I Don't Want to "Just Root It"

Can we all agree that rooting a phone is not for everyone? That's kind of important, because these days, Android actually is a platform for most people.

I was kind of excited yesterday when I realized that 1. the Moto X is awesome and 2. I can get it on Verizon with something resembling stock Android. My colleague Eric Limer puzzled a second and reflexed out "just root it" into our Giz group chat. Well, "Just root it" can just suck it.

Look, I'm lazy. Really, really lazy. I haven't even re-laced these shoes since I bought them even though the laces are way longer on one side than the other. So there's really no way that I'm going to take every phone I use and bang on its operating system until it looks the way I want. That means no, I can't be bothered to just look up the latest CyanogenMod and find the version that's exactly right for my phone, and then stay on top of updates and feature sets of newer ROMs coming out. I don't even have enough motivation to connect my phone to my computer more than like twice a year.

It's not just that I'm a sloven lump, though. There's this misconception among the crowd that doesn't see what the big deal is about having to just root your phone and stick a ROM on it. The overriding presumption is that you can do it, and further if you know enough about it to want it, you can just go out and do it.

That is true, to a point. But not wanting to root a phone isn't like knowing you want a souped up car, being perfectly capable of rigging it up yourself, and then instead just demanding the dealership gives you the upgraded package as stock. It's more like a dealer selling you a car after making some "modifications" to the seats, which now sport dealership logos on the headrests, a plastic steering wheel, and probably a parking boot he lost the key to. Yeah, you can fix all that stuff, but it loses that ineffable Christmas Morning feeling of opening up a toy and playing with it right away. And what's more, you shouldn't have to do it.

It's nice to be able to buy something that just works. Something that doesn't require a level of sophistication a lot of us have but don't want to flex, but also that simply escapes the majority of people who own Android phones. And if some sweet, innocent idiot screws up his phone—easier to do while rooting than the just root it crowd acknowledges—the recovery processes are even more impenetrable. There's irony in the nerdy, typically proletarian Android community becoming techno-Randian when it comes to their phones. John Galt would just root it, sissy boy.

So yeah, I could go buy a Nexus. That's reasonable, I guess. And sure, Nexus stuff is generally very good (though the Galaxy Nexus I used for months was dreadful). But there hasn't been a new Nexus in ages, and while the Nexus 4 is still fine and nice, it's a little old for a brand new phone, and doesn't have LTE (and isn't on Verizon).

That's why, yes, it's kind of a big deal that we've got access to Play versions of phones that run basic Android, and more importantly, that flagship phones like the Moto X are available through the carriers with something close to stock Android, Good Android. Because Android is good now. I just shouldn't have to force it to be.