It was some time back that I actually rooted my phone (Moto E), finally! This was my first rooting experience. Now I knew that I could install custom ROMs and clear off garbage. Pretty cool. But I was on stock ROM already and had a KitKat (4.4.4) which was latest at the moment. It did not make a lot of sense to flash in a new ROM. Removing the garbage would do. So I removed all Google apps except Google Maps, Google Chrome and Google Play store. Device got fast, yes. Now? Now what?
Note: Remember that this post is written keeping in mind people like myself who like to use their devices for near-normal stuff because they do not have the courage (money matters) or time or reasons to do all this stuff. It is not for the hardcore tinkerers because deep down every soul that loves tinkering has just one obsession, and that is to test the limits and that’s perfectly fine. But there are only few of them. I am one of them, but not for mobiles. I rather love doing that to my desktops and laptops.
So I started exploring what I could do with my phone. Here are a few things I came across for a result:
Install “Xposed Framework” which would then allow you to install different mods which allow you to tweak the operating system settings, make apps work better.
Remove useless swag like Motorola Assist, Gmail (for me, it is one because I can always setup the mail app that comes along which I would need anyway if I use my mobile for emails on my company address), Google Play apps (except the music and store), youtube etc. and make my sweetie work faster, lag less and have more space.
Force-move apps to SD card and back.
Allow/Disallow/Cloak the root access to apps so that apps do not access something you don’t want them to.
Run a FTP server.
- Run a LAMP Stack.
Install custom ROMs which come with preinstalled good apps and/or with a lot less bloat. But since I can remove bloat now after having the root access, this wasn’t much needed.
- Overclock the CPU to get more performance.
Record screen videos.
Backup and restore any app I want.
Change screen resolution and DPI settings.
Program an Android app on Android itself.
Use VNC on the phone, both ways.
Run full blown Linux on the phone.
Use a mouse and keyboard.
- Display a start button and a taskbar.
- Use it as a security camera.
- Freeze your energy sucking apps.
Now, believe it or not, most of that stuff is boring. If it does not sound so, then you either need to have a lot of time to do all that, or you must not be looking to use your phone as just a phone. How? Let me break that down for you:
- If you have to change settings on the OS level to make your apps work better on a mobile device, there is seriously something not right with either the app, or the OS or both. In most cases, it’s apps’ fault. But then this is Android – hardware can be anything so the best strategy to make it work on all kinds of hardware is what they want!
First off – why should you have bloatware on the phone? And should I void warranty to get a good experience, or to remove all that bloat? Manufacturers’ fault here but even with Motorola (which was Google owned), there are a lot of useless apps pre-installed. What’s my moto? Remove the crap.
- I do not understand this – if you are a serious enough user to use your phone with some private data, why move the app on a SD card? Moving apps means you move your data along with it. If the app developer did not want you to move the data, there must be a reason. May be they do keep some keys which are of value to them, or you. But in most cases, the reason is – ‘not enough space’ on the device. So who did this? Well, manufacturers. If you do want to take control of all that, you either need to be sure that your SD card and the phone are never in wrong hands (very difficult) or that your SD card is encrypted (that makes things slow and puts the CPU and Battery under strain).
- Giving root access to any app is dangerous unless you really know what it does. All the time. You need to be good with Android app analysis for that. Or you must know and trust the developer. I mean, facebook sure would be collecting some data from your device to serve more ads, won’t they? How okay are you with that? What if it is your game does that same thing? Or a simple-looking “daily jokes” app. Out of control, ain’t it? More so if you got a pirated APK from somewhere.
Run an FTP server and do what? You would not probably put the server you just created over the internet because in 9 out of 10 cases you are behind a NAT whose port forwarding is out of your control. So the Internet access thing won’t work anyway. For sharing stuff with peers, Bluetooth works. So this FTP server is cool, but useless in most cases. As for “hey I can do that” – well, that is Linux underneath. Sure as hell, yes you can do it all.
- Same with LAMP servers – you are not going to host a site on your phone. Not on Internet in most cases for sure. So how does it help you, except making you look cool? (I can think of this – you might want to use the DB to collect some sort of data, but you have SQLite built into the OS anyway, so why a full blown MySQL server? The conversion is not that difficult either. There are enough tools for that.)
- Yeah, “I’ve got LiquidSmooth. It is almost as good as SlimRom but hey, I liked cyanogenmod way more” sounds cool. What purpose does it serve? Again – loss of bloatware is the prime reason. Upgrades are the second, or may be it’s other way around. But should it be that complicated? Blame it on Google. I was lucky enough that a failed attempt was recovered by Samsung. Not everyone would be. It can be very arduous if your mobile is the only one that you have.
