How To Root the Most Popular Android Phones, and Why You’d Want To ;).
Android is a very capable operating system in its shipping form. But there may come a time that you just want a little more control. Rooting your phone can be a rewarding experience. There are a number of reasons you might want to do this. For instance, some apps require root access to work. Or maybe you want to flash a third-party ROM on the device. Whatever your intended results, you should proceed carefully as these operations can often damage your phone.
Read on as we give you an overview on rooting some of the most popular Android phones, along with why you might want to do it.
For all rooted phones
Before we get into specifics, there are a few things that are true of all rooted phones. If you root, you will have access to CPU overclocking. This is a big deal on some handsets, and we’ll mention it where applicable. You can increase the load frequency, but also alter the idle speed. This can help offset the increased battery drain from the overclock. Almost all phones will give you this option, depending on chipset.
Full device backups are also possible when rooted. There are options within the Android UI like Titanium Backup, or you can work with full recovery images like Nandroid. This is especially important when you’re mucking around with flashing new ROMs onto the device. For most rooted users, Titanium should be sufficient for backing up, but it won’t help much if you get the phone to an unbootable state.
Root apps will let you do a ton of very useful things as well. Autostarts can be used to turn off the ability of various apps to start themselves up, improving performance. You can take screen shots on the device with root-only apps. Root access also lets you add free Wi-Fi tethering via apps like Barnacle Wi-Fi Tether, even if your carrier wants to charge for this feature. If your phone comes with a few carrier apps that you don’t want, root access will allow you to remove them.
Now, let’s talk about the rationale for rooting various phones, and how you’d go about it. Just a reminder, rooting is dangerous, and you should do extensive research before attempting it with your phone.
The Droid was a real milestone in the development of Android. This was the first phone running any CPU other than the Qualcomm 7201A 528MHz. The Droid runs an OMAP 3430 at 550MHz. It was screaming fast when we first saw it, but over time the Droid has been lapped by newer phones. With root access, you can bump that CPU clock up well over 1GHz.
The Droid has a dedicated modding community. As such, the CPU has been thoroughly tested at higher speeds, and with the right profiles, battery life and stability can be maintained. This same community has also worked out a huge number of custom ROMs for the device. It is currently on Android 2.2, so flashing ROMs isn’t necessary in our opinion, but it is an option. It’s also good to know the option exists if future official updates don’t happen. ROMs can be obtained from ROM Manager in the Market, or downloaded from your local reputable website.
Verizon hasn’t given the Droid’s native Froyo Wi-Fi tethering to users, so if you root, apps like Barnacle Wi-Fi tether can be used to add that ability to the phone. Other root apps lie Autostarts and Autokiller might be of use because of the Droid’s lower amount of RAM.
If you decide to root your Droid, there are a few options. We’d suggest the SuperOneClick method available from XDA here. This doesn’t require a lot of flashing previous software versions like older methods did. The z4root app is also a possibility
The Nexus One holds a special place in our hearts. It really showed what an Android handset could be. The CPU is snappy, so it’s no great loss that it doesn’t overclock well. The Android install is stock Froyo right now, so there are nogoofy UIs to do away with. If you did want to install a custom ROM, though, it is extremely easy. The bootloader can be easily unlocked, and ROMs flashed. ROM Manager has many options for the Nexus One.
There is also no crapware on the Nexus One, with the possible exception of Amazon MP3. So you don’t need to worry about removing things. You’re really just making an open phone a little more open with root. This will also let you use all those fun root apps. If you manage to break the phone though, getting a replacement is a little bit more of a hassle as you need to go through HTC.
Galaxy S (all)
Samsung’s Galaxy S phones have really made a splash in the Android community. There’s a lot to like about these handsets, but rooting might be able to fix some of what you don’t like. The UI is one sticking point for many. Samsung’s TouchWiz interface feels too heavy to us, and we don’t like the app list, or the color scheme. If you feel similarly, fear not. There are plenty of ROMs for the Galaxy S phones. You might like TouchWiz, but these phones are mostly still on Android 2.1, so maybe you want to reflash because of that.
