The Ability to Root Your Android Device is Awesome – and Unimportant

Android DeviceI am the proud owner of a rooted Samsung Galaxy Nexus with CyanogenMod installed. I initially decided to root my device not because I needed more flexibility or “control” over my Android experience, but because there was a limitation on the phone’s volume that made it difficult for me to hear the ringtone. Beyond the benefit of a louder speaker, keeping the phone updated and being late to the party for virtually every major OS update has soured the experience a bit.

I pride myself on having at least some advanced knowledge of software design. I’m no programmer, though it’s my job to understand what it is I’m reviewing. In the case of the world of Android rooting, I’ve found grasping the fundamentals a bit difficult.

Understanding the difference between a bootloader and a ROM manager isn’t something the average user is quick to grasp. Neither is the often complex set of instructions that goes into doing something as simple as migrating from Android 4.1 to 4.2. It’s not that this process is always complex, or that understanding rooting is a privilege reserved for an elite group of users. It’s simply a process that is understandably too complex and unnecessary for the average user.

It seems like you can’t pull up an Android comment thread without someone bragging about the fact that they rooted their device. Yes, it’s pretty neat that you’re able to do that, but the reason I keep hearing for the rooting is that it makes it easier to customize the OS to meet the needs of the user. I hear that from non-developers and developers alike, and I can see the appeal. What leaves me (and a lot of users) scratching our heads is the fact that the same things are said about Android as a whole. If Android is really so much more customizable out of the box than iOS, why is rooting considered such a critical process?

Most users couldn’t care less about tweaking the RAM profile of their device. Much like folks who jailbreak iOS devices (a process that can make iOS significantly more customizable), the Android rooting crowd is still a minority.

Just because rooting makes things more interesting for you doesn’t mean it’s a process in which everyone should take part.

Like many Galaxy Nexus users, I’m a fan of receiving the latest updates from Google as soon as they’re available. To my surprise, Android 4.2 was sent as an over-the-air update to the greater community of Galaxy Nexus users today. Sadly, I was unable to make the upgrade myself because the update wasn’t available as a compatible ROM… at least not yet.

I know there’s probably going to be a swarm of comments letting me know just how easy everything is, how misunderstood I am of the whole rooting process, and how absolutely useful the act of rooting your device really is. Let’s be honest here for a moment, though. If you’re one of those people so inclined to point that out, then take a step back and consider what kind of user you really are. I’m speaking on behalf of the average user — the silent majority on the Android forums who have never logged in or even read a single thread. The folks who buy Android devices and call them “Droids” no matter what brand or model they are.

These are the majority of the users out there. For them, the version of the OS that comes with their phone and is updated through regular OTA means is more than sufficient. The Android we keep hearing about being far more advanced than any other mobile OS out there is an excellent choice out of the box. That’s what we keep hearing, anyway.

Being able to root your device is excellent. It’s a splendid way to stretch your legs and take advantage of some of the hidden features of the OS. Keep in mind though, it’s not for everyone.

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Ryan Matthew Pierson has worked as a broadcaster, writer, and producer for media outlets ranging from local radio stations to internationally syndicated programs. His experience includes every aspect of media production. He has over a decade of experience in terrestrial radio, Internet multimedia, and commercial video production.