We’ve posted a number of guides on rooting and unlocking Android devices. However, you might be wondering why you should root your Android device or phone. This is a little guide to help you understand the advantages and disadvantages of the rooting process.
First, what is rooting?
Rooting is basically unlocking your phone, or gaining super user access so you can do whatever you want with your phone. In the iPhone world, they call this “jailbreaking” the phone. When you gain super user access, you can install custom software, change how the hardware operates, and just about do whatever is technically possible with your hardware device. What rooting gives you is a hardware device with far fewer software constraints.
If you are wondering, the term “root” comes from the world of Unix and Linux users, where a root user is one who can make core changes to the system. The Android users coopted the term, and so we have “rooting” as the process to gain complete control over the device.
Why should I root my android device?
Greater control over the device
This one is a little conceptual in nature, but you paid for the device (or are paying for it), so you should be able to do what you want with it. If you want to install different software, run different skins, or do whatever you want with it (so long as it is legal) you should be able to. Now, for a few reasons, carriers and phone manufacturers prefer that you do not have this much control.
Obviously, they might not want you to break the phone or screw up how it works, but they also have a vested interest in providing you with an experience that is different than other phones/carriers and in steering you towards their own proprietary stores/software/user experiences. Without getting into too much detail, if I have a Sprint phone, they want me to really connect with my SprintID and use the Sprint functions so it becomes less likely that I jump to a different carrier. They do not want me just to delete SprintID from my phone (which rooting would let me do).
Make your device run faster or last longer
On your rooted device, you can use software, like SetCPU to overclock your device to make it run faster, cut down on power usage to make the battery last longer, or do both depending on things like what app is running, what time of day it is, and whether the phone is asleep or charging. Software like this is only available for root users.
Change your user experience
Once rooting the phone, many users install custom ROMs to change the look and feel of the device’s user interface. It is basically like installing a new skin on the phone, and gives your android device a new face. Many times, new ROMs available for phones offer up to date versions of Android that are functional on older phones. Similarly, many ROMs are highly polished and offer faster performance than the standard OS installed on your phone. You can also install apps or keyboards designed for other phones that have been made available for other users with root access.
On a rooted phone, you can install ad blocking software that keeps ads from showing up in your ad-supported games. In other words, you can make an ad-supported game or app look like a paid game or app by blocking the ads from showing up. Not only will this make your user experience cleaner, but it will keep your phone from using data to find and load up the ad.
Make it easier to backup and restore data
There is excellent software available, like Titanium Backup, which makes it really easy to backup and restore your apps and personal data. This is awesome because when you have a rooted phone, you might be flashing a new ROM or tweaking something that makes your phone crash. If there is a problem, you can use your backup software to revert to an earlier point and restore everything.
Put Apps on your SD card
For some reason, Google wants us all to put our apps in the device’s memory, even though most SD cards are plenty fast enough to run apps just fine. There are procedures out there to work around this, but with rooting it is a lot easier to control your device and where apps are installed.
With a rooted phone, you can use WiFi or Bluetooth functionality to use your phone’s internet via your laptop or tablet. You can install tethering software that makes this a breeze, but tethering apps require root access.
Access to more Apps
Not only can you use apps that require root access, but with a rooted phone you can access apps that are only available in other markets. Google likes to control market access by region, but you can use tools like Market Enabler to gain access to the Google Play market for other regions.
Why should I not root my Android device?
It voids the warranty
If you still have a warranty on your device, rooting it will void the warranty. Now, you might be able to undo this if you need to, but there’s no guarantee you will be able to get service under warranty on your rooted device. If you break it, you are likely going to have to buy a new one.
You might break it
Rooting is an imperfect process. You have to be sure you are doing the specifically correct procedure for your exact phone and software provider. As I have covered in previous posts, the process for rooting a Samsung Galaxy S3 on Verizon is very different than rooting it for the same phone on Sprint or T-Mobile. You have to be sure you are doing the right thing before you do it, or you might end up with a “bricked” device (i.e. broken).
If you root your phone, you need to be careful with what you install on it. Not all apps really require super user access, and if the app has super user access, then it might be doing things like monitoring your keystrokes or your Google password or your credit card number. Rooting your phone might open you up to potential security leaks. It is a good idea to stick with apps that have been widely used and heavily endorsed by the broader Android community. You might also want to install some sort of anti-virus and security to offer a level of protection against malicious software.
You are not ready for it
If you are happy with your phone as it is, or you feel uncomfortable going beyond basic adjustments to your phone, this process is not for you. Rooting your phone is going to take a little research to make sure you do it right. You may even need to engage in some periodic maintenance by updating your software or trying a different ROM if the first one you tried doesn’t work right. While it’s not brain surgery, it requires more effort than just leaving your device alone.
Should I root my Android device?
Actually, it depends on a number of factors. Are you ok with losing the warranty? Are you experienced with this sort of thing? Do you really need/want the benefits of rooting? Worst case, can you afford a new device if you break it? Is there an established process for rooting your device?
If no to all (or most) of these, then it might be best to wait. Wait until your warranty expires, until you’ve learned more about the technology, or until you can afford to buy a replacement if something breaks.
If yes to all (or most) of these, then what are you waiting for? Go for it!
Filed in: Android How To