The whole discussion about the Xposed framework and custom ROMs goes way to far in my opinion, that’s why I will try to keep it short enough not to bore you to death, so I will mostly just scratch the surface of this topic in this post and keep things short and simple
What is the Xposed Framework?
As mentioned, I will keep things short and simple, so if you want to know all there is to know about what the Xposed Framework you can check out Armando’s video explaining it to you to get a quick glimpse of what is possible. In short, it is a very powerful framework that allows you to get all the possible custom ROM features, as well as other cool modifications. All you need for it, is to be rooted. Once that is done, all you have to install the Xposed installer apk, enable the framework and the fun can begin. There are dozens and dozens of amazing modules and the lists is getting longer and longer each day.
What is a custom ROM?
In most cases a ROM is an AOSP or OEM skin version of Android made by a developer. The developer makes changes and adds features that he/she believe will make the experience “better”. Of course better is a loose term here, since everyone has a different view of what “better” is. For some it’s to stay as clean and simple as possible to get the best speed and performance and for others it’s the sheer amount of features and options they can put into the ROM to make things more attractive, convenient, comfortable, useful or more fun. It always depends on each persons specific preferences. Here’s a rather dated but still mostly accurate article if you want to know more about the basics.
Advantages of Xposed
1. You are (almost) completely ROM independent here, you can use a stock ROM or any custom ROM, it’s your choice but keep in mind that certain Xposed modules can interfere with the already existing features and options of custom ROMs which can lead to confusion or problems. You also probably don’t have to rely on a specific device or OEM skin. It also works across all Android versions in most cases, officially all version since 4+ up to the very latest 4.4 kitkat are supported. But there’s also an experimental version working on 2.3 Even though it’s quite limited but still nice to see an even pretty outdated version still to get some sort of support.
2. You can get things you most probably never will get on custom ROMs itself like Unicon, certain Gravity or Xblast tool options to change specific design elements and such things only to mention a few ones here.
3. Once you have downloaded all modules and set them up, you can easily backup all mods and settings with apps like Titanium Backup and have everything set up the same just by restoring Xposed and the modules. This works on any ROM and any device you want to . Gone is the Sisyphus job that has to be done manually every time you decide to switch from one ROM to another. Personally that is one big plus for me since it saves me so much work and time when jumping from ROM to ROM like I tend to do so frequently as the flashoholic I am.
4. Very easy and secure. Xposed doesn’t do any persistent changes to the system at any point of time, so whenever you run into any trouble with a certain module, just delete the data of that module and try to find the cause of the issue or disable/uninstall the module completely to get rid of the issue once and for all. In most cases though you shouldn’t even run into any real sort of trouble since all modules I used so far so to be very well-tested by the many xda members or the developers itself. No worries there.
Advantages of custom ROMs
1. All features are already built-in into the ROM, so you don’t have to see for yourself how to get them, of course the amount of features always varies from ROM to ROM as already explained above.
2. Better battery/performance, custom ROMs always tend to come with a huge bunch of optimizations and improvements you won’t be able to get on a stock ROM or with Xposed. Sure, some have bugs and stability issues but especially popular devices get fast fixes and are mostly stable. Nexus devices are the best choice here since practically every single part is open source, no closed drivers or anything like this. This ends in best stability and the most bug free ROMs out there, it’s really hard to actually screw up a ROM for any Nexus device as a matter of fact. This is my main reason sticking to Nexus devices, best custom ROM/kernel support possible, I think this is one point nobody can argue about.
3. Features with optimal or at least better compatibility. Since most ROMs are specifically made for a certain devices or at least properly adapted for it (at least if done right) the stuff you get on custom ROMs works better only if slightly than by using a Xposed module doing the same or similar thing. For example the feature list view animations, you can get it on custom ROMs but also using the XUI Mod module but even on the Nexus 5 I am able to notice an ever so slight difference in perfomance and smoothness, also this specific feature has some minor glitches here and there from time to time using Xposed. It is no big difference but big enough to notice it after all.
4. Device specific features, there are device or OEM specific features available with Xposed modules as well but it’s still slightly more limited for now compared to what some ROMs are able to offer. The bigger the devices community, the better the chances are to find a dev who’s willing to make a module for it. HTC and Samsung are the ones worth mentioning but also Sony.
Of course there is more for both these should be the most important ones to mention
Xposed Framework vs. custom ROMs?
Coming back to the main question, who is gonna be the winner between these 2 heavyweights?
It’s pretty hard to tell in the long-term if the sheer flood or Xposed modules will be able to make custom ROMs obsolete. Most people tend to use Xposed modules with the main purpose of getting custom ROM features without having to actually flash a ROM. But in my opinion both Xposed and custom ROM are so much more, each on its own. A lot of Xposed modules have their heritage in custom ROMs, the actual idea of the feature was introduced to a custom ROM and the feature was later ported to work with Xposed. Of course Xposed also invented a lot of things like Unicon, which I think is one of the most popular non-custom ROM feature modules.
That’s why I think custom ROMs are still very important to drive the creation of features and enhancements further along. I don’t even want to mention the countless features of Android in its current state that have their origin in custom ROMs.
On the other hand you get the biggest part of all custom ROM feature sooner or later in form of a Xposed module, but without the hustle always having to flash the latest ROM and the risk of stability issue and things to interfere with each other.
So if you want the best performance and battery but also want to be the first one using the latest and greatest features with the possible risk of trouble and more effort, there is no real alternative to flashing custom ROMs. But if you want the least amount of effort for a wide variety of things and the most stable and bug-free environment using Xposed is the way to go for.
There’s more than just black and white…
But since this is Android, not everything has to be just black and white. The beauty of Android are the options and choices you have and that’s the reason why I am able to use both to get the best of both worlds, of course with the downsides of both things as well.
That’s why my closing statement is, neither Xposed nor custom ROMs have to be the winner or looser. They can both co-exist side by side and keep pushing each others boundaries with new and great things to come, ending in the Android user becoming the ultimate winner here…
Additional info and links about the Xposed Framework