Do you “hack” your Android device? Or do you prefer stock?

by: Bogdan PetrovanAugust 30, 2013

The-Friday-Debate aa

Evan Forester

On this edition of the Friday Debate, we discuss what some, out of lack of a better term, call hacking Android devices. Rooting, flashing custom ROMS, and beyond. Most Android devices are supremely hackable, and that’s one of the reasons why so many people love Android. On the other hand, we Android geeks tend to forget than not everyone has the skills, knowhow, time, or interest to root a device, flash the latest nightly, or switch ROMs just for the sake of it. For most people, stock is, gasp, just fine. How about you?

Join us in the discussion, vote in our poll, and sound off in the comments!

Brad Ward

I don’t root, and I don’t flash custom ROMs. I find that the stock experience is enough for me — I don’t need the additions and extra control custom ROMs give me, and if I’m looking for a new look and a bit more functionality, launchers that I can get from the Play Store work just fine.

I guess I just don’t see a reason to root or flash, however, I do respect people who do. The development community has made great progress with stuff like Cyanogenmod and Paranoid Android. It’s definitely a vital part of Android, but it’s not for me.

Robert Triggs

I’m a big fan of rooting and custom ROMs, I’ve been flashing my Android handsets since my very first Xperia smartphone.

The primary reason that I began installing custom ROMs was to speed up the updating process. Both of my previous Sony and Samsung handsets were waiting months for updates to Gingerbread, ICS, and then Jelly Bean, and by the time these updates finally landed they were already out of date.

CyanogenMod, Paranoid Android, and most other custom built ROMs, are updated to the latest versions of Android much faster than official updates, and appear on a much wider range of handsets too.

But even if your smartphone is updated regularly, there are plenty of other good reasons to root and flash ROMs. Some include additional features, such as Paranoid Android’s Halo, above and beyond the software made available by handset developers. On the other hand, rooting and ROMs mean that you can be rid of the unnecessary bloat ware stuffed onto most handsets.

Overall, my experience with custom ROMs has been a positive one, and have vastly improved the functionality of my aging handsets. Once you can make it past the apprehension of messing around with your handset’s inner workings, I doubt that many people look back to stock ROMs.

Adam Koueider

The most common reason for rooting & ROMming is updates. When you’re locked in a two year contract, your up to date Android 4.0 ICS device can suddenly turn into old news.

Another reason is that the software has obvious issues (i.e. both TouchWiz Nature UI’s and every HTC Sense before Sense 5), or maybe people just want to get rid of the 8GB of bloat on their 16GB smartphone. While some geeks simply want to try something new.

I don’t flash many custom ROMs these days, but I still enjoy flashing the new PA or CyanogenMod for a week or so. My personal favourite is Paranoid Android for the simple reason of Halo. It’s an incredible and innovative feature, which has moved to other Custom ROMs as well.

With a Custom ROM you gain more control over the device that _you_ own. A manufacturer shouldn’t be able to tell you how your device works. I believe that the developer community is one of the most beautiful things in the Android ecosystem. It’s one of those things that makes Android what it is today — a thriving ecosystem full of innovative ideas from everyone — not just a group of people.

Sure Custom ROMs aren’t for everyone. If you are an early adopter like me, there are bound to me loads of issues and a businessman or a mother can’t wait for the camera app to start working. But if you’ve got a bit of free time, and more importantly, you’re willing to try new things a custom ROM might be for you (perhaps dust off that old smartphone withering away in your drawer).

Do you “hack” your Android devices?

Join us in the comments and vote in our poll.

[poll id=”352″]

  • Gilles LeBlanc

    Once you go hack you dont go back

    • Ivan Myring

      I want to give you 2 up votes.

      • MasterMuffin

        logout and give a like as a guest :D

    • Heybros120

      Ur profile picture looks like Adam Sandler

    • mohab gabr

      you can get back :D
      unroot and use Triangle Away to make the counter 0 for samsung

      • Enes Taşdemir

        He said don’t, not can’t.

        • mohab gabr

          why I tried that they fixed my phone under the warranty O_o
          you can unroot and flash original stock rom

          • mobilemann

            depends on your guy. The at&t store near me replaced mine running a TW rom under warranty. Most don’t care.

    • You can’t go back, since you lost the warranty.

      DIdn’t stop me from unlocking the bootloader on my Xperia phones though. Root and custom kernel are a must. Custom roms, not so much.

      • Enes Taşdemir

        You can always go back, I’ve done that lots of times with mine and my friends’ phones.

    • Vardan Nazaretyan

      You deserve a lot of up-votes. I tried to go stock, like 3-4 times during the last 5-6 months, yet, no success lol.

      • mobilemann

        going back to stock was actually a far bigger pain in the ass than flashing CM, for me too. i actively dislike odin; but you can absolutely do it. there are tutorials on xda for most popular devices.

        • Vardan Nazaretyan

          It’s not the process that bugs me, but the lack of feature xyz, or abc etc.
          The process is also harder than flashing a custom ROM (I need to relock the bootloader through command prompt on Windows, than run the RUU.ex for my location and carrier(if the phone is carrier locked)) etc) though. But I’ve done that 3-4 times and afterwards I really want to go back to custom ROM.

