The vast majority of Android device buyers don't know or care what a custom ROM is. There's nothing wrong with that—a phone or tablet's stock ROM will be enough for 99.9% of potential users. But for the 0.1% that like to tinker, the development community surrounding a given device can drastically impact the value. Your purchase can become a much better deal if there is a wealth of custom ROM options available, extending its lifespan for possibly years (or roughly a decade, in the case of the HTC HD2).
There are quite a few popular custom ROMs in the wild, but LineageOS is the best option for most people. It has a huge community of developers, constantly adds new features, and supports dozens of phones and tablets with official builds.
So the question becomes this: what are the best phones for LineageOS? If you're willing to unlock bootloaders and flash ROMs, which devices suddenly become more valuable? Or, if you want a Google-free Android experience (since Google apps are optional with Lineage), what are the best options for hardware?
This guide has stayed fairly popular since it was originally published in 2017, so we've updated it with all-new choices for 2019. We've also removed all tablet recommendations, because there aren't any decent options officially supported by the Lineage project.
Unlocking your bootloader, installing a ROM or custom recovery (and rooting, if that's your preference) are all things that should only be done when you understand the steps involved and the risks associated. Remember: a bricked device isn’t the worst case scenario, the really bad things just start there.
If you ROM a phone, expect mediocre camera performance. There are exceptions, but generally without the closed-source camera binaries and modified camera applications most OEMs ship phones with, the quality of photos will be lower.
It's also important to note that official LineageOS builds can also be buggy or unstable at times, even on the most well-supported devices. If you need your phone to be as stable/reliable as possible, custom ROMs probably aren't a good idea. If a phone is still receiving OEM updates, keeping your firmware and bootloader updated may also be more difficult on LineageOS.
There aren't any super-budget phones with official Lineage ports (or at least any that you would want to use), so we'll start our list at mid-range devices.
Motorola Moto X4
The Moto X4 was a bit of a strange device. It was the last X-series phone from Motorola, marking the end of an important era for the company. The series didn't end in a bang, but a whimper — the Moto X4 received mixed reviews when it came out. However, the main criticism was the high price, and frequent sales since then have fixed that.
The phone was one of the first 'Android One' devices, so it ran a stock build of Android and was fairly easy to unlock and customize. There's still an active development scene for the X4, including official builds of LineageOS 16 (based on Android 9 Pie). However, the Lineage port is only for the T-Mobile, international, and Project Fi models — the Verizon and AT&T versions won't work, as their bootloaders are permanently locked.
As far as the internal hardware goes, you get a Snapdragon 630 processor, 3-6GB of RAM (depending on the model), 32-128GB of internal storage (depending on the model), a microSD card slot, a headphone jack, a 5.2-inch 1080p screen, and a 3,000mAh battery.
Xiaomi Mi A1
The Mi A1 was nearly the perfect budget phone when it was released in late 2017. It combined Xiaomi's usual great value with Google's stock Android experience. In a time when many enthusiasts around the world were still mourning the loss of the Nexus program, the Mi A1 was a solid alternative with few drawbacks.
Fast-forward to today, and you can easily find an imported Mi A1 in the U.S. for around $150 on sites like eBay. However, the phone lacks many U.S. LTE bands, so the A1 is only a great choice for those of you living in countries where it was officially sold — including most of Europe, the Middle East, Mexico, and southern Asia.
The Xiaomi Mi A1 is equipped with a Snapdragon 625 processor, a 5.5-inch 1080p IPS screen, 4GB of RAM, 64GB of storage (expandable via microSD if you aren't using the second SIM), a 12MP rear camera, a 5MP front camera, and a 3,000mAh battery. There's a headphone jack, but no NFC.
If you have a bit more money to spend, there are a few high-end smartphones that are well-supported by the Lineage project.
Xiaomi Poco F1
The Pocophone F1 has been a smash hit, as it offers flagship specifications for less than half the cost of the usual flagship phone in the United States. The design leaves a little bit to be desired, and there are a few odd missing features (like no NFC), but overall it's a very compelling package.
The software experience is usually cited as the main drawback to the Poco F1. While some people like Xiaomi's MIUI skin, it drastically changes how Android works, usually breaking apps in the process. Thankfully, not only can you install custom ROMs on it, there's an official port of LineageOS 16 (based on Android 9.0 Pie).
