2018 was a very interesting year for the Android modding community. We saw /system roots become increasingly outdated, as latest Android versions are allowing the kind of customization and theming that people were rooting to achieve – not to mention the popularity of Magisk’s systemless root. We saw Huawei completely shut down its bootloader unlocking program, leaving Huawei users without an official way to unlock.
Rooting and modding Android will continue to be popular though, as long as Android remains an open-source OS. It attracts modders and developers from all over the world, building custom ROMs to install over the stock vanilla Android. However, just because a phone can be rooted, doesn’t mean it has a good development community.
In this article, we will explore the Android phones from late 2018 and going into 2019, that have the best mod and development community support. All of these Android phones have a lot of mods and custom ROMs available, typically found on XDA forums. So if you’re planning on buying a new phone in the near future, consider these options.
OnePlus phones have always enjoyed one of the largest Android modding communities. This is due to the company’s root-friendly attitude, and competitive prices for the flagship series. The OnePlus 6 was released in May 2018, while the 6T version came out later in November. They have nearly identical specs, except internal storage, battery, screen size, and default OS.
The OnePlus 6 shipped with 64GB internal, 3300 mAh battery, 6.28” screen, and Android 8.1 Oreo. The OnePlus 6T shipped with 128GB internal, 3700 mAh battery, 6.41” screen, and Android 9.0 Pie.
There’s also the OnePlus 6T McLaren, which is a special edition of the 6T which comes with 10GB of RAM, and Warp Charge 30 technology.
Whichever model you decide to buy, there’s no beating the mod community for OnePlus phones. Of all the Android devices out there, OnePlus phones probably have the largest number of custom ROMs and mods available.
Note: The OnePlus 7 is expected to be released around June/May 2019, so you could also wait for that.
Because Google launches its Pixel devices with stock Android, they are extremely root and mod friendly. You’re getting the purest Android experience on a Google Pixel device. It is the golden standard for most Android enthusiasts, and in fact, many third-party ROMs for other brands are simply modders trying to port Pixel’s software to non-Pixel devices.
Of course, the Android modding community will always believe in making something great even greater. So for the Pixel 3 XL, you’ll find a lot of custom kernels and ROMs that add even more functionality, like putting OMS support back in Android Pie (Google previously removed the OMS system).
Even if you don’t install custom ROMs, the Pixel 3 XL is still a fantastic choice. Its one of few phones where applying OTA updates is incredibly easy even with Magisk root on the phone. And because Google develops Android, you’ll always have the latest security updates and Android features, before any other phone brand.
Poco is a sub-brand of Xiaomi. Many Xiaomi phones, like the Redmi Note 5, already have incredible modding communities. So when Poco released its first flagship phone, the Poco F1, at an aggressively competitive price, people were pretty floored at the specs for the price.
The Poco F1 shipped with 6GB of RAM, a 4000 mAh battery, 6.18” screen, and Android 8.1 Oreo. Spec-wise, its nearly neck-to-neck with the OnePlus 6T, yet the Poco F1 was launched around $300 cheaper than the OnePlus 6T. So of course, the mod community rushed to buy this flagship killer device.
It also helped that Poco announced they would support the development community by not voiding warranties for unlocking the bootloader, and quickly releasing the kernel source. So if you’d like an affordable flagship killer with great specs on a budget price, the Poco F1 is definitely one of the best options. Heck, it might be the best option.
Samsung isn’t known for being root-friendly. In fact, they could be considered anti-root, as they’ve made every effort to make their flagship devices extraordinarily difficult to root. Which is, ironically, part of why the Galaxy Note 9 has one of the largest mod communities – perhaps as a giant “middle finger” to the international brand.
What’s very important here is that the Galaxy Note 9 was launched in 2 versions – the Snapdragon SoC, and the Exynos SoC. The Snapdragon version was launched in U.S., Canada, and China, while the Exynos version was launched around the rest of the world. It is the Exynos version that has the majority of custom ROMs – because the Snapdragon version is nearly impossible to root.
So if you want to go with a well-known flagship brand like Samsung, make sure you buy the Exynos version of the Galaxy Note 9.
This phone hasn’t actually been launched yet, but it’s available for pre-order, with a March 1 release date in the UK. A U.S. release date is currently unknown. It’s launching for around £239 ($300 USD). Our Amazon link is for the “international” version, as it was made available in Brazil early.
The reason we’re including the Moto G7 on this list, despite it not being released yet, is because the Moto G series of phones has a large history of strong development support. Being a budget-range series with decent midrange specs (the G7 will launch with a 6.2” screen, 4GB of RAM, and 64GB of internal storage), the mod community flocks to it as a fun phone for tinkering around with. If you break it, at least it wasn’t your $800 Pixel 3 XL.
Last year’s Moto G6 had a lot of custom ROMs and mods available, so we expect the trend to continue when the Moto G7 is released.
These phones are slated for release in 2019, and have the potential for good modding communities, based on mods available for previous versions.
- Xiaomi Mi 9 (June)
- Xiaomi Mi Mix 3S (ETA Spring)
- LG G8 ThinQ (June)
- LG V50 (ETA May)
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Prices taken/valid at the time of review.