Saturday, October 01, 2016

Is rooting or unlocking your Android phone still necessary?

Hello! Quite a long time since I've published an article, eh? Well, my life has been a roller coaster ride, and finally it is gaining some stability and some traction. College sure takes a toll on life with a new dimension added into life: friendships and relationships. :(

Anyways, today I'm going to talk about something which excites and irks people who know about this thing thing you can do on any Android device: rooting. Before I speak volumes about rooting and unlocking pros and cons, let me describe what rooting actually is.

Android-rooting


Rooting, as defined by Wikipedia, is "the process of allowing users of smartphones, tablets and other devices running the Android mobile operating system to attain privileged control (known as root access) over various Android subsystems."

Let me be a bit more informative. On Linux, we have "sudo" command that allows you to do privileged stuff on your system, allowing you to do anything possible on your device. This "sudo" command means that you have administrator access to your Android device. These admin abilities are disabled by your phone manufacturer.

Unlocking or unlocking bootloader means you get the ability to install a different Android OS or version. Something like installing a different distribution of Linux. Say, installing Debian over default Ubuntu that came on your laptop.

Now, people would ask this: I can do almost anything I need on my phone. What does rooting or unlocking mean to me?

I have two examples that people can easily observe:
  • Have you ever tried to use a file manager application like MiXplorer or ES File Explorer, and found out you can't access parent directory above "storage"? "storage" folders have "sdcard0" and "sdcard1" folders that you can see on your non-rooted phone. (It is possible you can access some root folders on some phones.)
  • There are some applications that you are unable to uninstall despite knowing that they are not default apps of Android system. You want to uninstall them but it is not possible.
  • Android phone by Samsung has a different look of icons and menus than Android phone by HTC or LG or a Nexus phone. TouchWiz, Sense UI, stock are some names you might have heard.

What can you do with rooting or unlocking? I'll answer that after telling what are their cons for an average guy.
You will void your phone's warranty given by the manufacturer. Some exceptions that still offer warranty are OnePlus and Yu series phones by Micromax. Their customer service is really bad just in case you thought your next phone would be from them.
On the other hand, companies allow you to unlock your phone's bootloader officially. Motorola, HTC, LG, OnePlus and Xiaomi do this openly. You still lose warranty though.

NOTE: Official unlocking process on Xiaomi phones is a cumbersome and tedious process.

Now that I have told the cons, let me highlight the pros of rooting:
  • you can overclock your phone for better performance
  • you can underclock your phone for better battery life
  • you can uninstall manufacturer bloatware apps that cannot be uninstalled otherwise
  • you can stop advertisements that show up in every app or browser
  • opening locked WiFi tethering ability by carriers (network providers in US or Europe)
Advantage of unlocking bootloader is that if you don't like the look of Samsung version of Android, you can remove it and put an Android ROM like CyanogenMod on your phone.

Coming to the main question of this article: is rooting or unlocking your Android phone still necessary?

You don't need it if you have:
  • Xiaomi phone with MIUI Battery saver on
  • Sony phone with Stamina Mode
  • any phone with Android Marshmallow 6.0 or above and Greenify app (auto-hibernation on)
  • any phone with Android Nougat 7.0 or above
For other phones with Android KitKat 4.4 or below, you need rooting on your phone for good battery life or ad blocking. Android has advanced a lot since Marshmallow 6.0, guys!

Xiaomi and Sony have addressed the battery life problem by "sleeping" of apps, mobile data and WiFi running restricted per app in background etc. They have their own names for this and for this reason I like them over other manufacturers that focus on other aspects that are not so important.

CONCLUSION

Rooting an Android phone used to be important in Android Ginger bread 2.3, ICS 4.x and Jelly Bean 4.2 days as battery life or looks of system icons et al were atrocious but now things are improving for the non-techie user. Rejoice!

Let me know in the comments what you feel about rooting your phone or device now-a-days.