Late to the Rooting Party

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 can't use the phone as a payment device anymore — e.g. using Android Pay to make purchases 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 wallet that also holds 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 get several positive effects from rooting. The biggest one, 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. This means that when I'm traveling, say on a train between San Jose and San Francisco, I can use my phone as a Wifi router, turning the train into my moving office.

Now, 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. I had to root my phone to revive this feature that Google buried.

AdBlock. Another feature enabled through rooting is 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, 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 the time for the process. It took me an entire day to get the effects that I wanted! This is because, initially, I didn't really know what I was doing. However, the next time I root, when I get my next phone, it should take me less than an hour.

In addition to, many of the features enabled by rooting are gradually being incorporated into the standard operating systems of Android and iOS. Example: battery optimizations.

Carrier vs. Developers: Final point: Why didn't I just I pay my carrier for the tethering? Why go through all of the hassle? Spend all of that time? I guess it's because I feel really indignant that the company that I'm already paying 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 control, 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. The money that I donated would have covered a year or more of tethering costs to my carrier.

Much better use of my money, and of my time.