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Not so long ago, the first thing many Android enthusiasts would do to a new phone was root it. It was essential.

You needed root to stop the battery from being dead by 4 PM 5 Advanced Ways to Improve Battery Life on Android 5 Advanced Ways to Improve Battery Life on Android If you've got a rooted Android device (or you're willing to root it), and you want better battery life, we can help you out. Read More . You needed it to remove the ridiculous bloatware added by carriers. And you needed it to replace the horrible user interface that the manufacturer had developed.

But with the improvements to Android in the last few years, and the less garish and bloated stock ROMs designed by the phone makers, do you still need to root your device?

Reasons to Root an Android Device

From performance enhancements to security updates, there are a lot of good reasons why rooting and modding Android is worthwhile.

Custom ROMs and OS Updates

The ability to install custom ROMs How to Install a Custom ROM on Your Android Device How to Install a Custom ROM on Your Android Device Ready to revitalize your Android phone or tablet? Installing a custom ROM is the best way to do that -- powering it up with even better performance and features. Read More remains the biggest draw for modding and hacking Android. Technically, you don’t need root to do this — you just need an unlocked bootloader and custom recovery — but the two tend to go hand in hand. Being rooted enables you to use a flashing app like FlashFire or ROM Manager, and custom ROMs very often come pre-rooted themselves.

In the past, using a custom ROM was essential for enthusiasts to fill the gaps in the Android operating system and to replace the ugly, bloated interfaces that manufacturers would use on their devices. These days Android is very polished, and most stock ROMs are far less offensive than they were.

android usage

That said, a custom ROM still represents the best — and often the only — way many users will be able to use the latest version of Android. Smartphone manufacturers have a dreadful record for updating their devices, and it’s showing no sign of improvement. Six months after the launch of Nougat, less than 5 percent of devices are running it. One in five devices are still using KitKat from late-2013.

Even worse, many of these unsupported devices don’t get the latest security updates either, leaving them vulnerable to attack. The best ROMs, including the CyanogenMod replacement Lineage OS LineageOS Replaces CyanogenMod: How to Try It on Android Right Now LineageOS Replaces CyanogenMod: How to Try It on Android Right Now CyanogenMod was shut down at the end of 2016, but its successor LineageOS is now available to try. Here's where to get it and what you should know. Read More , include security updates in their builds.

Remove Bloatware

No matter how much it bugs users, manufacturers and carriers continue to install extra apps onto their phones. You can’t uninstall this so-called bloatware, although Android does now have a Disable feature that removes them from the app launcher and prevents them from running.

delete bloatware

Not every app has a Disable option, though, or maybe you’d just prefer to remove them entirely. In this case, a rooted phone with Titanium Backup installed would be able to do the job.

And then there’s the ultimate step in anti-bloat: ditching Google itself. Removing Google apps and disconnecting Here's How You Can Use Android But Ditch Google Here's How You Can Use Android But Ditch Google Want to use your Android smartphone or tablet without Google? Want to use open source software? Here we take an in-depth look at exactly how to do that. Read More yourself from Google Play Services is a huge step, but if you want to take control of who gets to see your data, it’s one worth considering.

Taking Control of Your Phone

Taking control is one of the biggest benefits to rooting. It gives you the ability to deny permissions to certain apps, and prevent others from running in the background where they drain your battery 7 Free Google Services That Cost You Battery Life and Privacy 7 Free Google Services That Cost You Battery Life and Privacy Here's how to protect your privacy and preserve battery life while using an Android device. Read More and eat through your data allowance.

xprivacy android

Full permissions controls were introduced in Nougat. For older devices, an app like XPrivacy, which runs on the Xposed Framework Customize Your Phone Without Flashing a ROM With The Xposed Framework Customize Your Phone Without Flashing a ROM With The Xposed Framework It is common knowledge that the best way to customize your Android device is to flash it with a new ROM. It is also wrong. Read More , is a must. It lets you allow and deny permissions to any app, both permanently and temporarily, and is a hugely powerful tool.

Use Greenify to prevent apps from running in the background Greenify: Halt The Operations Of Apps Running In The Background [Android 3.1+] Greenify: Halt The Operations Of Apps Running In The Background [Android 3.1+] Read More . It’s better than a task killer Why RAM Boosters And Task Killers Are Bad For Your Android Why RAM Boosters And Task Killers Are Bad For Your Android At first glance, RAM boosters and task killers sound incredibly useful, but a closer look shows that they could actually be harming your phone instead. Read More and delivers noticeable improvements in battery life, data consumption, and all-round performance.

Rooting opens up your phone to a whole host of root apps. Some are small, geeky tools, but others perform essential functions that are still missing from the Android operating system. Something as simple as backing up your phone Don't Lose Your Data: 5 Top Backup Solutions For Android Don't Lose Your Data: 5 Top Backup Solutions For Android Everybody needs to back up their data in case something happens to their device. Protect yourself with these amazing backup apps. Read More , for example, is still handled best by root apps.

Xposed Framework

The Xposed Framework is the best tool for modding Android. It uses small modules that plug into the operating system, giving you access to settings that are normally off limits.

Xposed modules can tweak your phone’s interface, remap buttons, hack individual apps, and a whole lot more. We’ve got a full guide to the best Xposed modules 12 Best Xposed Modules for Customizing Android 6.0 Marshmallow 12 Best Xposed Modules for Customizing Android 6.0 Marshmallow These Xposed modules can seriously customize and improve your Android phone or tablet, even if it's running the newest Android 6.0 Marshmallow! Read More , so you can dive right in.

At the time of writing, Xposed is only available for Android versions up to Marshmallow.

