There was a great discussion on Reddit recently about great features only available in certain custom ROMs. In case you missed it, a custom ROM is a special version of Android that you can install on your phone. I’ve explained them at length before as part of our beginner’s guide to custom ROMs.

I collected a few features from that thread and from my experience with custom ROMs. If you’re up for digging into recovery mode and flashable zips, you can install some software with really cool features that aren’t available anywhere else. Custom ROMs are great for adding extra functionality to your phone that can come in really handy.

However, this is Android, where customization is the name of the game. In some cases, you can find an app that performs the same (or close enough) function as the feature listed by certain ROMs. With these apps, you can improve Android on any ROM.

Best Features From the Top 3 Custom ROMs


Steve Kondik’s creation is the most popular custom ROM out there for a reason. CM offers a near-stock experience (with #HOLOYOLO) plus extra customization options.


A trip to the Settings app reveals an option to rearrange the on-screen navigation buttons. There are also quick toggles in the main notification drawer that allow you to manage wifi, data, and rotation without having to go to the Quick Settings panel introduced in 4.2.

The Browser app within CM includes Incognito mode for browsing without cookies and leaving tracks. There’s a built-in file browser as well. The Settings app can manage the kernel’s governor and speed.

CyanogenMod has a built-in theme engine that allows redrawing of the entire system from a single .apk file. This has spawned a vibrant community of theme developers and talented artists redoing Android.

Equivalent Apps

Quick Toggles – Power Toggles

Incognito mode – Chrome

Kernel management – SetCPU


The popular Chinese ROM enjoyed its heyday during Gingerbread when it offered the best-looking Android experience around. It’s still going strong, with some neat features built right into the system.


MIUI’s lock screen has a shortcut to the flashlight app. With a simple swipe, you can activate the built-in torch app.

MIUI texting operates similarly to Apple’s iMessage. When talking to another MIUI user, the message goes through Xiaomi’s servers as an IM instead. I also liked how the app gives you a pop-up when you receive a new message.

Like CyanogenMod, MIUI has a powerful theme engine that can change the entire Android OS. Unlike CM, MIUI includes a helpful theme store. You can even mix and match themes to find the best. Good luck reading the Chinese names.

Equivalent Apps

Lock screen flashlight – Dashlight (4.2+)

SMS popups – Ninja SMS


ParanoidAndroid has come a long way in recent years. The developers rebuilt the entire ROM with its own code base so PA wouldn’t depend on CyanogenMod anymore.


In the process, they added a lot of great features onto Android. The ROM’s signature is its per-app DPI changer, which runs certain apps in tablet mode. If nothing else, it makes YouTube look cool.

ParanoidAndroid also displays floating notifications on the screen. Halo uses these to allow a Chat Heads-esque experience for texting within the ROM.

For the navigation, you can use PIE controls. Tap the edge of the screen and a set of buttons appears. Drag your finger to a button to perform an action. It looks way cool in action.

Equivalent Apps

Halo – Ninja SMS

PIE – LMT Launcher

Final Thoughts

There are a lot of great custom launchers out there with cool features. The best way to experience them to flash one and test it yourself. You never know… you might like one of them.