One of the most important reasons I decided to buy a Samsung Galaxy S3, instead of waiting for the new Nexus device, was that given the popularity of the Galaxy brand, there was bound to be hundreds of custom ROMs developed for it. See, if there was an AA group for customization addicts, I’d be standing there now and introducing myself, “Hello, my name is Rita and I’m an addict.”
For about 2 months after getting the S3, I gave Samsung the benefit of the doubt, restraining myself to their own ICS flavor. However, the delay in official Jelly Bean’s arrival on my device and the itch to try something new finally pushed me over the edge. So I set out searching for custom ROMs and I looked at CyanogenMod first, a long-time favorite. But it was either a choice between a stable ICS — isn’t that what I was running away from? — with CM9, or a nightly Jelly Bean with CM10 and many bugs still plaguing it.
Then I widened my horizons, downloaded about 10 different ROMs and ended up on FoxHound, a surprisingly awesome custom ROM that ticked so many boxes for me. Here are the reasons I fell in love with it and decided to use it as a daily driver.
Foxhound uses the latest Jelly Bean release by Samsung. While this might sound like an inconvenience to everyone who hates TouchWiz, it’s still a major advantage. Samsung-based ROMs are more stable, relatively bug-free with a working Camera, NFC, TV-Out, FM Radio, Bluetooth and decent battery live. Besides, they also come with the Samsung-specific features like swipe to capture a screenshot, pop-up video player, Smart Stay, S-Memo, the camera and its HDR and burst modes, and all the default gestures that Samsung implemented in the S3.
Given that I use these quite frequently, I was reluctant to see them go if I installed an AOSP ROM with Vanilla Android. Thankfully, with FoxHound, I don’t have to miss any of them.
About Foxhound, and the Jelly Bean drop-down notification
The fact that I love a few of Samsung’s default S3 features doesn’t mean that I’m OK with all of the bloat they installed on this poor device. I am no fan of S-Voice, S-Planner, their files application, their keyboard, and I’m definitely not a fan of TouchWiz. All of these are gone — or can be opted out of — with FoxHound. This ROM sure understands how to keep things light.
It Comes With an ICS-Like Theme
My hatred of all that bloat is nothing compared to my loathing of the color scheme Samsung uses throughout its UI. The dark teal is horrible to look at, the icons are so 2010, and the green toggles on the notification drop-down are so huge and intrusive. By comparison, I love the black and blue look that Google introduced with ICS.
FoxHound takes this to heart and can be configured with different themes, one of which is the awesome FoxHound Blacked Theme, which emulates an ICS look everywhere. From the pop-ups to the settings to the toggles, it’s all black and blue, and clean. Very clean.
An example of the ICS-like theme in the notification bar, settings and clock
Aroma & OTA Make It Completely Yours
As if that wasn’t enough to persuade you to try FoxHound, I’ll add another reason. It comes with the Aroma installer. Aroma, for those of you who hadn’t heard of it, is like a small kitchen in the Recovery where you pick your ingredients before flashing the ROM fully.
FoxHound comes packed with several launchers, cameras, music players, keyboards, and so on. When you start flashing it in the recovery, Aroma will open and ask you to pick your own settings. The first time I did it, I felt all powerful and cool. It’s not even that I was installing a different custom ROM, I was actually customizing that said ROM to fit me specifically: Nova Launcher, AOSP keyboard, and Samsung’s Camera, please.
FoxHound OTA categories, and personally customized Nova Launcher homescreen
However, FoxHound’s personalization and coolness doesn’t stop once flashed. There’s a specific section in Settings that lets you tinker with a few things, amongst which picking your own drop-down toggles and their order. Also included is an OTA installer where you can download more themes, more MODs, more apps and as the meme crowd would say “MOAR EVERYTHING”. Do you want the Galaxy Note 2′s camera and gallery? They’re only a download away. How about the new Android 4.2 keyboard? Same thing.
It Has Inverted GApps
How about one more cool feature? Foxhound comes with inverted black apps – Google Now, Gmail, Play Store and the SMS app all use black backgrounds. An inverted Google Talk can be flashed from the OTA installer. This helps save a lot of battery life on the S3′s SAMOLED screen, especially if you use those apps frequently. Also, surprisingly, all those apps look good, even better, dare I say, than their original white counterpart.
Inverted Gmail and Play Store
A Step Away From Perfection
The major downside to FoxHound is the inability to update the default inverted apps. Given that these use a different signature than Google’s, whenever an update is issued, you won’t be able to install it from the Play Store. Instead, you’ll have to wait for the FoxHound team to integrate it into the next release. At the time of the writing, Google Now’s new version, that supports Gmail integration and app launching has been out for more than a week. However, the FoxHound version is still stuck on the previous one. I had to use Titanium Backup to remove the built-in inverted Google Now, then I installed the latest and still white version from the Play Store.
Another caveat is there are instances where you need to reflash the whole ROM if you made a mistake pick with Aroma. For example, I chose the default Samsung dialer when I meant to go for the AOSP dialer. After a day or so with the ROM installed and configured to my liking, I went to make a phone call and noticed I’d made the wrong choice. The only way for me to switch is to reflash and reconfigure everything. Sigh.
Those two niggles aside, FoxHound is one impressive beast. My S3 went from ICS to stable and fast Jelly Bean. It has the Samsung features that I love, wrapped in a clean AOSP-like look, with battery-saving inverted apps, without the bloat that I loathe, and with enough customization options to keep me happy for a while. And did I mention I can now toggle the LED flashlight from the notification drop-down? Because I can, unlike Samsung’s previous silly solution of using that awful 2×1 Assistive Light widget.
So is FoxHound the best of all worlds? Yes, definitely. If you have an international Galaxy S3, and you’re relatively used to flashing custom ROMs, I recommend you give it a try and let me know if you love it as much as I do or if there’s something even better out there.