Smartphones running Google’s Android operating system are far and wide the most modifiable on the market. Android is an open source, Linux-based operating system that allows complete control of the device with root access. Root access allows the user to modify system settings by gaining complete control of the smartphone’s source code. In other words, with root access almost everything on your Android-powered smartphone can be modified.

Since root access lets Android users gain complete control of all settings, rooted smartphones allow users to determine how they want their device to function. Your smartphone’s functions tend to be limited either by your carrier, or the manufacturer of the device itself. Both situations can be avoided with root access. And if having the latest version of Android running atop your smartphone is your desire, rooting can make that possible, too.

Most recently, I’ve found that gaining root access actually has a purpose in how I operate my smartphone, which contradicts how I used my phone in the past. (I used it as a toy.)

In the past, rooting my smartphone was the sole reason to get new handsets. I’d purchase the device, unlock the bootloader (HTC), and then run a script or terminal command to gain complete control of the smartphone. To be honest, it has become such a routine that I’m rather bored with the idea. I will continue to do it, but not without a reason. There is room for me to learn how to find new root exploits, "theme" ROM's, or create my own ROM's, but that would require more time than I have.

Having said this, there are now a few legitimate reasons why I root my smartphones. I used to spend hours on end organizing system files and creating the perfect ROM setups and making Nandroid backups (complete system backups). All of these actions fall under a category that I refer to as “hacks and mods.” These hacks and mods are my sole reason for preferring Android devices to other smartphones. But I’m still not convinced I need to root my smartphones simply to hack and mod them anymore. Having complete control of what appears on my smartphone’s screen, and knowing that it can be changed is why Android remains the hardest operating system for me to avoid, but I’ve found a few other reasons to root.

So, really, why root an Android smartphone?

The first reason to root your Android smartphone is to get rid of carrier “bloatware.” Bloatware refers to the applications that come preinstalled on your smartphone when you buy it from a carrier. Each of the four major wireless carriers in the U.S. come with carrier bloatware preinstalled whether you use the apps or not. These carrier-installed applications take up space on your device’s ROM (read only memory) which limit how many other apps, pictures, and videos you can save to your device. If you don’t have the latest smartphone, chances are you don’t have much on-board storage, and that storage can fill up quick. 

If you prefer not to root your smartphone to get rid of carrier bloatware, you can disable them (if your device has Android 4.0-4.2 installed). Disabling an application simply removes it from your list of apps in the app drawer, but doesn't truly delete the application from your system files. In other words, you can "switch an app off" by disabling it if your device is unrooted, but it will still take up space.

Here's how you disable an app: (1) Open the app drawer, (2) Menu - Manage Apps, (3) On the "all" tab, find the apps you want to disable, (4) Open each app and choose "disable, (5) Any app selected that has the option to "uninstall updates" should be done before disabling.

But if you're not satisfied with disabling an app, you now have a reason to root your device to get a little bit more storage from your smartphone. The on-board storage of a smartphone’s ROM is partitioned (divided) into two sections: the smartphone’s operating system, and device applications (like the phone app, and messaging apps). Combined, these partions take up valuable space on your smartphone and limit how many apps, pictures, and videos you can save locally (onto your smartphone). AT&T let’s consumers delete preinstalled applications, but others do not. Deleting these applications can reduce your reliance on saving files in the cloud, and onto external storage devices (MicroSD cards).

Another reason I root my Android smartphones is to modify the operating system itself. If you’re thinking “Why would I want to do that?” don’t worry, it’s not as superfluous as it sounds. Once you have root access to your smartphone’s operating system, there are endless possibilities for you to make your device unique and improve the way it operates.

A personal preference of mine is to modify the on-screen keys of my Android devices. Whether you have capacitive, or physical buttons, you can add a line of on-screen keys. These can be set as shortcuts to apps or system functions (back, home). By rooting your device with on-screen keys, you can add system applications (messaging, phone, search), or third-party applications (Google+, The Chive, and Twitter) to your “navigation bar.” These apps can be accessed at all times and do not interfere with the content displayed on-screen which is nice. If you're big into social media, these apps can be added as navigation keys (on-screen keys) so that they can be launched in any app at any time. Modifying on-screen keys is just one of the many ways you can tailor your Android smartphone to your needs.

