In my last post, I briefly compared most of the critical talking points between the Pixel and the OnePlus 5. My conclusion was that the Pixel was the winner, but not by much. The OnePlus guts are seriously remarkable. In this way, Google is only now catching up if you compare the two. So for me, that means only one good solution -- the OnePlus with a custom ROM.

A quick honorable mention, a phone that crossed my attention around this time was the Moto X4. The reason why is that its fingerprint sensor is on the front. However, it's not a flagship device. You would take a drastic reduction in power, chipset-wise, for a discount only of about $150. Also, its camera/flash thing on the back is one embarrassment of design.

This is why you'd want a custom ROM on the OP5, from most to least important:

  • To flip the alert slider and call answering to the US orientation (up is ON, down is OFF)
  • To be able to set the middle stop of the alert slider to vibrate, instead of the amusingly useless Do Not Disturb mode
  • To get the stock Phone app, which OnePlus changed for worse
  • To have the option to use Google camera app, which has algorithmic improvements and handles low light better
  • For absolute control over customization
  • To know that normal people like you and me are working on my phone software, rather than a profit-oriented organization (OnePlus non-anonymous tracking, anyone?)

Try #1: LineageOS

Changing your recovery software, what you use to flash the actual OS, requires wiping your device. So, I made sure everything I wanted was pushed to the cloud, in some form. I then installed TWRP and LineageOS. The specifics of doing getting that set up are outside of the scope of this article. I highly recommend Android Explained for easy-to-follow guides.

The first thing I noticed about LineageOS was the performance hit. Because it's not based on OnePlus' official OS, the optimization just isn't quite there. However, many corners of Lineage sport the stock Android implementation, which was refreshing. Another snag is the camera app. It's Google's stock app, which isn't optimized for the OP5 yet -- borderline unusable, especially video recording. And lastly, the fingerprint unlock is significantly slower than on OxygenOS.

An odd behavior I noticed about TWRP is that when you first boot your phone, and you're selecting through the boot options, selecting Recovery often just reboots the phone back to that screen. I found that moving the selected option to Recovery but just not actually clicking it worked seemingly every time, after about 5 seconds.

Try #2: PureFusionOS

After doing more research, I determined that the real money was over on PureFusion OS. I found lots of positive feedback on it, and decided to go for it. I found that it ticked all the boxes, and best of all, had no performance issues. The camera works fine and the fingerprint is instant. This is because it's based on PureFusion OS. Here's a few changes I recommend, out of the gates:

Correct the Alert Slider

Go to settings, Device Extras, Device Gestures. Here you can set the top to Ring, the middle to Vibrate, and the bottom to Total Silence.

Tweak the home button

Go to settings, PureFusion settings. Hardware Keys. One super useful tweak is to set the Home button's Long Press Action to Turn off screen. That lets you get in and out of the phone more easily -- thumb print yourself in, as usual, then just hold down on the same sensor to get out.

Get an idea of your current network in/out

Of course, you can see your accumulated data usage easily, but one sweet perk of PureFusion is to be able to see what volume of data you're pushing up/pulling down at any given time. Go to settings, PureFusion settings, Status bar, Network traffic. Turn it on, and I recommend an update interval of 2000ms so you actually have a chance to see it. I found auto hide, hide arrows, and inactivity threshold of 10 kb/s to be optimal.

Show memory usage at the top of the task manager

I love to get an idea of resource usage, so I think this is a pretty great feature. This adds a bar at the top of your Recent apps/task manager that shows you RAM consumption. Turn it on in settings, PureFusion settings, Recent apps, Show Memory Bar.

I think this setup is unique and frankly incredible for the money. I also think it may just be too soon for LineageOS on the OP5. Given some time, I bet Lineage will be up to par.