Many people hear smartphone geeks throwing around terminology that they seem to think everyone understands, and yet most people are left totally baffled. This is something of which I, myself, am guilty--on a daily basis, even! The biggest term that you may have heard being thrown around on cell phone blogs, or news sites, or forums, is "Rooting." What does that mean, and why would you ever want to do something to your phone that sounds like the horrible torture your mother used to inflict on unsuspecting weeds in the garden? That's what we're going to discuss.
At its most basic, "rooting" is the term widely used among computer and cell phone technicians alike to refer to the process by which one gains access to the administrative commands and functions of an operating system.
If you're thinking, "Hey that's no help, I'm still confused," that's normal. Even a simple definition of rooting seems complex at first. What it means when you root an Android phone, is that you give yourself, rather than Sprint/Verizon/T-Mobile/AT&T's software, the permission to act like the administrator of the phone. There are a ton of reasons why people want to do this--the biggest being either to install an updated version of the operating system, or to save battery life. The two more often than not go hand-in-hand.
There are other benefits of rooting, as well. When you gain access to administrative phone functions, it is simpler to freeze system processes that drain battery life. "V-Cast Music?" Verizon users probably have "Google Music" downloaded, or find the stock music player works just as well. "Sprint NFL Zone?" Thanks, Sprint, but I'm a 24-year-old female. I appreciate the thoughtfulness of this app, but I don't need it sucking up my battery life. Among the smartphone geek crowd, applications like these are referred to as "bloatware:" they do nothing but bloat the software by existing as unnecessary applications.
Having a rooted Android phone is also beneficial because there are several Android applications which are extremely useful and also require root menu access. "Titanium Backup" is my personal favorite of these. It allows you to back up all your applications with their data on a regular basis, so that if you do install a new version of the operating system, or if you have to factory reset your phone, you don't have to go back and start Angry Birds all over again from Level 1. (And trust me, I've been there. I've felt that pain.) Other applications allow you to uninstall bloatware entirely, and so on, and so forth, from basic functions to extremely technical on a level that even I fail to entirely understand.
But like Uncle Ben Parker said in Spider-Man: "With great power, comes great responsibility." Benefits of rooting an android phone to gain access to the functions and menus normally inaccessible to the typical cell phone user are many, but rooting is not a process that should be taken on halfheartedly. These benefits come at a cost-- almost all manufacturers' warranties become void once you root your phone. So, either be prepared to accept that, or learn how to "un-root" in case of an emergency.
Do plenty of research--there are a ton of sites with how-to videos and device-specific instructions, because no two phones are rooted the same way. Ask plenty of questions--never assume you know what you're doing, because it's the best way to end up with a phone that's as useful as a paperweight.
Those are the benefits of rooting, from a Geek-Femme who understands what you're going through.