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Home / Tips and Tricks / How to install dirty unicorns on your Pixel and get custom ROM features without losing Motion Sense & Active Edge «Android :: Gadget Hack

How to install dirty unicorns on your Pixel and get custom ROM features without losing Motion Sense & Active Edge «Android :: Gadget Hack



If you’ve ever been to custom ROMs, you probably know the name Dirty Unicorns pretty well. It has been synonymous with unique features and amazing tweaks compared to stock. Recently, Dirty Unicorns has returned in a big way with some great features for Android 10.

When you install a custom ROM based on the official AOSP source, you usually lose all the device-specific features found in a layered ROM. If the developer does not have direct access to these system features, you would miss them for good. Dirty Unicorns has some of these exclusive Pixel features that will charge your custom ROM experience, so let̵

7;s dive in to learn more about them.

Supported devices

  • Google Pixel XL
  • Google Pixel 2 XL
  • Google Pixel 3
  • Google Pixel 3 XL
  • Google Pixel 3a XL
  • Google Pixel 4 XL
  • Google Pixel 4a

Step 1: Install or launch TWRP on your Pixel

Before you can install this bead of a custom ROM on your Pixel, you need to make sure you have access to TWRP-custom recovery. If needed, we have some TWRP installation guides for the Pixel devices below.

Step 2: Download custom ROM for Dirty Unicorns

Once you have installed TWRP on your Pixel, you can download the custom ROM file from one of the links below and match your specific device. The file should be saved in the “Download” folder on your device by default, but you can place it in that folder if needed for easy access.

Image via dirtyunicorns.com

Step 3: Back up your data (optional)

Before installing the custom Dirty Unicorns ROM, you may want to back up your device as you may need to perform a data wipe. Boot into the TWRP main menu on your Pixel, press “Backup”, select the partitions you want to back up and then swipe the slider to start backing up your device. When you are done, press the home button to return to the main menu.

Step 4: Wipe your device for a fresh start

Now that your data is safe, press “Wipe” from the main menu and then swipe the slider to confirm the factory reset. When you are done, press the home button to return to the main menu. Clearing your data and starting over will ensure that your ROM user experience is as smooth and error-free as possible.

When you go from a storage ROM to a custom AOSP ROM, you should definitely make sure to do a computer dryer. Forgetting to do so can result in an endless bootloop, so remember that.

Step 5: Install Dirty Unicorns Custom ROM

Go back to the TWRP main menu, go to “Install” and then locate the custom Dirty Unicorns ROM installation file. As a reminder, it should probably be in the “Download” folder by default if you downloaded the file to your phone. Tap the installation file once, then swipe the slider to start installing it on your device.

When the ROM installation is complete, you can press the “Restart” button and then press the “System” option. If you do this, launch your device back to Android to the main welcome screen. Press the “Start” button and go through the original setting that you would normally do another day. Then you can dive directly into Dirty Unicorn’s custom ROM on your Pixel!

Dirty Unicorn’s custom ROM features

Now that your Pixel has Dirty Unicorn’s custom ROM running, you’ll have fun exploring all the unique features. To get started, you want to enter Settings -> Dirty tweaks. This is where most of Dirty Unicorn’s custom features will be available for easy access.

1. System adjustments

In this section you can do things like change the clock style of your lock screen, customize your long press options on the power menu or even change the animation screen. Something to note, you can also view media art for your music on the lock screen. This is something that is likely to disappear with the Android 11 update for Layer-Pixel-ROM.

If you plan to start a lot in TWRP, I recommend that you enable the “Advanced reboot” option in the power menu section. After doing so, long press the power button, press “Advanced” and then “Reset”. Without a doubt, this is the most convenient way to boot into TWRP on your Pixel. The same goes for the bootloader option when using Fastboot Mode.

2. Statusbar Tweaks

Here you can do things like change your battery style, change your status bar clock settings, or even disable the annoying status bar notification icons. There are also many adjustments to the Quick Settings drop-down menu to create a setting that suits you.

