When I buy an Android device, the first thing I usually do when I get home – sometimes before that – is root my device. I know that many people love Android for its openness (I know I do), and not being rooted makes me feel constrained or tied down. Not having some basic functions (taking screenshots, etc.) that many other devices have out-of-box really puts a damper on how I use the device, especially for work purposes.
It isn't so much about running custom operating systems all the time for me anymore, but adding functionality that should be there to begin with. Although, I will admit I love getting my hands on updates very early and checking out different ROMs every now and then to get my nerd fix.
As noted by Alex, Google tackled the subject of rooting on the Android Developers Blog and showed their dissatisfaction of how manufacturers are trying to lock down devices. They do hint at getting a Nexus device if rooting or development is your concern, but also that the manufacturers should make it just as easy to root their devices as it is a Nexus One or S. The operating system is open source and thus the power should be in the hands of a user.
One of the biggest concerns for users that arises with rooting is that the manufacturer warranty becoming void when the device is rooted (it can be undone though). This means the fate of the device is in the hands of the user, so what should it matter to the manufacturer anyway? If a person buys a computer what that person does with the computer is entirely up to them, not the manufacturer, and everyone is happy. Smartphones should be no different, seeing as they are basically tiny computers.
On the other hand, the biggest concern for manufacturers and carriers from rooting is security. Nick Kralevich, an engineer on the Android Security Team, explains that to achieve root access on any device save for a Nexus device, you must exploit a known security hole. This could lead to other security holes and concerns, but he also states that most Android applications are “sandboxed,” meaning that one application cannot interfere with another without your permission. Kralevich goes on to say:
“It’s possible to design unlocking techniques that protect the integrity of the mobile network, the rights of content providers, and the rights of application developers, while at the same time giving users choice.”
Choice. That is the one word that goes hand in hand with open source. When a manufacturer ships out a device with eFuse or doesn't support users of their devices if they're running a custom build of an operating system, it's a slap in the face for those that were promised open source. Some like HTC, do support those users though, so I'm sure they will be happy to comply to Google's wants. I'm also sure they'll want to be on Goog's good side and be the manufacturer of choice for the next generation Nexus device too, don't you think? I just hope other manufacturers follow suit, but I'm not betting on it.
As far as rooting goes though, it isn't for everyone. It's for those adventurous ones who care enough to spend hours on end trying to fix something they've messed up or for people who understand what they're doing. Basic users will never need to root their device and you aren't sacrificing a lot of functionality without it, only beneath the surface tweaks and mods that have the capability of harming the stability of your device to begin with. I suggest that if you root, beware of the consequences, and know that if you create a nice paperweight out of your pretty new phone, you are to be mad at nobody but yourself. You have been warned.
With that being said, do you root your phone? Do you think manufacturers should make it easier to gain root access? I mean, Android is open source. Locking down a device is against the core principals the operating system was built on. What say you?