10 Android Apps That Make Rooting Your Phone Worth The Hassle

Android phones are spectacular little devices because they're able to do so much that others simply can't, but one big snag in that greatness is that many of the best features require that the phones be rooted. With all the apps available in the Android Market, the most essential tend to be those that add these extra features. Whether you plan on installing custom ROMs or not, you may want to root your phone just to install those apps. Here are the 10 most essential apps available for Android that require root.

Also note that there's a big difference between installing a custom ROM on an Android phone, and just rooting it. Custom ROMs may offer plenty of features that aren't available direct from the manufacturer, but most of them can be added to a rooted phone by simply installing the right apps. That's what we're after today.

If you haven't rooted your phone yet, but would like to know more about the process, be sure to check out our comprehensive guide to rooting Android phones.

Superuser

Superuser is the first app a user should install after rooting, if the rooting method didn't do it already. "Rooting" a phone allows a user to establish total control over the device, but Superuser is the app that provides the button for that control. With Superuser installed, any app that needs root privileges to run will have to ask permission, and an informative pop-up will display with the option to give it those privileges. This app is an absolute must for any of the other apps on the list to even run.

Titanium Backup

Titanium Backup is an enormously useful app. Not only can it backup apps, but it can backup apps and all their data, and it can delete apps — even system apps or bloatware. Making regular backups of all your apps (and their data) can ensure that if you ever really screw up, say in trying to install a custom ROM, that you can still have everything the way you left it should you need to wipe the entire phone and start from scratch. For more detailed information, see our full guide on using Titanium Backup.

ShootMe

It's a sad fact that Android ships with no way to take screenshots. ShootMe is an extremely simple, user-friendly app that rectifies that situation, but it needs the phone to be rooted first. ShootMe's greatest feature is that it allows you to choose from several options in deciding what the trigger should be for the screenshot to take place — whether it's shaking the phone, covering the light sensor, or just yelling at it (my favourite).

Metamorph

Metamorph is a small app that allows you to theme any part of Android by applying simple patch files. Learning how to make your own themes isn't exactly the easiest thing in the world, but most users don't bother — there are plenty to choose from, made by other users who are absolutely nuts about theming. Parts of the system that can be themed by Metamorph include the lockscreen, menu screens, individual apps, or just about anything else that's ever displayed on the screen. It's all possible.

Adfree

Adfree may actually be the greatest root-essential app available on Android, and it's one that you never see unless it needs updating. All Adfree does is block ads, but it does it for everything on the phone. Since the app works by blocking ad-serving sites at the IP address level (by modifying the phone's Hosts file), it doesn't slow your system down, and it does a remarkably good job. Even if you don't mind ads in your browser, using Adfree makes "free" apps from the Market much more tolerable, since most of them have pop-up ads that tend to ruin the experience otherwise.

SSH Tunnel

Recently mentioned SSH Tunnel is an app that allows an Android phone to connect to the internet using an ssh tunnel for a completely secure connection. It's great for those times when you've got no data signal, stuck at work or a coffee shop that only has public Wi-Fi available, and you need to be sure that nobody is snooping your sensitive personal information as you connect to sites like Gmail or Facebook.

Tasker (Root adds features)

Tasker by itself doesn't require root privileges to run, but some of its more impressive features do. Giving Tasker room to do what it does best is definitely a good thing, since it can practically automate your entire phone given the right amount of power. Rooting your phone is the only way to give it that kind of access.

SetCPU

SetCPU has been, is still, and will probably be for quite some time the de facto tool for controlling a rooted Android phone's processor speed. SetCPU allows the user to exert total control over how fast, or slow, the processor runs at any given point in time. As an example, SetCPU can force the processor to sit at its lowest setting whenever the screen is turned off, but to use a range between 240MHz and 806MHz as needed while the phone is awake. For phones that have the ability to drastically overclock, SetCPU can help ensure that they don't overheat by keeping watch on the temperature, and acting accordingly. Overclocking or not, battery savings and overall performance can be greatly enhanced using this app.

Busybox

Busybox is often called "the Swiss Army Knife of Embedded Linux", because that's what it basically is. It's not an actual app that you run, but instead provides all the Linux/UNIX commands that we know and love. Without the commands installed, the barebones "Linux" that Android runs on top of can't really do too much, making apps like Terminal Emulator nearly worthless.