3. Navigation Tweaks

You have a lot of really cool features here that involve your type of navigation and gestures the most, such as hiding the navigation bar. You can even pick up your flashlight when the screen is off by long pressing the power button. Another distinctive feature allows you to add a long sweeping action to your backward gesture arrow. You can easily set which action you want here!

If you like music, the “Pulse” option might catch your attention. It allows you to add a graphic visualizer at the bottom of the screen that responds to your music. You have plenty of visual adjustments to find a visualizer that works best for your needs. It’s a feature you don’t usually see built into the system itself, so this provides a fun extra.

4. Active Edge & Motion Sense (exclusive)

Do you know the exclusive Pixel features I mentioned earlier? The “Multitasking” tab has two of these features right now. Active Edge is the press feature that all pixels have had since the beginning; however, this version allows you to set the press actions to whatever you want. So many opportunities!

If you have a Pixel 4, you have access to the Motion Sense option, which has been one of my favorite Pixel features for a long time. I can not live without some specific Pixel 4 motion detection features, such as “Idle lock screen” and “Wake up display.” Dirty Unicorns is so much better because it has exclusive access to the motion-sensitive extras that Pixel 4 offers.

5. Custom themes

It would not be an epic custom ROM but the ability to create your own custom themes, right? You can find this section by going to Settings -> Themes. You can adjust the system’s accent colors, choose between different fonts, choose your icon shapes and the status bar icon colors.

If you go to “System Theme” you have a variety of options here, including a carbon black option – this is perfect for your eyes and battery life as well. You can also schedule when a particular theme is active to automate things. When you are done configuring everything, there is an option to back up your theme settings so you do not have to worry about losing anything.

6. ROM update notifications

One of the few disadvantages of running a custom ROM has to do with updating when a new version comes out. Generally, you need to check the thread or website you have your ROM from for any updates. Thankfully, Dirty Unicorns has a built-in notifier so you can receive real-time update notifications.

To access this feature, go to Settings -> Apps and notifications -> Advanced -> Update notifications. Press “OK” to confirm the data collection note, then the option should be activated automatically after that. Done! You will be notified when Dirty Unicorns has an update available for your device.

7. ROM update Changelog

If you’re like me, you like to learn about all the fixes, changes, and additions that developers have included in their latest update. However, not all custom ROM developers will have a change log built directly into the system settings. To see what’s new for the latest Dirty Unicorns update, go to Settings -> About phone -> Change. The little things, right?

Now that you have a basic overview of the custom ROM disk Dirty Unicorns on your Pixel, it’s time to create your own experience. You can go through restoring the device backup that you may have done earlier in TWRP. If you’re also interested in combining Magic for root access with Dirty Unicorn’s custom ROM, check out one of our Pixel guides below for more.

You can already do many amazing things by default with this custom ROM, but adding Magic to the mix would make things even more epic. If you have any questions about the custom ROM in general, please let me know. The Android 11 Dirty Unicorns update is probably not far off, so expect to see more updates sometime soon. Have fun out there!

Final remark

An earlier version of this article incorrectly merged Dirty Unicorns with AOKP due to their partially shared history.

Dirty Unicorn’s custom ROM is not the same as the original unicorn-based AOKP from earlier in the day. Just like CyanogenMod was open source, AOKP allowed anyone to make their own custom ROM. You can download the source code from the AOKP repository and create your own “Kang” version of ROM with optional cherry picking – if you knew how to do it, of course.

In short, Dirty Unicorns started as a “Kang” project from AOKP about a decade ago, but developed into its own unique branch with healthy community support. They have been around since the beginning of AOKP and still make some of the coolest ROMs I have seen recently. Not to mention, we still get many unique features even today, especially with Pixel devices.

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Cover photo and screenshots by Stephen Perkins / Gadget Hacks

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