To Root or Not to Root
…that is the question.
Chances are that most people don’t even know what rooting is, let alone know how to root. Admittedly, it can be a fairly complex process for the computer illiterate; however, enthusiastic groups of developers have created simple one-click programs that will root your phone for you. That is, of course, if you choose to root your phone.
What exactly is rooting?
In short, rooting your device, be it a tablet or a smartphone, gives you “superuser” access to the device’s software. Superuser access will allow you to make customizations with the software on your device that is otherwise barred by the manufacturer. Manufacturers do not allow for superuser access mainly for two reasons: 1) they don’t want you to uninstall those pesky proprietary bloatware apps from the device, and 2) if you don’t know what you’re doing, you can totally mess it up. While the former reason is obviously self serving, the latter reason seems completely legit – to a point. Most manufacturers could simply provide an option for allowing superuser access for their more enterprising customers, but unfortunately, they do not. Instead what happens is a community of developers gets together to try to hack into the software of their device to achieve root access – in which they are successful most of the time. At this point, rooting your device is relatively painless if you’re willing to put in a little bit of your time. So let’s go through some of the pros and cons of rooting.
- Uninstall that bloatware. Any smartphone or tablet you purchase will come with a slew of pre-installed applications that are either hardly used or bad knock-offs of already existing apps. Rooting it will allow you to uninstall or freeze these apps for good.
- Overclock your aging device. When you bought that smartphone a little over a year ago, it was running along like butter. But now, it definitely feels like your phone’s been slowing down. Not only that, but some of the newer games definitely don’t run very well. How can you fix this problem? Simple; if your phone is rooted, you can install an app called SetCPU. It will allow you to overclock your barely-a-year-old-but-it’s-so-slow-already processor. While this will definitely drain your battery faster, you can always replace your battery, but never your CPU.
- Optimize your device for better battery life. Okay, so maybe speed isn’t so important to you since you mostly just use Whatsapp and play a bit of Angry Birds from time to time. If speed isn’t important to you, then most likely battery life is. Chances are that after only a year of use, your battery now lasts only 8 hours when it previously did a marathon of 12 hours. Various ROMs (they are tweaked version of Android) make small modifications in the kernels (files that allow the OS to talk to the hardware) to increase the efficiency of the device, and thus, increase battery life.
- Back up your apps. So you’re about 75% done with upgrading all the abilities in your Temple Run game, but your phone is beginning to slow down and you want to wipe everything off your phone. Are you willing to give up those hours upon hours of hard work to collect 1 million plus coins again? If you rooted your phone, you can get the best of both worlds. A program called Titanium Backup allows you to back up any app you want – including all the save files. So now you can simply back up your game, perform a factory reset on your phone, then restore the backup file. Done.
- Tether your phone to any other wireless device. For reasons that completely elude me, carriers do not like when you tether your phone to other devices. If you don’t know, tethering allows you to use your smartphone’s data to surf the internet on your laptop or whatever other wireless device you own. Traditionally, if you want to tether your phone, you will have to purchase a separate data plan specifically for tethering – and these plans are more than just expensive; they’re outrageous! What does it matter if you’re using your data on one device or another as long as you’re already paying for it? After rooting your phone, previously locked features such as tethering become accessible once again.
- Customize your phone. Each manufacturer likes to skin over its own Android customization on top of the stock UI. It’s possible to use a different skin by installing launcher apps without rooting your phone, but there are a very limited number of skins. On the other hand, there is an infinite number of combinations of features and skins that you can apply to a rooted phone that simply isn’t possible otherwise.
- You can brick your phone. To brick your phone means while there is nothing wrong with the hardware of your phone, the software that directly interacts with the hardware is broken, which effectively turns your phone into an expensive paperweight. While it is very difficult to permanently brick your phone, unbricking your device can be a very tedious task. Fortunately, however, there is a community of thousands of developers who will happily help you unbrick it for you.
- It will void your warranty. One of the biggest downsides to rooting your phone is that in the event of some catastrophic failure of your device, you will get no help from the manufacturers (or carriers). Rooting your device is done at your own discretion. But as mentioned already, help is just a few clicks and desperate forum post away.
- There is no appeal for casual users. Rooting your device, by and large, is for people who want to get the most out of their devices. It is pointless to root your device if you’re already fully satisfied with its performance.
For the power user or more technically savvy person, the pros of rooting a device most certainly outweighs the cons. However, as mentioned in the third con, there is absolutely no need to do so if the performance of the device is completely satisfactory. For these people, it’s better to wait until the device is no longer under warranty before deciding to root or not. At that point, however, I would definitely recommend rooting the device in order to increase its longevity.
And for those who still don’t see the appeal, rooting is the best way to stick it to the big man who wants to limit your experience on your phone with restrictive software. Liberate your phone from its shackles!