Descendant XI offers a fresh take on Android 11 with loads of unique features

Descendant XI offers a fresh take on Android 11 with loads of unique features

At XDA, we pride ourselves on the power of the modding community in providing choices — choices that accommodate the wide variety of needs from different users. One of the common products of this choice is the availability of AOSP-based custom ROMs for devices that run on an otherwise heavily customized UI. In fact, many older Android smartphones are kept alive by custom ROMs, sometimes years after devices were abandoned by the device maker.

Speaking of custom ROMs, LineageOS may be the most popular one out there, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t also other well-liked aftermarket builds. Descendant, for example, has carved out its own following in the custom ROM scene. Originally distributed as a Generic System Image (GSI), the ROM has greatly expanded and is now known for offering innovative features on top of the vanilla Android experience. For example, some of the unique features touted by the development team include:

  • Emergency mode.
    • The feature, assuming it has been set up with the needed info, will send over your location to chosen contacts to alert them that you’re in danger. If the person that needs aid moves and their GPS coordinates change, another message will be sent with the newly acquired position to the chosen contacts. If the emergency gets dismissed by user interaction, another message will be sent over, communicating that the emergency condition has ceased.
    • It’s accessible from the Lockscreen Minus One page and from Settings -> Descendant Health (for setup purposes).

  • Lockscreen Minus One Page.
    • It features a clock, a weather widget, and three toggles. One of them is the Emergency Mode, the other one is Torch, and the last one is Do Not Disturb.
    • It’s accessible from the lockscreen with a left-to-right swipe.

  • Extremely Secure Keyguard.
    • It’s a feature that prevents any kind of interaction over the Quick Settings Panel/Tiles/Notification when locked. Essentially, it prevents the Quick Settings from scrolling down, prevents tapping on tiles, etc. so third parties can’t toggle settings without your consent.
    • It’s accessible under Settings -> Security -> Extremely secure keyguard.
  • UI Overhaul.
    • Descendant XI offers a full-fledged UI overhaul, with plenty of custom animations not seen in other custom ROMs.
  • Custom ringtones.
    • All made by the developers, plus this year featuring licensed music from Emmanuel Nwamadi (The Voice UK participant).
  • Health
    • It includes a built-in COVID-19 tracker so you can check the stats as soon as you open the subfragment in settings.

The developer behind the Descendant project, XDA Senior Member Dil3mm4, has been quite busy these last few months. We’ve seen a huge uptick in activity within the ROM website as well as in the forums here at XDA, and for good reason. It was only January when the Descendant codebase was made open source after being rebased on top of Android 11. Now, the developer has announced the March 2021 release of Descendant XI with a plethora of new features.

Here’s the full changelog introduced by the Descendant XI’s March 2021 update:

Descendant XI March 2021 Changelog

  • UI Changes:
    • Changed Weather icon set
    • Brightness bar has been rounded a bit more on top left/right corners
    • Pattern/Pin/Password will blur when spawned
    • Reworked Weather Widget UI (after tapping on the weather in QS)
    • Replaced Josefin Sans font with RedHat one
    • Lockscreen Minus One Page (follows up)
  • Fixes:
    • Fixed up an issue with weather metrics
  • Features:
    • QS Compact Layout
      • A smaller layout for QS header, can be activated from Settings -> Display -> QS Compact Layout
    • Extremely Secure Keyguard
      • This option, accessible from Settings -> Security -> Extremely Secure Keyguard, disables all types of interactions that can trigger QS and QQS panel expansion via gestures
    • Lockscreen Minus One Page Lock
      • This option, accessible from Settings -> Security -> Lockscreen Minus One Page, denies/enables the gesture to open the Lockscreen Minus One page on a secured lockscreen
    • Face Unlock now is capable of unlocking apps that need biometrics verification.
    • Lockscreen Minus One Page
      • This page is accessible from lockscreen, swiping from left to right and dismissible swiping from right to left or from bottom to top.
      • It has three quick options on the bottom: Emergency Mode, Torch, DND
        • Emergency Mode is an emergency feature that will keep your screen-on unless dismissed.
        • While keeping your screen on, there will be multiple informations on screen:
          • Blinking help request on top (that will change language on every blink)
          • Name and Surname
          • Blood Type
          • Address
          • Pre-exist medical conditions
        • It will also send message(s) to the contact(s) of your choosing, with your current position (if available), communicating that you need help.
        • If your position changes meanwhile the emergency is still on-going, further messages will be sent communicating the change of your position.
        • Emergency mode needs setuping.
        • It’s accessible by Settings -> Descendant Health -> Medical Infos or by the alert that pops-out when trying to trigger Emergency Mode from Lockscreen Minus One Page.
        • Beware that the emergency number(s) you will setup has/have to be a mobile so that SMS can be sent.
        • Also please note that this is a feature in beta and doesn’t want to replace any medical equipment.
      • The torch toggle, will trigger torch on and off.
      • Same for DND toggle, will trigger DND mode on and off.

In addition to the above, here’s a summary of new features added in Descendant XI updates over the past few months:

Descendant XI new Features

  • UI Revamp
    • QS has totally changed.
    • There’s a weather widget in QS and Lockscreen that is totally independent from Google services. Clicking on it reveals even more information than the basics.
    • When UI volume expands, it will have a slightly different background when you go to fully expanded.
    • Slight changes are in Settings dashboard background too.
  • Reticker has now an option to show the app color as the background color of reticker.
  • Descendant health has a new menu in settings, and we now have COVID tracker for the country you are in.
  • You can now disable internet and sensors access to every app, in Settings -> App -> APP_NAME -> Authorizations -> Network & sensor.
  • New clock, it’s called Calendar Clock, it’s in the Styles app.
  • There’s a new tile called Stereo/Mono tile, basically when you click on it, it will switch from stereo to mono and vice-versa.
  • There’s another tile called Headphone Buddy, tldr, when headphones are connected, you can choose if you want a balanced audio, only on the left, only on the right.
  • The gesture pill navigation is now resizable in Settings -> System -> Gestures.
  • 4 new ringtones: ABC, Joining the Club, Mad Love, Mad Love RMX.
  • Launcher recents button have been improved. there’s now clear all and kill app button.
  • FOD improvements, that at a later stage are being adopted by LineageOS itself.
  • More localizations. The ROM is currently translated in Italian, Traditional Chinese, Finnish, Hindi, Malay, Brazilian Portuguese, Spanish, Ukrainian, Turkish, Vietnamese, while more are being translated via Crowdin.

Check out the screenshot gallery below to see some of the key features that Descendant ROM has to offer — there’s a lot!


Download Descendant XI (Android 11)

You can grab the Descendant XI builds for the following devices from the official download portal of the project:

*March 2021 build dropped due to technical issues.
**Collectively referred to as “miatoll”.

Take note that generic GSI builds are also available for Project Treble-enabled devices, which means you can still get a taste of Descendant XI, even if you don’t have any of the aforementioned smartphones. All the builds already have Google apps included, so you don’t need to flash a separate ZIP file to get the Google Play Store.


If you’re interested in helping the Descendant team with development, then do check out the project’s GitHub repo. If you want to stay up-to-date on news and new releases from the team, you should consider following them on our forums.

About author

Skanda Hazarika
Skanda Hazarika

DIY enthusiast (i.e. salvager of old PC parts). An avid user of Android since the Eclair days, Skanda also likes to follow the recent development trends in the world of single-board computing.