          • mobilemann

            well that depends on your phone model. Others have CLI tools, some have GUI tools, some have no tools. i hate to say the F word, but that is fragmentation:D

          • Vardan Nazaretyan

            Nice one :D
            Anyways, it’s an HTC, and HTC’s always need to go this whole RUU think when returning to stock.

  • ConCal

    Unless you were dead set against voiding your warranty, there is no reason not to root or Flash. You it is easy and many Roms are rocksoid unless the android version was just announced. It allows complete control of your phone. Even if you prefer your stock Touchwiz or Sense, you can get slightly to highly modified versions of those that better suit you.

    • djmaxp

      agree with you, htc user here.
      still using stock android because of warranty.
      after warranty end on next Oct I’ll definitely root my phone! can’t wait! :D

      • Ivan Myring

        Next Oct as in Oct 2014?

      • ConCal

        I had the same worry, but just go for it.
        Beaides, I have insurance on my phone so I don’t even think twice about voiding the warranty.

  • GhostRecon55

    I am a junkie. However, this HTC One is the first device I haven’t done anything to yet. Going on 3 months now.

  • I own Nexus devices such as a Nexus 7 and a Samsung Galaxy Nexus and I like the experience as is. However recently my GNex has been running terrible after upgrading to Android 4.3, so I have thought about either downgrading it to 4.1.2 or putting in a custom ROM to see if it would work better. (note: GNex is runnng better now, but it seems to be an app problem.)

    I have looked into flashing my GNex, but there is no simple way to do it. While I am good with computers, rooting a Android device is far outside my comfort zone. I do wish there was a little device to plug in to the device via USB and it would do it for you like installing software on a PC. In other words, I would like to root the device, but I don’t have the experience and I’m afraid I’m going to brick it.

    • zombieman

      Galaxy nexus toolkit. Highly automated root and more. Worth it for you it seems

  • Amadeus Klein

    Honestly no ROM is perfect, I jump back and forth trying what’s out there. I have to admit there are plenty of times when I go back to stock… But I will always at least root my device…

    • Astonmartin

      Me I say PAC man ROM is A+ for me it has it all AOKP PA & CM I enjoy using Halo a lot & customize also

      • Mike Palmer

        I like pacman but running jellybam and it is about the same as it has all 3 as well.

        • A.M

          o not bad not sure if my device has a jellybam rom

      • Ivan Myring

        Yeah, I’m in the exact same position. I try other ROMs (ATM I use slimbean) but always go back. Though xenonHD was close to replacing pacman.

    • SeraZR™

      Unless you own a nexus ;)

  • Valtheus

    Not anymore. I did when i got my hands on my first android device. It seems too much trouble for me anymore so i stay with the stock rom.

  • Stock. Especially the new Nexus 7. In fact, I got sick of custom ROMS about a year ago – I hate all the “nightly” headaches.

    • mobilemann

      then use monthlies? or snapshots? or wait for a stable release?

      • For me personally, Android 4.3 is great as is. For older Android versions, or if you have a Samsung device with TouchWiz, I can agree with flashing. Just not for pure stock 4.3 though.

  • TuckandRoll84

    I used to flash any ROMs I could get my hands on to try all of the newest features as soon as they came out. As more developers got into it, it became harder to stay on top of what everyone was doing and I slowly lost interest. Now I run a stock 4.3 ROM with just a handful of minor modifications. Android has become way more capable than it was back in the Eclair days.

    • EKfine

      same sentiments. im good with nova launcher and stock android can offer. (4.1.2)

  • Mike Palmer

    On jellybam v9 right now and it’s pretty solid but i run different roms all the time to see what’s out there

  • Keiko

    Stock. I want the pure Android experience that the DESIGNERS *intended* their consumers to have WITH the option to DOWNLOAD, IF I WANT, the third party apps that CARRIERS support for solvency reasons.

    Now for those crack pot, always something wrong or not working 100% custom roms, those are for the birds. After over five years of doing the “grass is greener – 90% functioning custom rom” dance thing, I am really over it.

    I just want the ability to delete all third party apps without rooting. THAT is bliss!

  • Mondo

    Bought an HTC One with T-Mobile, first thing I did when I got home was completely convert it to the Google Play Edition HTC One. I haven’t looked back since. I returned my S4 because I wasn’t able to do it. Now, I have the OTA’s and all that pure Android goodness!

  • Johnhany97

    At first they say they don’t need Root .. They will come eventually ! I don’t see one reason preventing anyone from rooting ! It’s the perfect solution !!

  • Android Lurker

    For years I rooted, installed Roms, and modified them since my Nexus 1. When I got my Note 2 I left it stock for almost a year. Makers like Samsung stepped up there game, mostly to augment the awesome advances in Jellybean (much of it based on feedback from the community who used features from custom ROMS). I have rooted my Note 2 now due to even more features developers added outdoing (granted, very advanced) stock ROMS. The community of custom developers will always be ahead of OEMs. It’s simple evolution!

