To root or not to root: the classic dilemma that every owner of a new Android device must face. On one hand, you have the warm, inviting and manufacturer-intended tour that holds your hand, walks you through setup, and highlights all the new features to justify the money you just parted with. On the other hand, you have the wild west of rooted freedom —- it won’t ruin that tour, but it also won’t prevent you from accidentally walking off a cliff and plunging to your digital doom.
That prospect of peril (along with the inevitable compatibility issues) puts a lot of people off rooting their devices, and if you just want your smartphone to cover your basic needs and cause you minimal trouble, then it’s best to give it a miss. But I say you should always root your Android devices — and I’m going to give you 5 reasons why.
It’s enjoyable and satisfying
This part depends on your personal inclinations, admittedly, because I’m sure there are some people out there who would find the process of rooting a phone as unpleasant as getting root canal therapy — but anyone with even the slightest interest in tech or tinkering with systems should find something to love.
After all, you’re taking control of the situation and deviating from your intended path to get more from your purchase. There’s inherent satisfaction there, and then you must factor in the illicit joy of trawling forums for solutions cobbled together in the shadows. It’s much akin to playing an elite hacker on a high-budget TV show — you don’t necessarily have to do much, because the hard work of others will end up making you superficially appear competent.
You learn some interesting things
When you lie down with dogs, you get up with fleas, and what I mean by this is that you can’t help but pick up a few things if you get into rooting Android devices — even if you don’t mean to. You absorb bits and pieces while leafing through half-baked tutorials and reading bug reports from the XDA community, and before you know it you realise that you’re familiar with partitioning and bricking and custom recoveries.
And since there’s a lot of crossover with other forms of software, the skills you pick up are transferable. It’s like a crash course in standard technical support. You learn how to use Google like a hammer to smash at an obstacle until you knock it down. You learn how to quickly start from scratch through botching ROM installations and needing to factory reset. And you certainly learn just how much you can do with a smartphone.
System-wide ad blocking is great
Everyone hates ads. Even the people who make and distribute ads hate ads, and probably themselves as a result. And while even the least tech-savvy desktop surfers know about Adblock or uBlock Origin by now, the average phone user is resigned to simply enduring mobile ads long enough to skip them. But it isn’t necessary.
One root exploit later, they can have something like AdAway installed, knocking away all those irksome YouTube ads with effortless ease. Are there APKs you can install to block ads without needing root? Yes, there are — but they work as annoying live services, lingering in the background and sucking up battery life, and can’t be as effective as something like AdAway. If you don’t like ads, you need to get rooting.
Bloatware remains a common problem
I’m thinking about Samsung and Motorola in particular, and their strange obsessions with cramming in unwanted apps to give the illusion of having compelling digital ecosystems. A custom camera app can be really useful, but a custom calendar app? Several note-taking apps? Backup apps galore? Gimmicky apps intended to show off the latest gimmicky features?
You can hide them from most launchers, true, and most phones these days have enough storage that these needless apps don’t hugely get in the way, but it’s more the principle of the thing. If you own the phone, you should be able to control what’s installed on it, and remove whatever you don’t want there. With root access, you can remove the phone app if you want — I don’t know why anyone would want that, but you can, and that’s the important thing.
Unlimited (tweaking) power feels good
Your phone isn’t just your electronic swiss army knife, no matter how utilitarian your tastes may be. It’s also a reflection of your style, and a source of non-destructive opportunities to play around with different types of wallpaper — yet plenty of Android ROMs won’t allow custom live wallpapers by default, or let you change icon packs, or make other aesthetic adjustments.
And if you want to go beyond style, then you face an even greater challenge. The more sophisticated your intended customisation, the less likely it is that you’ll be able to achieve it on an unrooted device. When I get a new Android phone (I most recently picked up a OnePlus 6), the first thing I do is unlock the bootloader and get rooting, granting me the precious freedom to do whatever I want.
And while it’s true that rooting can cause issues (most notably with apps that stop functioning when root access is detected), there are ways around that, particularly through Magisk Manager. You can have all the power of root access and use Google Pay as much as you like. That’s what I call a win-win situation.
There you have it: 5 reasons to always root your Android devices. While root isn’t as vital for power users as it used to be, it’s still extremely useful, and anyone determined to get the most from their devices won’t want to miss out.