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Android Rooting: What is it? Why do it? Is it for me?

Rooting. What is it?

You love your new Android phone. It lubricates your connected cogs, costs a fraction of the price of an iPhone and has oodles of free and paid apps on the Android Market. But there are some niggles – you feel it should run a little bit smoother, have less bloatware, give you the option to overclock it to within an inch of its life – it’s Android for crying out loud! It. Should. Blow. Your. Mind.

If this sounds like you, why not root your phone if you haven’t already? Aside from voiding your warranty the moment the thought enters your cranium, rooting open you up to another side of Android, a side of personalisation, custom ROMS and believe it or not, community. If any of this is just throwing you off from the offset, pop down to the terminology section at the bottom of the page at any point.

Why Root?

We’re pretty novice rooters wading through overgrown forums of comparative pros, so if you’ve never rooted a phone before, you’re in good company. Having familiarised ourselves with the processes and the benefits, we are however novices converted – itching to learn more. Sold on the perks of rooting and the developer community behind it, we’d go as far as to say we will likely root every primary phone we own from here on in – it’s that good.

Primarily, rooting and flashing an Android phone puts you in a better position to understand what Android is all about. Everyone’s heard the slogan “There’s an app for that” in relation to iOS. When it comes to Android,  it’s more like “there’s a hack for that”. So being able to root your device means you’ll be able adopt tweaks and customizations some dedicated devs have created on your phone, making it the most bespoke Android experience possible.

In addition, other common reasons for rooting Android handsets are to get rid of some of the pre-installed bloatware, enable Wi-Fi tethering if it’s been disabled or under-clock it (slow it down) to improve battery life.

With rooting, you will also be able to install a custom ROM.  A Custom ROM is a cooked up version of Android and there are thousands out there. There are fast ones, slow ones, stable ones and ROMS offering the latest Ice Cream Sandwich experience months before it makes its way via an official port – if the official port is even due. Below is an example for our Samsung Galaxy Note ROM and can be found over at XDA Developers.

With a root however comes a price and we can’t stress this enough: rooting your phone will void your warranty and if you choose to do it, you take full responsibility for your device.

What do I need to know?


Right, now that point’s been made a few times, here are a few helpful things to know if you plan on reading around the subject of rooting:

1. Terminology

There are a few key terms needed to understand this article and the rooting process. We will outline some for you, but should you want an exhaustive list, check out Cyanogenmod’s Terminology Wiki.

Vanilla: Android as Google intended it with no manufacturer specific customizations.
Rooting: Unlocking access to your phones system files.
Flashing: Installing a ROM (See below). This cannot be installed in the same way as an app.
Bricking: A brick is a phone that doesn’t function. Bricking a phone is the process of turning a working phone into a brick.
ROM: A complete mobile operating system, in this case Android.
Custom ROM: A version of a ROM (in this case Android), tweaked usually for a specific purpose (speed, battery, stability, latest version of Android).

2. Where can I learn more?

XDA-Developers is the Mecca of Android development. Named after the Windows Mobile XDA of old, it has since grown from strength to strength. To learn more about development taking place on your handset, go to the forum, scroll down and find your phone. Now, the best thing to do is explore. Don’t be overwhelmed by the sheer volume of content, this is what makes XDA-Developers such a rich source of user-generated innovation.

3. Is it for me?

If you’re a casual mobile user, very short on time and not overly bothered by little gripes such as bloatware and having a behind the curb version of Android, it probably isn’t worth your while rooting your Android handset, installing a custom ROM and potentially bricking your expensive new phone. If however you are prepared to eat out of your sleep time to better understand your mobile, want to experience the great beyond in the palm of your hands at every given moment and don’t mind the occasional heart palpitation as your device flashes the latest unstable ROM, then welcome to the club – what are you waiting for?