Hacking: Pushing Your Mobile To Its Limits

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People hack into their phone for varied reasons. For me, my earliest attempt at such “hackscapade” was when I ported “Cooked” ROMS on to my HTC Universal about 7 years ago. Over time, I have lost count on the number of devices that I have tried to extend their limits. My list includes:

  • Ported Debian Linux to Palm Treo 650
  • Cooked WM6 and Android ROMS on HTC TyTn II
  • Cooked ROMS onto a couple of other HTC phones that I cannot recollect their models
  • Jailbreaked iPod Touch, iPad, and lately
  • Rooted my dear Toshiba Thrive

Anyone who owns a device based on the Android OS may already know that the Google operating system provides a tremendous amount of freedom right out of the box. Notwithstanding this, people still have the urge to hack their devices to extend its limits.

Why?
The question now is, Why do people hack their mobiles? What is the cause of this insatiable urge and addiction to push your mobile computers to their limits? What are the benefits of gaining root access to your device?

People say there are always two classes of technology users; those who take and use technology the way it is brought to them, no questions or complaints, and those who want to indulge deep into the very essence of what’s being offered, and want to empower themselves with everything to take the maximum out of that technology. This rule of thumb holds true for mobile phones as well. The poweruser crowd has always been different from the average user.

Rooting Your Android Mobile

Rooting your Android device gives you unparalleled access to every aspect of the device. It allows you to download tons of root-only applications, push your hardware to new heights, and on some devices even flash different, customized versions of Android.

john hall maddogAndroid OS is based on Linux. Someone described Linux as a big, bad, scary computer operating system known only by people with neck beards. While this is no longer true, people like “maddog” probably still fit this picture perfectly. Android apps need permission to access certain parts of Linux, and not all apps have this special “root” access. The parts having restricted access include the camera flash and the ability to take screen shots. There are a bunch of other apps that need root access for other reasons, too, but the basic premise is the same.

How Does Jailbreaking Your iOS Devices Compare?

The concept itself is identical to what obtains with rooting on Android.  Jailbreaking an iPad, iPhone or iPod Touch opens up things like using applications that are not manufacturer-approved or changing the look and feel of the device UI. Android already allows this to a very large extent by default. The changes behind the scenes are the same way. A lot of what you can do with a jail broken Apple device, you can already do with your Android device, but to really unlock everything you’ll need to root it. You’re allowing things that usually wouldn’t have root permission to have them.

Why Root?
Searching the web, I came across some other reasons why people root their Android devices and I have taken time to compile them here:

  • Overclocking a device’s CPU is fairly simple and rather safe thanks to many third-party apps, yet the Android OS does not allow it natively.
  • Removal of manufacturer installed bloatware
  • Performance improvement via kernel tweaks
  • Ability to take screenshots (Now native in Android 4.0 ICS)
  • Use of root only apps
  • Lastly, you root your device because you can!

Word Of Caution

By not allowing access to the superuser account, the manufacturer and your carrier have basically protected you from doing things that can change the system and make it unusable.  All it takes is one wrong keystroke to turn your shiny new Android device into a plastic and metal brick with no connection.  Most times this is recoverable, but not always.

Rooting your mobile can open up a world of liberty and fun, but note that you root at your own risk.

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21 comments

  1. One reason I haven’t rooted my phone is because it’s still under warranty. Fortunate for me when I had travelled it developed a problem and I got it repaired free of charge. I didn’t have to unroot it and reinstall the original OS and got it back in two days.

    The other reason is that I didn’t want to potentially brick my phone without a backup.

  2. I have a Barnes & Noble Nook Color LCD ereader device. It comes with a custom version of android that makes it not much more than an ereader with the ability to play mp3s and few video formats. It also has an app store but the selection is paltry and it is only available in the US. There is also a limited selection of default apps, most useful of which is the Sudoku app.

    Since I intended to use the Nook Color as more than just an ereader, I had no choice but to root it. The specs of the NC (512mb ram, 8gb memory, 800MHz processor) is pretty good for a standard tablet and I wanted to take advantage of that. Thankfully, there is a thriving community on XDA that have mastered rooting the NC down to a science and it was a breeze to do. I went the conservative route of just enabling extra features such as Android market support, gmail, talk, etc. Other options available include replacing the default OS entirely with CM7 (Cyanogen Mode version of Honeycomb). There is even a rom for ICS (CM9) in the works!

