Why Doesn’t Android Come Rooted?

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android   Why Doesnt Android Come Rooted?Rooting your Android phone is a rite of passage. It unlocks the functionality that separates Android from iOS and opens a realm of almost infinite customization. Replacing the entire operating system is possible on a rooted device.

So, given the benefits, why are Android phones not rooted from the factory? Even those sold by Google, like the Nexus 4 and 7, require root after purchase. Why is that the case? Is there a legitimate reason, or is just another ambiguous business decision?

For Your Own Protection

phonesecurity1   Why Doesnt Android Come Rooted?

One of Android’s central security features is the isolation of each app into its own little sandbox. When you download and install an app on a standard Android device, you are effectively giving it its own user account with its restrictions.

That’s what the permissions you see on an Android device are – a list of everything the new app’s “account” will have access to. Think of it like logging on to a computer at work. If the IT department has locked down certain websites or features there’s not much you can do to get around those restrictions.

This can be a boon for security. Since apps are locked into their own sandbox they can’t go sniffing for information in other apps or in Android services they’re not allowed to access. That limits the damage a malicious app can do (in theory, at least).

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Rooting a phone breaks down these safeguards and allows the installation of apps that can access virtually anything on your device. That’s not great.

Safeguarding System Files

androidfilesystem   Why Doesnt Android Come Rooted?

Rooting can expose a device to more than malware. The process also leaves Android exposed to everyone operating system’s greatest enemy – the user.

Back in the era of Windows 95/98, a user could cripple their Windows installation by mucking around with the wrong files. Users could even delete critical system files in active use, resulting in an immediate BSOD. I know because I did it (I was 14, okay? Cut me some slack).

The problem is even worse for smartphones because they’re not designed to be easy for the user to service. If Windows is corrupted, you’re just a re-install away. But what happens if your Android is bricked and the best tricks don’t work? You cry and buy a new one, that’s what.

Microsoft eventually learned to keep users out of critical system files. Google, on the other hand, decided to head off the problem from the start. By denying root access, users are prevented from manually deleting Android’s most important files, making smartphones and tablets resilient against the most foolhardy owners.

Carriers Care About Branding

verizon 4g lteunltd   Why Doesnt Android Come Rooted?

If you buy an Android device through your mobile carrier it will almost certainly come with a number of built-in apps. Some of these apps are used to unlock value-added features provided by the carrier while others are basic bloatware that have been included through an agreement with a third party (my old HTC Thunderbolt came with the Blockbuster app, for instance).

Most devices don’t let users uninstall these apps by default. And why would they? From a carrier’s perspective, a phone that isn’t tied down to the carrier’s network is a liability.

Verizon, for example, provides several branded apps that let users do things like check their data usage. These help users become comfortable with Verizon’s specific ecosystem. Switching carriers would mean learning new apps on a new device – and believe it or not, that can be a serious problem for some users.

Rooted devices can uninstall these apps. Carriers don’t want that. So, regardless what Google or customers might desire, rooted phones don’t ship.

Google Is A Company, Remember?

googleadsense   Why Doesnt Android Come Rooted?

That’s not to say Google has an interest in providing rooted devices. Consider the Nexus 7. This tablet is Wi-Fi only, so mobile carriers have no stake it. Yet there’s not even the option to root the device from the factory. Why?

Security, as I explained, is one reason. But Google’s business is another. Android is given away for free, but Google must make a profit. How? Advertising. Developers can support their free Android apps with Adsense and web developer targeting mobile can use the same to make a profit.

PC users can block ads without much trouble. Doing so on Android is far more difficult. AdBlock Plus is available on the app store, but it doesn’t work very well on phones that aren’t rooted. The same is true of any competitor. To properly block ads, root is required.

This may sound malicious on the part of Google. I don’t think that’s a fair assessment. Android is provided for free, and most of the devices are relatively inexpensive. Advertising is the price users pay. By refusing root access, Google ensures no one gets a free ride.

Conclusion

The ultimate reason why Androids aren’t rooted from the factory is simple. Google doesn’t want them to be.

Android is Google’s creation, and it alone is responsible for what the operating system can or can’t do. Anyone can use the operating system for free but Google and Google alone dictates the development of the primary Android fork. The arguments in this article provide perspective as to why Android has been developed as it has but, ultimately, the choice belongs to Google.

Do you think this was the right decision? Or would making root access available by default would help unlock Android’s potential? Let us know in the comments.

