Google recently deprecated support for the Phone and Messages apps in the Android Open Source Project (AOSP), making it more difficult to create custom ROMs.
Since the first steps of the Android operating system, custom ROMs (or Custom ROMs) represented an essential dimension of culture and ecosystem dynamics. However, a recent change made by Google could represent a significant obstacle to the sustainability of this practice.
The era of Android ROMs
The term “ROM custom » (custom firmware, Android ROM or Android Read Only Memory) is commonly used to refer to a modified version of the Android operating system. These versions, created by third-party developers, offer an alternative to the official systems (Stock ROMs) offered by smartphone manufacturers. These ROMs were made possible thanks to theAndroid Open Source Project (AOSP)which provides an open-source version of the operating system, without the Google apps.
In their personalization perspective, ROMs have often made it possible to fix bugs, optimize the user experience and test new interfaces. In addition, they have often allowed users to benefit from newer versions of Android without having to wait for the official update from their manufacturer.
A blow for the AOSP
However, OS News, seen on Android Authority, recently noticed that Google decided to deprecate support for Phone and Messages apps in AOSP. This means that these two essential applications will no longer be included in the open-source version of the operating system.
For most users, this will have no impact. Indeed, many manufacturers offer their own phone and message applications, or use Google’s new applications, which are closed source.
But for custom ROMs, it’s a blow. These applications being essential for a smartphone, their absence in the AOSP considerably complicates the task of ROM developers.
If these ROMs are less popular than before, they nevertheless have the advantage of extending the life of many devices. When a manufacturer stops supporting a smartphone model after a few years, installing a custom ROM can allow the device to continue to be used with an updated version of Android.
The future of AOSP and ROMs
It’s true that AOSP might not be as important to Google as it used to be, but it’s worth remembering that this project is the source of many forked of Android, such as Amazon’s Fire OS or the multitude of Chinese Android versions. Not to mention the versions specially designed for professional applications, such as smartphones for the army or the public service.
These developments raise the question of the future of custom ROMs and, more broadly, the open-source nature of Android. If Google continues to restrict access to its applications within the AOSP, custom ROMs may lose their attractiveness and effectiveness. In a world where the lifespan of electronic products is a major ecological issue, this would be a real shame.
The Android landscape could therefore experience significant transformations in the years to come. The ballad of custom ROMs isn’t over yet, but the score is getting more complicated.