Hands-on review of the LineageOS 16 custom ROM based on Android Pie

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LineageOS 16 based on Android Pie is the latest and greatest version of the ever-popular custom ROM. It’s a lightweight ROM with the bare minimum in additional features resulting in a high-performance, high versatility Android variant. It’s based on Android Pie and includes all of its features like a newly redesigned Recents menu, gesture controls, Adaptive Battery, and more. Even features like Digital Wellbeing are present! If you’re looking for an Android ROM based on Android Pie that’s a little closer to stock Android than whatever is on your phone right now, you’ve come to the right place.

Installing Official LineageOS 16

To install LineageOS 16, you’ll just need to unlock the bootloader of your device, which you can find a guide for nearly every device out there on our forums. Once you’ve followed a guide and have a custom recovery installed, you can download the LineageOS 16 zip file below for your device, flash it, and then install a Google Apps package or Magisk if you want. To download and install LineageOS 16, check out our announcement article with detailed instructions.

LineageOS 16 Announcement on XDA

Hands-on: LineageOS 16 based on Android Pie

First impressions and customizability

LineageOS 16 maintains a stock-Android look. There’s a built-in dark mode as far as customization is concerned. It’s enough, though, and more than some devices have in terms of customizability. Applications work fine and it’s perfectly stable as expected from an official build. A word of warning though, custom ROMs are obviously not subjected to the same level of testing as OEM-made ROMs, so they can, at times, have issues. And that brings us on to LiveDisplay, which is also related to customizability but has an actual function as well. LiveDisplay lets you change different aspects of the display such as the active color profile and the current display mode. The built-in dark mode is like the one on OnePlus devices with OxygenOS, but you can fine-tune it a lot more. You can customise the color calibration between red, green, and blue, and also manually activate an outdoor mode which boosts the display brightness even more. There’s a lot of choices when it comes to your device’s display, and you’ll be able to calibrate it exactly to your liking.

Privacy

Customizability and stability are not all that LineageOS offers. One of its most famous features is the LineageOS Privacy Guard, which allows you to change every aspect of how an application can access your device. You can control location access, device wake-ups, NFC access, haptic feedback and more. It’s a lot more fine-tuned than the Android permission system, offering more granular controls overall. Take a look below at all of the options available for Google Photos.

LineageOS is a dream for anyone concerned about privacy. It operates just fine without any Google applications installed, instead using its own suite of apps. That, on top of support for greater permission controls, means that you can truly control what’s happening on your device. On top of that, you also get access to “Trust.” Trust is a centralized area for all-things security on your device. You can control root access, check your Android security patch level and more. Even better, you can get a notification if your build signature or SELinux status changes, so you know if something is running on your device that shouldn’t be.

Included applications

LineageOS 16 has a number of stock applications that serve to enable you to use your device without Google Apps. From the Chromium-based Jelly browser to a screen recorder, gallery app, Audio EQ app, and more, there’s a great variety of applications available.

All of these applications offer the basic functionality that you’d expect. AudioFX allows you to equalize audio, increase or decrease the loudness of certain frequencies in your audio. You can increase the bass, apply reverb, and more. It’s not the most useful feature, but it can allow you to fine tune audio to your liking if you wish.

Jelly Browser is a bog-standard, run of the mill browser that just works. It has all of the usual functionality that you’ve come to expect from a browser and is a suitable replacement for Google Chrome. It’s simplistic and gets the job done, especially if you are trying to get away from Google Apps.

Finally, the included Screen/Audio Recorder application is better than anything you’ll find on the Google Play Store. It supports microphone recording and screen recording, all in one small and lightweight application. You just open it up, tap record, and you’re good to go.

All of the other apps included are about what you’d expect. There’s an alarm clock application, a dialer, a texting application, and a file manager. None of those really offer anything unique and are, more or less, identical to their AOSP counterparts. Still, it’s not as if they actually need much more functionality than is already available.

Small changes and under the hood features

LineageOS 16 may not have many new user-facing features, but there’s a lot that’s under the hood. From the addition of iOS-like USB OTG restrictions to Bluetooth battery level support, there’s a whole load of additions and changes. You can add an extra button in your navigation bar, for example, which can allow you to drag the contents of your clipboard directly into a text field.  You can also enable long pressing a volume key to skip a song. There’s an Always-on-Display option on some devices, but it can drain the battery a considerable amount.

There are lots of other features and changes too, most of which won’t matter in daily use but are nice to have. There are so many small and unseen features and changes that have been added that you’ll only pick up on them by yourself over time. Some of them you may never even run into!

Daily usage

There’s only one complaint I’d have about LineageOS, and it’s a problem that can be solved very easily. The pre-installed camera isn’t very good, offering very few options and average camera quality. Google Camera, in my opinion, works better than the stock camera on most devices, so this is a non-issue. Other than that, everything about LineageOS 16 is great in daily usage. It’s clean, it’s fast, it’s customizable, and it’s simple. Simplicity is an often understated feature of ROMs.

While I understand the appeal of ROMs such as Resurrection Remix which has hundreds of features, they may be daunting for users who aren’t used to that level of customization. My primary need is stability, and LineageOS 16 provides that. Performance is great and there are no crashes or slowdowns that I have faced so far. It was incredibly stable in my usage and was very much worthy of being a daily driver. It’s definitely worth using if that’s your kind of thing, and I’d have no trouble recommending it over other custom ROMs as well. It’s especially good for those who want the latest Android Pie features.

Some devices may have a poor quality software which necessitates switching, especially if you’re privacy conscious, as the abundance of options in LineageOS simply cannot be matched. There’s not a whole load of options otherwise, but it’s basic and it works. That’s what LineageOS stands for.


Note: this hands-on was done with a pre-release build of LineageOS 16 for the OnePlus 6. You’ll notice that the OnePlus 6 does not have an official LineageOS 16 build. It was originally going to receive an official build, but due to some issues as outlined by LineageOS team member npjohnson, the release has been delayed. The build that we tested was made by XDA Recognized Developer Luk1337, a member of team LineageOS. He publishes his “unofficial” builds on the XDA forums, which are poised to be official in due time.

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