15 Great Reasons to Root Your Android Phone

 If you’re a member of the little green army, chances are you’ve either rooted your phone or tablet, have at least thought about it. If you’re one of the latter? It’s time to take the plunge. And here are 15 good reasons why you should do it today.
When you root your Android device, you gain access to the entire file system, with full admin rights. You can customise your own boot image, create a full backup of your phone, or install a full-blown Linux distro. But even if you don’t want to get that geeky with it, there are a plethora of everyday reasons to root your Android, and thanks to many smart developers, we have rooting processes that are fairly accessible to the average computer-savvy Joe.


There are a couple of excellent forums that provide up-to-date information on how to root just about any popular Android devics. Go to  XDA-Developer Forums, find your device, and then drill down for the rooting guides and other resources that will be there for most models. And for a couple of sample guides that should show you that rooting is not that crazy of a thing, see Maximum Tech’s How To Root Your Android Phone Without Bricking It.
And now, on to our reasons to root, in no definitive order.

1. Bloatware


Also known as crapware and some other choice euphemisms, bloatware infects the vast majority of Android phones. You’ll recognise Samsung Touchwiz, HTC Sense, and Motorola MotoBlur as the custom UIs and feature packages that those makers throw on top of stock Android. While some of that bloatware is actually useful, most of it offers nothing that you couldn’t arrange on your own with other apps, and it can bog down performance or even block features from your device. Worse yet is that much of the time, bloatware apps are blocked from uninstalling, unless of course, you root your phone.

2. Overclocking


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When you root your Android, you gain some control over the hardware components, making overclocking and undervolting possible. It’s not uncommon to overclock a 1GHz Android CPU up to 1.6GHz, of course with a greater tendency toward instability. Several root-only apps available in the Android Market handle both overclocking and undervolting, such as SetCPU ($1.99) and Voltage Control (free or $US3.36 for the Extreme version).

3. Performance


Besides mere overclocking, rooted users can gain other performance enhancements through kernal tweaks performed by some of the apps we’ve mentioned here, custom ROMs, or through your own means, if you know what you’re doing. Such tweaks in combination with overclocking have been known to increase overall performance on a Nexus S by 250 per cent.
Also, as we’ve previously reported on Maximum Tech, “most Android devices incorporate an EXT3 filesystem with considerable overhead to ensure safe file I/O interaction. Once rooted, however, many of these devices can be upgraded with the faster EXT4 filesystem, resulting in faster load times and overall smoother software performance, while sacrificing a bit of storage stability. Yes, the less stable memory can lead to app crashes and even data loss, but that’s pretty rare.”


4. Screenshots



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For whatever reason, Google didn’t write native screenshot ability into Android until Android 4 Ice Cream Sandwich (ICS). A few devices include it as an added feature out of the box, but there’s no reason for you to wait for a new ICS device or update if you want to take screenshots today. If you root your Android, you can take advantage of screenshots apps such as Screenshot or PicMe at your leisure.

5. Other Root-only Apps


Once you’ve successfully rooted your Android, you’ll be privy to hundreds, if not thousands, of useful apps that the other suckers of the world can’t access. Here are 10 reasons to root your ‘droid in one. Just a smidgeon of the root-only app selection includes stuff like:


• DroidWall – Android Firewall (free) can show you any app that is using your wireless data, so you can restrict data use that is chewing up capacity on you plan, as well as see if there is any nefarious and unwanted data use happening.


• Dual Mount SD Widget – ($0.99) lets you mount your SD card to both the phone and a PC at the same time.

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• Hexamob Recovery Pro – ($1.39) helps you recover files that you accidentally deleted from your internal memory or SD card.


• Keyboard Manager – (free) lets you choose one keyboard for portrait view and another for landscape.


• LEDs Hack – (free) lets you turn off LED notifications.


• Root Call Blocker – ($5.98) lets you block specific numbers at the system level, so the phone never rings when they call.


• Samba Filesharing – (free) makes your Android’s files available as a Windows shared folder over Wi-Fi.

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• Sixaxis Controller – ($1.62) lets you mount a PS3 controller to your Android.


• With Theft Aware – (£10), an uber-security program, you can remotely track and wipe a lost or stolen phone, call it, and apparently spy on the person on the other end without them knowing it.


• Titanium Backup – root (free version or $US6.58 for Pro) provides a powerful backup tool with extensive features, including letting you remove that pesky bloatware.


