Why Doesn’t Android Come Rooted?

Matt Smith 12-03-2013

rooted androidRooting your Android phone How To Root Your Android Phone With SuperOneClick Read More 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

rooted android

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 The 3 Best Antivirus Apps To Protect Your Android Security As we’ve reported frequently at MakeUseOf, Android is no longer safe from malware. The number of threats is on the rise. This shouldn’t be surprise to anyone. Smartphones and tablets can carry all sorts of... Read More . 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).


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

android why not root

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 Are You Sure It's Bricked? How You Can Fix Your Broken Smartphone Back in the day, a bricked device would be very tough to recover, but over the years some resilience has been built into smartphones and tablets. These days a few clever button presses, useful additional... Read More  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

android why not root

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?

rooted android


That’s not to say Google has an interest in providing rooted devices. Consider the Nexus 7 Nexus 7 vs. iPad Mini: A Comparative Review If you're shopping for a 7-inch tablet, there's absolutely no shortage of options. It's undeniable, however, that the leading choices are Apple's iPad mini and Google's Nexus 7. We've reviewed both of these devices individually,... Read More . 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.


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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  1. Jovet
    September 20, 2019 at 2:23 pm

    I am astounded that none of these articles explains what "rooting" actually is. This article mentions security and permissions but does not explain where "root" or "rooting" comes from.

    Android is based on Linux, and Linux is based on UNIX. In the sphere of UNIX operating systems, the user account with absolute control over everything—the Windows equivalent is Administrator—is named "root". "Rooting a device" means gaining access to the root account on the device's operating system.

  2. Sincer
    October 9, 2018 at 1:17 pm

    Whoever wrote this article, definitely is not objective, and obviously takes the side of the carriers,manufacturers and google. We get by default , phones without the possibility to uninstall(as in free up space and delete even the kits(sdk)) a lot of the apps that we do not want/use. It is not a security risk for the user to remove a game, or some of google's apps like gmail,youtube,etc. Phones are mini computers with some extra features.
    They could have provided by default access with password to an administrator account and a user with restrictions account. They are saying that all of us are newbies and they just want to protect us from making the phone unusable and spreading viruses...and that motive is just bullsht. All that is done on the software part of the mobile phones is to restrict you the user(buyer) to remove their bloatware and also they try to force you to use the apps that came with the phone.

  3. Doron
    June 1, 2018 at 5:18 am

    The only reason is business.
    All the other reasons, those which were meant to protect us the users, could have been achieved by establishing a mechanism in the operating system that let the advanced user explicitly select the elements of protection.
    Most of users that are rooting their devices are doing so just to enable few basic things they want apps to be able to do.

  4. Jorge
    May 2, 2018 at 9:58 am

    Yeah, let me laugh at your sarcastic sense of humor. Devices been I expensive and thats why Google, Facebook and a whole bunch of invadir g companies take your "inexpensive" Samsung Phones (fake phone I suppose) hostage.

  5. Chuck
    April 17, 2018 at 2:23 pm

    I understand why they would limit or prevent rooting
    But come on they put so much crap you don't use it takes up more than 80% of memory
    And then they restrict moving apps to an sdcard to free up space

  6. MsMariette
    November 24, 2017 at 6:51 pm's the developer's rights to do that...learn respect to respect intellectual property! That's why they do it! There are a lot of melicious, thieving azz folks out there to duplicate and destroy your work...your baby...your development...So I agree that Google needs to keep their "interest" as secure as possible...Again there are very smart ppl that know to get around it, but then you are risking the chance of damage due to the fact that some folks stay up all night just wanting to hurt our destroy others brilliant ideas...May God bless.

  7. Joy
    December 24, 2016 at 7:54 am

    I like your name MUD. Great article, but should we have known. Ha. Why do I feel so anti google, fb, Twitter? Should we feel great ful or hateful for technology. Time will tell.

  8. W. M.
    December 14, 2016 at 2:44 am

    Why not make it an OPTION and make its default unrooted? This way, novices won't even know it exists, while the careful can put it to good use.

    Why not provide a way to always be able to reset the phone to its factory setting? This way, those who louse it up can always bring it back. This way, it can never brick.

    This can be done. It is the more user friendly approach.

  9. Name
    December 3, 2016 at 5:41 pm

    For what security purposes can't I uninstall the "EA Games" app?

  10. bob
    April 29, 2016 at 4:41 am

    fair statements, although no google didnt create android, they aquired before that is was made by Android, Inc in palo alto california in 2003 by andy rubin, rich miner, nick sears, and chris white

  11. Fransua
    March 22, 2015 at 9:36 am

    All the more when I finally get my supported-by-Android TM root Android on that device i bought ( especially to be able to work with Android TM )... I find out that getting the true OS, I LOSE the @#@## manufacturer's WARANTY on the ... DEVICE?.... I can't believe what I bought, for what they sold to me....

  12. Fransua
    March 22, 2015 at 9:18 am

    I don´t know about any User-Only License for a MS OS. Maybe I am wrong. What I am pointing at is that Android is a product TM, and the OS installed on market devices are not that same Android and therefore should not be advertized with that TM.

  13. Fransua
    March 22, 2015 at 9:03 am

    Buyers SHOULD ( and legally MUST ) be warned that they are not buying any Android ( obviously it's free ) but a capped version of it, tight to the device´s manufacturer, wich needs support that can be charged. IMO, the bad practice ( to cut words ), is to use the Android logotype, that´s the way Google charges, but for buyers, it´s misleading and... a lie?

  14. AJ_Gruss
    March 16, 2013 at 2:03 am

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

    • Android Einstien
      May 3, 2013 at 7:43 am

      Use the Unlock Root Software on your computer.

    • Anonymous
      June 21, 2015 at 6:53 pm

      Ok heres what you do first: Dont ask how to root your phone in a message to an article, use google. And thats basically it! Good luck on rooting your phone!

  15. lhamil64
    March 13, 2013 at 12:35 pm

    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).

  16. Nevzat Akkaya
    March 13, 2013 at 10:05 am

    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.

  17. Hari
    March 13, 2013 at 3:54 am

    "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.

  18. Noor Izwan Shah
    March 13, 2013 at 3:33 am

    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.

  19. null
    March 12, 2013 at 7:48 pm

    They should not be rooted for the novice.

  20. gorkon
    March 12, 2013 at 7:46 pm

    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.

  21. Jack Giebel
    March 12, 2013 at 7:42 pm

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

  22. Asif Mistry
    March 12, 2013 at 7:13 pm

    is it just me or login feature doesnt work at all

    • Florin Ardelian
      March 12, 2013 at 8:13 pm

      What login feature? To the MUO website?

    • Tina Sieber
      March 12, 2013 at 11:13 pm

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

    • 1hegame
      March 14, 2013 at 10:52 am

      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.

  23. James Ezell
    March 12, 2013 at 6:41 pm

    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
      March 12, 2013 at 7:56 pm

      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.

  24. mma173
    March 12, 2013 at 5:51 pm

    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
      March 12, 2013 at 6:30 pm

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

  25. 1hegame
    March 12, 2013 at 5:39 pm

    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.

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

    • Doc
      March 12, 2013 at 9:01 pm

      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
        March 13, 2013 at 5:23 pm

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

    • Doc
      March 12, 2013 at 9:02 pm

      "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."

  26. Jeff Brown
    March 12, 2013 at 4:46 pm

    VZW = control freaks