Eli5: What do rooting/jailbreak a phone do exactly and how?


I know that it allows us to get root access somehow. No idea other than that.
It would also be good if someone could explain what is the difference between root uesr and normal user privelege wise.

Thanks in advance.

In: Technology

So the operating system running your phone (either IOS or Android) provides a framework for now your phone should run. However that framework is also a cage. Normally, the phone allows you to do only certain things and the average person is happy with that, but some people want it to do more. Rooting your phone essentially installs a new operating system that allows you to access all the features that you couldn’t access before.

For instance, your phone normally can’t open and play .exe files like your computer can, but if you root your phone you turn it to a low power computer and it can run that .exe file.

Ok on our phones we are not the super user. The one allowed to access or modify certain settings. We are given user access. You can install normal programs that only have impact on user level. This means you can’t damage your phone permanently by installing a less then reputable software. It also means you can’t get rid of bloatware most times. Root gives you full access and athoritay over you phone. There are a lot of reasons on why you want to root you phone such as to make an old phone run better by the use of custom firmware. The downside is you can make your phone a brick.

Okay imagine it like having a couple different accounts in Windows. One is labeled an admin account and one is a regular user account. Certain big things like installing software Or changing critical settings can only be done in the admin account, this is to confine the regular user account into a space where any damage they may cause will hopefully be minimal.

Now let’s look at iPhones. Apple is *very* well-known for its “walled garden” approach, and while a lot of Apple users absolutely love their experience and the high quality they get for their money, it’s partly due to only being able to play within the confines of what Apple allows. Like installing apps on iPhones, can’t typically be done unless it’s an approved app downloaded from their app store. This is the “regular user” account and is perfectly fine for most, but someone wanting to install apps originally on the store and later banned, or their own homebrew app, will have to get around the safeguards Apple has put in place. In comes jailbreaking, which is forcing one’s way into jumping from the regular user style to admin style. From installing apps to adding “tweaks” like customizing the look of an interface on an app, and also defeating carrier-locking (where an iPhone say will ONLY work on Verizon’s towers).

The same also happens for phones using Chrome. Google has a vision for what is and isn’t kosher for the Chrome experience and forces it upon users. A good example would be when using a file recovery app; on relatively recent versions, it can search the internal storage but cannot access the SD card to search there, this is enforced in chrome… Unless it’s rooted. Rooting gets its name from the convention of Unix, where a “root” account has access to ALL files and privileges.

Both of these phone OSes are operating under the principle of least privilege, which means “how little actual access to modify/change things can we give to people with them still able to do their job/have a good experience? That’s all they get, so if they screw up the damage is minimal.”