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opinion 4 min read 57 comments

Here's why I stopped rooting Android smartphones

Almost none of my Android smartphones have stayed the way Google intended – unmodified and unrooted – for long. Whether fine tuning or optimizing features, root access was almost always required. But so far this year, I’ve barely seen a need to root a phone. Here’s why.

androidpit nexus 5 bootloader 2
Rooting Android grants access to the OS's innards, but how useful is that anymore? / © ANDROIDPIT

Why root?

For the longest time, there were many reasons why I wanted to root my smartphone. Whether it was installing a special energy-saving app or making GPS optimizations, without root, many of things I wanted to do were impossible. Many backup apps, e.g., Titanium Backup, require root privileges. And, for the under-powered smartphones of yesteryear, there are tuning apps for increasing the clock speed of the CPU, a necessary measure to make the most of aging hardware. And also if I wanted to change the scheduler, or even cellular parameters in the system files, I needed root access.

And then the ubiquitous memory problems: root apps like SD Maid Pro empty out storage space effectively, optimize app databases and sometimes open up a few hundred megabytes of memory. To access some of these features, you need a rooted smartphone. But apps like this have led to cleaned apps malfunctioning. I have had to become careful with these kinds of apps and rarely use them anymore.

I don’t need to root anymore

But times are changing. Smartphones in their factory state are performing well enough so that I do not need tuning apps any more. Features such as GPS or power-saving modes are usually mature enough so that no intervention is required. And as for bloatware: being able to disable the apps is enough for me,  because I only buy smartphones if they have at least 32 GB of memory, so a few 100 MBs of bloatware doesn't make much difference.

AndroidPIT best root app
I can now do most of the things I used to root for without rooting. / © ANDROIDPIT

As for backup apps: I barely store any important data solely on my smartphone because now I sync new photos to the cloud and I listen to music via streaming services. Most games in the Google Play Store now also feature cloud backups of save files.

Some apps don't like rooted phones

And some apps deny rooted smartphones from using their services altogether. Banking and streaming apps, in particular, I found ran into such problems. I’ve certainly had some frustrating experiences with this. One time, for example, when I wanted to try out contactless payments with my smartphone, I couldn’t because my phone was rooted. Or when I wanted to use a streaming app to load some episodes of a series onto my phone, I got the same error message: the app couldn’t run on rooted devices.

What other reasons could there still be to root?

Thus, there are very few reasons for me to root my phone anymore. One reason might be to gain unlimited access to memory cards, which has been difficult ever since Android Kitkat. but since many apps are adapting to the new principles of Android Marshmallow, this isn't such a problem anymore, either.

ANDROIDPIT CYANOGENMOD HERO
CyanogenMod: maybe the only remaining reason to root. / © ANDROIDPIT

There is one advantage that I can't dismiss: being able to install custom ROMs. Although, even here, the reasons are somewhat limited. I made some software modifications to my old LG G3 to get the firmware running the way I wanted, but in everyday use, there's no need for it to be rooted or, ultimately, for it to be running a custom ROM.

Installing CyanogenMod is, undoubtedly a great reason to root some devices, though. My Samsung tablet, for example is technically still fine, but it's stranded on Android KitKat. With a quick root, however, I can install CyanogenMod 13, based on Marshmallow.

Conclusion

In everyday life, I do not need root access to Android anymore. The only use I have for a rooted phone is the installation of CyanogenMod or other custom ROMs, for which rooting is a necessary prerequisite. Other things I used to use it for are being rendered irrelevant.

Do you root your smartphone or tablet? If so, why? Or do you, too, gladly go without root access? Leave a comment and let us know.

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  • I have just laughed reading something similar on Tom's Guide and now this—the two websites where I come to laugh at their tech insights. I'm not a tech-savy user, by any means, and a girl at that. But I'm far from dumb, too. And never, never in a million years will I use an unrooted phone or buy one that's not rootable by standard methods, by which I mean unlocked bootloader, custom recovery (TWRP or ClockWorkMod), custom ROM (optional), and a systemless root with Magisk (or SuperSU). This is ridiculous advice about rooting, but it's not funny, really, if those more gullible of us take this article seriously.

