When we sign in a device for repair, one of the initial questions we ask our customers is if they have “rooted” their android device. Most often the response is a quizzical look followed immediately by “What?” and we can safely assume the real answer is “no”. But what does it really mean when you “root” an Android device?
To understand what getting “root access” means you first need to know a little about Linux, which is the platform that Android was built upon. In almost all Linux-based operating systems, users are limited in what they can change and modify. It’s set up this way to prevent you from causing problems by changing the wrong settings or files. Root is the only user that has full access to all commands and files. Root is also referred to as the root account, root user, the superuser or administrator.
In simpler terms, the root user has “god-mode” in the operating system and can wreak havoc as they see fit.
When using Android you are by default logged in with no root permissions. This means that when you take your device out of the box, you can only alter what the manufacturer allows. While there are plenty of settings you can tweak by default, by gaining root access you can modify the device's software on the very deepest level, and it certainly pushes you up a level or two in your geekdom.
So, why root your phone or tablet? The answer is that, if you are savvy enough to do it, it’s worth it for all the goodies you get access to!
Here’s a list of only a few things rooting can help you achieve:
Unlock Hidden Features and Install "Incompatible" Apps
With a rooted device you can install carrier-blocked apps, get features from the latest version of Android, make incompatible apps compatible, power up your hardware, get features like Beats Audio from other phones, or emulate exclusive features like those on the Moto X. Whatever you want, rooting gives you the power to do a lot more.
Boost Your Speed and Battery Life
By taking advantage of apps that require root you can overclock the processor of your device for better performance, or maybe you would rather underclock it for superior battery life. Some apps that take advantage of root access, allow you to set your processor to go into overdrive when you're playing a graphically intensive game, but then have them draw the bare minimum power when the screen is off. Rooting also allows you to install customized “kernels” (the part of Android that enables the software to “talk” to the hardware) Some of these kernels are made for low-power consumption, and some are built for speed.
Get rid of Software “Bloat”
You know that fistful of superflous apps that you don't want and will never use? Yep, you can remove them. No longer do you have to suffer from the cluttered app drawers and reduced memory space taken up by pre-installed carrier and manufacturer apps, you can instantly cut the bloatware and keep only the apps that you really want.
Get the Latest Updates
Between the Google, the carriers, and the hardware manufacturers, there are a whole lot of shenanigans behind closed doors that determine when (or if) your phone gets an upgrade. Rooting opens the door to much faster Android updates, thanks to the independent developers who put a lot of their time into porting the latest updates to various devices. The only sacrifice here is that you won’t receive official manufacturer versions of Android, so you might not enjoy all the features your phone came with, but if we were really too worried about that we probably wouldn’t be rooting in the first place.
A custom ROM is basically a completely custom version of Android, and it can change everything about how you use your device. Some ROMs simply bring a “stock version” of Android, or later versions of Android to phones that don't have it yet. Other ROMs add handy features, and others yet add piles of really unique features, changing your operating system from head to toe. Many custom ROMs are actually at the forefront of innovation on Android, offering several features that aren’t available anywhere else.
At the end of the day, you own your device, and you should be able to do with it as you please. Certain manufacturers and carriers limit you, but with root access you truly open up to all the possibilities. There's definitely some risk involved in rooting, and we don't usually recommend you do it before doing a lot of research on the subject. In spite of all the benefits only you will know whether rooting is right for you. For some, it's just not worth the time and effort, yet for others it allows them to use their phones in a better way and for a longer time.
If you decide to take the plunge, read up and make sure you follow instructions very carefully. After that, go crazy!
It's your device, after all.