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Android Apps And Rooting - Rooting Explained
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Android Apps And Rooting - Rooting Explained

In this article, I will give you the basic concept of what rooting is, what you can do with it, and why you might want to do it.

Back in The Day

For those of you who own an Android smartphone, life is most likely good. Android phones are capable of amazing things, and it seems the sky is the limit when it comes to the possibilities of what they can do. A few years ago, almost every cell phone was limited to just placing calls.

Then, one day, somebody decided to ask the question: "Why can't my phone access the internet?"

Soon after, many phones began to have access to limited parts of the web. Many phones could access mobile versions of common or popular websites. If you had that capability, then you were probably like me, always finding a website that wasn't compatible with a mobile browser. The early evolution of the smartphone was frustrating.

Now, several years later, smartphones can access almost every part of the web. They can go to almost any website, view videos, play flash games, and so much more. All of this helped fuel the level of customization found in smartphones today.

Operating Systems

Several companies make smartphones today, and there are several operating systems to choose from. Apple's Iphone was once the most popular, and is still a big player today. The Android operating system has grown in popularity rapidly and now threatens to challege Apple at the top of the mountain. What is it about Android that makes it so popular against Apple?


People want choices.

Out of the box, Android phones are amazingly customizable. There are so many settings to play with, it could literally take you days. When I got my first Android, (HTC Evo) I literally sat in the Best Buy parking lot and played with it for about an hour. I was coming from a Blackberry, and the difference was unbelievable. Needless to say, Android is my OS of choice now.

What's All This Talk About Rooting?

When I first heard the term "rooting" I was a little intrigued, and by "a little", I mean that I had an idea what it was but I had just spent $200 on a new phone and I wasn't about to screw it up now. After a few months went by, I had installed and uninstalled countless apps, and played with just about every setting I dared to. I was getting bored. It was then that I decided to check out exactly what rooting was. Now, I have rooted my phone, and I have flashed a number of ROM's and all sorts of crazy stuff. But to the average Android owner, that last sentence probably made you say, "You did what? What does that mean?" I never really had anyone explain it to me in "Layman's Terms", so I had to figure it out. Since you are here, reading my article, I will help to explain it.

To Put It Simply

Have you ever had a computer at your workplace that you're not the administrator of? It's frustrating isn't it? You can't go to certain websites, can't install new programs, and you cant run the disk cleanup. The point here, is that you are limited to what you can and cannot do. The same goes for your carrier branded Android phone. Sure, you can install and uninstall apps, and you can change your settings, but there is so much more that most people have no idea about.

The term "root" comes from the Linux operating system, which is another operating system that the average American has never heard of, but just know that is comes from there. The word root means "superuser" in Linux, or the Windows translation would be "administrator". In Linux, to "aquire root" means that person has become the "administrator". So "rooting" an Android phone means that person has gained all rights to change their phone as they see fit. It basically unlocks all the things that the manufacturer and the carrier didn't want you doing.

You see, Android was developed from the Linux operating system, which is popular amongst developers. Linux is "open-source", meaning anyone (even you) can contribute to its programming to make it better. Thus, Android is also open-source. To keep the average user from altering the operating system on their phone, carriers "lock" the phone to perform only certain tasks. By "rooting" your phone, you gain access to do whatever you want.

So, What Can I Do That Makes Rooting Worth It?

Rooting your phone has advantages and disadvantages, but more often the advantages outweigh the latter. To quickly give you a rundown of what the benefits are, rooting gives you the ability to: completely change the look and operation of your phone, improve its performance, improve its stability, remove any unwanted apps such as bloatware(carrier specific apps that you cannot uninstall), and gain access to use specific apps only for rooted phones. These are just the big points, as there are hundreds of reasons you might root your phone.

Changing The Overall Look

After you gain full control over your phone by rooting, you have the option to flash a ROM. A ROM is custom designed skin that sits on top of Android, and usually changes everything about the way your phone looks and operates. An easy way to envision this change would be similar to uninstalling Windows 98 on your home computer and installing Windows 7 instead. The harware components have not changed, but the look, feel, and way the computer works has completely changed.

