To Root or Not to Root an Android Phone

Here are the pros and cons of rooting your Android device

Rooted Android device

Danny Choo/CC BY 2.0/Flickr

If you've done any internet searching on the topic of Android phones, you've most likely run across either forums or articles discussing "rooting" your device. This article is not intended to show you how to root your phone or to convince you whether or not to root it. This is an impartial summary of the advantages and disadvantages of rooting an Android phone. 

The information in this article should apply no matter who made your Android phone: Samsung, Google, Huawei, Xiaomi, etc.

What Is Rooting?

The Android phone runs an operating system that was designed for commercial and private use. Like most operating systems, several features have been disabled, either for future use or to prevent a casual user from causing permanent damage to the operating system.

Rooting an HTC Hero Android device
Andrew Mason/CC by 2.0/Flickr

Rooting is the process in which limitations are removed and full access to the operating system is allowed. Once rooted, the Android phone owner has more control over the settings, features, and performance of the phone. Basically, rooting means to get administrative (or root in Linux and Android terms) privileges in the operating system and to have the ability to make global changes.

Disadvantages of Rooting Your Phone

These are the primary disadvantages of rooting an Android phone:

  • Voids the phone warranty. After a phone is rooted, it cannot be serviced under the warranty. 
  • Risk of "bricking" a phone. A bricked phone is unusable.
  • Breaks the phone contract. This depends on how you purchased the phone. If you lease the device or make payments, you'll definitely break your contract with your carrier by rooting. 
  • Poor performance. The intention of rooting a phone is to improve phone performance. However, some users who have rooted their phones to speed up the phone or add additional features found that their phones lost both performance speed and features. 
  • Viruses. Even phones get viruses. A common practice with rooted phones is to flash ROMs with custom programs. When an app or ROM is installed from an unreputable source, there's a risk of installing a malicious program.

Advantages of Rooting an Android Phone

Rooting your Android phone offers benefits that include:

  • Run special apps. Rooting allows the phone to run apps that it cannot run otherwise. Many of these apps give greater control over the phone, like more customization and battery management options.
  • Remove pre-installed apps. When you root a phone you're able to remove unwanted pre-installed apps from the phone.
  • Free up memory. When you install an app on your phone, it is stored in the phone's memory. Rooting makes it possible to move installed applications to an SD card to free up system memory for additional files or apps.
  • Custom ROMs. This is the most powerful feature of rooted phones. There are hundreds of custom ROMs that speed up the processing speed of a phone and change the look and feel of a phone.
  • Extend Phone Life. Rooting a phone opens the options to install custom ROMs and remove bloatware. It also allows for the installation of certain apps that require root, many of which manage phone resources. Because the Android ROM community develops new releases for Android long after manufacturers stop supporting a device, you can keep getting updates.
    Rooted HTC Magic
    brownpau/CC by 2.0/Flickr

    Summary

    The decision to root your Android phone is one that should not be rushed into. Though the allure of having an unlocked phone is powerful, having a bricked phone is no fun at all.