Google puts a limit on how many custom Android ROMs you can install
Having the option to install a custom ROM is something that many folks, myself included, love about Android. It's not something that is possible on every device running the operating system, as you may know, but on the smartphones and tablets that do support it, it can make a huge difference to the user experience.
Why? Because, if you like the hardware but you aren't getting along well with the stock distribution, chances are you will find something that works better that's been made by the community. Or, if the manufacturer ended support, you can still get newer versions of Android this way. Trouble is, Google, which has tolerated the practice so far, has decided to put a limit on how much fun you can have with it.
According to a new page on Google's website, Android users (will) have a limit of 100 device IDs on which to install custom ROMs going forward. A device ID is generated after a factory reset, according to 9to5Google, and it will need to be whitelisted under your Google account to be able to use what is commonly referred to as GApps in the community.
GApps is a bundle of Google-made services that is distributed unofficially (there are lots of variations around, but all enable the same basic functionality) and which is required in order to get access to apps like the Play Store, Gmail, Maps and YouTube, among others. Without GApps, your Android smartphone running a custom ROM is pretty much useless -- unless you don't want to use any Google apps, that is.
This limit is a byproduct of Google's decision to prevent manufacturers from releasing any more Android devices that are not officially certified, yet ship with its apps already installed. Google informed vendors of its decision to block uncertified devices from accessing its services more than a year ago, but is only now enforcing this.
This practice seems to be more common among smaller players in the smartphone market, especially in places where the Play Store is not officially available (like China). It is unclear how this will affect the average consumer in the end. They should not have to face any problems, if their device came with Google apps preinstalled.
For enthusiasts though this is a much deeper issue. You see, 100 device IDs may sound like a lot, but if you consider that there's no reset date and that many folks like to go through custom ROMs like candy you can understand how one can reach it quite quickly. What's more, some modders may switch devices (actual devices) once or twice a year and that makes things even more complicated.
I believe that, if Google doesn't change its policy, some folks will be quite pissed -- and vocal -- about it. And those are likely to be important members of the modding community -- aka the sort of people you don't want to alienate. I mean, it's one of the main reasons they buy Android devices in the first place. Maybe they won't load a new custom ROM every week, but it would be nice to know that they can. I wonder what's next.