Pro's: Installing (also called "flashing") a new ROM makes it feel like a whole new phone, keeps you from getting bored easily.

Con's: Learning how to do everything all over again, as your favorite buttons and settings have probably changed. Flashing a new ROM without backing up your apps and user data means you have to start over from scratch, which may or may not be a big deal.

Improving Performance/Stability

The difference between a "stock" ROM(what comes on your phone out of the box) and a custom ROM is mostly just the amount of testing that has been done. Stock ROM's receive testing from mostly all angles, by many different people. Custom ROM's usually receive less testing because the ROM is usually developed by one really smart guy(or girl) that built it. Sometimes ROM's are created for the sole purpose of making a single feature in the stock ROM better. Other times, they are created to change every single aspect of your phone. This means there may be bugs that need to be worked out. Generally custom ROM's are very "lean", cutting out extra code that may not be needed with the programming, allowing you to save battery life, and/or make your phone run faster.

Pro's: Some custom ROM's can help your phone run more efficiently, increasing speed and battery life.

Con's: Some custom ROM's may have a few bugs, meaning you gain speed and battery life at the cost of something else, like bluetooth or wifi. Generally bugs get fixed in new versions in the future, so don't worry if you find some. You can always go back to a previous version or a different ROM. Just remember to tell the developer about the bugs to make sure they get fixed or they might never know about them.

Removing "Bloatware"

When you root your phone, you then have the ability to uninstall "bloatware". These are the apps that are carrier specific. You can find out which ones they are pretty easily by opening your settings and trying to uninstall one of them. Before you even press the button, you will see that it is "grayed out", meaning you can't uninstall it without rooting. These apps are usually harmless, but they take up space on your phone, and sometimes they may annoy you with notifications. Rooting your phone will allow you to get rid of them.

Pro's: Removing bloatware frees up space on your phone, allowing you to install more of the meaningful or useful apps, and it keeps them from hogging your processor's time. Why let an app process stuff in the background if you're not using it? Uninstall it.

Con's: Unless you make a backup first, your bloatware apps are gone. If you think you might use them again someday, make a backup.

Root-Specific Apps

Some developers have made root-specific apps to download. This means that these apps can only be used if you have rooted your phone. Often times, these apps are utilities that do some pretty neat things. They are root-specific apps because they require permissions on your phone that only root access can provide.

Pro's: You get access to a whole new level of apps that non-rooted phones can't use. You become part of the cool crowd. (Figuratively)

Con's: None. Who doesn't want new apps?


So, I've explained rooting. You are taking full control of your phone. Rooting can be scary. I was scared at first, and I know people who are still scared of it. A lot of people don't want to risk hurting their phone. Yeah, you read that right. There are risks. There are no rooting stores. You have to do it yourself, or let someone else do it. There is no book, you have to research it, and follow other people's instructions. You can mess up your phone, and no one will be legally responsible except you. Rooting is not illegal, but phone carriers want to keep you on a leash, which is why they lock the phones in the first place.

I am not trying to scare you. There is nothing scary about rooting. Just like everything else in life, you have to follow the directions to do it right. When I first started out, I didn't have a friend that could help me. I "Googled" everything. I watched YouTube videos of other people doing it, and I took notes. Somebody reading this article is going to root their phone. You might be scared, but remind yourself how much you will laugh at yourself when you get it done. I did. Now I flash a new ROM during a smoke break at work. Or in the bathroom. Or lying in bed just before I fall asleep. Yeah, it's that easy once you've done it a couple times.

I hope this shed some light on rooting. It seems so complicated, but once you get used to it, it really is easy. If you simply follow the instructions, the benefits far outweight the negatives.

Thanks for reading!


Street Talk

I can't have a phone that is not rooted and I love changing out roms! Great article.

  about 1 decade ago
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