Last week, I rooted my Google Nexus 5X phone. For non-techies, that means I am now “lord and master” of my phone, not Google. If that still doesn’t make sense to you, I’ll explain some of the effects.
One negative effect of rooting is that I cannot use the phone as a payment device anymore — e.g. using Android Pay to pay bills at points of sale (e.g. Whole Foods) using the NFC feature of the phone. Not a big deal for me since I store my phone in a case that also stores my credits cards. The difference between tapping my phone versus swiping a card is so slight that the use case for paying with my phone escapes me.
Hotspot. Even with this “loss”, I do get some positive effects from rooting. The one that pushed me past my lethargy to go ahead and root my phone was the ability to tether my phone with my laptop. That means that when I’m on a train between San Jose and San Francisco, then for the 60-90 minutes of the ride, I can use my phone as a Wifi router thereby turning the train car into a moving office.
My older Nexus phone could do that out of the box. But with 5X, apparently the wireless carriers put pressure on Google to turn off that feature. It took rooting my phone to revive this feature that Google buried.
AdBlock. A second feature that rooting opened involves blocking ads on apps (using AdBlock). On the computer browser, the AdBlock extension blocks ads on all webpages. But on phones, apps are the way we get our content, not through browser webpages. So AdBlock can’t normally work on phones.
Can’t normally work, that is, unless you root your phone. In that case, you, as the phone’s master, can instruct the phone to inspect all incoming packets and filter out the ads — no matter what app is running.
There are many other reasons besides tethering and ad blocking to root your phone. But none of those other reasons interested me enough to dedicate an entire day to the rooting process. (It took me a day because I didn’t really know what I was doing at the start of the day. The next time I root, when I get my next phone, it should take me an hour or less.)
In addition to not interesting (to me), many of the features enabled by rooting are being gradually incorporated into the standard operating systems of Android and iOS. Example: battery optimizations.
Carrier vs. Developers: Final point: Why did I root my phone rather than just pay the carrier for tethering? I guess I feel indignant that the company to which I am already paying hundreds of dollars every year for my phone access wants me to pay even more just to share that same access with my computer. Why should they care how I use the pithy 5 GB of my plan? It feels like paying twice for the same thing. In fact, it is paying twice for the same thing.
That this decision of mine was about emotion, and not about money, was confirmed to me when I donated money to some of the kids who wrote the software that I used to root my phone. It may be that the money I donated would have covered a year or two of tethering costs to the carrier.
But I guess I just feel much better giving this money to these kids rather than to the greedy carrier. That I’m 53 years old and still feel this way may suggest arrested development. 🙂