.

But, what is worth noting is that the phone is super-functional. It doesn’t depend upon Dopamine release. We get notifications from various services all the time, all apps try to get our attention more and more. But with this setup, it is not the case. I pick up my phone when I know which task I want to perform. The distractions do not exist at all. This is really important in my opinion. Give it a thought for yourself. The phone doesn’t pro-actively tell you to do anything ever. There are no advertisements to get you pulled into consumerism either. So, instead of compulsively picking up the phone, I think of the task first, and then pick it up. For example, “Hey, I just got this email and I got to tell about it to a friend on XMPP”, “I got to ssh to the server right now, and see if the scripts are done” etc.

Here are the apps I have installed:

  1. AntennaPod
  2. Barcode Scanner
  3. Simple Calendar
  4. Chromium
  5. Conversations
  6. Document Viewer
  7. Easy xkcd
  8. Equate
  9. Feeder
  10. Simple File Manager
  11. Firefox Klar
  12. Simple Gallary
  13. Habits
  14. Hacker’s Keyboard
  15. K-9 Mail
  16. KeePassDroid
  17. LibreTorrent
  18. Mastalab
  19. Mysplash
  20. NewPipe
  21. Nock Nock
  22. OpenKeychain
  23. Orbot
  24. Orfox
  25. Orgzly
  26. OsmAnd
  27. Slack
  28. Revolution IRC
  29. Sky Map
  30. SkyTube
  31. Slide
  32. Syncthing
  33. Termux
  34. Transdrone
  35. TunnelBear
  36. Vinyl Music Player
  37. Who Has My Stuff
  38. Yalp

I am not sure if someone would benefit by knowing how I use these apps. If you are interested, send email.

Cons

Yes, I have had problems.

I have to travel often. And when I’m not at home, I use taxi services, food delivery services, Slack, Hangouts, Google Drive, Jira, Zoom, flight apps, Goodreads, Skype, Flickr - the list goes on - from mobile - because I am on the move. And, my availability is important if I am going to our offices.

Many of the aforementioned services do not work without Play Store Services, unfortunately. The maps are also poor compared to Google Maps and in that large city where I barely know some areas, maps are essential - would have to suffer a lot without them. These are work related and essential things I need but are not achievable on LineageOS or OmniROM without sacrificing the original purpose.

Then there is a lack of some apps that I would love to have. For example a nice customizable launcher. And a good camera. I have used OnePlus’s camera app, and it is very good! The camera performance on these ROMs is pathetic. I hate every photo I take, and I just tell people that my phone doesn’t have the camera at all. How about a better keyboard? If you have used GBoard, you cannot get used to stock AOSP keyboard.

Then comes a voice assistant. I really like how I can just tell my phone to do things with Google Assistant. I travel mostly in car and I feel voice is a much safer way of handling my phone while driving or seating in the car. Even simplest things like pausing the music can be done by the assistant. Apart from travel, I can create notes, open apps, set reminders etc without having to touch the phone. There are no assistants I know of that can be used on these ROMs. There is simply no option at all.

At times I feel that some services are really convenient even though they’re evil. For example YouTube. They probably track every mouse movement, but they give me pretty nice content. What I want to point out is that there are many proprietary services that do not have FLOSS replacement and audience. Sure, there are replacements being made and I hope they succeed.

It’s already a great thing that most of my needs are covered by FLOSS apps. But the road is not smooth.

Summary

In summary, the life is 70% fine. Which is to say a lot. I strongly recommend everyone to switch to one of such ROMs and be free from all evil till the evil learns. I will also help flashing the ROMs and if you can meet me personally, I will do it for you.