Carriers have also managed to pack in a lot of crapware on most of these phones. Don’t want Avatar on your Vibrant? Root access will let you remove it. If you have a Fascinate on Verizon, you don’t have Google search. So if you want to ditch Bing and get some rudimentary Google search support, you might want to root. You can also take the opportunity to add a free Wi-Fi tethering app.
These phones also have some performance issues, but with root access, you can fix that. The ryanZA One Click Lag Fix. This will write over part of your file system with a new EXT2 partition. This has the effect of making the phone very responsive, unlike its stock performance.
HTC Evo 4G/Incredible/most HTC phones
HTC phones often have their Sense UI overlay on them. We like this more than most of the skins, but if it’s not your bag, custom ROMs are all over the place for these phones. Their popularity ensures that you’ll find solid support as you traverse the land of ROMs. In fact, Android modder Cyanogen in known to be fond of the device. Sometimes while HTC is busy building Sense for a phone, they drop on some carrier apps. Yes, crapware is awfully common on Sense phones. A little root action with Titanium Backup can take care of that, though.
Most of these phones are running on the same 1GHz Snapdragon as the Nexus One. So overclocking isn’t going to gain you much. A third-party ROM might be able to give you a speed boost. Other than that, you’re looking at root apps to see you through. Some of the lower end HTC phones, like the Aria or Wildfire could definitely use this kind of help.
HTC uses a technology called NAND lock on their handsets. That makes rooting just a little bit different from other phones. For these handsets, we recommend using the Unrevoked root method. The developers have done a good job keeping it up to date.
T-Mobile G2/HTC Desire Z
The G2 is almost completely stock Android. It even has stock Froyo tethering built right in. There are a few annoying carrier apps you might like to remove, but it’s minimal. Most of what you’re going to be doing with the G2 is using root apps to improve the experience. There are some ROMs out for it, including a recent release of CyanogenMod if you get bored with the stock Android UI.
The Desire Z is just the G2 with Sense UI. Carrier customization will vary by region, so you may have some unwanted apps to remove. Those that don’t want Sense can certainly look into custom ROMs. Otherwise, just take advantage of root apps to add features like Wi-Fi tethering and more efficient memory management.
Rooting the G2/Desire Z is a little different. Thanks to a strange bug (or is it a feature?) in the NAND lock, root access wiped away after each reboot. VISIONary is available for temp root. This app can also attempt perma-root, but we’ve heard some reports of issues. Through an arcane series of ADB commands, you can also get perma-root. We don’t recommend this unless you are experienced with Android modding, and must install custom ROMs. Instructions for manual permanent root are here.
Droid X/Droid 2
These phones are some of the most popular Android handsets out there. The hardware is great, but many people take offense at the odd Blur skin they are running. There is good news and bad news here. Root is easy to achieve, but the bootloader is totally locked down. That means custom ROMs are very limited. The system kernel cannot be altered, but many of the software elements can be changed around. The community has manged to work up some very good stock Android ROMs for the Moto phones, but Blur is always secretly plugging away in the background.
These phones are already very snappy, but there is some overclocking headroom if you seek more speed. All the usual root apps should be of use, especially Wi-Fi tethering apps. While installing your root apps, you might want to remove the carrier apps. Verizon has packed these phones with some account apps, but also some trialware you probably don’t want. Get rid of it with Titanium Backup.
Rooting can make your phone more useful and powerful than it has ever been before. But you know what they say: with great power, comes great responsibility. So be careful if you decide to root, It is possible to brick your phone, leaving you with only a very expensive paperweight and a sad face. After getting a taste of the root apps and custom ROMs Android offers, it can be hard to go back to stock. If you are rooted, let us know what you’ve done to take advantage of this awesome power.
Who said? Ryan Whitwam said ;).
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