An introduction to rooting your android phone and the almost endless possibilities that goes hand in hand with it.
With the android army gaining momentum at a gargantuan rate, (now 2nd most popular platform in the world), it’s hard to ignore the sheer power that the mobile operating system gives the user. If you are new to terminology like ‘rooting’ and ‘super user’, then you have come to the right place. Through the course of this article you will learn not only about what it means to root your phone, but also some of the marvelous feats that can be achieved thanks to the open source nature of Androids. We will then venture into the less treaded path of over clocking / under clocking (we like the former) your phone and the different ROM’s you can install on your phone to give you your hack fix. So without further ado, let’s dive right in!
Just root it!
“Rooting”, or gaining root access to your phone is something not many common phone users are familiar with. In fact, if you were to randomly shoot a question about rooting to your friend, chances are that they will have absolutely no idea what even you are talking about and will probably make a fun of you for being such a geek ( Just kidding).
“Rooting you phone” or “Getting root” is a process of modifying your operating system to grant to complete control over it. The term “Root” has originated in the world of the Linux operating system where users with root access have no restrictions over the type of operations that can be performed. A user with root privileges is called a “Super User” (Like an administrator in windows) and this access is by default restricted on android phones by manufactures. By gaining super user permissions, you can circumvent many of the restrictions imposed upon you by the manufactures and by that we mean you can even go ahead and install a custom baked version of Android on your phone to replace the ( outdated ) the one that you phone came with.
Performing a Google search of [YourPhoneModel ] root will provide you with all the information you need to root you device and now it is very easy to do ( there are 1-click root apps like “Universal Androot” available )
There are a vast number of advantages to rooting you phone.
Rooting your android phone gives you the ability to use apps such as EasyTether that make you phone a mobile hotspot. What does that mean ? Well to put it in lay man’s terms, if you have GPRS or better still 3G enabled on your SIM card then you friends around you will be able to detect your phone’s internet connectivity as a Wi-Fi hot spot !
Tip : Upgrading to Android 2.2 will give you native tethering capability without the need for any app.
Delete annoying stock apps
If you have annoying applications that came bundled with your phone and would like to get rid of that crap ware then root permission is all you will need.
Local backup on SD Card
Yes, Android does store your apps and the data associated with it on the cloud ( very nifty feature ! ) but if you would like you phone to come back EXACTLY as is – with icons on your home screens, call logs, SMS messages, etc. then performing a full backup using software like Titanium Backup will enable you to do so.
Overclock / Under Clock
Using apps like SetCPU will allow you to speed up your phone’s processor when it is in use and slow it down when in sleep mode. You can use software such as Quadrant Standard and Linpack to benchmark your phone and play with the clock speed much like you would do on your computer.
The G2 which is the successor to the first ever Android phone (G1) runs on a stock 800 Mhz processor and has been successfully overclocked to 1.9 Ghz! That’s over a 100% improvement in clock speed and its completely stable.
Save disk space
I’m sure those of you not on FroYo ( Android 2.2 ) are properly cribbing about not being able to install all the apps you want simply because your phone memory is not enough. Well, fret not, for rooting will enable you to install apps to SD which will give you the ability to move your apps and their cache to the SD card hence making a lot of free space available on you phone’s onboard memory. So what are you waiting for ? Install away !
Manage your startup
Another very useful app that requires super user permissions is Startup manager which is pretty self explanatory in term of what it does. If speeding up your startup is something you care deeply about then what are you still doing reading this article?!
There is also the scenario where you phone may be running such an old version of Android ( 1.6 ) that you can’t install newer apps that have a higher OS requirement and with Gingerbread (2.3) rolling out, you could be pushed even deeper down the hole. In such a case, we recommend flashing a new version of the OS, (or a custom ROM) to gain set compatibility.
Here come the pocket aces. Installing a custom ROM is something many users like to indulge in. If you want to be up to date on the latest features and make them available at your disposal, then flashing your ROM with your newest Android version is only a few clicks away. No more are you required to hook your phone up to the desktop and drop down to the command line ( us early adopters had it harder)!
What’s more you ask? Well if you have not already figured it out then this would in effect also help you get rid of the custom UI(read: HTC Sense etc.) if you don’t like it.
A custom ROM is modded version of the stock operating system and must not be confused with the rooting. Rooting involves gaining superuser privileges but installing a custom ROM entails actually flashing the ROM (that’s the hardware component that stores your operating system) and replacing what’s already on there with what you wish. Installing a custom ROM requires rooting first, but rooting itself is a fairly simple task easily achieved by a few clicks without actually affecting your stock OS in any way.
There are a ton of custom ROMs available for Android and ROMs such as CyanogenMod and MoDaCo are examples of very popular ROMs that people who want more out of their Android smartphones are adopting. They come with a whole host of added features such as Adfree (no more annoying ads!) And ADW Launcher preinstalled. Now we can’t really afford to delve deep into the entire list of added features but what we do recommend is you go ahead and do a Google search for [YourPhoneModel] custom ROM to explore and learn more about porting these wonderful innovations on to your Android handset.
Rom manager is a great place to start if you want one app bundling your entire backup and custom ROM flashing experience. Here’s a link to the wiki: http://goo.gl/OSIez.
When FroYo launched, Google made the update available to the Nexus One device OTA (over the air) this means that the phone would download the update when you are in a Wi-Fi zone and simply ask if you would like to update when ready. This would not be possible if you rooted your phone. Then again, it is of almost no consequence to other Android phone users since they have to wait for the phone manufacturer to send out the update!
Gaining root access to your phone would void your phone warranty. There are again two sides to this coin- firstly, chances are that your limited warranty period has already expired and secondly, there is no shortage of phone repair shops in case something does go wrong with the phone.
Every site you visit read about installing a custom ROM will give you a large warning about the chances of bricking your device and though the chances are very slim, it still is a possibility. Again, we recommend you just keep your battery charged.
It’s your call !!!
Now that you need (enlightenment?) has been made available to you, we urge you to weigh your priorities and take a call (not make one). It’s vital that you understand the horizons that open up to you when you choose to go the rooting lane and the many perks that come with it. We leave you with a quote from JK Rowling-“Never trust anything that can think for itself if you can’t see where it keeps it’s brain”.
The open source advantage of Android is also its biggest problem right now. The fact that the code is made available to all and can be manipulated to your liking is being leveraged by phone manufacturers like Motorola, HTC and the rest in making their own customized user interfaces like the Sense UI designed to give you a “better user experience”. In fact, what is happening is that everytime the company launches a new phone, the engineering team is busy porting their UI changes to the new model hence ignoring the other models who are left behind using an older version of Android. This “fragmentation” is only an issue because these stubborn manufacturers refuse to budge from the projects they have invested so much in hence leaving the customer (You and me) using an older and slower version of Android with fewer features. Wake up and smell the coffee! As a consumer you ought to have the right to run the latest iteration of the OS on your phone and not lag behind like the rest of the cattle.
Disclaimer: Installing a custom ROM on your phone does run the risk of potentially bricking it (i.e. your phone could become totally nonfunctional). Though the chances of something like that happening are probably lower than 99 to 1 ( just keep your battery charged), we recommend you do your homework, before attempting anything, unless you’re a fan of very expensive paper weights.