For those of you who want to try out the latest Android Pie 9.0 for your Galaxy S9, S9 Plus, or any Android device that has unlocked bootloader and Project Treble support, you can grab any of the Android 9.0 GSI(Generic System Image) ROMs and get it now instead of waiting for Samsung to update their TouchWiz, which most likely will take another 3-6 months. And for those of you in the U.S. with U.S. Snapdragon models, it will be few more months than the international Exynos models as carriers have to re-add their carrier bloatware. Now, these Android 9.0 GSI ROMs are NOT TouchWiz, they are not Samsung firmware but AOSP ROMs(What is AOSP?).
AOSP ROMs are more or less “pure” Android, similar to Google’s original Android OS used on their Pixel phones. There are quite a bit of advantages and also disadvantages. The biggest advantage is that your Galaxy S9 or S9 Plus will have no added custom software from Samsung and will run really, really fast. While Samsung phones run pretty fast these days, you will still encounter some hiccups and some lags once in awhile, something inevitable because Samsung has added way too many features to the original Android code. By running AOSP ROMs, you will be able to experience Pixel-like experience where everything runs smooth and fast. Now, the disadvantage of running these AOSP ROMs is that you will lose all Samsung’s added features such as Edge Panels, Samsung Camera(although you can use AOSP), Super Slow Motion, or any other Samsung features that they added and is not supported by original Android.
There are about a half a dozen Android 9.0 GSI ROMs you can flash(check here for the list), but I do highly recommend starting with the Pixel Experience GSI ROM, which also gives you many of Pixel’s software including Pixel launcher and even new Android 9.0 features not available on Pixel phones. Installation is pretty straight-forward(See How to Install GSI ROM on ANY Android!) so long as you have unlocked bootloader and TWRP recovery installed. Of course, you will need an Exynos model of Galaxy S9 or S9 Plus since you cannot unlock bootloader on U.S. Snapdragon models(however you can use Chinese Snapdragon models). This also brings a ton of new GSI ROMs you can install on the Chinese Snapdragon models, which usually do not have much developer support, also Chinese Snapdragon models are priced the lowest on eBay, which could prove to be a great option for those of you who want Snapdragon and unlocked bootloader.
As for Pixel Experience GSI ROM, it is full Android 9.0 Pie along with Pixel-like experience. In fact, most of the innards of the ROM is nearly identical to a real Pixel or Pixel 2 smartphone so it is pretty much like converting your Galaxy S9 or S9 Plus into a Pixel 2. And yes, you can also install this on the latest Exynos model of Galaxy Note 9 since it has full Project Treble support and has nearly identical process to Galaxy S9/S9 Plus. Project Treble definitely will allow users to try the latest versions of Android without having to wait for the manufacturer like Samsung to update their software. Unlocked bootloaders now have a new meaning, more value, and your phone will be able to get the latest Android OS even after 3 years when manufacturers stop updating their software. In other words, your Android smartphone will last much longer without having to rely on the manufacturers.
Pixel Experience GSI ROM is not perfect but it has almost everything working including voice, 4G LTE, GPS, camera, bluetooth and everything else. I’ve tested bluetooth voice calls and music on Pandora app and they both work beautifully. Camera also works flawless but in 4K video recording, sometimes you see artifacts WHILE recording video but the actual video records fine and plays back fine. Performance is also excellent, I have gotten slightly-higher than TouchWiz firmware scores on Antutu. But apart from Antutu, you will FEEL the faster performance as this GSI ROM has no lags whatsoever.
Can you use it as daily driver? I think so. Although we are in starting stages of Project Treble(What is Project Treble?) I can still recommend users to use as daily driver if they really want that Pixel-like experience without Samsung’s additives. But again, this GSI ROM isn’t for everyone out there but for those who prefer simplicity over lag and features. So, if this is your cup of tea, definitely give it a try this week(end) and do let me know! You can follow my step-by-step guide on How to Install GSI ROM here. and the Pixel Experience GSI ROM here.
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