  3. Rooting, hacking,, modding, custom ROMs and over/under-clocking could affect my blood pressure. negatively.

    So – i stay clear of them!

  4. By the way, the need for rooting on AndriOS (to be sble to install certain classes of apps)- is one of the key reasons i would stay with Symbian to the end..

  5. @eyebeekay i think the need to root in order to install root applications has more to do with the OEM than with the Android OS. Therefore, Symbian devices have out of the box root access most likely because of Nokia’s open nature and not the OS itself

  6. Mr Wale we should meet cause we are like minds. I started tweaking like three years ago when I got the LG KP500. It wasn’t a smartphone but I had to flash themes for it and ever since then I have always flashed and rooted my devices. The next device I used was the Nokia 5230 which I flashed with higher and customized ROM versions which enabled features like rotating the homescreen and other features that even the 5800 did not have.

    I now use a Samsung Galaxy S and I am currently running Ice Sandwich 4.0.3 with a hope of buying the Asus Transformer prime when I have enough money.

    I dual booted my Dell XPS 15 to run both Windows 7 and Mac OSX Lion.

    Why do I do all these?, well because I believe in unlocking the potential of any of my devices and I believe that it can do much more.

  7. I started tweaking my phones with the sonyericsson Xperia X1. A windows mobile phone. I enjoyed functions and features that that were never meant for it by the manufacturer. I even had it running the HTC sense. When I upgraded to android (sgs), tweaking became limitless. I ran several custom roms on my sgs and enabled several new features. Root apps such as market enabler gave me access to android markets of other regions where I can download apps not available on my stock android market. Its fun trying this things out. I love discovering. You can get your device to run faster, reduce on battery consumption, remove apps you don’t need to free up space e.t.c

    I rooted my sgs2 just to tweak my stock email app. I changed it to one from an HTC device. I would have installed an ICS custom rom by now but just decided for the stock ICS which will be out next month.

  8. I recently got a dual SIM LG Android phone. I rooted immediately so I could install droidwall an appropriate to restrict/only allow certain apps to connect to do Internet to reduce d data guzzling nature of Android everyone has been complaining about.

    I do not intend install custom roms yet.

  9. Rooting (and similar actions0 require guts.

    I hacked my N8 soon after I bought it so I could install apps without the need for ‘signing’ them.

    I have flashed my N8 with various versions of Symbian Anna and Belle, months before they were officially released. Once the flasshing went wrong, and my N8 got bricked. After 5 days of unsuccessful attempt to fix it, I took it to Nokia Care, where they fixed it free of charge. I’m still very grateful to them.

    I flashed my old BB a few weeks ago with a hybrid OS [Berrylicious VI] that combines the best of OS 6 and 7. It went ok.

    I just bought a HP Touchpad running WebOS. One primary reason why I bought it is that, it can also run android OS. It’s also possible to dual boot the Touchpad with WebOS and Android. I’m gonna do that as soon as a stable version of IceCreamSandwich is available for it.

    Hacking, Rooting and the like are fun; if you know what you’re doing, and have the courage to do it!

  10. ‘Rooting (and similar actions) require guts.

    Now-this is coming from an Dormitory on such issues.

    on Android , numerous essential apps need ROOTing to work. If you are averse to ROOTing, hackiing, etc (I am), the much touted numerous advantage of Available Free Android apps goes in the garbage can!

    So, in s addition to being forced to be ‘data managers’, we now have to be ‘Hackivists’ as well – on dear Android.

  11. @eyebeekay
    I have to strongly dissagree with you. I have an android phone and have been looking for a reason to root it and am yet to find one. One of the main reasons people give for wanting to root thier and devices is to be able to take screenshots. This is not really an issue for a lot of users and some devices, such as all samsung galaxy devices of which mine is one, and all new ICS enabled devices have this feature OOTB. I have been looking for a reason to justify my rooting my device n yet’t o find one. I probably won’t root until there is a stable rom of ics for my device available cos its not getting an official ics update

  12. Other advantages of rooting such as being able to overclock the CPU are not things normal users are even aware of or would want to do. Android unrooted, on most devices, allow sideloading apps, mass storage support, tethering/hotspot, installing apps that replace the default ones such as a new keyboarf or sms app, etc. these are features that are not available on OSes such as iOS without rooting/jailbreaking. So, I maintain that an average android user has no need to jailbreak his device

  13. @eyebeekay
    Those two links don’t really help your case. I’m speaking about an average user and not a geek or someone who enjoys tinkering with his device. I don’t see how a terminal emulator, cpu overclocking app, task automator, or even automated backup application would be of any use to an average user. Those apps might be fun things to have but if you don’t know of their existence, you don’t miss them at all cos you never needed the functionality in the first place.

