Android 6 Custom ROMs: AOSP vs. CAF

Android M Root

Yours truly ordered and received a Huawei Nexus last week (#humblebrag), and over the weekend set it up for use as my main device. I insist that every Android device in my household is rooted (to block ads) and I personally prefer to run custom ROMs over rooted stock firmware (for easier updates).

This week I’d like to showcase some notable custom ROMs running Android Marshmallow—but before that I’d like to share a little discovery I made over the weekend. I’ve been flashing custom ROMs on Nexus phones since the Nexus One, but there was this odd term I kept coming across that I’ve never really understood. Until now.

AOSP is an acronym that every Android user should know. It stands for the Android Open Source Project, and is directly responsible for Android’s current position as the world’s most popular smartphone OS. Google makes the Android source code freely available to any OEM who wants to use it, from Samsung right down to those Chinese tablet-makers whose bargain-basement products show up on Groupon from time to time.

It follows that, since AOSP is open source, there are a lot of AOSP-based custom ROMs out there, along with custom kernels and other mods.

But what about CAF? I finally (and unexpectedly) came across an explanation for this term via a random Google search that brought me to this reddit thread. I’m still not 100% clear what the acronym stands for—it could either be Custom Android Firmware or Code Aurora Forum—but at least I now have a better understanding of what it actually is: a custom branch of the Linux kernel to better support the Qualcomm chipset.

Are there CAF-based custom ROMs out there? You betcha, and the most famous of them all is CyanogenMod. In theory CM’s CAF base would make it a better choice for Snapdragon-powered Nexus phones, but there’s another part of the equation to consider—the majority of the custom kernels that you’ll find on XDA are built for AOSP ROMs, and don’t support CAF at all. Like the famous Franco Kernel, for example.

So, now that you know the difference between AOSP and CAF custom ROMs I can show you some Marshmallow-powered AOSP and CAF custom ROMs. Stay tuned!

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