    A. Oreo has been out for ages, and one of my phones, which is supposed to be a flagship device and by a well-known and reputable brand, too, and is not even 2 years old, doesn't have it, and will likely not get it. Ever.
    B. When I was putting one of the many ROMs I used on this same phone in February this year (2018), the latest Google security patch it had was from April or May 2017. I'm selling it rooted now, and the patch installed is from a few weeks ago.
    C. Trust the manufacturer with updating and maintaining your device? Think twice. (There are many, many examples of manufacturers' bloatware leaking tremendous amounts of very personal data, for a very long time, and not addressing the issue despite many complaints.)
    D. Bloatware removed, not running in the background and not taking space
    E. No funky but unnecessary apps present and running in the background. I've never used Google Maps, Chrome, Gmail, and using OpenGapps Nano gives me everything I want and nothing I don't
    F. F for Facebook & Co. The permissions requested give those people very questionable levels of access to horrendous amounts of your data. They know what apps you run on your phone and what you search for in your mobile browser. They know your contacts, who you call and text and when. They know your location at any point in time. They send you notifications which you can't turn off. The drainage this puts on the battery is such that I won't even go there Rooted phone—problem solved. I literally removed every single permission from apps such as Facebook, and they remain fully working. They run when I want them to run and have the data which I want them to have, which is none.
    G. Custom ROMS such as Lineage-based roms and a few others have a tremendous amount of talented and dedicated developers working on them—for free—because these people's personal values dictate that they stand up against the practices outlined in this post and those of others in this thread. They are not driven by profit. Profit-driven development will never produce products which will get ahead of those which come out of passion-driven development. These roms are VERY stable, and the bugs are addressed almost immediately. Oftentimes a developer will update within half an hour of a bug being found. Try getting that out of Motorola or Sony. Good luck.
    H. Nandroid backup (inc. before updating software—there are so many cases of OTA updates breaking functionality of phones), more space on your phone, reduced data usage, increased performance (substantially), better battery life (much better), privacy (total, if you know what you're doing), security (latest patches) and many, many others are all very important reasons to root

    There are lots and lots of reasons to root your phone than I have time to go into, and the drawbacks you name are non-existent issues (all apps for rooted-phones only will run on a systemlessly rooted device). Rooting extends the usable and useful life of the device and keeps it current for many, many years. (One of my favourite devices is Nexus 7 2013, which is still fast, snappy, current, secure, and amazing, but only thanks to being rooted. Put stock firmware at it and you won't have the features you came to appreciate in new Android OS, such as Google Assistant, and throw Facebook at it and it'll be slower than a very slow thing.) Others are still using and loving their OnePlus 3's and Nexus 5's. I have Nougat on my Nexus 5 and it is smooth as butter and completely usable even today, and it only has a few GB of RAM and a hint at a ROM, and a joke of a CPU by today's standards.) There are many excellent devices out there with great specs and potential, which are held back by their manufacturers and become slower and slower and out of date by the day, as they delay the updates and abandon any further development, because it is not profitable for the manufacturers to keep the older devices current—they need to sell you the new model.

    So, what I'm trying to say is the author clearly doesn't have a slightest clue about what he's on about and should refrain from giving any sort of technical advice. And I do not normally come here for advice, and I do not normally read this forum—and articles such as this are a perfect example of why I don't do this. (Others include features which are ripped off the XDA forums, troubleshooting guides suggesting factory resets, outdated advice, and the like.) I can only hope that anyone who comes across this post while looking for advice on rooting will also read the comments.


  • When you purchase a cell phone, you are purchasing a personal computer. Would you buy a PC if you could not have root access. Please, this is ridiculous. The only thing that should be controlled or locked down on a phone is any software or device that could interfere with the operation of the network. This should be done on the network, so not an excuse to lock a phone's root privileges. There are consumers who should not have root access because they don't know what they are doing, so I agree there should be a step to firewall these consumers from root, but to lock the bootloader? Give me a break. I will NEVER buy a phone that will not allow root. As previously stated by another user, control is the key word. I do not want anyone pushing software updates to my personal computer without my permission, and I reserve the right to uninstall any applications. The only way that you can truly firewall ALL software on a phone is to have root. So root is the ONLY way you can secure your data from everyone. Phones today are literally just sitting there broadcasting everything you do straight into the metadata collected by dozens of government agencies, and who knows who else after the CIA revelations. Obviously not many people care about this. If a piece of software on a PC is found to "phone home" or transfer data to a third party everyone gets up in arms about it. On a phone no one seems to care.


  • "what other reason could I need to root" Bloatware. "a few 100mb" I wish, if that was it, I would be fine too... Also, control. its your phone...why in the world would you not want control over it? sure you can disable most of the apps, but you use less battery if you can straight up remove the apps you cant disable. Also, updates are forced on you anymore, and anybody with half a brain knows that updates for anything ever, have only been needed by people they affect. IE, if the update doesn't do anything for me, why should I update? Sure the first couple times android give you the option to say no, but after a few tries it removes the "maybe later" option (not that you cant get around it anyways, but who wants to do that every so often through the week?) updates do not == improvements. and lets face it, sometimes you find a version of an operating system you like (for me usually the one with the most options, often options get removed in later versions, sometimes the options I like are removed)


  • Every single phone I have ever owned has been rooted. And I will not buy a phone if there is no root for it. Why? It's simple. Root allows me to do things that I want, which would be impossible otherwise. For example, I had a smart phone which kept crashing due to overheating. Thankfully, I had root, so I could manually throttle frequency or put some of the cores to sleep, thus limiting heat generated. And Voila! no more crashing. Another example is xposed, which gives me ability to do things like mult-floating windows. Another example is tethering, which might be banned by carrier. Another example is complete automation of smart phone which is impossible without rooting. Another example is to freeze some bloatware which came with my smart phone eating up cpu and memory. I could go on and on, having root is such a bliss. If Nougat makes root impossible, then I will not have any Android Nougat phone. Period.