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22 Comments - Write a Comment

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Jeff Brown

VZW = control freaks

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1hegame

Unrooted phones really SUCKS!! We have brought the phone. Now it’s our property. But still we are not free to use it in our own way. It really sucks when we can’t delete apps we want to. Like Facebook crap and other craps manufacturer has put in. I really hated when I found myself stuck with apps which I hate to have them in my phone. IMO there should be choice between phones. Every Android should come in two versions. One rooted and another unrooted. Those who have fear of security can select unrooted phones and others will happily go with rooted ones.

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BTW I think there’s a typo in the article. That ‘everyone’ should be ‘every’ only.

Doc

If your phone is tied to a contract, it’s technically not your property yet, until the contract is completed and the phone is paid off; the cheap starting price (from $0 to several hundred dollars) is subsidized by the service contract. Go ahead and root or unlock the phone afterwards, but muck about with the phone while it’s on contract, and you might wind up having a brick and a contract that you need to pay off – and no way to use the minutes you’re paying for.

1hegame

I don’t have any contract and thankfully I’ve rooted my phone.

Doc

“Rooting a phone breaks down these safeguards and allows the installation of apps that can access virtually anything on your device. That’s not great.” Wrong. IIRC, that allows the USER to access virtually anything on the device; APPS still have to be granted access in *their* “accounts.”

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mma173

IMHO, Android is unfinished product! I have to have root to fix its shortcomings by modifying the system. Moreover, I would not buy an Android device that lack or has a weak developers support for the same reason.

Bobby Brinkley

I agree, rooting tends to let you do a lot more with the device. If it is not rooted, it is not yours!

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James Ezell

doesn’t seem like Android is all it’s cracked up to be. What is the benefit of a unrooted Android vs iOS?

Jack Giebel

First of all android can be customized a ton without root. Change launcher, switch keyboards, change default browser. Android has true multitasking and allows the apps to do much more.

Another big advantage to android is choice, you can get a big phone, a small phone. A phone with great battery life, a phone that is thinner but has not as good battery life.

Android feature set is also much greater. Pattern locks, advanced battery usage viewing, great multitasking, widgets and more. Of course, not to say that iOS is a bad platform, its just different. Less choice, but easier to use and less freedom, which can be good for less tech savy people.

Android also has its share of issues, like the fact the not every app available will work on your specific device. In the end it comes down to the choice between easy to use, locked down and secure, or a tad harder to use but with vastly more customization options, more function and choice.

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Asif Mistry

is it just me or login feature doesnt work at all

Florin Ardelian

What login feature? To the MUO website?

Tina Sieber

Judging by this comment, you are logged into MakeUseOf, so that appears to work. Or what do you mean?

1hegame

You may have to disable any extension like Ghostery or exclude MUO from it. I too have this problem but after whitelisting MUO everything is working well.

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Jack Giebel

Google does however provide an easy way to unlock the boot loader on their nexus devices.

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gorkon

Security security security. Operating as root is the same as the old days of Windows and that’s not good. Android doesn’t allow it by default because doing so puts the phone and the carriers network at risk. The business rules ALSO are a big reason. Not having root actually does not bother me as much as a locked bootloader.

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null

They should not be rooted for the novice.

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Noor Izwan Shah

Android should come in both version of rooted and unrooted. It’s easier for geeks to modify rooted android. For End Users, they should choose unrooted android for security purpose.

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Hari

“Rooting a phone breaks down these safeguards and allows the installation of apps that can access virtually anything on your device.”

This can’t be any farther from the truth.. don’t MUO have more technically inclined writers? Neither rooting break down these barriers nor unrooted phones (i.e., unrooted android) prevent installing apps that need root access.

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Nevzat Akkaya

I wish all Android devices come rooted. We already have a superuser app that shows any app that requesting root permissions. It’s not an invisible process.

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lhamil64

I haven’t yet rooted my phone (I’ll probably wait until my warranty is up, just in case) but I feel like with the open-source nature of Android, you should have an easy option to root without having to wait for someone to find an exploit. I’m not sure how it works with Nexus devices, but other devices come with locked bootloaders and many times those have to be broken through with an exploit (although some manufacturers give you unlock tools, but they instantly void your warranty as well).

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AJ_Gruss

So, my S3 is not rooted yet and i am not an IT person or Sheldon Cooper. So..how to get it rooted without bricking?

Android Einstien

Use the Unlock Root Software on your computer.

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