The process of “rooting” an Android device refers to gaining access to the whole operating system by giving apps the ability to run as the “root” user on the device. Since Linux sits at Android’s core, the essential permission setup in a Linux container is relevant on Android devices. In Linux, having the root login gives you the ability to make any changes you want about how the operating system runs, as long as you have the code or the applications to make these changes. There are no longer any sandboxed restrictions on what powers you have as a device user.
It is not difficult to root most Android devices. Generally, you don’t need to “jailbreak” Android devices the way you need to find exploits for Apple devices to get at their full potential. By booting into the bootloader and transferring a new recovery onto the device like ClockwordMod Recovery or the Team Win Recovery Project’s recovery, you can install root onto the device without much extra effort.
You need root access and a new recovery to install a new operating system on the phone, like AOSP variants ClockworkMod or ParanoidAndroid. These operating systems can change your Android experience completely. But there are a few benefits to rooting Android that don’t involve installing a third-party version of Android, and they are worth considering.
If you don’t want to install some third-party operating system, you can always try installing Google’s stock Android operating system. If you have a phone powerful enough to handle the newest Android updates, but your carrier is not releasing the update to your phone quickly enough (or at all), you can take matters into your own hands. Rooting the device and installing a fresh copy of Android has more benefits than just getting operating system upgrades. Some phone manufacturers or carriers install a bunch of annoying apps that you don’t want or need. Others have their own versions of the Android user interface that they force on consumers. Stock Android doesn’t deal with these problems, which is itself often a reason to install it.
Rooting your phone also lets you remove these annoying applications, even if the manufacturer or carrier doesn’t want you to remove them. This is convenient when you are seeing significant battery drain that is caused by these frustratingly persistent apps.
One of the biggest reasons to root Android is the new applications you will have access to with full permissions on the phone. There are a lot of things you can get done with normal Android apps, but some apps are simply not able to function without the ability to take control of the entire spy software for cell phone or the ability to make very particular use of certain bits of hardware. One example is if you want to spoof your device’s MAC address, which has a number of purposes. This is not something Android’s API lets developers do in normal apps. But when the app requests root, it gains enough control over the networking hardware in the device that it can bypass these restrictions.
Another similar example is the ability to create a WiFi hotspot, like for mobile tethering. Most carriers want you to pay an additional fee to use your phone’s data connection with other devices you own. This is not necessary if you use an app on a rooted device that sets up the hotspot for you. Be careful, though: many carriers can tell by what kind of data is sent through the network which kind of device is using the network connection, so this might not be a great idea even if your phone is rooted.