What is AOSP?

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Probably the most common question I get these days is, “what is AOSP?”

Well, AOSP stands for “Android Open Source Project”.  Basically, AOSP refers to Google’s Android operating system.

Now, what does AOSP mean for rooting and custom ROMs?

You probably have seen “AOSP” ROMs versus TouchWiz, Sense, MotoBlur, etc…etc…

AOSP ROMs refer to custom ROMs that are built from the original Android source code.

TouchWiz, Sense, or MotoBlur ROMs on the other hand are also built from the original Android source code.  But there is a difference.

AOSP ROMs keep the “open source” concept whereas TouchWiz/Sense/MotoBlur ROMs are highly modified versions of AOSP by companies like Samsung, HTC, and Motorola.

Hense, when someone refers to an AOSP ROM, they are referring to a ROM based on Google’s open source code, not Samsung, HTC, or Motorola’s.

To keep it simple, just think of it this way.  AOSP ROMs will come with all the features that Google made available to their original Android operating system.

On the other hand, TouchWiz/Sense/MotoBlur ROMs have additional “branded” features added such as Samsung’s Smart Stay, Smart Rotation, Multi-window, etc…etc…

How to tell an AOSP ROM from TouchWiz/Sense/MotoBlur ROM?

AOSP ROMs usually ship with its own “vanilla” launcher that looks like Android original launcher.  This may include launchers like Trebuchet (for CyanogenMod) or just Android Jelly Bean launcher.

Of course, some non-AOSP ROMs also ship with Nova launcher, which may fool you into thinking that its an AOSP ROM since Nova launcher mimics the Android “vanilla” launcher.

Another way to tell an AOSP ROM from TouchWiz/Sense/MotoBlur ROM is by the size of the custom ROM zip file.

Most AOSP ROMs such as CM10.1, AOKP, or ParanoidAndroid are less than 200MB on average in size (size of ROM zip file).

TouchWiz, Sense, or MotoBlur ROMs are usually bigger than 500MB on average and most near 1GB.

Why the big difference in size?

Well, that’s how much bloatware Samsung, HTC, and Motorola adds on to the existing AOSP code.  Everything including UI, features, sounds, and carrier-dependent apps add up to more file size.

That doesn’t necessarily mean non-AOSP ROMs run slower but in most cases, AOSP ROMs do run faster than non-AOSP ROMs since they don’t include the extra stuff.

Is AOSP ROMs better than non-AOSP ROMs?

AOSP ROMs may be better than non-AOSP ROMs but that all depends on your preference.

For example, if I installed an AOSP ROM like AOKP on a Galaxy Note 2, my phone would probably run faster.  But the downside is that I would lose all Samsung features like Multi-window, Smart Stay, Smart Rotation, TouchWiz, and anything that was added by Samsung.

If you enjoy some of the Samsung features, AOSP might not be the best for you as it will not let you use some of the features your phone came out of the box with.  On the other hand, you might enjoy AOSP more if you decide that you don’t need any of those Samsung features.

So, it all depends on the user, you.  Whatever feature you want, either AOSP or non-AOSP ROMs will have it,  you just have to decide what you want.

Personally, I enjoy both AOSP and TouchWiz.  There’s always advantages to running AOSP or non-AOSP and it just depends on the situation.

My advice?  Try both AOSP and non-AOSP for a week and decide for yourself.

And if you don’t have time to root and install custom ROMs on your phone but you want AOSP, you can get a Google non-branded phone like the Nexus 4.


What you Should Know about AOSP ROMs

  • Most AOSP custom ROMs DO NOT support beyond 32GB of microSD card external storage.  This means you cannot use your 64GB microSD card.  Also AOSP ROMs mostly support FAT32 so make sure you format your microSD in FAT32 format.
    Starting with Android 5.0 Lollipop, most AOSP ROMs now do support exfat and above 32GB of micro SD card, so you won’t have any problems with it.  In fact, Lollipop AOSP ROMs now also support built-in App2SD!

Some examples of most popular AOSP ROMs

  • Lineage OS ROM – CyanogenMod ROMs were the original AOSP ROMs developed to give you pure Android experience.   CyanogenMod has been rebranded to Lineage OS ROM.  Many of the first AOSP ROM builds now are offered through Lineage ROM, which is the closest you will get to running your Android device to stock Google Android like Nexus/Pixel devices.  While Lineage OS ROM does not have a ton of features, it brings new doors to other developers to add new features such as the Resurrection Remix ROM.
  • Resurrection Remix ROM – One of the most popular custom ROMs that support many customization/features out of the box.   There are many official and unofficial builds of Resurrection Remix ROM for many different devices and this is very good AOSP ROM to start with.
  • Dirty Unicorns ROM
  • CrDroid ROM

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Max Lee

Max Lee is the founder of HighOnAndroid.com. Max makes Android tutorials and review videos for people who want to get high on Android over at his YouTube channel and Korean YouTube channel.