Diifference between Stock and Custom ROMs in Android

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You might have heard about stock ROMs and custom ROMs. Some of you might know about it and others knows either a little bit or wondering what are these terms. If you have curiosity  and want to know about ROMs in Android then you are at the right place. Now lets go straight to the point.

Diifference between Stock and Custom ROMs

image courtesy: TechNorms

First, we have to know what is a ROM in Android

ROM as the Operating System

When it comes to smartphones and tablets, the term ROM is used to refer to the firmware stored in the internal memory of the device, rather than the internal memory itself. It can also refer to a file prepared for the purpose of replacing this firmware with another version of using a special method.

Thus, when you are told by someone to download a ROM, they are referring to the file that contains the firmware in a format ready to be installed to your phone to replace it’s existing firmware. Similarly, when asked what ROM is your phone running or when told by someone their phone is running a particular ROM, they are again talking about the particular variant of the firmware.

Types of ROMs

Unlike most desktop operating systems, mobile operating systems can be found in installable format in multiple forms, which can be categorized as follows.

Truly Stock ROMs / firmware:

This is the operating system in its default form, without any modifications made to it except for any device-specific support required to run it on the particular device. Truly stock firmware provides the standard user experience of the operating system without any cosmetic or functional changes made. These days, truly stock firmware is primarily found in cases where both the device and the operating system is built by the same company. Amongst modern mobile devices, examples of truly stock firmware can be found on Apple’s iOS devices, Palm’s WebOS devices and some Android devices shipped without any modifications made to the operating system by their manufacturers.

Manufacturer or Carrier branded Stock ROM / Firmware:

This type of firmware has had enhancements added over the default operating system by the device manufacturer or the mobile service carrier. This often includes interface enhancements, proprietary applications and in most cases, restrictions intended to limit the use of the device with a specific carrier or region. There are often further restrictions preventing installation of firmware not released by the carrier or manufacturer.
Most Android and Symbian devices fall under this category, and so do most Windows Phone 7 devices but in their case, the changes made from the truly stock firmware are minimal and limited to the inclusion of additional apps only.

Custom ROM / firmware:

Almost all devices ship with either of the above two categories of firmware, though things don’t end there. Independent developers who like to customize their devices beyond the standard options provided often tend to release the fruits of their labor for the rest to enjoy, in form of custom ROMs. The more open the platform, the more independent development it attracts, a good example of which is the independent custom ROM development for Android.

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In case of proprietary firmware such as iOS and Windows Phone 7, there is often little or no room for customization of the operating system itself but regardless of that, developers still tend to release custom ROMs bundled with useful tools and hacks applied to provide functionality beyond the stock features. In fact custom ROM development for the otherwise proprietary and closed-source Windows Mobile platform lead to the formation of the largest independent mobile development community – the XDA-Developers forum.

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