  14. @muyiscol, how about droidwall?
    The average user does not need that too? They should keep burning their money on unnecessarydata munching?

    I just showed that- blanket statement
    … an average android user has no need to jailbreak his device…

    Is full of chicken feathers (apologies to Mr. Mobility)

    Peace!

  15. @eyebeekay
    Don’t know much about droidwall n it might be the most effective way of managing data on android but that doesnt mean there arent other methods available for unrooted phones.

  16. I actually agree with muyiscoi, I got an android device for my wife before I got mine. I never rooted her phone and she has no complaints Watsoeva.

    her 1gig plan is sufficient for her per month. all she does is to disable background data when not using office WiFi.

    my case is entirely different, I rooted immediately cops I’m more of a power user.

  17. @eye.bee.kay, an alternative to droidwall for unrooted android users is juice defender plus. it has the function of disabling data access to apps. you don’t need to root your phone here.

  18. @eye.bee.kay, an alternative to droidwall for unrooted android users is juice defender plus. it has the function of disabling data access to apps. you don’t need to root your phone here.

    @belushi, thanks.

    her 1gig plan is sufficient for her per month. all she does is to disable background data when not using office. my case is entirely different, I rooted immediately cos I’m more of a power user.

    @bily, a NON powerUser office worker with wifi access in the office consumes ONE GIG in a month? Hmm. I guess, ONLY on Android!

    As a “power user”, you probably need to investigate that – despite her lack of complaint..

    Do it for our common SHARED patrimony – uncongested network.

    @Belushi just mentioned Juice Defender..

    Just a friendly unsolicited advice..;-)

  19. @ Eye.bee.kay:

    i said 1gig is sufficient for her, what i did not mention is that i personally have to find ways of using up some of her data else it will go to waste. usually over the weekend, i tether her phone wirelessly so i can use some of her data on my phone and the laptop. i do have a data counter installed on her phone and even at the office she barely uses 10mb. guess some people actually work at the office, lol.

    the most important thing that you are forgeting is it all depends on personal usage. for me, when i am at the office, its an opportunity for me to download all the latest tvseries and watch some youtube videos. so i can use some times over 500mb on office wifi alone in a single day, but my wife barely uses 10m per day. that is a critical point you seem to be overlooking.

    i moved from a symbian platform to windows mobile and now to android and i am ok with it. my wife moved from a feature phone to android, initially she was asking why she had to subscribe for 1gig plan when she uses just 100mb on her nokia feature phone for a month. i just told her she would soon understand why. and to tell the truth, she doesnt complain anymore and infact she doesnt ever want to go back to her former feature phone. Now the big question is how come she was able to survice with 100mb on her nokia and can that be replicated on the android phone?

    the answer to that question is a big yes. on her nokia, she uses ucweb or opera mini for browsing and facebook but on android she uses the facebook app which does not compress. the simple solution is to continue using opera for facebook and browsing, disabling background data and auto sync to emulate her previous nokia phone and she will still endup using approximately the same data.

    so my take is this, make android simulate your previous phone usage and you will still use the same amount of data. i honestly do not believe that because its android, that opera mini on android will comsume more data than opera mini on symbian! or a youtube stream of the same data and resolution will consume more data on android than on symbian. so it still all boils down to usage pattern.

    so if you are coming from a symbian phone and you dont use the stock browser, then simply dont use the stock browser on android, if you are coming from a symbian phone and your apps are not set to autoupdate, then dont autoupdate your apps on android. if you are on symbian and you dont tell your IM apps to update contacts profile pix regularly then dont expect to tell android to update and you complain about data.

    so some of us do not mind the difference at the expense of data. my wife actually said she can no longer enjoy using opera mini to browse facebook so for her, the extra data she has to pay for using facebook app is ok for the user experience she is getting.

    point of all the story is that it all depends on user pattern.
    so if you are willing to tweak symbian the way you do to get a better experience, then there…

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