This is how they enjoy Android 9.0 Pie smartphones from 5 years ago.
If you have a OnePlus One and you keep using it, you know what I’m talking about. The manufacturer has forgotten about this model for years, but the ROM ‘cooks’ community has not. The OnePlus One – released in 2014! – can boast of running on Android Pie, something that many next-generation phones still cannot say.
How is it possible? The miracle is called LineageOS, which has become the reference project for those who want to extend the useful life of their devices to unsuspected limits. The latest version, LineageOS 16, officially supports more than 30 devices, but its variants go even further and allow you to enjoy all the advantages of the latest versions of Android (and some extra ones) without depending on the manufacturers.
The old is new again
What happens to the OnePlus One also happens with the Samsung Galaxy S5 that was presented a little earlier, at the Mobile World Congress in 2014. The news was then its water resistance or a fingerprint reader that disappointed us a bit. What was not news, of course, was that his Android version was 4.4.2 KitKat with its built-in TouchWiz layer.
That terminal would be able to receive an update to Android 6.0.1 Mashmallow in April 2016, but that was the thing. The Galaxy S5 Neo presented in August 2015 did manage to have Android 7.0 Nougat, but those original S5s stayed, like so many other smartphones, in limbo.
But it is possible to get out of that limbo in which both this and many other terminals end up. That’s where custom ROMs come in. developed by hundreds of selfless ‘chefs’, passionate users who demonstrate that it is possible to get much more juice from our terminals. Both the old and the new. And while, the manufacturers, to theirs.
Manufacturers quickly forget their products
Manufacturers do not tend to extend the life of their devices too much with new updates. We are not talking here about how fast or slow they are offering them – they are never fast enough, we fear – but how long do they keep their products up to date with new versions of Android.
It is difficult to answer that question, but if there is a highlight in this field that is Google, which does keep its terminals updated for a little longer.
Firms like AOSMark recently evaluated how brands behave with their users in this area, and only OnePlus came slightly closer to Google. In fact, it is surprising to see successful brands such as Huawei or Xiaomi so low in that table, and worries that LG and ASUS occupy the last two positions.
Taking the witness of the mythical CyanogenMod
The history of LineageOS begins long ago, almost simultaneously with the launch of Android. Shortly after the launch of the HTC Dream (the “T-Mobile G1”, introduced in September 2008) a method of having privileged root access was discovered.
That was the trigger for the appearance of the first custom ROMs that proposed an alternative to the native versions of the manufacturers. Steve Kondik (pseudonym ‘Cyanogen’), a Samsung engineer, he had developed his own, which he called CyanogenMod.
This ROM managed to grow in popularity and became a reference for that community of users – represented above all in the fantastic XDA Developers and its forums – who enjoyed those additional options that these custom ROMs raised.
Although they were born as a way to add features that Google or the manufacturers did not propose, ROMs in general and CyanogenMod in particular became something else: an elixir of eternal youth for Android-based smartphones.
That’s right: manufacturers could stop offering updates to their phones, but in many models that was not necessary because CyanogenMod -or some of its variants- ended up being available with a version of Android that was not officially supported. The lifespan of the smartphone stretched to unsuspected limits.
Various events led to the termination of that project, and in December 2016 – and after the closure of Cyanogen Inc – LineageOS emerged to take the baton of his original philosophy.
The LineageOS miracle
As with CyanogenOS, LineageOS was born as an Open Source project —His code is on GitHub— dedicated to trying to keep the fundamental ideas that the original project was born with.
Two years later it is evident that he has succeeded, and LineageOS is today a key pillar of the community from lovers of custom ROMs on Android.
It is installed on almost two million devices, and those responsible have just announced the appearance of LineageOS 16.0, a version based on Android 9.0 Pie which begins its journey with official support for 31 devices, although in reality there are many more on the way that already have a version prepared for them.
Among them are both the OnePlus One and the Samsung Galaxy S5, both with five years in tow. In that additional list appear models of the same time as the HTC One M8 or even older like the 2013 Moto G.
Neither of them should be working too well by now. To do it they would be relegated to a digital ghetto limited not only in power by its hardware, but also in performance by its version of Android.
With LineageOS (and the rest of custom ROMs) all that changes: suddenly they all rejuvenate and they achieve something that not even the most modern terminals achieve: to be governed by the latest version of Android that, if that were not enough, is improved with surprising extras.
If that’s not a miracle (technological), I no longer know what it is.