Why do we need to root our Android phones?” This a question I get a lot and I usually answer it like this, “We need to root so that we can install custom ROMs” and by saying that, you’ll get a follow-up question like “What the heck is a custom ROM?” These are questions that people ask and they have to be answered properly, otherwise it gets more confusing for them.

I will try to enlighten you about this topic through this article and hopefully you will be able to understand why we need to root our Android phones.

What is rooting and why do we need to do it?

When I first heard of the word rooting I thought of the word “scary” as well. Maybe because of the disclaimer attached to every article that they are not responsible if your phone is bricked during the process. This will not happen if you follow the rooting instructions correctly.

Root is a userid that is powerful which controls everything on your phone. In a Linux operating system (which is basically where android came from) there are userids that can only access files assigned to them. Like for example you have a userid as “appuser” you will only be able to access or modify things that are assigned to this user, everything else is read-only. Same as with your phone, if you don’t have a root access you won’t be able to do whatever you want with it. Rooting will provide you with a super user access to everything on your phone.

Rooting is a big leap to world of hacks and mods. If you don’t plan to change anything on your phone and you are happy with it then don’t take this step.

Freebies of Rooting

You will be able to install applications that needs root access. Here is my top 10 list of applications that is open to rooted devices. It’s up to you to read more about them; I won’t stress much explaining it all here.

  1. Root explorer – You will be able to access any folders in your device. Just be careful to not delete system files.
  2. Uninstaller for root – Pre-installed apps can be uninstalled using this application. This is useful if you want to clear some space on your phone and remove the ones that you don’t need. But don’t just go in there and delete everything, you should know that there are services that your operating system needs. If you are unsure, Google it!
  3. Move2SD/App2SD – This application made me want to root since my phone lacks internal memory. It is very helpful for devices with limited internal space. This will enable you to install applications to your external SD card. I use this on games as they take up large space. Take note that apps like widgets and live wallpapers will need to be installed internally. Read on the documentation before you move any application to your SD card.
  4. Wireless Tethering – Some carriers specifically in the US blocks tethering. But with this app you can be able to share your data connection and use your phone as wifi hotspot.
  5. Titanium Backup – Back up your apps and app data with titanium backup. You can never tell when you need it. It is always a good to have a backup when everything fails.
  6. Metamorph – Metamorph is a theme app that is used to apply metamorph themes. You can change the look of your Lock screens, menu, dock, and notification bar or just about anything that you can see on your screen.
  7. SetCPU – Is an app that you use in controlling processor speed. This can help you increase and decrease speed when needed.
  8. Busybox/Terminal Emulator – Provides terminal with linux/unix commands. This is probably worthless to most people but it’s a powerful tool in the hands of a linux masters.
  9. ShootMe – Screen capture app which is useful when you publish “how to tutorials” on the web.
  10. ROM Manager – This is a useful application and probably the easiest way to flash roms, addons and mods. You can boot to recovery and make a nandroid backup of your device and restore it anytime you want. Check how to install custom roms if you want to see how to use this app.

Why do we need to install custom ROMs?

Some of us can’t wait for the official firmware update from our manufacturers and custom ROM is the fastest way to experience updated OS. Updates take like forever to roll out, and we are lucky if manufacturers are ever planning to release it. I am thankful that there are forums like xda-developers that cook their own ROM and we benefit from it.

Custom ROMs are basically an image of an actual OS and kernel with added tweaks for stability and performance. Since android is an open source OS, developers get the stock ROM, modify them and do whatever they want with it to create a custom ROM that will fit your device needs.

If you are a sucker for performance and don’t want any lags then you will love custom ROMs. Look for ROMs that is right for you and your devices.

The downside

When flashing ROMs a few things might go wrong and it could make your phone a very expensive paper weight. But this scenario is pretty minimal nowadays, there are ways to restore them back to normal and developers are very helpful in times like this.

Custom ROMs have bugs, the best way to minimize it is to report them to the developers in the forum and they will do something about it. But stock ROMs have bugs too, try to report them to your manufacturers and we’ll see if you get any fix.

It can void your warranty. You will have to choose between warranty and ROM.

Flashing ROMs can wipe everything on your phone including contacts, messages and apps. But you don’t just flash a ROM without making a backup. This is where the Titanium Backup shines; it can make a copy of your apps, contacts, texts, bookmarks, etc and you can restore them after you install a new ROM. The risks are now low but there are still risks especially if it’s your first time doing it. If you can’t take these risks then I don’t suggest doing this on your own. Ask for someone who had done it and do a little bit more research until you’re confident enough to execute it yourself. Don’t be a hero, asking questions won’t hurt you.

Conclusion

I chose rooting and Custom ROM over warranty. I’ve waited for 9 months before deciding to do it and I’m glad I did. I am very satisfied with the performance of my android phone now plus there are a lot of customization options to choose from. Thanks to the developers @ xda-developers forum.

This is just my personal opinion don’t take my word for it. If you are OK with stock ROM then so be it. But I suggest you compare your stock device with someone who uses custom ROM and see what you’ve been missing.