OwnROM by OwnDroid team
Introducing the ROM
For those you are following our reviews and mine in particular, will start reading the following and think “Tiago, another CM based ROM review? Do you have a problem with AOSP based ROM’s? Are you insane?”. Now, this last part may or may not be true (who knows?) but my “dislike” for AOSP based ROM is false. There are so good CM based ROM and as my colleagues are covering the less crowded non-CM so here I am.
It’s time for OwnROM to hold a spot on our reviews but hold your horses, this is NOT a ROM developed by me as the name may suggest. This is a product directly from the factory of OwnDroid team and, in their words, “This is Android our way, and the good way” and I must say that it is, indeed, the good way. Can it be your good way as well? Do their promises of being completely “open source, community driven, lots of features and stable” make it “good way” enough? For 5 days I was “owned” by them!
Tested version: OwnROM Alpha 0.4 nightly (the photos are from the 0.5 Beta as I’ve tested it for the last 2 days)
1. UI impressions: same old story but a good one
Don’t take the “same old story” the bad way because it is not, well, not fully I mean but more on that later. This is another good iteration on the CM12.1 based code and the UI feels just as smooth as the vast majority of CM based ROM’s: transitions and system animations are rocket fast, multi-tasking is a pleasure specially using the Slim recents task panel (more on that on the Customization’s chapter), apps load fast, and I could go on and on. In a good way, there was no “funny” surprises as I wasn’t expecting any issues on this aspect. Everything functions as expected.
Now, I must say that from time to time there was some frame drops when pulling down the notification drawer. It was only from time to time and it was more repeatable after my phone was locked from a longer period of time. This ROM offers a built-in kernel tweaker (every ROM should have this right outside of the box) so I checked there the setting to see if I could find the source of the problem. I am a typical “tweaker noob” on the kernel settings so I was only checking the CPU maximum/minimum frequency, the governors and not much else. I thought that it could be the governor as it was only more visible after unlocking the device but didn’t find anything relevant on the settings. But because of my experience on this subject (or rather the lack of it) I wasn’t expecting to find the source of the problem here.
Due to the fact that it was more visible when I was on the homescreen I taught maybe it could be the launcher (I use Nova Prime) so I went right away installing Google Now Launcher. The problem continued so it wasn’t this as well. But, to be honest, this was such a very small thing (I am a little picky) I decided to put that aside.
After finishing the 5 days testing and for the purpose of this review, I spent the last 2 days with a newer version of OwnROM: the Beta 0.5 official. The main thing here was to check if the framerate issues was gone and it did improve but it was still there, just less frequently.
As summary, you won’t find anything on the UI fluidity that will ruin your experience. One “good” point here to OwnROM!
2. Battery performance: enough juice for the thirsty needs
As you may had read on my previous reviews, for me good enough battery life is lasting me a day no matter what kind of usage I put the phone into. Wi-Fi is pretty much always on except overnight, mobile data on the absence of Wi-Fi, mainly browsing, social media and a lot of media consumption both audio and video. As long as it can withstands my needs on a daily basis then I’m satisfied with the battery. Meaning an average from 4.30h to 5.30h SOT from 7am in the morning to around 10pm.
My review is based on the Alpha 0.4 nightly and it came with the “Unicorn Blood” kernel developed by the team behind Dirty Unicorns. I was impressed with the overall performance averaging from 5.30h SOT to 6h SOT depending on the usage, 20h away from the charger.
This was a day with moderate to heavy usage, with more media and more chatting. The Awake time is higher than the screenshot bellow from a moderate usage. You can see that even with more than 1 hour of awake time difference, the final SOT and stand-by are almost the same.
But there were days where I felt I could get even more than those values but that was based on estimation. There was one morning that I was only with Wi-Fi and I managed to reach 50% drain with 3.30h SOT. On the afternoon I was out of the office but needed the internet connection so the mobile data needed to be on and that made a huge impact on the final SOT.
As I said before, the last two days were spent with a different version newer version of OwnROM. This time around it was the 3.4.67 CyanogenMod based kernel and I thought to myself that maybe the team used this kernel as a base for better performance (the 0.5 beta is a milestone version). I saw this version of CyanogenMod kernel on EOS 5 last week (link here) and it had very good performance. Of course, two days and only one battery cycle is impossible to evaluate battery performance but still you can see the screenshot bellow on a half drained battery. Real promising but further tests would be needed to make a proper conclusion. Based on the performance of this CM based kernel on other ROM’s, we can extrapolate that it will have outstanding results on OwnROM. I can be completely wrong but I thinkt that this CM based kernel tweaked by the dev team is a true winner!
Either if you are a long time reader or just got here, you know that our review process does NOT involve tweaking the kernel settings. But the team OwnDroid gave us a treat and the Kernel Adiutor built-in under the performance settings. This is a very well-known app for those “tweaking lovers” and having it right outside of the box will make them really happy.