Wireless Tether

Finally, Wireless Tether. For many users, this feature is the single most important thing in the world of mobile devices, so having the ability to use it is a must. Wireless Tether turns an Android phone, regardless of carrier, into a full blown W-Fi hotspot for any nearby devices that need one. It's as simple as that, but only rooted phones can use it.

There are plenty of other apps out there that only work with rooted phones, and it doesn't seem likely that the carriers are ever going to allow phones on their networks to sell with root capabilities baked in. If you want the added functionality of these apps, there's just no way around it. You've got to go rooted. So, if you're convinced, head over to the rooting guide to see what's required to set your phone free.

Know of any other great apps for rooted Android phones? Have a personal favourite that's not on the list? Share them in the comments!


Comments

    You've been able to wirelessly tether an android phone since v2.2 Froyo

      Not on all carriers / plans

    Automatic call recording is one of my must-haves that require root access. (I use "2-Way CallRecorder")

    Another useful app is "SD Speed Increase" (there are several similar apps) that increases the buffer size to speed up SD card access.

    Samsung introduced the ability to take screenshots with their Froyo update.

    On the Galaxy hold the Back button and press the Home button.
    On Fascinate or Captivate hold the Back button and press the Power button (I haven't tried these two, but that's what others have said).

    You should get a message on the screen telling you a screenshot was saved, and it will be created in a new folder in the image gallery.

      Thanks Zac - it's been killing me not knowing what combination of buttons I've (accidentally) been pressing to get a screenshot I didn't want.
      Now I know.

    What patch file is the lock screen modification in the metamorph pic?

    You left out droidwall

    So apart from overclocking, there's not much extra to gain from Rooting your phone, with all its complications and risks involved, unless you are a "nerd" who wants to "fiddle" with it. Backup can be done using My Backup Pro app for under $5, and all apps can be made ad-free by paying the small one-off fee to the developer! Until clicking one app, with no risks attached (or at least as safe as installing most apps)to root your phone is available, I don't see too many advantages.

      Have you actually rooted an Android phone? It IS that simple. You install an app such as Z4root, click a button and it's rooted.

      As for risk, each app that asks for root access has to be approved - by YOU.

        Micha, he effectively wrote he's not a "nerd" and doesn't want to "fiddle". Maybe he should have bought an iPhone or simply quit bogging up the Lifehacker comments with uninformed opinion.

          I didn't know that being a 'nerd' ad having to 'fiddle' were prerequisities to posting to LH.

      Ah, Ray - you must be from Perth...

      ...Oh, you are.

      And if you don't want the flexibility and features that rooting an android phone gives you, maybe you don't even need the flexibility and features of an unrooted android phone. Have you checked out nokia's budget symbian lineup? You might be happier with one of those.

      You mentioned a couple of the apps specifically (backup and adblocking) - what about setcpu? Is having a longer battery life something that only hardcore nerds would ever appreciate? Tethering whether or not your telco deigns to allow you that functionality? A little geeky, I guess - about as geeky as owning both a laptop and a smartphone. And metamorph? When someone asks me how to change the background or theme on their windows desktop, my first though tends not to be "This girl/guy is way too nerdy for me to be ok with".

      These are some pretty basic features and I really don't see how you need to be a rocket scientist to want them

    Samba is a great root app...
    adds your phones SD card as a network drive on your PC.

    I actually don't support Adfree.
    If everyone blocks ads - devs will stop making free apps. seems kind of counter-productive to me. I don't even notice ads, so bring 'em on if we can get quality apps for free.

      I totally agree. Except in the case of games where the ads are right in the middle of the action, such as blocking the view of something that I'm meant to hit with an Angry Bird...

      to not support adware because it will diminish the desire for devs to make free apps is like saying i dont support the downloading of games that your supposed to pay to play, but for free. not to mention the theory of downloading music for free because the artists think they dont make enough money :P

    Data2ext. Single best thing I ever did to my phone.

    I'm thinking of rooting my U8150 but I'm not really sure if there'll be any major benefits. Froyo is pretty feature packed. I might do it for SetCPU though. If set up correctly, does it increase battery life much? I would have though android would have forced the CPU to sit at its lowest setting when the screen was off anyway...

    Should I wait to smoke this joint until after I root or blaze it first???

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