Well folks, this is it: the final build of Paranoid Android is ready, just in time for Google I/O to show us a new version of the OS. Turn out the lights, the party's over. The fat lady is singing. We'll go quietly into that... what? This is isn't the last Paranoid Android build? It's just feature-complete and stable, and development on the custom ROM will continue? Ah. Well, carry on then.
Android 4.4.3 hit Nexus devices last week, and now the Paranoid Android folks are hard at work packing the latest version of KitKat into their custom ROM. Today they're ready to show off the fruits of their labor in the form of the first release candidate for Paranoid Android 4.4.
This release includes not only the goodies found in 4.4.3 but a few other niceties as well. Users will get to experience changes made to Hover.
Android 4.4.3 isn't a huge bump up from the previous incremental release - the biggest change is a new dialer, though there are thousands of adjustments behind the scenes. Even so, the most popular families of custom Android ROMs are quickly adopting the open source code into their bleeding-edge releases. CyanogenMod has already begun the transfer to 4.4.3 with its latest nightly builds.
The newer OmniROM has also started publishing 4.4.3 nightly builds for its supported devices, available on the download page.
One of the nicest things about CyanogenMod (from a cosmetic perspective, anyway) is support for hundreds and hundreds of community-baked themes on the Play Store and elsewhere. As opposed to a launcher theme or icon set, these themes are system-wide, and they can completely change the look of your phone or tablet in a few seconds. Custom ROMs often bake in a compatible theme system (see AOKP), and now the popular Paranoid Android family has done so as well.
The Paranoid Android family of custom ROMs has a history of adding interesting custom user interface elements, but since re-starting with KitKat, the developers have been trying out some new ideas. One of the first new features for the revamped PA is called Hover, and it's basically a complete rethinking of the Halo idea. Hover is a short-lived visual overlay that temporarily replaces the notification bar with a richer and more useful version, including expandable alerts and floating windows.
Fans of ROM flashing were a bit perturbed when a Paranoid Android developer announced several weeks ago that PA's Halo multitasking system was dead. The situation was certainly more nuanced than that, but the Paranoid Android Google+ account has finally posted a clarification of what's happening with the next version. The short version is... everything's changing.
If you're a big fan of Paranoid Android's Chat Heads-inspired Halo feature, I've got some unfortunate news for you. Yesterday a known member of the Paranoid Android development team, "PirateGhost," posted a reply to an XDA thread waiting on Halo in a new PA beta build.
You are going to be waiting a loooooooooooong time. Halo is dead.
The story was picked up by the folks at the Android subreddit, where reactions ranged from dismissive to inconsolable.
The various families of custom ROMs are in an arms race... in a really nice way. Each one is trying to one-up the others with new features and improvements on stock Android, with some genuinely spectacular results in some cases. The latest beta builds of Paranoid Android include some particularly useful features, most notably a revamped Quick Settings menu. The PA version of the drop-down icon grid allows for multiple functions for each square and on the fly rearranging.
Whenever there's a new version of Android on the block, you can bet that custom ROM makers will be some of the first to push it out - for example, the Paranoid Android team had an AOSP build of KitKat available the day after the code was published. This weekend the makers of four of the most prolific custom ROM families out there, CyanogenMod, Android Open Kang Project (AOKP), Paranoid Android, and Omni ROM, have shared their plans for Android 4.4.