Which companies make Nexus phones

Nexus 5 to OnePlus One: How fans keep ancient phones alive with custom ROMs

Missing software updates are perhaps the biggest nuisance when it comes to Android smartphones. Devices costing hundreds of euros are often abandoned early on by their manufacturers. In the area of ​​budget mobile phones in particular, things are still looking bleak.

The situation has improved somewhat in the last few years - among other things through measures by Google or steps such as those recently taken by Samsung - but after two years many models are still without a "supply" in terms of security patches and new versions of the operating system there. And as time goes on, they become more and more of a security risk.

Way out for oldies

But there is one - albeit unofficial - way out for everyone who doesn't shy away from a little effort: so-called custom ROMs. Here fans even bring newer Android versions and security patches to many cell phones. Even the latest Android edition 11 still ends up on phones that are now very old in terms of tech times.

XDA-Developers has compiled an overview of the first projects for devices that have long been written off by the manufacturer from their own forums.

Xperia, Nexus 5, OnePlus One

The oldest mobile phones on the list for which there is firmware based on Android 11 are the Sony Xperia T, TL, TX and V. These were released in or after the late summer of 2012, bringing them to a proud age of almost eight and a half Years to come. Originally preinstalled on them was Android 4.0 "Ice-Cream Sandwich".

Your last version update was with Android 4.3 "Jelly Bean". This also applies to the somewhat younger Xperia SP, which once came onto the market with Android 4.1 "Jelly Bean" (note: the term "Jelly Bean" was used for Android 4.1, 4.2 and 4.3) and was also only supplied up to version 4.3 .

The Google Nexus 5, which was unveiled at the end of October 2013, is over seven years old. The co-production by LG and Google was the flagship device for Android 4.4 "Kitkat" and enjoyed great popularity among purists. Android 6.0 "Marshmallow" is the last version of the system that was officially implemented for it.

And then finally there is the OnePlus One from April 2014. The self-proclaimed "flagship killer" with powerful hardware equipment at a competitive price of less than 300 euros made the then young provider known suddenly. Here, too, Android 4.4 was on board and the support reached up to Android 6.0. The last update was distributed on October 9, 2016.

There are adapted versions of LineageOS for all of these devices. For the OnePlus One, this also means a return to the roots, as the cell phone's predecessor CyanogenOS was once on the market, but after the project failed due to commercialization, it upgraded to its own Android adaptation OxygenOS.


Before you dare to install custom ROMs, however, you should consider a few things. First: All of these projects do not yet deliver an officially "stable" release of Android 11. Most things are already working, but the developers also point out remaining bugs and potential problems. In addition, some features and graphic effects are not available because the hardware of the old cell phones is not compatible or is now simply too weak.

And while the custom ROMs can also be used to obtain newer security patches, this does not apply to the drivers of various components. Their code is often not available as open source and unless resourceful developers have implemented their own variant via reverse engineering, the old drivers must continue to be used.

In addition, the installation of a suitable custom ROM requires the bootloader to be opened, which can vary in complexity depending on the device and manufacturer and is necessarily accompanied by a factory reset. For some devices there are unlocking tools that allow you to do this with one click, for others it is necessary to follow multi-level instructions if there is a way to "unlock" at all. A compatible custom recovery is also often required in order to load the alternative firmware onto the mobile phone. If the bootloader is cracked, installing or starting one is usually no longer a challenge.

Best to try

The procedure sounds more complicated than it usually is. Bloody beginners should practice with cell phones that they do not need to use. The developers usually also publish installation instructions for the software.

The availability of a custom ROM often depends on the popularity of the device in question. There are corresponding projects for many high-end mobile phones, but alternative firmwares for midrange and budget smartphones can be found again and again. (gpi, January 11th, 2021)