Android smartphones are pretty dang popular, there’s no denying that. And when something becomes that popular, there are plenty of people who would just love to hack, tweak, and modify everything and anything out of those phones. They’ve been successful too, as people who are active in the Android community hear a lot about rooting phones and installing custom ROMs onto them.
Indeed, Android phones are very tweakable and customizable, even in their stock form without any “hacks”. But for some of us, we don’t care if they’re customizable right when we get them, but instead we want to unlock their complete power to do everything we want them to.
What Is Rooting?
Almost all Android phones have a way of being rooted. Rooting is the process in which you usually exploit a security hole in the Android operating system or use some brute force attack to gain administrative privileges. Once a person has administrative rights, they can change deep system settings and files — something that is restricted when you first get the phone because the manufacturer and carrier don’t want you to mess up your phone accidently.
However, if you go so far as to root your phone, you’re not doing anything accidently, so no worries there besides a voided warranty. Anyways, if you can change system files and hardware settings (such as the CPU frequency — that’s why CPU governing apps require root access to run), you can modify just about everything you could possibly want — you now have pure hardware in your hands which you can do whatever you want with.
Some people want to root their phones because they want to be able to use such apps like a CPU governor, and keep the stock operating system on their phones. With root access, some people have been able to install entire Linux distributions onto their phones as an additional operating system while Android is still present, as you can see in the video below.
However, most people who root their phones will tend to install a custom ROM like CyanogenMod. These custom ROMs give the user full control over their phones and enable some advanced features settings to tweak performance and other characteristics. Additionally, they can also use all apps that require root permissions to run, so these people really get everything they want.
Generally speaking, there are plenty of phones which can be rooted and custom ROMs installed. Just look at CyanogenMod’s support devices list — it’s quite massive for comparable projects. However, for some devices you may have to go through more hoops than others, while others simply don’t have enough users to be actively supported. So which phone really is the best one to mess around with?
The answer is simple: Google’s developer phones.
These phones are meant to be used for app development and testing, and to run the latest and greatest version of Android. Essentially, these phones are purely the Google experience, and don’t come with any extra baggage from the manufacturer or carrier. When Google contracts a manufacturer to make these phones, they make sure it’ll have more than enough hardware to run whatever app or game you’d like.
Additionally, as they are developer phones, most developers will have them, so rooting tutorials and custom ROMs will show up for them before any other device. It’s been that way ever since the first developer phone — and first Android phone — was introduced, the HTC Dream, also known as the T-Mobile G1. And to this day, it still continues, even with the latest developer phone, the Samsung Galaxy Nexus. If you happen to pick up one of those, you can easily hack away to your heart’s content.
What’s your favorite phone? Do you usually root your phone or do you keep it as is? Let us know in the comments!