This is what you get with the official builds

For many smartphone enthusiasts, the software on Google Pixel devices is the epitome of the vanilla Android experience. Compared to a barebones AOSP version, it has a number of innovative features that are difficult to port to other devices. That’s where the Pixel Experience Custom ROM comes in.

Originally launched as an experimental project by XDA-acclaimed developer jhenrique09 in 2017, the custom ROM has grown quite exponentially, thanks to users’ desire to emulate the software experience of the Google Pixel line. jhenrique09 decided to open up the codebase so other developers could contribute and port Pixel Experience (often stylized as “PixelExperience” and “PE”) to more devices. Now the project strives to be a custom ROM at the level of an OEM ROM, providing reliability, stability and improving the existing features on a device with care and care.

For this practice, we tried Pixel Experience 12 based on Android 12L mainly on the Redmi Note 7 Pro, a device that stopped receiving updates with Android 10. This shows how a spare ROM can easily extend the life of life of a device, which is long since abandoned by its creator.

Pixel Experience: Setup

The Pixel Experience project offers device-specific installer packages in the form of ROM ZIP files, which can be loaded using a custom recovery like TWRP after unlocking the target device’s bootloader .

If you don’t want to use TWRP or if no official version of TWRP is available for your device yet, you can also opt for Pixel Experience recovery image. It’s not as feature-rich as TWRP, but it’s enough to get the job done. PE recovery is especially useful for installing OTAs based on Android 12(L), as TWRP has not yet supported Android’s new encryption scheme.

Unlike most other custom ROM distros, Pixel Experience comes with the essential set of Google apps and services pre-installed. Therefore, you don’t need to flash a GApps package separately.

Pixel Experience: first start-up and configuration assistant

After successful installation, you should be greeted by the Pixel-style boot animation as soon as you restart your phone. The first-run setup wizard is also Pixel-themed, and it walks you through selecting your preferred user interface language, time zone, and configuring security settings (e.g., recording of your fingerprint). Since Google Play services are available out of the box, you will also go through the setup process to restore your Google account and apps.

Pixel Experience: launcher and pre-installed apps

The first thing you notice after booting the ROM is the launcher app. For Pixel Experience, it’s the vanilla Pixel Launcher app straight from Google. Not only launcher but wallpapers, icons, font and many other Pixel goodies are also pre-installed. For a veteran Android modder, it might not be the most customizable experience, but for the vast majority of users, it’s probably more than adequate.

Speaking of pre-installed apps, you won’t find many. Pixel Experience developers don’t provide any in-house apps for basic productivity tasks, as Google’s offerings will eventually make them redundant. Outside of a Pixel’s standard app suite, you’ll find very few third-party apps. The Official Maintainer Code of Conduct provides strict guidelines in this regard.

For the camera app, however, some device maintainers include a known Google Camera port in their releases. This is because the intact Google Camera APK is most likely incompatible with the camera sensors found on the particular non-Pixel smartphone. If a suitable stock camera port exists for a particular OEM, you can also find it inside as the default camera app on the Pixel Experience ROM for your device.

The ROM supports OTA updates. The built-in updater periodically polls the PE download servers and notifies you after finding a newer version than the installed one. As mentioned earlier, if you have PE recovery installed, you can install OTAs like a regular Pixel smartphone.

Pixel OTA experience

Pixel Experience: Plus variant

The original goal of Pixel Experience was to offer a stable custom ROM while including the features found on Pixel devices. However, some in the modding community shunned it because it lacked some basic Custom ROM features that people expected. This led to the creation of Pixel Experience Plus – an official variant that comes with additional features.

The “Plus” edition offers per-app volume settings, network traffic monitor, notch masking support, and several other UI improvements. You can use additional gestures like the three-finger swipe to take a screenshot. There’s also a dedicated LiveDisplay panel, for adjusting color profile, display mode, playback mode, and color grading.

In terms of granular customization, Pixel Experience Plus is way ahead of the vanilla variant. For example, you can easily change the status bar icons without the help of an additional SystemUI tuner application. The volume and power button actions are also customizable, thanks to a number of built-in templates. You can also change various aspects of the lock screen, such as toggling the media cover, music visualizer, device controls, and a plethora of other details.

Pixel Experience: SafetyNet

The device requirements charter for the Pixel Experience project prohibits officials from impersonating the device’s fingerprint. Therefore, you won’t find a Pixel-derived custom fingerprint on non-Pixel hardware.

Although the ROM does not deliver any su binary, many factors (stock firmware cross flashing, unlocked bootloader state on modern devices, etc.) can cause SafetyNet to fail. That said, an intact instance of this custom ROM should pass SafetyNet out of the box on officially supported phones.

Checking Pixel Experience SafetyNet

A Google Pixel 4a running the official Pixel Experience ROM passes SafetyNet

Pixel Experience: Download

If you want to try Pixel Experience (or its Plus variant) on your device, you can download the ROM from the official project download portal linked below. There are over a hundred entries in the current list – each with its own wiki page detailing flashing prerequisites and installation instructions.

Pixel Experience download portal

Just because your device isn’t listed doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy Pixel Experience now. Due to its open source nature, there are a number of unofficial builds for many devices on our forums, many of which will eventually become official builds as development progresses. Most of them are now perfectly stable as daily drivers, with the occasional minor quirk.

Finally, XDA Recognized Developer ponces maintains an unofficial GSI port of Pixel Experience. If you have a Project Treble compatible device, which has not yet received official PE support, you can try the GSI.

Pixel experience support

When creating a custom ROM, it is very tempting to include a multitude of features in it. The problem is that this can often affect ROM stability. Pixel Experience strikes the right balance between user experience and reliability without compromising the phone’s overall speed and stability, making it a popular choice among custom ROM enthusiasts.

The project is and always has been a community effort, relying on the backs of volunteers who dedicate their own resources for the general good of the community. If you would like to help the team translate the custom ROM to your language, you can do so by following the instructions here. You can also contribute to infrastructure costs by donating to them.

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