The last reason I root all my Android smartphones builds on the previous arguments. I prefer to manage the frequency and voltage of my smartphone’s processor to increase battery life and standby time. With complete root access to your device’s kernel, your smartphone’s reactions can be controlled. Kernels are not unique to Android, but the source code built for each version of Android’s operating systems (Gingerbread, Jelly Bean, Key Lime Pie) each have a unique kernel. Without getting into too much detail, gaining complete root access to your smartphone can allow users to modify the kernel and thus improve battery life. Undervolting the processor in your smartphone reduces the power it uses and can improve battery life if you spend enough time finding the correct voltages. Underclocking your CPU (i.e. turning down a processor that is clocked at 1.5GHz to 1.2GHz) can also drastically improve the battery life of your smartphone. Both underclocking and undervolting the Linux kernel Android is built atop are reason enough to root my smartphone. I've noticed that doing these two things can increase your standby time (time off the charger without the screen on) by up to 20%.

Having said this, we've come to an era where multi-core processors inside of our devices are more efficient than ever. Some would argue that undervolting your smartphone's processor isn't really necessary anymore. ARM processors with big.LITTLE core architecture and 4-plus-1 architecture have nearly branded undervolting processors a thing of the past. But if you're getting terrible battery life, undervolting with CPU profiles (specifying how much power your CPU uses in certain states like screen off, screen on) can help you get the most from your device. It can't hurt to try it.

If you have an Android smartphone that isn’t rooted, you could be missing out. What reasons do you root your smartphone? If you haven’t ever rooted your Android smartphone before, what would make you consider it? Let me know in the comments below!

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73 Reactions to this post

"Rooting Android smartphones has become second nature. Do you plan to root your next Android device?"