  • Tid Bit

    I used to have a Samsung Galaxy Nexus, but went with the Samsung Galaxy S4. The only “hack” that I would want is the “next track/previous track” volume rocker keys like Cyanogen Mod.

  • Grman Rodriguez

    I don’t know how to root my phone but I would if I could

  • Xavier_NYC

    I bought my first android phone 3 months ago (HTC One but plan on getting the G2) and I flashed the Google Edition Rom. My only fear of flashing custom roms is losing some of the features on the phone.

    • astonmartin

      yea when yo do flash you lose the features of the stock os

    • kimLJT

      so better read the logs/features of the said custom rom/s then proceed before you get weary

  • baoyi201


  • distill oratorio

    I HAVE to have a custom kernel, I can live with stock ROM though

  • kimLJT

    I can’t live on android without rooting it, but just for the purpose of omitting/freezing those said bloatwares and do some tweaks but I’m not a custom rom fan. a Rooted Stock ROM is always fair enough for me.

  • dannyboiii

    I’ll root and find a rom I like a lot and then stick it out until something really annoys me and I have to change roms or something.

  • SeraZR™

    Ofc Rooted and Booted :p

    Slim Bean 4.3 and lovin it :D

  • Reed

    I root and ROM mostly because I want the latest version of android that isn’t skinned heavier then Rosie O’Donnell. I also work in an electronics department in a warehouse store, and its neat showing customers how much you can do with android.

    (To this date my favorite thing anyone’s ever said to me while working there is ” Ya’ll have that new Apple Android that’s real big and runs on Samsung? I think its one of those smart phones? Called iPhones or sumthin?”
    “Sure mam.”)

  • Cristi13

    Well, i was forced to root it and install a custom rom on my xperia s, because of sony stupid update policy. 6 months for ics.update with bugs, no further update to.solve them and another year fo update to jb, now with other bugs (like lag in fullhd recording, how could have they missed that?). So.yeah, that was my xperience with sony (oh and also horrible camera). Now anyone want to give me an s4 or one…..please.

    • lil bit

      Xperia S got an update last week that addressed lots of bugs, including the 1080p recording issue.

      • Cristi13

        I know, but after how much time? An update.that finally makes the phone work as it should have been a long time ago, after a year….that makes things easy.

  • andandroyd

    Stock, root, Greenify.

  • Caseyjp11

    Nexus 7 = yes. CM10.2 nightlies.
    Samsung Galaxy Admire2 = no. Stock is smooth, responsive, and with helium backup, no real need to. (And that phone is mission critical to my bill-payin’ gig as a taxi driver.) :-)

  • Doug Lowe

    I have asked on many forums what do you gain from rooting. Nobody has given me a reasonable answer yet. I’ll stick with stock.

    • APai

      – LBE being one good reason (not every developer is upfront with permissions)
      – moving apps to sd card being another (if you play many games with large game files, you’ll run out of internal space soon)
      – firewall (since you have rooted, plus stop some sneaky apps)
      – adblock

      • Doug Lowe

        I don’t know what LBE is. I don’t play games. I have over 70 apps on my Hisense Sero 7 Pro and I still have over 4gb of space. I don’t anticipate adding many more apps, if any.

        • APai

          this may work pretty fine for you. but there are other use cases where people need root. let me explain.

          I have about 8 large games that pretty much eat up 1 gb or more games like NFS most wanted. the game files ? I cannot move them to the sd card. unfortunately. I would love to move it, however, I cannot with 4.1.2.

          LBE is privacy guard – you can get fine grained control over what exactly an app needs to see. it just shuts the other permissions out. pretty handy i would say. you may not be thrilled with it, but plenty of people are.

          so, there… individual usage patterns differ and the vast majority of the people dont really need to hack your phones and gain root or replace roms. it’s just preference.

          • Doug Lowe

            That’s good thanks for the explanation. I know that a lot of people want, or need to do it and that is fine. I am just a casual user and stock is fine with me. I absolutely love the Sero 7 Pro. It is one of the best things I ever purchased. I am glad that I didn’t wait for the new Nexus 7, it sounds like it has a few problems.

  • najiy91

    for those beginners on rooting,read guides especially from xda.root is easy just do it step by step.and be careful do not touch system files(same as computers)

  • DejahSoFiyah

    stock just fine for me

  • brendan soliwoda

    I don’t “hack” (and I use that term lightly) simply for the fact that as of right now, I don’t know how to. But, even if I did, I’m not sure I would because I like the customizations that OEMs put onto their phones. Simply choice for me. If I don’t like your UI, i won’t buy your phone, but I can see that logic being a problem for me in the future.

  • James Earley

    I could do but never have. The UI on my Xperia miro wasn’t brilliant but I never got round to custom ROMs. Now I have the Xperia Z and I love Sony’s Jelly Bean software so I wouldn’t touch it, although there are plenty of ROM’s for the Z.

  • Travon Cleveland

    I’ve rooted both of my android phones i’ve owned (my last one being an entry level LG Optimus S & my current phone which is a galaxy s3) with my reasons being to speed it up by removing bloatware