- Overclocking has a price. The first that is – you void your warranty. The second – you drain your battery much faster. Third – you gain probably nothing. The only benefit is that you get a faster CPU which can do more work. But we are talking about a mobile device here. Something that does not have unlimited supply of energy. Overclocking puts your phone on risk. It’s exciting and very ego-boosting to say “I made my phone much smoother by overclocking the proccy” but to what use? Well, enjoy games? Definitely. That’s probably the only use because Java kills any performance gains on Android anyway.
- This one is unbeatable. If you are demoing something to someone and want a screencast, this is definitely a killer feature. No questions about this one. But kindly check your storage space, card’s I/O speed, resolution, processor power and so on. Also, expect crashes if your recording app is a dunderhead.
- You can backup ‘ANY’ app you want? In most cases (“ANY” minus “Not-ANY” = system apps) like Gmail. Like YouTube. Like Google Play Games. Why do you want to backup them? Because you would probably want to remove them. Given that use case, it is perfectly all right. And backing up is always good. In most cases, you can simply download those apps again. I believe Internet these days is fast enough to make “backup-restore apps” sound just a little more difficult than going to the app store/play store and downloading the app again. Apologies for getting repetitive but hey, if your OS came with so-called “system apps” which cannot be removed but yet are more or less unwanted, doesn’t your OS need to improve; a little at least?
This is great – removing advertisement from apps. There are a few points though – adverts are put in there for benefitting the developers – the ones whose app you enjoy. Removing Ads means three things – you are annoyed by ads, you do not like the app enough that you would want to pay, you do not want to switch off the data connection (or WiFi) so the app probably depends on internet or you need the internet for something else. I am against that idea. I buy the app that I do like and I would advice you to do so.
Tell me again the size of your display? 14 inch or 4 inch? Well, 5.5 inches to be max, I guess (6/6+ inches becomes a tablet). In any case that would mean you are forcing all things to go smaller on screen and I think that is going to strain your eyes. It does mine. It also means, you are effectively asking the GPU to calculate more than what it might have been designed for and that translates to “lower the life of the device and battery”.
- Programming is cool. Especially android apps on android device. Just make sure you are not hurting your eyes and have a good keyboard (and maybe a mouse too) when you try that. But that would mean you are in need of a laptop. So you are using your device as a laptop. Just get a laptop for that. It is much better (unless of course, if you are short on money).
VNC – the way to watch remote screens. Well, there are VNC viewers for all platforms. VNC servers? Well, not much. Giving your phone to someone and watch what they do with it is fun. Isn’t it? That’s some cool trick to pull but well, except that, what’s the use? You would rather want to control your laptop/desktop from your phone than the other way around.
- Yes, I ran one too. It did not make much sense. It was a tad slow and the screen was too small to make me feel productive. And hell, you need a keyboard for this to work properly. It’s a show-off at best otherwise and the Ubuntu repos did not respond so I was stuck with LXDE and no apps.
- Yepp, that’d be cool. Your phone would be a little bigger than the mouse and a lot smaller than the keyboard. Probably. Also, I am yet to figure out how OTG works that’s a lot of work for just showing off.
- Really? A start menu and all that? What’s the screen size again? And what’s the benefit against those application icons sitting on the screen anyway? Coolness factor again, not ease of use.
Unless you also mean to add the word ‘spy’ with ‘security’ (telling you, it’s a bad mix) – a phone hanging out and visible to the public does not make someone smile. Unless of course if you want to use it with someone’s permission or for someone who is incapable of or does not object about his privacy (like monitoring a baby, maybe?). Well, that would be cool but the usage is pretty limited. Again, there can be apps that can do this without rooting.
- Okay, I have a question here – if you know that something takes up more battery than it should, why did you install it? And if that thing is not important enough to be run all the time, why do you need it? Of course such an argument does not stand true and tall for long and using the root god-powers you can definitely freeze an app into the ice age (poor app) but to be true - it is a badly designed app. Go get rid of app. But for a normal user, this thing is a little too complicated. Also, if WhatsApp takes up more battery than needed, would you freeze it? No! So it’s not applicable everywhere.
In most cases, rooting a phone, especially an Android is pretty over-rated. After having rooted my phone for more than a month ago, I am yet to find one interesting thing to do with the phone that I cannot do on a non-rooted phone. The only advantage I could get was removal of crapware that Google and Motorola wanted me to have.
This is my (personal) testimony to rooting. Do not make the mistake of calling me the expert of any mobile OS; but sorry, as a normal user who loves to use his phone for normal day to day use, I am yet to find a valid reason for rooting an Android phone.