Why We Root

In an article today from PC Magazine entitled, “The tethering police are coming, unroot your phones” (pretty sensationalist title, ‘eh? I mean hell, look at the picture in the article), author James Kendrick talks about how AT&T are going to start charging customers who use unauthorized WiFi tethering, such as the MyFi program on jailbroken iPhones or those of us who have rooted and unlocked the tethering option included in Android. I was originally going to simply write a news piece about this, but it got my thinking of why I rooted my phone in the first place…

First off, let’s talk about this article. I might a bit…defensive in this, but putting “unroot your phones” in the title smacks of…ignorance, to me at least. It assumes, I feel, that the only reason one roots one’s phone is to get free WiFi tethering…and sure, while that’s nice, it’s not the only reason to root. Also, what would unrooting do anyway? You could root your phone and never use WiFi tethering. Problem solved, or so I’d think. Let me ask you something, loyal reader. Knowing that eventually all carriers will adopt this policy (it’ll happen, just give it time), will this alter the way you use WiFi tethering on your rooted, if you use it at all?

I’ve used WiFi tethering only a little bit. Mostly 5-10 minutes here and there to let my girlfriend play Words with Friends on her iPod Touch. I don’t use it too much because it’s a huge battery drain, but even so, I’m glad I have access to it should I need it. It bugs me that, while this feature comes stock with Android, carriers restrict our access to it…and it’s lifting those restrictions that’s at the root (heh heh) of rooting in the first place, or so I think.

For me, I rooted my phone to lift those restrictions and gain full access to my phone. I wanted to do full NAND backups. I wanted to flash different kernels and ROMs. I wanted to slow down my CPU for more battery life, and have access to awesome root-only programs like ShootMe and Root Explorer. The main reason I wanted to root was to have more choice. The beauty about Android is that it gives you so much choice in so many things…but what if I don’t like HTC’s Sense (which I don’t) or Motorola’s Motoblur? If I didn’t root my EVO, I’d have those choices taken away from me.

So for me, rooting was all about freedom of choice. Freedom to choose my ROM, my kernel, my theme, my font, and even my option to tether. Sure, free WiFi tethering is what spurns many people to root, but I doubt it’s the only reason. Rooting allows us to have full control over the devices we paid hundreds of dollars for. Sure, it voids the warranty, and sure, we know the risks, but we also know the rewards. While I initially rooted my phone to slow down the CPU for better battery life, I’ve done so much with it since then that I can’t even imagine having an unrooted device anymore. I’d feel like my phone was trapped in a cage or something.

So what about you? Have you rooted your phone? If so, why, and what do you get most out of rooting? If not, why not? I look forward to discussing this with you in the comments.

  • steve

    I root for the same reasons – not that I’ve had to recently (stock 2.3 ftw on Nexus One!), but this is just silly. For one, how are they determining who has their phone rooted/jailbroken? Are they just looking at data usage and contacting customers who have a high amount of data and assuming they are tethering?

    I can understand that they want to limit data usage to make sure there is bandwidth available to all, but come on, AT&T has already implemented data caps. This should prevent people from being able to tether as their primary internet source (unless they are grandfathered into the unlimited plan).

    Let us use our data how we see fit, if I’m tethering just so that I can read an article on my tablet instead of the small screen on my phone, let me. I’m paying for it. If I’m streaming a movie, fine – data cap me so I have to pay for a higher tier. Just let us use our data on whatever device we want for 1 fee.

  • http://talkandroid.com deviousmind

    I rooted my EVO simply because I hated that Sprint snuck in unwanted applications on ‘MY’ phone. I don’t care for BlockBuster, and I sure as heck didn’t ask for the first person demo game that was given precious space on ‘MY’ phone. If Sprint had given me the phone for free (without 2 year committment), I might have felt differently. If Sprint wasn’t dinging me $10.00 a month for the privledge of using their 4G network, I might have reconsidered. Its ‘MY’ phone, and I want to use ‘MY’ phone how I want and when I want. When they give me the phone, they can make the rules. Until then, I’ll keep my phone rooted.

  • bluflame_ignite

    I rooted my evo mostly for customization, but free tethering was definitely a motive for me too. It bothers me that carriers can and do lock down features which manufacturers included.

