Android Hacking For The Masses

Reasons to hack, or "root," your Android handset: Custom OS upgrades, PC tethering, full-phone SD backups. Reason not to: It's really scary. At least it was, until now.

RyeBrye has pieced together an Android app that does all the rooting legwork, a process that used to range from mildly intimidating to headache-inducing. In either case, the prospect was always daunting for the mainstream, which kept the joys of an unbound Android from most G1 and MyTouch owners. With this app, here's the new, streamlined procedure:

Android Hacking For The Masses

• Download "Recovery Flasher" From the Android Market (or sideload it)
• Run it
• Tap "Back up recovery image"
• Tap "Flash Cyanogen Recovery 1.4"

Seriously, that's it. Now your Android phone is splayed wide open, and ready for you to have your way with it. But, uh, what does that mean, exactly?

Plenty of things! The biggest draw to rooting is the ability to install a new ROM—in other words, replace the operating system on your phone. There are two ways to go with this, both equally awesome. The first is to go with a super-customized community ROM. These are tweaked and enhanced versions of the phone's default software, often grafted with pieces of Google's forthcoming updates to Android, some near, some far, and all dessert-themed. Practically, this means multitouch—since the G1 and MyTouch already support this on the hardware side—app storage on SD cards, tethering, more home screens, new system keyboards, and perhaps most importantly, vastly improved performance. A lot of users say using one of these is a night-and-day difference, and given the kinds of things the HTC ROM community has done with Windows Mobile phones, I'm inclined to believe them.

Your second path is to go full Hero—in other words, to install the HTC Hero's heavily customized OS, which is nothing short of fantastic, and about to get even better. This is a full phone conversion, and even in its current, slightly precarious state, well worth it.

In either case, you're going to need to choose a ROM, download it, and put it on your phone's SD card. You can select from an expansive list here—for reference, the MyTouch 3G is also known as the Magic 32B—but as far as non-Hero ROMs go, your best bet is the near-legendary, well-supported CyanogenMod. The newest release, out just two days ago, is fully compatible with the G1 and MyTouch. But don't stress too much over which ROM to choose, since changing them over is a breeze now that you're fully unlocked. An overview from Android and Me:

• Power off your phone.
• Boot into recovery mode. Press and hold the Home key, then hit the power button.
• Before you flash a rom file, perform a wipe. Press Alt+W to wipe the data and cache folders. You must wipe when going form different builds of Android.
• Wait for the wipe to finish and the recovery image to display again, then select "apply any zip from sd". Flash the zip file of your choice.
• After flashing any zip you should be able to reboot your system and watch it load to the home screen.

You'll want to read their full rooting and flashing guide for caveats, but that easy little list there is about the size of it.

A few more reasons to root that don't involve totally flashing your phone:

Full backups to SD cards
Wi-Fi tethering!
Autorotation for all apps
Install apps to an SD card

This alongside a treasure trove of smaller tweaks and tricks you can find at the every-active XDA forums. And of course, it should go without saying: this is potentially risky, and could brick your phone. The rooting process is almost foolproof, but before you jump in, make sure you've got the right hardware (American MyTouch 3Gs and G1s only) and have backed up any important data. Happy hacking! [RyeBrye, AndroidAndMe]