Rooting your Android phone is good for you and your phone

Android rooting is largely beneficial to the user because it unlocks the phone to the consumer so that they can freely modify the software on it in its entirety. Android already allows a user to install software not on the market already (Settings > Applications > "Install Third Party Software" checkbox), unlike the iPhone. Many Android users that root often flash a custom ROM like CyanogenMod or some kind of modified ROM of the stock ROM of their phone to increase performance, tweak it how they want, or simply use a system that promotes the open source software philosophy. Other uses for rooting are backing up installed applications, backing up data (wifi spots, mail, texts, MMSes, etc.), over/underclocking your phones CPU, hacking the Android OS, flashing a kernel that provides performance/battery life benefits, and a myriad of other uses depending on person. According to law, it is no longer illegal to jailbreak/root your devices but it does still void the warranty of your device. However, it is a fairly simple task to unroot a device back to stock specifications if you ever have to take in your device thus avoiding said warranty voiding.

Android rooting is, nowadays, a fairly simple and mostly risk-free process close to jailbreaking iPhones. For phones that have been out for a bit, there's most likely a way to achieve permanent root, radio S-OFF (stay rooted even after an OTA update), remove bloatware applications, and flash a custom ROM or kernel. There are several main sources of rooting your phone, depending on manufacturer, carrier, and model. Most often now, they don't require a data wipe. Just running a script, installing a few binaries and installing Superuser.apk.

Unrevoked is the #1 rooting method. They're expanding their phone support and it is a fairly simple process to use it if you read the very short and easy to read directions. Basically, install the hboot drivers on your computer from them and turn on USB debugging on your phone (Settings > Applications > Development). Unrevoked, on supported phones, turns S-OFF permanently at the radio level so that even if/when you do an official OTA update you will still have NAND unlocked and be able to flash a recovery and get rooted within minutes of an OTA.

Current phones supported: HTC Evo 4G, Wildfire, Droid Incredible, Desire, Aria, and Hero. There's more coming once they can implement the rooting methods into their program. I've been working with them and others on getting the HTC Evo Shift 4G permanently rooted and it's been successful.

Alpharev is a similar method as Unrevoked. It does nearly the same thing as Unrevoked does but in a non-persistent state. It uses a modified bootloader and turns S-OFF on it to give a NAND unlock (read/write access to system-level files). Its phone support is fairly lacking. Its weakness is that if you ever do an update that includes an updated hboot image (the bootloader) you will effectively lose S-OFF and may or may not be able to do it again. This will remove permanent root access to your device if that happens.

Most HTC phones (and now some Samsung and other devices) have forums on XDA Developers. Samsung phones have a much smaller, less organized community over at SDX Developers. It's generally not hard to find ROMs, kernels, themes, and other mods for your phone on either of these forums. There's other forums out there like Android Forums and PPCGeeks but I much prefer XDA and HTC.

On the XDA forums you can usually find a root method for your phone. Sometimes it's a little harder and requires setting up ADB and running some scripts provided by the root developer or it can be an easy one-click solution like Unrevoked. The forums are an invaluable tool for research, questions, and insight into your device. I can't urge people enough to root their phones even for the simplicity of removing bloatware and getting better battery life. A lot of new smartphones have atrocious battery life because battery technology isn't keeping up with the technology of the bits and pieces of the phones.

I personally don't do anything fancy on my rooted phones except use Titanium Backup to backup my apps once a week, remove bloatware applications, and flash new kernels that have tweaks to improve performance and battery life. Underclocking usually nets a negative benefit to battery life and I've seen better battery life without doing it. If your phone is underclocked that means it will spend more time performing a single task and the more time spent on something, the more power used. I also generally only flash a modified kernel and not a ROM (unless it looks good and is tweaked well) since most of the battery-saving and performance benefits lie in the kernel and not the ROM (YMMV). If your phone isn't supported by Alpharev or Unrevoked, go to the XDA forums and look it up and follow the directions to the letter. Do not deviate.

The Evo 4G and most of the current HTC devices will be getting Gingerbread most likely before the summer. I can't wait. I can't speak for Samsung since their flagship line, the Galaxy S, haven't seen an update to Froyo even though it was promised for last summer/early fall. The "leaks" floating around for it are spotty and buggy at best. Samsung's lack of device support is the singlemost reason I do not buy their phones anymore. HTC is more reliable with their updates (save the Hero fiasco last year). See the image below for why HTC is the better phone manufacturer to go with.

If anyone has any questions on rooting, feel free to ask me. If I don't' have an answer I can usually point you in the right direction to get an answer.

Popular posts from this blog

Faculty Senate votes ‘no confidence’ in three vice presidents (News)

Let's talk about OUYA

How I got into the world of IT and where I'm going