  • I have some issue to rooting my android phone but read this post i solved my problem thanks to howner of this site nice post,getting -- howtorootandroid.org/


  • I root almost every android phone that I have and used to have..... just for the thrill. The only one I regret of rooting is my old Xperia Z2, I lost it's DRM Keys that handles a lot of things specially the camera. But since it is rooted, I was able to fix it. There is nothing like the original DRM keys though!


  • great, but I think rooting is only necessary if you need to run custom rom or rooted apps other wise rooting is just time waste


  • If I don't root my devices any more it's because I use a service to do it for me :

    Firstly, I if want nothing to do with unwanted ads and suddenly explosive use of expensive 3G/4G data, I can be compromised as soon as I turn an unrooted device on and log in with my Google profile. Secondly, as a developer I respect other developers' experience. So I have my new devices delivered to a rooting service where they do quality work and liaise with me over a ROM tailored to my needs.

    The risk/benefit analysis is easy: bricking a new phone can happen simply because of a slightly different chipset. I trust people who root devices all day long, have seen it all and have a permanent bench set up for the job. Thirdly, the website forum instructions on rooting a particular device do indeed make for an adrenaline filled experience for a kid with an older phone - and result in 🤓 kudos in the school yard, even leading to an IT career - but to the rest of us it's fraught with risk! Ever notice how you nearly attempted rooting your device with forum instructions only to read more recent forum posts and notice to your horror that you'd nearly followed earlier flawed instructions?

    As a 64-year-old programmer my advice to fellow nerds is never use an unrooted device! -But don't root a perfectly good, brand new, expensive device yourself when others experienced on that device will guarantee their work.


  • I root because I want Xposed.
    Also Verizon blocks tethering on UDP. I want tether ability.
    I also want to install updates when "I" want, not when they want.
    Also, I want an unlocked bootloader. When Verizon or whoever stops supporting your phone, what do you do?

    If I can't own the phone by unlocked bootloader and root. I'm not buying it.


  • I rooted my Moto x Play to can use the GMD Gestures, i love that app, let me do anything just in seconds, and delete some Google apps like movies, hangouts, etc.


  • A couple of people have already said it but Xposed framework is one of my two biggest installs after rooting. After Xposed I then install XPrivacy module because after you realize the depth that those "free" apps have access to your data you cannot go back. Even simple programs that you barely use will ask to see your phone's recently dialed numbers, emails, contacts, your location, etc. It's amazing at the ease in which we give this all away. But with XPrivacy I have it configured to ask each time an app is asking for any privilege and XPrivacy can feed the app bogus information or just deny it all together.

    Android Marshmallow gives you a little more control but I find that it is only half of the data that apps are requesting. It seems we have become content with giving this away in order to get the free app. Well, at least for me, those free apps are now truly free because they're not getting any of my personal information and those numbers/contacts of my friends. I will ALWAYS seek root on any phone I purchase today because of this.


  • The true reason you stopped rooting is because YOU CAN'T! THESE NEW PHONES ARE LOCKED DOWN TIGHT! it's like Apple now! We get monthly security updates sometimes without even knowing ( I'm looking at you Samsung!), Yes I know it's for security but now we have a time window of using a new exploit to gain root before a "fix" is made and pushed on us. Even my tmo G5 with an unlocked bootloader won't let me do anything thanks to dm-verify! They're so many reasons I want root; using my ps3 controller to play games, putting an anti theft program on my phone that survives a factory reset... The list goes on and on....


  • Rich D May 22, 2016 Link to comment

    With the new Galaxy s7 at least there's an app to completely disable bloat or any other app. Between Nova launcher, app optimization and that I'm good. I do miss greenify's full function but the s7 has something similar. All respect to rooting over the years though because the companies have integrated the devs genius


  • Eric May 22, 2016 Link to comment

    Totally agree these days Android devices don't need to be rooted Android evolves with each version and it's just getting better yes it's still good that we have the choice to root but with most devices running latest Android version there really is no need


  • I stopped rooting because it is a headache specially when a new update is released. I got very bored of it. I just want a phone that works out of the box. I purchased Nexus 6P. Even though it has some good features, nice design, but I am regretting getting it because bettery life is bad. Almost similar to Nexus 6. And the hype that was made about the camera is really a big fat lie. The camera quality specially front facing camera stinks bad time. It is always dark.

    I wish I bought Samsung Galaxy S7 edge. For someone who purchases or changes his smart phone every year there is no point in getting Nexus. The only merit of getting a nexus is the regular updates. Other than that I could've gone for S7 edge which has a way better camera and a way better battery life.

    Next year I am moving back to Samsung for sure and ditch the Nexus. There is no point in having an inferior phone just for the sake of updates if the phone will be changing.


    • Don't overestimate Samsung. I have an Edge S6. Total crap phone. Pictures are not amazing and I could hardly reach half a day use with the battery. Replaced with Mi5 which fixed all the problems at a fraction of the cost. Wonder how they suddenly fixed everything on the S6 for the S7...


  • I used to root my old phones so they look like stock. Then I got the 6p😂


  • I have a Nexus 6p.. No need to root

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