It gives you a very powerful control on the kernel settings from CPU and GPU governor, Low Memory Killer, SELinux changer to even some nifty tools like Backup, Build prop Editor and even Recovery tools. You can even set different kernel settings profiles where you can quickly change depending on the usage you want on some particular time. The power is given to you but it’s up to you if you want to take full advantage of that power.
Well, OwnROM also deserves a “good job!” on the battery department. This is looking good.
3. Customizations: all in one place as it should be
OwnROM does one of the things that I value the most regarding customizations. No, I am not talking about the sheer number of customizations, I am talking about one simpler thing: gather all customization in one place, the “OwnSettings”. I don’t know about you but when I flash a custom ROM and after setting up the basics I go on an adventure to look for those precious customizations (GOLLUM! GOLLUM!). I do like adventure and I do enjoy looking the customizations enhancements but having all compiled in one place makes perfect sense. I urge all the custom ROM developers to do exactly the same as the OwnROM team and others do. You can “shortcut” the next written text by watching the video overview bellow.
Let’s get right to goodies then. Right out of the bat, this is a CM12.1 based ROM so everything this code already offers obviously can be found in OwnROM as well. This means LiveDisplay where you can change screen color temperature for example, Ambient display that wakes the device on a low power energy when a notification arrives, LCD density changer to enhance the usage that 5.5inch display, double-tap to wake and sleep, among others. But we already vastly know these CM12 customizations so let’s go right what this ROM can offer.
As you can see on the screenshot, everything is well laid down into submenus, neatly organized and straightforward to figure it out where you can find a specific thing. Let’s go one by one:
- Interface: in here it can be found the customizations for the “Status bar” where you can even add a task manager into it; “Notification drawer” to change the quick settings and even change its colours; and the “Expanded desktop” where it can be enable to all or individual apps
- Navigation: it gives you the ability to enable/disable “on-screen nav bar” (enabling the nav-bar doesn’t turn off the capacitive buttons – this can be good if you want to still use them to quick actions but if you don’t want to use it I didn’t find the way around i. The only way is to manually turn off the actions on those buttons and turn all the way down their brightness); Pie control to add some nice shortcuts to increase your efficiency; and actions of the capacitive buttons for long press and double tap.
- Recent apps panel: it gives you the option to choose either the default recent panel or the more handy “slim recents” that really gives you a proper multi-tasking recent panel
- Lock Screen Settings: can be added shortcuts for apps on the lockscreen; and double tap anywhere to put the phone in sleep mode
- Animation Settings: gives you the power to change the animations across the entire UI
- Advanced Sound Settings: change the “volume steps” when changing sound volumes; or turn off camera shutter sound (it is illegal in certain countries do to this, do it on your own risk)
- Extra: “clock widget settings” to change the cclock settings; and have a “Wakelock blocker” to control those nasty wakelocks that can drain your battery like it was a bullet train
- Update center: this is very impressive as it gives the information for new updates, changelog, GAPPS packages, google+ community, etc.
- OwnStats: OwnDroid can collect specific information like country you live in, carrier and ROM version.
Outside this menu, OwnROM also has feature called “TRDS” where it changes between dark/light theme manually, on light conditions changes or daytime/night-time. It is particularly handy if you use the phone on completely darkness on your bed or sofa (watch out insomnia!).
As you can see this ROM’s gives you plenty of control to make your OWN personal experience. I mean, you can find ROM’s out there offereing a little more edge on sheer number of customizations but not all can give them and keep the UI stable. On OwnROM you don’t need to worry about this as no matter what you change on the customizations the UI keeps its fluidity with no crashes.
Keeping the “good way/bad way” scoring, on customizations it is a very big “good way”!
4. Bugs trackdown
Apart from what I said about the drop on framerate when dropping the notication drawer, I didn’t experience any bug from my experience. During 5 days testing plus 2 days on a newer version didn’t experience one single crash, either from UI neither from any app whatsoever.
Good, that’s very good!
5. My “OWN” thoughts on OwnROM
I started this review by stating that this was the third CM based ROM in row that I review for AndroidScout. This makes me kind of (good/bad?) “specialist” on this subject and I can compare my experience with OwnROM with other CM based ROM’s I’ve been testing lately.
OwnDroid team combined the fluidity and stability of the latest CM12.1 code and added just enough goodies to put a true meaning on the “custom” word without sacrificing any of the fluidity and stability. The dev team gave us, the flashaholics, power to change many things on the UI not only to change its looks but also improving its functionality. It gives you the task manager on the status bar, slim recents and even the kernel power with Kernel Adiutor. Plus, even without changing anything on the kernel settings it gives you good battery life, and the newer version leaves very nice indications (more than 4h SOT on 51% battery is almost epic)
We know that at this point it is very difficult to know which developers started which feature but this is the open source world so this is perfectly normal. It is easy to merge features into ROM’s but it is not that easy to do it while maintaining stability and good battery life. OwnROM can deliver just that.
“This is Android our way, and the good way”? It is my way as well so, indeed, good way!
Written by Tiago Marques