To Root Or Not To Root?

We bring you real, live information from our community on what they think about rooting their Android phones.

‘Will you ever root your Android Phone?’

Few weeks back, when we posted this poll question on our Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/#!/OpenSourceForU and asked our geeky readers to chip in and share their views, little did we know that we would invite some interesting numbers of affirmative votes. While we thought that the outcome of the poll will be evenly split, much to our amazement, 49 out of 51 respondents voted to state loud and clear-’Yes, this will help me discover my phone’s potential to the fullest.’Only two of them said -’No, I might run the risk of making it completely unusable.’

So, the verdict from our Facebook community is out–Rooting one’s android phone features high on their wishlist and they don’t mind lapping up these short bursts of fun. While we asked our readers to extensively share their thoughts on this fiercely debated question (or so we thought), a chunk of our agile readers fired back a peppy set of answers on our facebook portal.

Nitesh Shah, an active member of our Facebook community, shares, “It is worth rooting your android phone. Android, being an open source platform, gives you more freedom to play around with your phone after rooting. In a nutshell, it helps you unleashing the true power of Linux as Android is based on the former.” Echoing similar sentiments, Ashish Singh Bhatia, another member of our Facebook community, says, “ Yes it’s definitely worth rooting your android device as it will add extra speed, functionality and get rid of annoying stock application that comes with a ROM.”

While, we at OSFY, were hooked at the interaction that happened over this debate on our wall, two quick-witted comments instantly made us break into a giggle. “As a end user it’s simply a waste rooting a device. As a developer, an enthusiast, an engineer, a techie, your device is just a device if not rooted. At times, being any of these comes as a blessing!” writes PrabhakaranSam Sampath. Bhupinder Gulati, shares with a tinge of humour, “ If Carriers and Companies don’t feel like updating your perfectly compatible mobile phone (as they claim)”, rooting becomes a mandatory option.”

So, now we know how rooting is sprucing up the fabric of our geeky members’ tech lives, it’s time to take stock of what ‘rooting’ is and the various aspects associated with it. We, at OSFY, did ask the active members too of Linux Users Group to let us have their takes on rooting their android devices. And we must admit, they were indeed quick on the draw sending their valued and engaging suggestions on our e-mails.

Deviprasath, an active member of Indian Linux Users Group, Delhi, (IluG D), comes up with an interesting definition on what rooting is. “Rooting is a process allowing users of smartphones, tablets, and other devices running the Android operating system to attain privileged control (known as “root access”) within the Android’s subsystem. By definition, gaining Superuser permissions or, as it is more popularly known, once rooted, the Android phone owner will have more control over many settings, features and performance of their phone to become the true master of their device.”

Before one might wonder, why it is called rooting, he is quick to explain. “The term “root” comes from the Unix/Linux world and is used to describe a user who has “Superuser” Or “SU” rights or permissions to all the files and programs in the OS (Operating System). The root user, can essentially change or modify any of the software code on the device. You see, your phone manufacturer/carrier only gives you “guest” privileges when you purchase your device. They do this for good reason, they don’t want you getting into certain parts of the software on your phone and screwing it up beyond repair. This way, all the users are running the same unmodified version of the phone’s software. But, for the tech-savvy crowd, only having “guest” privileges on your device is pretty lame and it locks down a lot of potentially useful features.”

For Supreet Sethi, another member of ILUGD, rooting an android device is not straight forward yes or no since he believes android is not desktop Linux where you may want to control every thing. Says he, “ As tech savvy individuals of this forum, we would say yes. But Android is consumption device, giving chance to the user to consume voice conversations with friends or on Facebook. Few brave souls will always root their devices and some will even go further and install CyanogenMod which is wholly custom- build. As my understanding goes, Google discourges rooting. Sadly, manufactures of devices don’t provide upgrades.”

J T Dsouza, another member of ILUG, Bombay, quips, “Rooting is is well worth the effort, considering that you can get rid of the garbage as well and gain access to apps that the service provider / phone maker may not want you to have. Mods like Cyanogen also helps in keeping the phone supported long after the OEMs have lost interest”

According to industry experts, rooting also calls for more security risks because you can download apps that have access to files that would be conventionally hidden from them.

But Mahesh T Pai, another member of ILUGD, sings a different tune and writes in jest: “IMDO (in my dumb opinion), all of us here have root on our servers, laptops and PCs, and they (at least those in hands of sensible owners) are as safe as a fort. Any rooted android device ought not to be any different. AFAICt, safety (of _my_ data on _my_ device) and rooting _my_ device are unrelated. What is probably relevant is having to run binaries from questionable and unknown (to _me_) source code which has access to the data and capabalities of my device. For example, look at the “Chhota Bheem” app on the Play Store. It wants permissions to make calls – yes, you heard that right – make calls. I put the phone on airplane mode before my kids’ hijack it (the device). Such apps which hide what they do from _me_ are more a threat to my device than rooting it. I am no developer; just running pure-breed Android (currently, gingerbread android) on a device which came with Froyo. Hope to run Jelly Bean 4.2.2 by the time you get to read this.”

So, while tech-savvy users of Android spend countless man hours having fun rooting their devices,we bring you the thoughts of our community members on what they think are the pros and cons of rooting your device. “The benefits are: 1) You have the privilege to modify the default firmware, 2) The very common reason for rooting is to try some Custom ROMS.3) Give a boost to the Kernel, speed and battery. 4 Unlock additional features. 6. Get the feel of crazy, powerful apps. And last-Freeing up memory and Overclocking your processor,” says Deviprasath.

Many believe that rooting isn’t for everyone and can have serious repercussions. Vishal Shinde,another active member of OSFY’s FB community, writes, “If you are not a nerd or do not have a proper knowledge about rooting, 1. You may turn your smartphone to a dead device . 2 Void the Warranty. 3. Open the gates for malware security breaches if apps not managed properly.”

Bhupinder Gulati adds, “The first risk would be of warranty, but that I would like to discount the fact. (although some would object). Custom ROM’s do run the risk of having tracking software you wouldnt know about… But these are open source, and if discovered, the reputation of the developer would be gone… Plus I have used many ROM’s, I havent had any problems, because you can control what apps are installed or used.”

So, if you wish to get a slice of what the open source community thinks on hot and interesting issues, stay tuned and watch this space!

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