Because We Can

Finally, we have to acknowledge that many of us root our phones just because we can. Maybe we like the extra control we get from it, want to test the limits of the hardware by installing a custom kernel, or just like to try something different. If this is you, and unlocking the bootloader is the first thing you do when you unbox a new phone, then the next section won’t matter at all.

Why You Shouldn’t Root an Android Device

Like it or not, there are risks associated with rooting 4 Security Reasons Why You Should Never Root Your Android 4 Security Reasons Why You Should Never Root Your Android Rooting Android -- like jailbreaking iPhone -- brings with it some great function benefits. But there's a down side: what risks do you face by rooting your Android device? Read More . The process opens up access to parts of the system that are normally blocked for security reasons. As a result, a badly-coded app can brick your phone. A maliciously coded app can do even worse.

As good as custom ROMs, root apps, and Xposed modules are, you need to be sure you trust them before you let them loose on your rooted device.

It’s Getting Harder to Do

Perhaps as a result of the risks, a lot manufacturers and carriers are making efforts to lock down their devices.

There’s a trend for U.S. carriers to ship their devices with bootloaders that cannot be unlocked Every Android User Should Tweak These 10 Developer Options Every Android User Should Tweak These 10 Developer Options Android's Developer Options menu houses a lot of tools for those writing apps, but you can get something out of it, too. Here are the most useful settings hiding in the Developer Options. Read More . The Galaxy S7 was an example of this. You could still root the phone, but you couldn’t use custom ROMs. It’s likely to be the same story for the S8, and the LG G6 is heading in the same direction.

You’ll Have App Problems

Equally, you can lose app compatibility. Android has a feature called SafetyNet that determines whether a device has been rooted or had its bootloader unlocked. Developers can use SafetyNet and decide whether to prevent their apps from working on devices they deem insecure.

android safetynet

Many banking and other financial apps won’t work on rooted phones, along with Pokemon Go and Mario Run Super Mario Run Is Now Available on Android Super Mario Run Is Now Available on Android Super Mario Run has been available on iOS for a while, but now, finally, it has arrived on Android. Read More . Android Pay doesn’t work where the bootloader has been unlocked. As always, there’s a workaround. The Magisk mod roots your phone and includes an app that allows you to hide it from SafetyNet.

As rooting and modding becomes more difficult, and you need to find more workarounds, the process becomes more complex. You could reach a point where the inconveniences of rooting start to outweigh the benefits. And you even risk a greater chance of bricking your phone.

Warranty Issues

How does rooting affect your warranty? The simple answer is that unrelated problems shouldn’t affect the warranty at all. So if your USB port comes loose, then your claim shouldn’t be rejected just because you’re running a custom ROM.

bricked android device

But the warranty won’t cover software problems. Brick your phone when trying to install or use a particular mod, and you’ll need to fix it yourself. And remember that mods can also cause hardware problems. If your phone reboots every time you launch the camera, it may be your custom kernel to blame.

Either way, it’s always a good idea to return to stock before making a warranty claim, although some devices permanently record when they’ve had their bootloader unlocked.

Is Android Good Enough Without Rooting?

We’ve looked at some of the pros and cons, and there are good reasons on both sides.

But perhaps the best reason to not root is that Android is now good enough without it. Android used to be very rough around the edges, and rooting felt like a necessity.

android battery

But in the last three years or so, the operating system has been refined in every way. The redesigned user interface, built around Material Design, gave Android a beautiful new look in Lollipop in 2014. The power management system called Doze debuted in Marshmallow in 2015 and brought improved battery life. Granular control over app permissions came with Nougat in 2016. And Android O will bring strict controls 7 New Android O Features You Can Get Right Now 7 New Android O Features You Can Get Right Now The Android O Developer Preview is out for select devices! But you can get the best features on your phone or tablet without upgrading. Read More over apps running in the background.

Many of the best reasons to root are being systematically dealt with, except one: Android’s slow update process.

Because to take advantage of those new features without rooting, you need a phone that will receive updates to Nougat, O, and beyond. And that’s one problem that Google shows no sign of being able to solve.

Do you still root and use custom ROMs on your phone? Is an unlockable bootloader a priority when you buy a new device? Share your thoughts with us in the comments.

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  1. android underground
    April 27, 2017 at 6:43 pm

    Number 1 reason to root: block ads.

    Android without AdAway and MinMinGuard is pure hell.

  2. Xantes
    April 25, 2017 at 3:36 pm

    One important reason that I would root my Android phone is to be able to see in plain text the Wireless passwords of all SSID's that the phone connected.

  3. Davin Peterson
    April 25, 2017 at 11:46 am

    This explains why Super Mario Run won't work on my 2013 Nexus 7 with the Lineage OS Custom ROM. I had to root it before installing the ROM

  4. Tom
    April 24, 2017 at 10:25 pm

    I've pretty much immediately rooted 3 of my last 4 phones... the most recent (non-rooted) one being my Note 4. I just haven't had the need to on this one.

    That being said... while the underlying OS is still stock, I've tweaked everything else that can be. Nova Launcher... AcDisplay (lock screen)... SwiftKey.

    Every single setting screen gets reviewed on a new device.

    I openly cringe when I see folks using the stock launcher with screens of icons like its an iPhone.

  5. Doc
    April 24, 2017 at 5:58 pm

    Yes, I do need root. I can't do a thorough job backing up an Android phone or tablet without it (Titanium Backup is well worth the money!), and I can't copy files to SD card (under Android 4.x) with a file manager (like Astro); Google stupidly decided to make SD cards second-class citizens in ICS. Plus, it's my device, I should be able to do what I like with it!

    • m-p{3}
      April 24, 2017 at 9:57 pm

      To be fair, that's an issue with an old version of Android. As far as I know, that limitation with SD card no longer applies.

      I rooted my previous device (LG G3) mainly because of the bloatwares and the awful stock ROM, but now I don't feel the need anymore.