Rooting is one of those rites of passage that people look to as a milestone in geek cred. rooting a phone allows you to really dig in to the guts of Android and really tweak it so that it’s just right for you. It allows you to customize everything from what software appears on your phone (including the dreaded bloatware) to how strongly your phone vibrates. Most notably you can rid yourself of the bloatware that comes on just about every carrier branded phone these days.
Android Lollipop was a very mature operating system. It didn’t address things like vibration strength or bloatware, but anything else you wanted to change, you could change. I have been using Xperia devices for a while and they’ve had a theme engine much before anyone else, although not as robust as others its still pretty decent.
Few versions of Touchwiz later and we started seeing theming built into the operating system. So if I wanted to get a whole new set of icons I could really make my phone pretty. The HTC 10 allows you to “free yourself from grids” and arrange pictures on a screen literally anywhere you want to launch apps. Other theming apps like Themer allow you another level of control and customization to your device, and all of these come with a warranty. So woot!
So it begs the question, with Android being such a mature operating system with such a wide variety of apps and tweaks that allow you to customize a ton on your phone, is it worth it to root anymore just to take the customization level to 11?
Rooting is Rewarding…
Whether you need them or not, rooting your phone gives you a bunch of options you can’t get otherwise. Even if you don’t flash a custom ROM, the root-required apps alone make it worthwhile – Greenify, StickMount, Titanium Backup, Lightflow, WiFi Protect, and especially now with Xposed Installer and all the mods it offers. In fact, I just flashed a custom ROM on my Nexus 5 that is just stock 4.4.4 with root, and used Xposed to install Gravity Box for all the other extras I usually look for in a custom ROM.
The only limit on what you can do with your rooted phone is what developers have actually made. Fortunately, if an app can be written, it probably has.
…But It’s Not Easy
Some devices like the Nexus line have relatively simple methods for gaining full access to your phone, but if you’re not familiar with some of the terminology or how things work, things can go badly real quick. It’s not impossible to learn how to root your phone safely, but it takes time and effort. Being tech-savvy (and especially having a background in using Linux or terminal commands) is helpful, but if it’s a new area to you, expect to spend some time learning what to do. And possibly screwing up.
Rooting Provides a Ton of Customizations…
Customization is typically the name of Android’s game. While you can change a lot without root (like your launcher, keyboard, lock screen, and more), you can change even more with it.
With root access, you have the option. Even minor things are fair game with things like Xposed. For example, hate the infuriating AT&T logo in the status bar taking up precious screen real estate why, AT&T, why do this? You can remove it. Minor annoyances become less of a problem with root.
…But Very Few Are Totally Necessary
Rooting may provide a ton of customizations, but if the only reason you want it is to tweak some very minor thing, the ratio of effort to reward may not be worth it. Rather than asking whether or not you should root, ask yourself what you want to root for. If the things you want to get from a rooted device are worth the time investment, then go for it. If not, maybe rooting isn’t for you.
Rooting is Relatively Risk Free…
To say there are literally no risks to rooting is simply a false statement, but there’s very little you can do to your phone that you can’t undo. Most things you can do with a root phone can be reverted, particularly if you perform regular backups. Most devices can even be “unrooted” by returning to the stock software. It’s risky to try, but even if you screw up, you have to do something pretty bad to do something you can’t undo.
…Except When it Isn’t
The key word in the above section is “most.” Most of the time, you won’t lose data. Most of the time you won’t break something. Most of the time you won’t scream at your device because something horrible happened and it’s going to take all day to fix it.
And, of course, all of this assumes that you’re not rooting so you can flash other ROMs. If you decide to venture into ROM-flashing territory, it’s a veritable minefield.
Rooting your phone (and especially flashing custom ROMs) is an affair that demands a high level of personal responsibility. If you’re up for it, go ahead. But there are exactly zero guarantees that nothing will go wrong. You’re probably fine, but if you screw up, you’re on your own.
Of course, you can also rid yourself of that pesky warranty that comes packaged with your phone. Giving yourself root, or super-user access to every last file and directory on your phone can be a very powerful thing, but with great power comes great responsibility. Namely, the responsibility to buy a new phone if you mess yours up in the process. Although, as said above, there’s almost nothing you can undo. Even in the rare case that you can not find a solution, and need to goto the service center, there are methods to unroot and also in my personal experience with Samsung and Sony devices of my friends’, that has never been a problem since they never mentioned rooting the device.
But one of the most attractive things about Android is the very ability to really make it your own. You don’t have to be confined to grids or tiles. You can load custom ROMs that are more tailored to your likes and dislikes. It’s not dissimilar to the concept of patches on webOS that allowed you to add options to your notification tray or change the text in Just Type to “Make it so” because: awesome.
There is No Right Answer
In a way, the question of whether or not you should root is a pretty loaded one. To one person, “rooting” means simply adding a tethering app or an app that improves battery life. To another, “rooting” means flashing an entirely OS variant, installing a dozen customization tweaks, and generally changing as much as you can. To yet another person, “rooting” means potentially breaking your phone. Who’s right?
Q: Which is better?
A: The one that works best for YOU.
I have been micromanaging my phone since I bought my first android and it has been over five years but now I have just grown past that phase. It’s gotten to the point where I use the default ringtone on most devices I use these days. For me, I just want my operating system to work in a way that makes sense. I’m a victim of the paradox of choice. I’m a firm believer in the concept that the more choice you have, the less happy you are with your final decision. I don’t want to decide how much my phone vibrates. I just want it to vibrate. But then, I just cannot enjoy my android experience without a pinch of Xposed here and there and just disabling the bloatware doesn’t give me that satisfaction I get when booting it out completely. I’m addicted to the power and so much so that I am always ready with the procedure and files I need to root the device I am yet to buy.
What are your thoughts? Are you on the Root side? Or do you care about your warranty?