If you're not familiar with it, the Pocophone has a Snapdragon 845 processor, a 6.18-inch 1080p LCD screen, 6-8GB of RAM (depending on model), 64-256GB of storage (depending on model), a 4,000mAh battery, a headphone jack, two rear cameras (12MP + 5MP depth sensor), and a 20MP front-facing camera.
However, a custom ROM can't solve one issue the Pocophone has — a lack of global LTE bands. You should not buy this phone if you live in the United States, because you'll have next to no cell coverage on any carrier. That's also the case for a few other countries, so make sure to do a quick Google search for "pocophone [insert carrier here]" before buying.
The best choice for a flagship phone if you want to run LineageOS is not the OnePlus 7 Pro, or even the 6T, but the older OnePlus 6. It's the newest OnePlus device that is currently receiving official Lineage support, and since the phone is only a year old, it's still plenty fast by 2019 standards.
The specifications include a Snapdragon 845 processor, 6-8GB of RAM (depending on the model), 64-256GB of storage (depending on the model), a 6.28-inch 1080p OLED screen, a 3,300mAh battery, dual rear cameras (16MP + 20MP), and a 16MP front camera. This was also the last phone made by OnePlus with a headphone jack.
Truth be told, there's not much of a reason to flash a custom ROM on the OnePlus 6, as it's still receiving frequent updates and OxygenOS (the custom flavor of Android that ships on all OP phones) offers many of the same features as Lineage. Still, if you really want Lineage, there's an official port of LineageOS 16.0 Pie ready for you.
Motorola Moto Z2 Force
If you're in the market for something a bit more durable, the Motorola Moto Z2 Force is a decent option. It was released in mid-2017, and some versions of it were never even updated to Android 9 Pie — but the Lineage project stepped in and officially supports the Z2 Force with LineageOS 16.0 Pie. Some Motorola motion gestures even work under the custom ROM, however, most Moto Mods are non-functional.
The Moto Z2 Force has a Snapdragon 835 processor, 4GB of RAM, 64GB of internal storage (with microSD card support), a 5.5-inch 1440p AMOLED screen with Motorola's "ShatterShield" tech, a 2,730mAh battery, two 12MP rear cameras, and one 5MP front camera. You can find our original review here.
The one caveat to buying a Z2 Force for Lineage is that the majority of U.S. models are the Verizon and AT&T variants, which can't be bootloader-unlocked. Even if they have been carrier-unlocked, the bootloader still cannot be unlocked. The T-Mobile and Sprint versions should work fine for LineageOS. See the bottom of this page for a list of models that will work.
If you're looking for the cheapest phone for LineageOS that can still trade blows with flagship devices, and will actually function on U.S. carriers (except Verizon and Sprint), the OnePlus 5T might be the best option. It was originally released in late 2017, but it's still a formidable phone in 2019.
The OP5T packs a Snapdragon 835 processor, 6-8GB RAM (depending on the model), 64-128GB of storage (depending on model), a 6-inch 1080p screen, a 3,300mAh battery, two rear cameras (one 16MP, one 20MP), and a 16MP front camera.
As with the OnePlus 6, there really isn't a pressing need to replace the stock ROM with Lineage, as OxygenOS offers most of the same features as Lineage. The 5T is still receiving official updates from OnePlus, though it probably won't get anything past Android Q officially.
There are a ton of phones that didn't make this list, especially devices mainly sold outside the United States, but we had to draw a line somewhere. Custom ROMs present quite a rabbit hole. We can't make an exhaustive list and expect anyone to want to read it.
Although we might be a minority, there are a lot of us that buy a phone with ROMs in mind. Some of us buy a phone for the long haul and are prepared to take matters into our own hands when an OEM halts updates. Some of us have built our workflows around the extra features that ROMs like LineageOS provide, or we enjoy the privilege of truly owning our phone via that extra layer of customization. And some of us just want to try the next version of Android a bit early.
Whatever your motivation might be, from novelty to utility, if you are shopping for a phone with LineageOS support in mind, now you've got a few good ideas to base your search on.