    I’m interested to know all the legal details of this new policy from AT&T. My understanding is that the supreme court has upheld the right of end users to root or jailbreak their phones. Did I sign anything that says I won’t root my phone and use tethering? Can I be bound to a contract to pay for tethering when I never agreed to do so? Obviously this is theoretical, since the current news bit is regarding AT&T, not sprint. What if someone had bought an unlocked phone from a manufacturer? Can anyone regulate what that person can and can’t do with that device?

  • Mick

    I rooted my phone for one major reason…. I have a Samsung Epic 4G. Nuf said? LOL!
    Talk about feeling like your phone was “in a cage”! Sheesh!
    After waiting 4 months for Sprint/Sammy to give me an OS, that was released 4+ months BEFORE my phone was released, was WAY too much for me.
    Since rooting, I have truly made my phone my own. I’m using a custom ROM and try themes on a whim.
    I’d never go back to stock!
    Oh, and for the record, I have never used tethering in nearly 4 months.
    Also, I left my iPhone behind because of Apple and AT&T’s absurd restrictions. I truly hope that Google and the various Android carriers don’t make the same mistakes!

  • http://www.thinairtrails.com Richard

    We need to answer the right questions here…:

    Who owns the phone?

    I do. I paid full price. It is now my property. If I want to change the wallpaper, root, enable tethering, or stick some bling bling on it then that is my choice and my right.
    (just to be clear, I don’t stick ‘bling bling’ on my phone…neither do I make use of tethering) :-)

    Who owns the cell network?

    Yeah, ‘they’ do. They spend loads of money putting up cell towers all over the place so they could sell me service for using my phone. But ‘they’ shouldn’t be able to tell me how I can and cannot use that service.

    Imagine this:

    You go to the local supermarket. You want to buy some apples for apple pie. Uh oh! They have a sign by the apples – you are only authorised to consume these apples by themselves or with peanut butter. NO APPLE PIE. Sound ridiculous? So does this whole tethering issue to me.

  • http://www.otecology.com Justin

    I don’t understand how they would even know that you used it for tethering unless you were doing some serious stuff on your PC. I’m assuming the only way they could detect this tethering behavior is through the amount of data used by your phone. streaming Pandora would use about the same amount as a little light browsing on your PC (especially if you’re using firefox to block ads and flash, etc). What am I missing???

  • bluflame_ignite

    I’m guessing using tethering realty does leave a pretty obvious footprint. Your phone’s basically doing a proxy server/ network address translation thing. Plus your browser from your computer will send info about the browser and computer so the website displays the right version of the page for the browser. So if the carrier sees that info coming through what should be a phone, there must be some tethering going on.

  • dani26286

    I agree. my rooted glacier is a beast. I’m paying for a fully functional device, and once I own it, it’s my choice to use it at it’s full potentional, while being aware of potentional risks to the hardware.
    putting a fee on tethering is like making me pay a little more for what I already paid for. classic rip off!
    I root my phone to just learn a little more about something I already own, and to be amazed about what powerfull os combined with quality required hardware, witch I could say is quietly brilliant ( when it doesn’t ship with factory errors). I also tether, cuz I have to, when needed, and when I do,it has security on it,cuz I don’t wanna lose speed, or more resources. so the data I pay for, I use it on a more comfortable device of my choice…and I’m gonna be charged for that transfer, witch I did with my own resources? cuz, I mean, I already paid for the data. …O_o confused ….
    if u wanna charge me extra for what I use, do it, under the made offer, but to charge another fee for what is allready paid for…

    I wonder why this kind of mentality still lingers in the states?
    really disappointed on this one!

  • Brian Rubin

    @Justin – Yeah, they’d probably monitor your bandwidth usage. I barely use tethering, so I doubt my own usage would raise any red flags, but I know folks who use free tethering regularly.

    @dani – I wish I could tell you. I’m IN the states and it makes no sense to me. I mean, we paid for the phone and the bandwidth that comes with it.