6.Custom ROMs


The general feeling among the modder community is that carriers make their Android UIs to benefit their businesses, not the user. If you want the best user experience, you have to flash a custom ROM that was actually made for users.
The term custom ROM is somewhat of a misnomer, but basically it is a customised UI for Android, and there are many from which to choose. Some of them focus on giving you the latest version of Android before your carrier releases an official update, while others focus on extra functionality or speed and stability.
There are too many Android mods to cover here, but you’ll want to determine your priorities and pick one that’s best for you. Or, you could get Boot Manager ($2.99) from the Android Market, which lets you choose between five different installed custom ROMs at startup.

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Some of the most popular custom ROMs include CyanogenMod, which focuses on maximizing performance over flashy looks, but does let you choose themes. Based on Gingerbread, it gives you a Touch to Focus feature in the camera, custom gestures, permission management and much more.

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MIUI, a Chinese-developed ROM, is also based on Gingerbread and provides a very distinct look. It only supported 16 devices at the time of this writing, but it’s updated every Friday and presumably will add more device support as its ICS-based ROM becomes more stable.
To find a ROM for your device, you can drill down to your device in the XDA-Developers forums, or check out this list on Theunlockr.com.


7. Upgrade Android on Your Own Schedule


Are you incredulous that you still don’t have a Gingerbread update for your Froyo phone after more than a year? By the time the carrier gets around to updating it (if it does at all), you may have a perfectly stable ICS update waiting for you if you were to root your phone.
Android custom ROMs allow you to get the latest Android OS before it is ordained from up on high by the company you’re paying a monthly bill to. At the time of this writing, there were even a variety of Android 4 ICS ROMs hitting the interwebs, although in general, stability is still a factor with them. It won’t be too long before those ICS ROMs are working as smooth as baby food, and it’s likely to happen before a whole lot of native ICS devices and sanctioned ICS updates come out.

8. Increase Battery Life



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Many of the custom ROMs available aim to improve battery life through internal efficiency settings, app and network activity management, and the removal of bloatware. There’s also an experimental app in beta right now called Superpower, available on the Android market in a free and paid ($4.25) version. There are plenty of other battery-saver apps out there — many not requiring root access — but SuperPower goes to the extreme, aiming to provide automatic management of your data connection and radio bands, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, CPU speed, and more. that management is based on factors such as screen state, Wi-Fi connection state, download speed, foreground application, tethering state, sleep mode, charging state, etc. There’s no reward without risk, however; the developer wants you to know that the app is still buggy in beta and that you use it at your own risk.


9. Zap Carrier IQ


By now you know what Carrier IQ is, and you may have a rough idea of who’s using it. For example, Sprint has since vowed to stop using it. But trying to get a straight answer about how the information Carrier IQ extracts is being used could you take you down a long a frustrating road, ending in a dead end of paranoia. It would be faster and less mind-numbing to just trash it from your handset.

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Thanks to Trevor Eckhart, the very man who discovered Carrier IQ on his Android phone, you can do just that. He posted a free .apk called Logging Test App over on the XDA-Developers forums that can show you if a program like Carrier IQ resides on your device. If the test comes up positive, head over to the Android Market and support this modern-day hero by plunking down a measly buck for the Logging Test App Pro Key, which enables you to remove Carrier IQ or other offending software. Of course, none of this is possible unless you root your Android phone first.


10. Because You Can


Finally, just like building your own PC, there’s a subjective sense of satisfaction and independence you get from rooting an Android device. Even beyond that, there’s a hint of a more rare intangible attached to it: duty. In some way, it’s your duty to flip the bird to the manufacturers and carriers that pay you lip service but not nearly enough real service. It’s your duty and your privilege to root, because you can. Google made Android open source, and thousands of good people are working on apps and ROMs for you to enjoy, giving you the opportunity to wield the most powerful smartphones available. Passing up the ability to root is akin to missing that opportunity.

