Should you root your Android phone?

Most consumers are pretty happy with the Android experience that they receive, but for some the opportunity to customise and tweak their smartphone is too good to pass up. However, to experience a truly customisable device, Android users will need to root their phone – which does come with some potential risks.

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In order to decide whether or not it’s really worth rooting your phone, you’ll need to know the advantages and possible drawbacks.

The benefits of rooting

One of the main reasons to root your Android phone is that it gives you access to apps that are not available through the Google Play Store. Due to the higher level of permission granted to a rooted device, these apps can often enable you to perform useful tweaks that would otherwise be impossible.

You may want to configure CPU or GPU frequencies to underclock or overclock your device, utilise the full potential of ad blocking software, or download Titanium Backup to safeguard your information, and for all of these features you’ll need a rooted device.

I’m sure many Android users have grown frustrated with the sheer number of pre-installed apps included on new smartphones, the majority of which are unwanted and remain unused. However, by rooting your device, you can easily remove this so-called “bloatware.” Pre-installed software isn’t just annoying either, it can take up valuable storage space and drain your phone’s battery, so usually you’ll be better off without it.

Perhaps the biggest customisation that you can apply to your phone is flashing a custom ROM. While technically, you do not need root access in order to achieve this, you will need to unlock your bootloader – something that is required in order to root.

A custom ROM is essentially a custom version of the Android operating system. They often provide additional features and a modified layout compared to stock Android. You may want to check out custom ROMs for a number of reasons, such as trying the next Android release before it is officially pushed to your phone, or to use a ROM built by the Android community such as CyanogenMod.

Whatever your reasons for deciding to root your device, it is really the only way to make your smartphone truly yours.

The downside

A quick Google search of rooting your smartphone will reveal that the process is not always completely straightforward. The number of posts referring to people “bricking” their phones during the root process is, of course, a little off-putting.

Aside from completely ruining your smartphone, rooting can also leave you open to more security risks. With root access enabled, you run the possibility of exposing system files to malicious applications. So if you are going to root your phone, it’s probably best to have some form of mobile anti-virus installed.

In the vast majority of cases, rooting will also void your device’s warranty, so the manufacturers will be unwilling to repair it should something go wrong. Some smartphone vendors, such as Samsung, can even track if a user modifies the phone’s firmware, so even if you unroot it, the manufacturer will still know about your tampering.

Potential rooters should also be aware that the process varies not only by manufacturer, but also by device. There’s no one-size-fits-all approach to rooting, so it’s important to make sure that the instructions you’re following are precisely the right ones for your particular smartphone.

Of course, the decision of whether or not to root your Android device will largely depend on the user. Crucially, unless you’ve got a clear reason to root, such as an app or ROM you want to install, there’s probably no reason to take the risk.

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On the other hand, if you have a decent level of computer know-how, then rooting shouldn’t be too much of a challenge and will let you customise your smartphone to your heart’s content.