  • dani26286

    im in the states to, for the last 3 years. still cant adapt to this kind of ripoff business model, glad tmobile is still fair on this one.

    anyway, brian, thank you for answering/agreeing with me,cuz just now i asked at phandroid, if u wanna check it out yourself, why a couple of my comments did not show up, right here http://phandroid.com/2011/03/18/illegal-iphone-tetherers-on-at-android-users-next/#comment-371676 , and others appear in their place…i got screenshots and everything, and they show up perfectly, with their according post numbers, on my android’s browser, where as my #97 on my laptop and alternate browser (with the missing comments) on my android is actually comment number #99(with both of my comments) on my main browser i use for android.
    while i wright, i hope this makes sense.

    what kind of technical problem could this be, cuz i didnt get any notification that my comments got processed by the admin, and even got an answer from brent at #96, witch should of been #97?

    thanks again for your reply.


    Here’s the issue:
    Carriers have invested many dollars into data sticks(and their plans), so when a device is en”able”d to perform a/the task that was once reserved for “money sticks”…err I mean data sticks, the suits get upset.
    A profit margin that was once reserved for a specific department is now shifted to towards a new division. Now, with profits shrinking, one group’s hands swell while the last big thing(data sticks) succumbs
    to the overwhelming force of data enabled smartphones with the abilility to share their resources. Tempers flare and restrictions are set.
    Now to move forward purchacers need to embrace the ability and power, carry that desire and demand forward, and ensure that furure subscriberers acknowledge and demand their rights to use services that they have bought and paid for, to be delivered to them in any form that they so desire in their hardware.

  • Tzl

    I have a rooted device but 3g wifi tethering is available on it from stock even if it’s unrooted. It’s a motorola defy. Over here in the eu providers are selling wifi routers that you can stick in your 3g usb modem and share your data plan over wifi. Without extra charges or a special data plan. You should put pressure on your providers to allow it just like in europe.

  • Tzl

    And to give my two cents for the article too, tethering can not raise bandwidth usage, since 3g always uses the maximum bandwidth available and the maximum is affected by more factors. Type of 3g (umts, hsupa, hsdpa etc.) And actual number of users in the given cell. So, tethering does not affect bandwidth, only amount of data used but that is something u paid for already and it should be your sole right to determine how to consume it.

  • B

    I have NOT rooted my phone, but I HAVE rooted my Nook Color. Why? To find the instructions and files to root my NC was easy, but to find the actual instructions to properly root my Vibrant is next to impossible to me. Any time I search for rooting instructions for my (now officially 2.2) Vibrant, I’m met with 130 pages of different posts that AREN’T the actual instructions on how to do this safely.
    Seriously, point me to the actual, proven page to root my Vibrant that’s on official 2.2, and I’ll root it, but it’s too hidden, to me anyway, at the moment.

  • Tmg

    i havent rooted my phone yet but I am trying to learn all about different roms and kernals. Im dying to root im just uneducated about it :)

  • Eivind

    My device; my choices.
    The reason is as simple as that.

    And I wholeheartedly agree that free tethering can not possibly be the only reason to root.
    A lot of other countries have free tethering as a standard for anyone with a capable phone, where you pay the same for data regardless of how you use it, and people still root.

    I’m Norwegian and most of my Android-using friends and I have rooted our phones and the only thing we can gain from that here is freedom.

  • Kittie

    I think the Answer lies in the Simple Fact that AT&T has always been a Rip Off Carrier. It’s one of the Main Reasons I was always reluctant to switch from T-Mobile. If I’m not mistaken, Verizon and AT&T have Tethering charges right? T-Mo doesn’t..

    Proud Rooted G2 User here, and although my Phone did come with Hotspot on Stock Android, I still Rooted My Phone. Like the Article said, “Rooted Phone for Rooted Apps”. It’s also nice to have Nandroid Backups just in case anything happens with the Phone. It’s like Backing Up a Computer. Files and Apps are always great to backup. And Personlize it with your Choice of ROMs, Themes etc.

    I don’t think T-Mo will pick this Scam up, but if they do, I’m going to have a really tough time choosing carriers *sigh*

  • dani26286

    tzl, that is what im trying to make everybody understand here: http://www.talkandroid.com/33769-att-to-acquire-t-mobile-for-39-billion/#comments, and here: forum.xda-developers.com/showthread.php?t=999255 , and here : forum.xda-developers.com/showthread.php?t=998636 , but the management of each of these are against me speaking my mind on the issue cuz of shared interests with one or more of the said companys. finally somebody acknoledges my efforts, and doesnt slap me every 5 sec for it. thank you, although indirectly.

  • dani26286

    soory. not each of these but some of these i meant. im in a hurry writtin this cuz im busy at work.
    sorry again.

  • dani26286

    why are my comments censored???? how is this possible?????


  • ramon

    this is for whoever is intirested in a more in-depth look at this issue:



  • FatherKnowsBest

    I am somewhat of a Geek. I am curious about rooting my phone (Droid Incredible) but never have for several reasons. I’ve never seen a rooted phone, so it’s not clear what I would be gaining and giving up. I actually like HTC Sense. The main reason for me would be to uninstall all the Verizon Crapware. So I’d like to know…

    Is it just enough to have root access, or do you have to also change the ROM?

    In computers, getting root access to your system doesn’t change the system. It just let’s you do things you can’t do with regular privileges.

    I have yet to see a side by side comparison of what they offer.

    Can you suggest a “dummies” guide to rooting your phone?

  • nicky

    the notion that rooting equates to wifi tethering exists only in the USA
    i had an unlocked stock 2.2 and i rooted simply because i could…now i have a 2.3.3 customised Desire with a 3.0 music player and a spare 120MB app storage…my phone in how perfection

  • dave

    i rooted my htc aria, just because i could. i stuck with the stock 2.1 for a long time, but am now using nightly’s of CM7 2.3 ROMS. i am just having fun messing around with it. actually as i type i’m doing a nandroid backup and then updating to nightly 28 of RC 2.

  • Ray

    Like “B” I haven’t rooted my Samsung Galaxy S as there are too many things to go wrong in the process. From what I have seen you need a lot of techie knowledge to attempt these things. All the forums I have been on have instructions but I can hardly understand the terminology that they bandy about, much less attempt to “Root” the phone. What is needed is a one stop “APP” for the most common models to safely root our phones. Why dont the phone manufacturers just offer this service with the proviso that if phone is rooted and doesnt work, as usual the warranty is null and void? If Android is committed to being “Open”, surely they should be encouraging the manufacturers to offer this service?

  • Brian Rubin

    Guys, rooting is very low risk. It’s gotten to the point now where it only takes a few clicks to root many Android phones. I mean sure, there IS a risk, but only if you do something silly like remove the battery during a radio update or some such.

  • dani26286

    thank you brian for your posts,and article (which, if i may say so myself, is pretty damn good, it actually gave me a lot of the passion to keep on keeping on with this rant of mine…not that any of the things i stated are false), and as of now, just ignore the above post about being censored, i was just extremely insulted on xda about ones freedom of speech, that’s all. for what its worth, i ask u to kindly excuse me.

    “Here’s the issue:
    Carriers have invested many dollars into data sticks(and their plans), so when a device is en”able”d to perform a/the task that was once reserved for “money sticks”…err I mean data sticks, the suits get upset.
    A profit margin that was once reserved for a specific department is now shifted to towards a new division. Now, with profits shrinking, one group’s hands swell while the last big thing(data sticks) succumbs
    to the overwhelming force of data enabled smartphones with the abilility to share their resources. Tempers flare and restrictions are set.
    Now to move forward purchacers need to embrace the ability and power, carry that desire and demand forward, and ensure that furure subscriberers acknowledge and demand their rights to use services that they have bought and paid for, to be delivered to them in any form that they so desire in their hardware ”

    …so cuz of that the end user has to double pay, for the fact that carriers decide to stop innovation and natural evolution of things. really???
    i as a consumer have to pay twice, will on an “unlimited”, pretty much limited actually, data plan?
    i bet this is more APPLE than AT&T, CUZ of the new iphone 5, who,surprise, it will COPY the Android ecosystem and add tether feature in the OS. i can almost be sure that this is what is behind all this…(speculation only)

  • ed

    I bought an SE Xperia X10 b/c it’s a great piece of hardware. But, AT&T had it locked down so tight it was painful. I rooted to get rid of all the bloatware apps I don’t use, speed up performance, and get the 2.1 update AT&T promised and then refused to deliver. The phone is now capable of tethering, but I’ve not had need of it.

    Since rooting, I now have what I paid for. BTW, big thanks to all the guys over at XDA for teaching this noob how to get the most out of my phone.