As you’re already well aware, modern smartphones are very powerful devices. They offer you a wealth of different opportunities and capabilities. What you may not realize is that your device’s operating system may actually stand between you and some of your phone’s potential uses. In order to get around this roadblock, it’s possible to root your phone and take total control of its operating system. This process carries significant risks with it, though
Phone Rooting Defined
To “root” a cellphone is to circumvent the factory-installed limitations that prevent the user (i.e. you) from having full access to all levels of the device’s software. Rooting is typically restricted to phones running the Android operating system; the equivalent term for iPhones is “jailbreaking.” Rooting your phone is roughly equivalent to running your desktop computer as an administrator or gaining access to a Unix/Linux system as a superuser.
A rooted phone offers you many powerful possibilities that are impossible within the limited confines of the manufacturer’s software installation. You can customize virtually every aspect of your phone, install apps from third parties that aren’t available in the manufacturer’s store, and even modify the way your phone’s software and hardware interact with each other. These new abilities come with considerable risks.
Why Users Root Their Phones
The steps required to root Android phones were worked out soon after the devices’ introduction, and tech-savvy users continue to explore rooting options with every new update to the operating system. When Android was first introduced, it was a very limited system and rooting was required to perform some kinds of customization that have since been incorporated into ordinary Android builds.
Rooting was also once necessary to unlock the full potential of cell phone hardware. Early builds of Android placed a severe workload on the limited processing power of smartphones, and this potential speed could only be recaptured by installing a customized, stripped-down version of the system after rooting. Today’s phones are much more powerful, rendering the speed improvements provided by rooting much less significant.
Drawbacks To Rooting
As noted above, rooting carries some significant risks. The most important one is that a rooted phone exposes you to an enormous array of new security threats. Manufacturers’ Android installations come with plenty of advanced security features that protect your phone from both malicious threats (e.g. viruses and malware) and accidental damage (such as bad software instructions that corrupt your phone). Rooted versions of Android rarely offer such integral protection, requiring you to install additional software to protect yourself.
Additionally, rooting your phone turns your relationship with your device’s manufacturer into an adversarial one. The process invariably voids your warranty, and that’s just the beginning. Over-the-air software updates become a threat rather than a convenience. Updates that install themselves on a rooted phone can render it nonfunctional; this effect can be intentional or simply accidental. Finally, operating a rooted phone requires a high level of technical sophistication and ongoing management. It’s very likely that you’ll have to spend a lot of time learning about the intricacies of your phone and tinkering with its software to keep it running.