If you’ve been in the Android community for any length of time, or have searched about Android in your free time, chances are you have seen these terms mentioned before. That’s because these two terms are essential to unlocking a full Android experience and taking control of your device. If you’d like to do that, this article may help you do just that and clear things up if you don’t quite fully understand it yet. If not, it will still be a good way to finally understand what everyone is talking about when they use them. So, first of all, it’s important to know what we are talking about when we use these terms, and that they refer to two very different things.
What is Rooting?
“Rooting” is a term that refers to obtaining root access in your Android phone. But what does that mean? Well, in broad strokes, it means you’ll be able to basically run and modify any file you want within the OS. By default, your typical commercial Android device will not allow you to do this, nor will it offer you any means to do so. But by rooting, you can take control as the device’s Administrator, and overcome whatever restrictions your carrier and manufacturer has embedded in Android. This may enable several nifty features, which include free tethering, which some carriers sell as a service, and tweaking or even at times completely replacing the currently installed OS.
What are Custom ROMs?
So, in the Android world, replacing the OS is entirely possible, but what would you replace it with? Well, that’s where custom ROMs come into play. Being (for the most part) an open platform, Android allows you to modify the core elements of the OS, from things as simple as the user interface and graphical elements, to the way it handles CPU load and external communication. Modders can then “bake” these modifications into a full fledged ROM, which means it’s a custom ROM, since it has been changed and deviates from a stock Android ROM. And by distributing it and sharing it with the community, there are certain means to install it in their devices and replace the original version of Android with a modded version. Like rooting, this brings a number of possible enhancements, which may improve performance, unlock hidden features and enhance elements like camera quality or framerate. Depending on your device, you can even replace your old version of Android with a more recent one, which will make it feel like a new device, fix certain problems and have better support, for basically no cost.
Of course, these operations involve messing around with core OS elements, so they carry a certain risk which you need to be aware of if you’re planning to do any of them. But really, all you need is to follow basic instructions and recommendations, and chances are you’ll be OK. Complete failure (bricking, literally turning your device into nothing more than a paperweight) rarely happens, and is in most cases reversible. Every device is different however, and some are easier than others to deal with when it comes to rooting and installing custom ROMs. You’ll need to do your own research and figure out if you can do it or not, and if it’s worth it or if you’re content with your device already. And if you decide to go ahead, welcome to the wonderful world of open Android, and keep an eye out for future articles about it!