One of the most important aspects of Android is it's openness. This is what truly sets it apart from iOS and Apple's seemingly dictatorial handling of it's products.
So what is root?
Well if you want a literal definition, dictionary.com has quite a few of them.
Rooting is similar to jailbreaking an iPod or iPhone, but it's much easier, not near as risky, and technically not jailbreaking but taking admin control of your device.
I want to emphasize this, rooting is not jailbreaking, rooting is something entirely different and better.
There are many guides scattered throughout the internet on how to root specific phones and I will post links at the end of this article for some of the more popular handsets available right now. This article is not a guide on how to root, but is more of an explanation on why you should or shouldn't root.
Here are a few things that having root access allows you to do:
You will have 100% full access and control over your system.
You will be able to alter or replace system files.
You can change anything and everything to make your device truly your own. Anything from applying a new theme to a new bootloader.
You can run special apps that give you more control over your system or do things that require more control over your system.
- SuperUser (lets you approve or deny the use of root access to any program)
- Task Manager For Root (Lets you kill apps. Task managers are very controversial in the Android community and many people say they ruin your phone while others say they are a necessity.)
- Tether apps (like the one found at [android-wifi-tether.googlecode.com])
There is an infinite number of other things rooting lets you do to your phone such as overclocking your phone or applying new ROMs (like a different version of Android, made by different programmers in the Android community based off of the original source code released by google).
The Motorola Droid has been the best phone i ever bought for many reasons. It has a great keyboard, it runs the newest version of Android, it has a large enough screen for my needs, but most importantly, it is very easily rooted. In addition to being easily rooted, it is also easily overclocked to amazing speeds. The Droid comes stock with a 550 mhz processor. Mine runs at 1ghz. Other people have recorded speeds of up to 1.3ghz, more than twice the original speed with little effect on battery life or cpu temperature.
More recent Motorola phones have not been as easily rooted as the original Droid. They have encrypted bootloaders and also what is called an efuse which SUPPOSEDLY fries the phone if you try to hack it. But the dedicated Android community has successfully hacked it and the Droid X and Droid 2 can be now be overclocked. More importantly though is the fact that the recovery image can be replaced, allowing for custom ROMs to be installed.
A good place to start rooting is Android Forums They have many guides on how to root, links to custom ROMs, and also a large community to help you out with any problem or question you might have.
Guides to rooting: