Rooting is essentially the act of giving yourself admin access to your own phone. When you buy an Android phone, you're not exactly the admin of your phone, you're a user. This limits you in a few ways, so you might want to root your phone in order to give yourself FULL access to your device. Once rooted, you can really do whatever you like with the phone. Don't like having to press the power button to wake up your phone? Change it. Little things like that.
One thing to remember, though - rooting voids your warranty. On the other hand, the tech guys at MTN/Vodacom probably don't know a thing about Android OTHER than how to update the software, so I doubt anyone will know anyway.
The upside, however, is that you can just "unroot" if you need to take your phone in, so in the end, you don't really have anything to lose.
Each phone is rooted in a different way, so there isn't a "one-size-fits-all" rooting guide, but here are guides for a couple of phones:
SE Xperia X10
Motorola Milestone (Droid)
Those are just a few
Before I forget, this first thing I recommend doing once you've rooted, is download and install an app called "ROM Manager" from the market. In this app, do a "Flash Recovery". This installs a recover mod to your memory card, and with this mod, you can flash to different ROMs on the phone itself, with no need for a PC. You can do nandroid backups here too. More about this in the following section.
Recovery ROMs (Thanks to KB for this subsection )
Recovery ROMs are very useful. They make it easier to install a new ROM or reinstall an old ROM. There are a number of Recovery ROM developers but one of the best developers is undoubtedly Amon_RA who has written recovery ROMs for many different phones. His ROMs allow you to format the different partitions on the phone and create EXT partitions to speed up performance (Android is of course Linux). These are just a few of the options available to you.
Here is a feature list for his Hero recovery ROM
full ADB access in recovery mode
Awesome Care-Bear version! (Blame packetlss for talking me into it )
HW-Key navigation (volume keys + CALL-ANSWER) option
Extended menu :
Reboot system now :: reboot your phone
USB-MS Toggle :: enable/disable USB mass storage (use when the phone is connected to your PC)
Backup/Restore (recovery partition not included!)
Nand backup :: Make a Nand backup
Nand + ext backup :: Make a Nand + ext backup
Nand restore :: Restore a Nand backup
BART backup :: Make a BART backup (Nand + ext)
BART restore :: Restore latest BART backup
Flash zip from sdcard :: Flash a zip update file from your sdcard
Wipe data/factory reset :: Wipe /data and /cache
Wipe Dalvik-cache :: Wipe Dalvik-cache both on /data and ext
Wipe SD:ext partition : Wipe the ext partition on your sdcard
Wipe battery stats : Wipe the battery stats in /data
Wipe rotate settings : Wipe the sensor settings in /data
Partition SD :: Interactive SD partitioning
Repair SD:ext :: Repair the ext partition
SD:ext2 to ext3 :: Convert ext2 to ext3
SD:ext3 to ext4 :: Convert ext3 to ext4
Fix apk uid mismatches :: Does extacly that
Move apps+dalv to SD :: Moves all apps and Dalvik-cache to sdcard (This will NOT enable apps2sd!)
Move recovery.log to SD :: Moves the recovery log file to your sdcard. (Use when you want more detailed recovery log information)
Power off :: Powers off your phone
Scripts available from console :
Nandroid v2.2.1 : enter "nandroid-mobile.sh" to start.
BART v1.0.1 (Backup and Restore Tool) : enter "utility" to start.
switchrom.sh V1.1 : enter "switchrom" or "u" to start.
sdparted v0.6 : enter "sdparted" to start.
A ROM contains the OS that's on your phone. By changing ROMs, you change the Android OS that's on your phone to another one that's either a different version, or has specific apps installed, or is optimized for a certain use, etc. The stock Android version that comes on your phone is made for a vast array of people, so it'll almost certainly include a whole lot of stuff you don't care about. By downloading and installing a custom ROM, you can have what YOU want from your Android phone.
A GoldCard is a modified SDCard which allows you to put the original unbranded ROM on a career branded phone (installing the original HTC Desire ROM on an Orange HTC Desire). Normally, if you try to execute a HTC ROM updater with a Orange phone, you'll be stuck after 4 or 5 clicks on next. With a Goldcard in your phone, you can archive the process.
You can't install a ROM built for an other device just using a GoldCard (installing a Nexus One ROM on a Desire is not possible).
GoldCard is only needed if you have a carrier-branded Desire, even for rooting process. Unbranded phones never need it.
Be sure to keep your GoldCard because it will be needed for each ROM modifications. You can use a GoldCard as a normal SDCard without problem. However, if you create new partitions for app2sd, your GoldCard will ruined.
Create a GoldCard is easy. It will take you 30 minutes. Not all SDCards work to create a GoldCard.
Instructions can be found here
(Took the goldcard section from XDA. I didn't write this part)
*edit* Anakha56 - A possible quicker method for a GoldCard: http://www.klutsh.com/dlfiles/GoldCardTool-0.0.5.rar
Managing an Android phone's bandwidth usage:
The beauty of Android is it's web integration. Google, Facebook and twitter are so closely tied with the phone and that's amazing. The problem, however, is that this EATS bandwidth. And here in SA, Bandwidth = money, lots of money. So what I've done is stop my phone from using bandwidth when I'm on the data connection, but go crazy on the WiFi connection. Since I have WiFi here at home, that works out pretty well for me. So here's what you do. Jump to Settings-> Wifi and networks -> Mobile Networks, and uncheck Enable Always-on. Then, I suggest you create a shortcut on your homescreen somewhere to Settings-> Accounts and Sync so that you can easily disable background data. Furthermore, I would recommend disabling notifications your facebook and twitter apps, and manually update those things. Doing this, you can save yourself a fair bit of cash. On a few occasions, I had enabled my data connetion and within a few minutes, my phone had downloaded 10MB, sometimes even 15MB. That's 30 bucks, and that was probably for facebook profile picture updates.
For starters, here's a list of apps that I feel are absolutely mandatory for Android users:
SetCPU for Root Users
- This app can be used to govern your CPU. For example, when my phone's screen is off, the CPU is not allowed to go faster than 384Mhz. This save battery power.
- Another battery saver. You should have your screen's brightness as low as comfortable in order to save battery power. This is a quick switcher for when you need your screen brighter.
Dolphin Browser HD
- Significantly better than the default browser.
- Replacement launcher, and easily my favourite Android app. Lightning fast, multiple docks, etc. Can't live without it.
- Use these two guys together to save yourself from suicide. You can set your phone to disable the data connection once it's gone over XMB.
- Paid app, but totally worth it.
ASTRO File Manager
- You need a file manager
Those apps, in my opinion, are pretty much mandatory for any Android user.
Then, the apps that aren't mandatory, but I recommend them:
- Awesome media player that's got a desktop client which allows you to subscribe to podcasts and stuff.
- I'm very forgetful, so this one is very important
Wheres My Droid
- I hate it when I can't find my phone. So now, I send a text from another phone to my phone containing the words "Where's my droid" and it'll ring until I find it. If I text the words "GPS my droid", it replies to the text with GPS coordinates and a link to google maps. Also a great app this.
- Self explanatory name. Monitor your data and Wi-Fi connections.
AppBrain App Market
Install apps from the web and create lists like this one. VERY cool.
- Without a doubt, the greatest twitter client on the face of the earth. I LOVE this app. All it needs is support for multiple accounts.
Seesmic for Twitter
This is another twitter client, but it supports multiple accounts. I only use this to make quick posts to one of my accounts.
This app essentially allows you to make status updates or tweets in audio format. Very cool.
ShootMe (Screen Grabber)
Screenshot app. Requires root.
Also a very important app for me. Tough to explain, but essentially allows you to manage your apps, as well as change their icons. Look at the 4 icons on my home screen, some are apps, some are links, etc:
I'm not sure what more to cover in this post. I think I got around, a fair bit Anyway, let the Android chatter begin
Hope this helps some of you If you have any questions, please don't hesitate to ask