Most of you are probably familiar with the concept of rooting, the process of allowing Android smartphone and tablet owners to attain privileged control over the operating system. If not, you should definitely check out our beginners guide to rooting for some background information and tips of getting started with rooting. But even if you’re in the knowledge, the reasons to root may seem few and far between at first, and the tradeoff with voiding your warranty is a legitimate concern. Nevertheless, here are my top reasons to root your device, all of which can drastically improve your Android experience.
The first benefit of accessing administrator privileges over Android is full control over the applications installed on your handset. No longer do you have to suffer from the cluttered app drawers and reduced memory space taken up by pre-installed carrier and manufacturer applications, you can instantly cut the bloatware and keep only the apps that you really want.
Even if you’re up to date with Android 4.1 or above, which grants users the ability to disable these pre-installed apps if you don’t want to see or use them, you can’t permanently remove them, they’re still there eating up your memory space. Rooting is the only way to permanently get rid of these pesky apps, but please don’t uninstall something crucial or your handset may stop working properly. Apps like Titanium Backup are particularly helpful for organising and culling this bloatware.
This brings me nicely on to the next major benefit of Android, improved backup and restore options. As already mentioned, Titanium Backup is one of the most popular backup apps used by rooters, and this, or a similar app, is essential if you’re going to start tinkering around with Android software. But as well as acting as a safety net in case you uninstall something important, Titanium Backup can also be used to backup your user data, from SMS messages to browser bookmarks.
Even better still, once rooted you can create complete backups of your entire handset using the ClockworkMod Recovery option, providing you with extra protecting in case of a major malfunction. Recovery can only be accessed before booting into Android, but it provides additional backup options in case, for whatever reason, Android fails to boot properly or experiences a crippling error. This makes ClockworkMod Recovery an essential tool for those looking to install custom versions of Android.
Once you’re fully backed up you’re ready to move up to one of the other major perks of rooting, installing different versions of Android.
We all know that manufacturers are often pretty slow at delivering the latest Android offerings even to their flagship handsets, let alone aging devices. So if you’re not a Nexus or Play Edition device owner, rooting opens the door to much faster Android updates, thanks to the developers who put time into porting the latest updates to various handsets.
Pretty much every semi-popular handset has a decent following of developers working on porting the latest versions of Android to their handsets, most of which can be found over on the XDA Forum. The only sacrifice here is that you won’t receive official manufacturer versions of Android, so no updated Touchwizz or Sense5 features, but if we were really too worried about that we probably wouldn’t be rooting in the first place.
If stock Android isn’t your thing, there are also tons of other customized ROMs offering unique features and improvements to the default Android experience.
I’m sure you’ve all heard of the biggest names, CyanogenMod, Paranoid Android, MIUI to name just a few of the most popular ones. Many custom ROMs are actually at the forefront of innovation on Android, offering several features that aren’t available anywhere else. Paranoid Android’s Halo feature or OmniROM’s multi-workspace mode are just a couple of examples.
But as well as these big third party developments, you’ll also find a lot of smaller developers tweaking away at the core Android experience, offering ROMs with vastly superior battery life or overclocked processor speeds. Not to mention that most custom ROMs are updated to the latest version of Android very quickly too, bringing you the best of both worlds.
As rooting opens up administrator type privileges on your handset you’ll instantly have access to all the core files on your handset. File browser apps can take full advantage of this, allowing you to move stuff around on your internal memory if so require.
App wise, we’ve already touched on Titanium Backup, but there are far more apps that can make use of root permissions, and simply aren’t available with a non-rooted device. The speed junkies among you could take advantage of overclocking software to boost performance or save on battery life, providing that your Kernel supports overclocking. Alternatively, fans of custom ROMs can use a ROM manager to install and update their operating system without the need to flash zip files from Recovery.
Rooting is sometimes criticized for compromising handset security, but security apps, such as Cerberus, use root functions to bury themselves deep down into the operating system, making them hard for would be thieves to remove. These apps can also be granted permissions that aren’t available on unrooted devices, such as access to GPS data even when the device is locked.
There’s also additional gesture apps, data syncing software, and even theme managers to customize the look of your handset.
My final reason for rooting your handset is the wider range of customization and theming options, after all who doesn’t want their desktop to look pretty.
Although there are options to tweak themes and whatnot that don’t require rooting, usually through third part launchers such as ADW, rooting gives you access to the important files needed to make changes in folders that are usually hidden from users. Access to the /system/fonts folder allows users to install and replace custom fonts. You can also flash zip files from Recovery to install themes too. But if all that folder browsing isn’t for you, there are also a few root only theme applications to choose from.
One example is Theme Chooser, included by default as part of CyanogenMod, which has plenty of custom themes available, and even works with ADW themes too. Alternatively, the XThemeEngine works with all rooted handsets, allowing you to pick between themes after installing them from traditional apk files, so there’s no need to flashing zip files or tinkering in system folders.
As you can see there’s plenty of stuff to do with your rooted handset. If those aren’t enough reasons to root your handset, then I don’t know what is. Why do you root your device?