There is little doubt when it comes to who the leading Android handset manufacturer in the world is, considering Samsung has obliterated all competition since the inception of its Galaxy S II. The Galaxy range has sold tens of millions of devices and I’m sure you know more than a few people who use one of them. The devices are obviously aimed at the mass market, and as such Samsung has taken some steps to keep its latest flagship, the Galaxy S IV more secure, if less customisable, than its predecessors.
Samsung has made “rooting impossible on newer stock kernels” and although some people in the Android community will be outraged by this, I think it’s a good move by the Korean manufacturer. Firstly, why would people be angry about it? Well, because how you use your Android phone should be up to you, and that includes rooting and running custom software.
No pain no gain
The reality of the matter is that this won’t actually stop you rooting your S IV, as recognised developer AndreiLux states that a custom kernel will still allow you to give your device root access. However, if you can get root by simply flashing a custom kernel, what is the point of the new restriction? It’s to help protect your Galaxy S IV from “malicious activities” that try to gain root access while on stock software.
This is to protect the millions of average users who’ve never even heard of rooting a phone. Does that sound similar to another big mobile power, the nemesis of Android perhaps, Apple? Apple has long restricted what users can and can’t do on their devices, and that’s just because the average user isn’t interested in root level access on their smartphone. I use the XDA Forums all the time, and I can’t even tell you how many times people have rooted their phones without an idea of what they are actually doing. The numerous “Help, I’ve bricked my phone” threads in the Nexus 4 forum attest to that. And the Nexus 4 is a breeze to unlock and experiment with. I dread to think what the S III and S IV threads must look like.
I personally believe that this is a great move by Samsung, because it’s saying that “sure, unlock and root your phone, but you’ll have to run custom software if you do, because we can’t be responsible for you stuffing up your stock OS.” This level of power and control is essential if you’re pushing as many devices into hands as Samsung is.
Leave it up to the OEM
This does bring me to another point, rooting, hacking, exploiting, and flashing custom software on Android has become increasingly popular with big OEMs, like HTC, releasing “developer” editions of their handsets. This makes unlocking and rooting easier, and gives the small niche of enthusiasts who are keen on harnessing the full power of their devices, access to normal handsets capable of being customised to pieces. Best of all is that the rooting software is provided by said OEM, minimising the risk even more.
Lastly, if you want to root your phone, try different custom ROMs and kernels, you probably won’t be lining up for a device like the S IV in any case. You’d rather look at a developer edition HTC One, or the AOSP supported Xperia Z, or the king of the customisable Android devices, the Nexus range. Samsung is the new Apple (yes, I said it), by sheer number of devices in hands, and as such they need to start thinking of the normal user’s security more than before. That being said, if you’re into rooting and the benefits it brings, you will know that there are few things which will stop developers finding a way.