They may not be completely open (they still require some very proprietary blobs) but the best thing about Google’s now-defunct Nexus line was how their lives could be extended almost indefinitely through custom ROMs. That character has once again been put to the test with the latest Android release, version 9 Pie, which is now available on the Motorola-made Nexus 6 and the LG-made Nexus 5X. And, surprisingly, both ports are in almost perfectly working conditions.
The Nexus phones were long hailed for being relatively more open than their OEM counterparts and has, therefore, made them easier targets for custom ROM development. It’s not always perfect, especially as the device ages. The Nexus 6, for example, was launched in 2014 and its support ended with Android 7 Nougat. The Nexus 5X launched the year after and got Android 8 Oreo as its last official version.
Most ports of latest Android versions usually start off rough, with this or that missing critical feature, with cellular modems and cameras being the worst culprits. So it’s a testament to how far the custom ROM community and developers have come to see these Android Pie ports have a release that’s working almost perfectly right from the start.
The Nexus 5X “PieX” ROM comes via XDA Senior Member argraur and reports only two broken features that may or may not be critical to users. One is incoming calls for VoLTE and the other is SafetyNet, which is often used to detect compromised or tampered hardware and apps. The Pie-based Carbon ROM for the Nexus 6 is in a similarly finished state. Only encryption and an occasionally breaking mobile connection on reboots remain.
Whether or not these older devices can handle more recent versions of Android, especially those with more taxing graphical needs, is the bigger question. For now, at least, owners of the Nexus 6 and Nexus 5X won’t feel too left out.