To Root or Not to Root an Android Phone

Here are the pros and cons of rooting your phone

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 that you love and enjoy is running an operating system that was designed for commercial and private use. Like most any operating system, several features have been disabled, either for future use or to prevent a casual user from causing permanent damage to the operating system. 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 many of the settings, features, and performance of the phone. Basically, rooting means to get administrative(or root in Linux/Android terms) privileges in the operating system and to have the ability to make global changes.

Disadvantages of Rooting Your Phone

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

There are two primary disadvantages to rooting an Android phone:

  • Rooting immediately voids your phone's warranty. After they are rooted, most phones cannot be serviced under warranty. 
  • Rooting involves the risk of "bricking" your phone. A bricked phone is no better than carrying around a brick in your pocket. The phone is dead and unusable. Combine that with the first disadvantage, and you have a now-useless phone that cannot be repaired under warranty.
  • You may be breaking your phone contract. This one really depends on how you purchased your phone. If you're leasing the device or you're making payments, you'll definitely break your contract with your carrier by rooting. That can bring with it some nasty consequences. 
  • Poor performance. Although the intention of rooting a phone is to improve the phone's performance, some users have found that, in their attempts to speed up the phone or add additional features, the phones lost both performance speed and features. 
  • Viruses. Even phones can get viruses. A common practice that people do with rooted phones is to flash their ROMs with custom programs. Any time you install an app or ROM from an less reputable source, you're running the risk of installing a malicious program.

    Advantages of Rooting an Android Phone

    Rooted HTC Magic
    brownpau/Flickr/CC by 2.0

    Rooting your Android phone offers benefits that including:

    • Running special apps. Rooting allows the phone to run apps that it cannot run otherwise. Many of these apps give you greater control over your phone, like more customization and battery management options.
    • Removing pre-installed apps. When you root your phone you'll be able to remove unwanted pre-installed apps from the phone.
    • Freeing up memory. When you install an app on your phone, it is stored in the phone's memory. Rooting allows you to move installed applications to your SD card, thus freeing 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 can do anything from speeding up the processing speed of your phone to changing the entire look and feel of the phone.
    • Extend Your Phone's Life. Rooting your phone opens the options to install custom ROMs and remove bloatware. It also allows you to install certain apps that require root, many of which let you better manage your phone's resources. Because the Android ROM community keeps developing new releases for android long after manufacturers stop supporting a device, you can keep getting updates.

      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.