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Andrew Bissel As soon as I have it
Mark Belkowski Lol of course ill root it.
Hollis Hagenbuch I Cant Belive This is for Real http://is.gd/CrPAIC
Hollis Hagenbuch I Cant Belive This is for Real http://is.gd/OUJPWh
Lucas Crutchfield the better question is is their any Android device i wouldn't root?
Anthony Tat only did it with my mytouch3g because it was garbage. rooting it just made it a slightly faster, less stable piece of garbage. now i dont see a need to root if the phone is good enough to begin witih. might have to root my s2 because its been buggy ever since the official ICS update
??? I set it to 1520MHz
Chase Ros Are any of you planning on picking up the HTC One or Samsung Galaxy S IV and rooting? :)
Humza Ahmed I plan to root and put Jellybean on almost every device I own
Vicente Reyes Yes, but only on my nexus 7. My atrix HD is fine without it.
Kristen Luce I'm a flashaholic but am trying to break that cycle tomorrow when I get my GNote2. Of course, I may root it for adblock and whatnot but overall I think I'm going to see what stock as to offer. Until that gets boring for me.
Alberto Garcia Flores I don't know what are the benefits of rooting :/ so no.
Jourdan Fletcher Without a question, cyanogenmod is must on any phone or tablet, plus its sooo easy to do!! why the hell not. half the time CM is more stable and much faster the the stock UI
Shawn Sedha Yup. Cm10 milestone
phonedog_chase Would any of you root the new Samsung Galaxy S IV, or HTC One?
Chad Dinkins I did at one point. But bricking phones with unstable OS's became a pain to fix just as much as jailbreaking an iCrap so I quit. And now I just wait for the official releases even if they take forevvvvvvver.
Tym O Tee Ola-tuneday I've rooted my android and jailbroken my ipad. They're not quite the same but the freedom to increase functionality and speed is like a drug.
Bill Gillespie I rooted my s2 before I even opened the box..
Scott Bresee As with all my phones and tablet, the next one will be rooted right after I open the box.
Morten Helm Larsen Dont think so. Never done it and dont think I'll ever will. Got more then enough playing with launchers and reading about people that need help with rooting cause they started to mess with stuff they don't jack about.
Madars Kažis i`m afraid to root my android because of the risk..
Nick Koval Stock android is good no need... back in the day it was a must
Anthony Guerra I know this is a stupid question but I use to jailbreak my Iphone when I had one. Is rooting like the same thing? Is there a certain store you can download lien cydia just clueless when it comes to rooting. Because I just use launchers and icon packs which you can't do on Iphone
Carl Dale no because its to compilicated for ppl like me to understand :(
Lanh Nguyen I like the extra customization so yes I always root.
Neil Leisenheimer Yeah. I get pissed when I have to use a phone without root.
Prathamesh Zore alwayz...otherwise titanium backup files r of no use...
Troy Trauffer Every android phone I get this is the first thing I do.
Derrico Brown That's the 1st thing I do when I get an Android. Been doing that ever since the G1 was rootable
Joe Czo Never done it and never will
Susie Tracey I always root... I have to be able to theme my devices. Why have that ugly green when everything can be pink? And you don't have to root to remove bloatware Brandon.
Shafii Sigera Delays in software updating is what drives this rootin thing..apart from that people will stick with da original OS...
Sheila Ellis I generally do. But my Note 2 packs such a punch that I don't feel that I am missing anything by not rooting at this point. Actually though, it's close to going EOL, so I'll be looking into rooting soon so that I'll be sure to get vital updates.
Brandon Johnson You pretty much have to, if you want timely updates and to remove bloatware.
Carlton Littlejohn Yep to remove Verizon bloatware
Luis Robles Figueroa It depends I usually do after a while.
Jekemian Wykle As soon as I get it home....well maybe after I play with it for 15min
John Smith Yes, I rooted the same night I bought this one!
Tim Moore I have a Nexus 4. I get all the updates and have no issues. What do I need to root for?
Joernie Berrios @Julian Scott...go to XDA.com
Ryan Rampersad I have a stock untouched Nexus 4. I'm fine going rouge on desktop components and on desktop operating systems, but I need my phone to work, so I tend to leave it alone. The Nexus 4 serves me well right now at the very least.
Peter Blanco Within hour 1 I do.
Patric Pederson @Colin...I rooted my Note 2 (verizon) and installed JediX V11 Rom...It is even more of an awesome device. I have all the Samsung Touchwiz goodness with some need speed and functionality enhancements (like split screen view for all apps).
Colin Hart Not At All • My Note 2 works great
Tod Blauer Not only is my android phone rooted, but it has a custom firmware. Funny thing is, since I got the custom firmware, it quit shutting off randomly.
Syedul Islam Stock nexus is goof enough for me
Sedrich Noble i dont like the idea of rooting my android phone. If situation need me to then maybe i will root it.
Brandon Holley Eh stock just gets boring after a while, I don't really see the need to root unless I see a dip in performance.
Julian Scott Please help me root my EVO 3d
Joernie Berrios No Question!!...CyanogenMod 10.1...ftw
Reese Woodson I have a Nexus 4 (16GB) and never cared to root it........
Dave Bourque This is also a great flaw in android not just an advantage.
Yaron Rosen of course
Juwon Donte Every device that I get I root it
Anthony Evans Jr always do. Mainly to get if junk the roms all suck to slow crash alot and just not worth it
Robert Futty I always root but for my sgs3 it took longer than usual because stock was fine but then I felt the want to flash ROMs
Jordan Williams I haven't had a need to root my Nexus 4 yet. I mean really, what am I going to do, over clock a processor that is already overkill?
Josh Billingsley Last 4 phones,within first hour of having it. All the way back to the touch pro days
Manpreet Garcha Visit mobofreaks.com
Wayde Philpot No.... The Note 2 has been amazing in stock form
Stephanie Wall I only do it for free wifi tethering
Manpreet Garcha Exclusive Galaxy s4 pics 2 days b4 its official launch on Mobofreaks...like and shre
Keith Windiddy i have a rooted droid bionic
Keith Windiddy hell yea
Gordon Christie When I get my next upgrade there won't be any need too
Joey Drew Bucek Yes, as soon as I get my nexus 4
Dennis Petrospour i always root
Enis Fazliu No stock Android is fine
Luis Reich I root all my devices as soon as possible. Sometimes before first boot
Kyle Cordiano Na. Stock Android is all I need.

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