Best HOA Phones for Root/Modification-August 2015 Edition


Lately our top 5 list of the best phones for root and modification has received a lot of traffic. For that reason I thought it was about time to update the list. Several new phones have released since our previous list was published four months ago. The LG G4, OnePlus 2, Note 5, S6 Edge+, and new Motorola phones have all been announced. In this list I try my best to balance power of the device with availability of ROMs and ease of root/unlocked bootloader. Can any of these new phones creep into our top 5 list for modification? Let’s find out…

  1. Google/Motorola Nexus 6 Not much has changed at the top of the list. The Nexus 6 is still the best phone you can get if you want to root or mod your device. It has powerhouse specs and a bootloader that is easily unlocked right of the box. Rooting takes little effort and there is a plethora of development taking place for the phone and will continue for a long time to come. The screen size is certainly an issue for many, but thankfully the new crop of 2015 Nexus devices should bring more choices. Recommended ROM to try: CyanideL ROM for Nexus 6
  2. Galaxy Note 3/Note 4-  Yes, the Note 3 and Note 4 are two different phones, but they’re also in the same line so I figured I could get away with it. Samsung is known for occasionally putting out notoriously difficult phones for rooting, but developers have cracked the past two iterates of the Note series and a flood of development has opened in the ROM space. If you love big phones, the S-Pen, and saying goodbye to ugly Touchwiz, the previous Note generations are a great choice. There are ROMs to suit any taste for both of these phones, from stock to heavily customized with copious new features. Recommended ROMs to try: Tesla ROM for Note 3 and SOKP ROM for Note 4
  3. OnePlus One/OnePlus 2- Another two for one deal here. OnePlus stirred up the development community last year with their release of the OnePlus One, focussed on ease of modification. Although OnePlus has moved on from running CyanogenMod out of the box, there is still plenty of development for the OnePlus One on the custom ROM front. The sophomore release from OnePlus, the OnePlus 2, is also receiving a lot of interest from the development community over on XDA. We expect the development for the OnePlus 2 will pick up rapidly, and the phone is already easy to root and install TWRP out of the box. Recommended ROMs to try: SlimSaber ROM for OnePlus One and CyanogenMod 12.1 Beta for OnePlus 2
  4. HTC One M9-  Many people still hate the M9 for its terrible camera. I won’t lie and say the camera on the M9 is even passable, but there is a ton of great development for this phone. With an easy root method and S-off available, the M9 is a very attractive phone for those of us that like to tinker. I’ve used several ROMs on my M9 since purchasing the developer edition earlier this year. If you already have a DSLR or solid pocket camera, this is definitely an option to consider. Recommend ROM to try: ViperOne ROM for M9.
  5. Samsung Galaxy S5- Admittedly this is a strange entry in our list. I try to balance the power of a phone with availability of ROMs and ease of root, and the Galaxy S6 just isn’t winning in the later category right now. So I went with last year’s S release. The Galaxy S5 is still a powerful phone and there are numerous options around for custom ROMs. Similar to the Note 3 and Note 4, you can find a ROM to suit any style, and with a smaller form factor in the S5. Hopefully the S6 will pick up and this entry can be a dual one like #4 and #5 the next time I write this list! Recommended ROMs to try: Alliance ROM and Exodus ROM

There are a lot of great phones coming up that have real promise for root and modification. Of course, the LG Nexus 5 (2015) and Huawei Nexus will be at the top of that list. In addition to the Nexus devices, we will also see the Moto X Pure edition launch in the US in a few short weeks. With all of the great stuff coming up, and development beginning on the Note 5 and Edge+, I will probably revisit this list in late October. Please let me know what you think of the list in the comments or on Twitter, and as always, stay HIGH on Android!

1 Response

  1. Paul says:

    Why is the Note 3 on this list? As of the 4.4.4 update root is no longer possible using any method. It’s one of the worst phones you can get if you want to root, unless you have 4.4.2 or earlier.

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Jeff Springer

"I am currently a researcher and Adjunct Professor at Arizona State University and Grand Canyon University. I fell in love with Android with the Nexus One release and realized that it was superior to iOS in all the ways I care about. I still use a Mac (and an iPhone for the camera), but my Apple tech products pale in comparison to my number of Android devices (watches, tablets, and phones). When I’m not rooting/modding one of my many Android phones or doing math/programming, you can find me taking in Phoenix Suns/Arizona Diamondbacks games in downtown Phoenix, and drinking good beer!"