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You may not be a car enthusiast, but imagine you’re cruising on a German autobahn in a fresh Porsche Boxster with nothing but open road and perfect conditions in front of you. Do you keep it to a conservative 75mph? No, you jack it up into triple digits… because you can. You may not be an incorrigible drunk, but if you’re on a long weekend in New Orleans, you pour some booze into a plastic cup and stroll down Bourbon Street… because you can.
You bought an Android phone, which probably means that either 1) you know diddly about smartphones and just got whatever was free on contract or looked cool, or more likely 2) you’re somehow attracted to the flexibility and customisation freedom of Android that you don’t find in other mobile operating systems. So here you are. Live a little. Void that warranty! Root your Android, for all of the above reasons, and also just because you can. It’s not that hard to do, it’s kind of fun, and just like in a clichéd rom com, you’ll discover the value of what was right in front of you all along.


11. A real performance boost



Five Great Reasons to Root Your Android Phone

Android, as an alternative, open-source smartphone OS, is pure geek bait, but the hardware it's been officially released onto so far, in the U.S. at least, has been hard to love. Pushing a button and having to wait even just a second or two for something, anything to happen is a buzz kill; having to wait a second for a virtual keyboard press to show up is just plain aggravating. Using the CyanogenMOD ROM on my G1, it's definitely a better experience—not perfect and instant, but my phone seems to be actively trying to do what I want now. New browser windows snap open, the multi-part home screen doesn't lag when swiping between screens, the top "window shade" and bottom app menu don't hesitate to show me what they've got—I've been using this phone for just a few months, but I could go on and on. Cyanogen's developer himself notes that his ROM actively works the processor, RAM, and memory partitions harder, so you may get (even) less battery longevity from your phone. Having spent a late night and excited morning with this ROM, I will gladly pack a recharging cord and accept the trade-off. Photo by NathanFromDeVryEET.


12. Easy tethering over Wi-Fi or Bluetooth



Five Great Reasons to Root Your Android Phone

After installing your custom ROM, grab this android-wifi-tether app by heading to that URL directly in your Android browser (or using the Barcode Scanner app to pick up its QR code) and clicking the .apk link. The app will ask for root access to enable and disable itself.
Once it does, that's about all there is to it. Power up your laptop, connect it by Wi-Fi or Bluetooth to G1Tether (or your similarly-named ad-hoc phone connection), and you've got a data connection where none might have existed before. It will be slower than you anticipate, useful mainly for text-based email and browsing, and not something you'd want to use heavily, lest you tip off your cellular provider to your creativity. That said, it's not restricted to web traffic only, like previously mentioned PdaNet, and it's easy to use.


13. A better keyboard


The standard Android keyboard has its issues, and leading Android phone maker HTC knows it. They made their own keyboard for the HTC Hero, and the CyanogenMOD makes it available in any Android phone. Enable it by heading to Settings, Locale & Text, then turning "Touch Input" on and adjusting its spell/suggest/feedback settings.
"Better" is this editor's own opinion, though Matt Buchanan from Gizmodo agrees: The keys are "puffed up" and easier to hit, the "long press" is faster than reaching for an Alt key, once you're used to it, and the auto suggestions and replacements are, if not subtle, generally helpful. What's definitely better is the responsiveness and snappiness, which is crucial when you're blazing through text and don't want to guess what three letters you last selected.


14. Multi-touch browsing


It's not as responsive as the iPhone's iconic pinch and expand capabilities, and the browser isn't as good at adjusting the page to meet your rapid zoom demands. That said, most folks would rather press their fingers once to get a bigger view on text than tap once, click + and - buttons to get the right zoom, then re-adjust their screen position. Until Google decides to go ahead and look away from Apple's patents, we can just hope that unofficial multitouch improves from version to version.


15. Bonus apps and widgets from other builds



Five Great Reasons to Root Your Android Phone

G1 users don't get the same built-in apps as myTouch owners, and myTouch fans can't grab all the neat stuff from the HTC Hero, not yet available in the U.S., or the Android Donut build not yet distributed by carriers. That's a strange condition for a phone built on openness. Cyanogen and other custom ROMs cherry-pick those neat exclusives and deliver them to anyone who wants them. The best of the pack, from a phone use standpoint, is the Power Control widget, which turns Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, GPS, data syncing, and screen brightness into simple toggles. Those bemoaning the lack of Microsoft Exchange support on G1s should check out Work Email, and anyone needing to do a little doc browsing can get it done with Quickoffice and PDF Viewer. There are other software goodies to geek out over—a full terminal emulator!—but those are the highlights.

We've given you our five picks from one custom (if popular) ROM. Now it's your turn. Tell us what you like about your own custom ROM, or what you'd like to know or see before taking the root-access plunge, in the comments.

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