What is rooting and why do people have Android phones?

Rooting an Android phone means giving yourself access to a superuser. A super user is an administrator who has access to more features and functions of a system and can make changes to it beyond its standard behavior. This grants more access to the operating system, which means more power over how the device works, but also brings with it a greater potential to break the proper functioning of the device.

One of the best features of Android phone is that it has an open source operating system. However, this does not mean that it is completely open; Phone service providers and device manufacturers like Samsung, LG, Huawei, Xiaomi, and others put quite a few modifications and restrictions on their phone products. Even Google puts some restrictions on its own operating system for security reasons, but also at the request of carriers and phone manufacturers.

Rooting prevention for safety

Providing full access to the source code of an operating system opens up the possibility for users to unintentionally corrupt the proper functioning of their phones. It may also allow other apps to cause potential harm. For example, unintentionally installing a malicious app could completely disable, or “lock” your phone, or worse, give the app access to all of your phone’s functionality and data.

By default, your user account is not logged in as root, so all your apps have the usual permissions and limited access.

Why override security to root a phone?

For advanced users, rooting allows them to perform tasks and make changes that go beyond the usual operation of the device. For example, they can flash variations of the Android operating system that may be more useful for your specific needs.

Rooting a phone also allows the user to install non-standard applications that allow you to do things that manufacturers, phone companies, and phone manufacturers don’t normally allow.

Google, the creator of the Android operating system, is not completely opposed to rooting. They could make it difficult to root Android devices, but they don’t. You can also find apps designed to work on rooted Android devices on the Google Play store. If Google wanted to override rooting, this would not be the case. If you’re going to install root access apps, joining the Google Play store is a way to limit the chance of installing a malicious app that could take advantage of your phone’s rooted status, but it’s not a guarantee of security.

Consequences of rooting

Rooting the phone will void the device’s warranty, and given the potential to permanently break it, this could be an expensive venture for hobbyists. Also, the phone will no longer be able to install updates released by Google in the usual way. You will have to manage maintenance and updates on your own.

Rooting, jailbreaking and unlocking the phone have gone through legal gray periods. Unlocking your phone allows you to use it on other carriers, and is different from rooting and jailbreaking. For a time, it was illegal to unlock your phone for use with another carrier, even if you had purchased it and were no longer under contract with a carrier. That changed in 2014, when President Barack Obama signed the Unlocking Consumer Choice and Wireless Competition Act into law. This law allows any cell phone or smartphone user to unlock their phone and move to another carrier if they have met all the requirements of their phone contract.

Rooting and jailbreaking are different than liberation. Although the Library of Congress Copyright Office, which has regulatory jurisdiction over the area, ruled in 2010 that jailbreaking a phone is a legal action, phone manufacturers generally don’t want their customers to “hack” your devices, and doing so will void your device warranty.