Android’s flight to maturity has been bumpy, and the journey has been long. Rarely does a product peak upon its reveal, and Android has followed the normal trajectory of such products that need constant work to tune them to a complete state – complete in the sense that there’s lots of room for improvement, and it’s far from perfection, but nothing is actually perfect in the long run.
“I’m quite confident that root has lost meaning for many of us because Android is a big boy now”
I’ve been using Android since 2011, with much experience in all the major OS updates since then. Among them is Ice Cream Sandwich (ICS) which I used for a day or so on when I bought the LG L7 before updating it to the official Jellybean 4.1.2 LG firmware. My other stint with ICS was with custom ROMs on my beloved ZTE Blade which launched with Eclair (Android 2.1) , with an official update to Froyo (Android 2.2). The Blade, during it’s time was one of the few smartphones that had an overwhelming support by developers, with Lollipop (Android 5.0) ports being spotted in late 2014 – talk about support. Still, it’s the only device that I thoroughly explored with root, mods, custom ROMs and custom kernels. Part of the reason for this adventure is because mods and ROMs were being churned out frequently by the selfless folks at XDA. This happened until I carelessly bricked it, but that didn’t kill the ROM-flashing fire in me, which has waned with time.
Part of my current reluctance to dig into Android phones has been fueled by the growth of Android as mentioned in the first section of this article. A few years ago you had to root your smartphone to use the LED flash as a torch. It was the same with taking a screenshot because hardware keys couldn’t do the trick until ICS allowed it by default. Before this, you had to root and run a screenshot app that needed root privileges. We have come a long way folks.
On a personal front, I rooted my devices to flash custom ROMs because of real life boredom and of course, the limited options to customize my phone as proudly presented by majority of earlier stock ROMs/firmwares, which led to the very same boredom.
Paranoid Android, which was my favorite stock ROM back then had a number of features and options that enabled me to tune my device the way I wanted. By the time I was done, a new ROM had showed up on my device’s official thread in XDA – and like some form of addiction, I flashed the new thing because the feature list as described by the developer wowed me. Who did not want to experience the new features?
Root, again, is still the best way to run a more recent Android version if your manufacturer has abandoned your phone because you’re a cheap person who can’t support them by picking their flagship offerings. So, you can root and flash a custom ROM, and enjoy the latest Android versions and features while they last. Provided your device can be rooted and has custom ROMs.
Previously (Samsung is the culprit here), mid-range and low-end devices never saw an update. You bought a Galaxy Young Duos II LTE Gold Edition with KitKat and you got stuck with it until the death of that phone. No special treatment for you buddy. Not even bug fixes mate. Gladly, things are slightly different now although much can still be done.
My Samsung Galaxy Grand 2 received an update from Android 4.3 to 4.4.2, and I was a happy person then. Today, last year’s Galaxy J5/J7s are receiving Marshmallow updates with the all new TouchWiz which I like so much. Similar efforts are seen by HTC, Sony, Huawei and other major players. It’s always a welcome gesture when a device gets a face-lift even when its price tag doesn’t guarantee it because, realistically, pushing updates is expensive for OEMs and it’s time-consuming.
Majority of root enthusiasts I used to hang out with are okay with their stock ROMs that is the software that the phone runs out of the box, and would only use it for purposes of an app that needs that privilege.
I’m quite confident that root has lost meaning for many of us because Android is a big boy now. Most of the features that had their exclusivity on custom ROMs have been baked into stock/skinned Android year after year. Couple that with the stability of Android over custom ROMs (yes, crashes were or are still frequent in some instances) and you’ll get the idea why the root ship had sailed for me.
I’ve been running official Marshmallow on my current device, the LG G3 since December of 2015 yet it has an active support on XDA. There many AOSP ROMs for it but somehow, I see no need to run them. I have no problem with the stock ROM that is provided by LG – there are very minimal app crashes, and the general stability of the system hasn’t seen me factory reset my phone in a record of 6 months. Most of the apps I use don’t need root, and everything just runs smoothly.
I’ve had a bad experience with CyanogenMod and other ROMs in the past because they messed up my camera which I use frequently. I’m also not ready to look for tools and fixes if something doesn’t work as it supposed to. I’m not ready for random reboots or unannounced application crashes. I’m also not ready to face the harsh reality that I’ll eventually get bored with a custom ROM (how things change), or miss a feature or two in my stock ROM (Capture+, I love you. Oh, and the stock camera) which means jumping hurdles and going in loops flashing a stock image which is never seamless especially when you’re moving from a custom ROM to a stock one. LG users know this too well. It’s a nightmare.
“Most of the features that had their exclusivity on custom ROMs have been baked into stock/skinned Android year after year”
So, where does this leave us/me? Well, I’m okay with what is given to me by the device provided it’s not too obtrusive or limiting. Provided it’s visually appealing or can be aesthetically improved by a theme, custom launcher or a set of icon packs, hallooo Kahush (the icon-pack guy) and provided it runs optimally, thanks to improved hardware specs by our beloved silicon companies which churn out better processors over time (mmmh not completely true. Snapdragon 810. Yes, that one) – because even a Ksh 8000 device has subjectively capable processing power.
I’m comfortable without root. Or I’m just growing up.
Do you still root your Android device? let me know in the comments section below