What is LineageOS (formerly CyanogenMod)?

The custom ROM will not be deterred by company turmoil

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One of the many benefits of rooting your Android phone is the ability to install, or "flash" a custom ROM; that is, a modified version of the Android OS. Because Android has an open-source platform, there are countless custom ROMs available. At the end of 2016, the most popular, CyanogenMod, announced it was shuttering its services after the company supporting the open-source community experienced some turmoil at the top and laid off staff.

That's not the end of the story, though: CyanogenMod is now LineageOS. The LineageOS community will continue to build out the operating system under the new name.

The beauty of custom ROMs is that your phone isn't weighed down with bloatware (pre-installed apps that can't be removed) and you can even make it run faster and last longer between charges. Before you choose a custom ROM, though, you have to decide whether you want—or need—to root your Android phone.

Rooting Your Phone

When you root your phone, you take full control of it, just as you can customize your PC or Mac to your liking if you have administrative rights. For Android phones, this means you can get OS updates and security patches without waiting for your carrier to release them. For example, the well-publicized Stagefright security flaw, in which your phone could be compromised via text message, had a security patch, but you had to wait until your carrier chose to release it.

That is, unless you had a rooted phone, in which case, you could download the patch right away. It also means that you can update the OS on older Android devices that no longer receive these updates through a carrier. There are pros and cons to rooting your phone, but, in general, the benefits outweigh the risks.

What Cyanogen (now LineageOS) Adds to Android

Cyanogen and LineageOS take the best of the latest Android code and, at the same time, add features and bug fixes beyond what Google offers. The custom ROM offers a simple, distraction-free interface, an interactive tool to make installation easier, and an Updater tool that gives you access to updates immediately, and control over when to update your device. You can also use it to turn your smartphone or tablet into a mobile hotspot, for no additional charge. 

Customizations

One of the benefits to rooting your Android phone is that you can truly make it your own. Flashing a custom ROM means you can access custom themes or design your own color scheme. You can also set up multiple profiles depending on where you are or what you're doing. For example, you could set up one profile for when you're at work and another when you're at home or out on the town. You can even change profiles automatically based on location or use NFC (near-field communication).   

You also get more options for customizing your lock screen, including accessing apps, displaying weather, battery status, and other information, and viewing notifications, all without having to unlock your screen.

Constantly pressing the wrong button? Reconfigure your Android phone's buttons to your liking—both the hardware buttons and the software navigation bar.

Security and Privacy

Another upside to rooting your phone is gaining access to robust security apps. CyanogenMod (now LineageOS) has two notable features in this category: Privacy Guard and Global Blacklist. Privacy Guard lets you customize permissions for the apps you use so that you can restrict access to your contacts, for example. If your phone isn't rooted, apps won't run properly unless you agree to their permissions. The Global Blacklist lets you flag and block annoying phone calls and texts, whether they're from a telemarketer, Robo-caller, or anyone you'd like to avoid.

Finally, you can use a free tool to remotely locate a lost device or delete its contents if you're unable to find it.

Other Custom ROMs

LineageOS is but one of the many custom ROMs available. Other popular ROMs include Paranoid Android and AOKP (Android Open Kang Project). The good news is that you can try more than one and decide which one is best for you.