Screenshot by Nathan Chandler
Android smartphones are becoming more popular, accounting for about 56.1 percent of smartphone sales in the first quarter of 2012 [source: eWeek]. But not all Droids are the same. Many manufacturers or carriers shape the Android OS to suit their own purposes, often limiting the way you can use the device. With a bit of geek magic, though, you can root your phone and take full control.
Rooting is the process of obtaining root access on your phone. Ultimately, it means you can do whatever you want with your phone instead of being hamstrung by the default OS. It’s basically the same thing as jailbreaking, most often used in reference to Apple products, which are generally tougher to root.
Why go to the effort of rooting? In essence, rooting is a fresh start. Instead of being stuck with lame default permissions, you’ll have privileged, administrator-level access that lets you directly access the flash-memory chip inside your phone. Thus empowered, you can wipe your phone clean and start anew, with the OS you prefer, only the apps that you like, improved backup capabilities and much more.
Instructions for rooting your Android phone are all over the Web, but keep in mind that in doing so, you’ll typically void your phone’s warranty and in some cases violate the terms of service with your service provider. Because Android is now so popular and techniques are so well-established, rooting has become a fairly safe process. With many popular models, you can simply use a one-click app, calledSuperOneClick, to finish the job.
Your rooted phone also allows you to install and use root-only apps of all kinds. To help you make the most of your rooted fun, we’ve picked 10 of our favorite root-only apps.