Android and chill: Nougat and the root question

Android dudes
Android dudes (Image credit: Jerry Hildenbrand / Android Central)

There's some talk about Pixel phones and root — specifically that it's not working with any of the existing methods. All the nuts and bolts are at XDA — excellent job on that Mishaal — for those who want to dig deeper into the how and why, but I want to just talk about what it means for us.

And why it's a really good thing. Before you grab your torches and teach me a lesson for thinking it's good that we can't root a Pixel phone, hear me out. I think you'll agree when we're finished.

This isn't about a Pixel phone, it's about Android 7.0 and new security methods.

Let's start at the beginning — this isn't about the Pixel phones, it's about Android 7.0. There's a very good chance this will apply to the LG V20 (nobody outside of Korea has seen the production version yet), too. It's because of the new security methods Google has placed in Android starting with 7.0.

When Nougat boots, it checks to see if anything in the system partition has been tampered with. Google calls this Verified Boot and it's something they also use on Chromebooks and OnHub routers. We also knew it was coming, along with a handful of other big changes on the security front. The short version of how it works — the system partitions (this is tied in tightly with Seamless Updates and Direct Boot) are verified and given a hash file. Any changes to the partition will change the crypto hash. When you boot the phone up, this hash is checked against the known "right" value, and if they don't match your phone won't boot. The public crypto key is stored on the boot partition and when the people who made your phone want to update (which changes the hash file) they have to verify things with their own private key to change the software. This will create a new hash file and the phone can boot. These changes also include the ramdisk (which is where systemless root worked) so modifying it is out of the picture, too. And yes, this is the short version.

Fastboot for life

What this means is new hardware designed for Android 7.0 isn't going to boot if we try to change any files to give us root. If we change even one bit on either system partition or the ramdisk it will fail the verified boot check. There are no known root methods that will ever work with this system. Period. Very smart people will try, and if somehow they find a way Google will patch it within 30 days. And this is not an accident.

Google is always trying to beef up the security in Android. They do a pretty good job and Android, as it comes directly from the source code, is really secure. But since anyone can change any of it to their liking, much of that gets undone. One of the things this change does is fix things so that no matter what you download or what it tries to do, if it tries to inject anything that gives it elevated permissions your phone won't start up. I love that idea, and you should, too.

Every phone that's sold should be damn near impossible to root without custom firmware.

This means that those drive-by root exploits — both the intentional ones as well as the malware ones — all stop working if the people who made your phone update it to 7.0 or you buy a new one with Nougat installed. That means everyone who just bought their phone to chat with friends, pay for stuff at Walgreens, or even clash against other clans or catch 'em all have a lot less to worry about. The factory software (and this is the important part) is secure.

The rest of us who like to root and do "stuff" can't do it while running the factory software, but we can still do it. With a new boot image, things can be altered so we can do whatever we want to do. Everything needed to create the Android boot image is open source and builds with no changes and little effort. Unless the Pixel phones come with a locked bootloader — and nobody thinks they will or is saying as much — you can still install your own modified software with all the root you can eat. Google truly does not care if we root the phones we bought and paid for, but they do care if we try to modify their software and make it less secure. They should, that's the way every OEM should think. I'm sorry if that means you might have to learn how to set up fastboot or won't be able to get an OTA, but you (and I mean the collective you which includes me, too) are not more important than anyone else who should be able to expect that the phone they bought is safe from random dumb shit they downloaded from somewhere. Get over it.

Pixel Blinkers

That goes for the phones that aren't a Pixel and might not have a bootloader that can be unlocked. Yes, I mean the V20. With an unlocked bootloader rooting and everything that comes with will be trivial when all is said and done. But with a locked and encrypted bootloader, none of this applies. If the V20 ships with a dual partition setup and Verified Boot in place (and it should) with a locked-up bootloader, you might not ever be able to root it. That means LG cares about its customers more than they care about a handful of people who want to change their status bar or cheat at games or whatever we need root to do. The solution (and my advice) if you're eyeing the V20 and will want to root it is to hold off until someone checks it out. A retail version should be in the right hands very soon. The same goes for every phone that ships with Android 7.0 or higher from now until forever.

The LG V20 should also be this secure. But will we be able to unlock the bootloader?

Getting worked up over any of it will do no good. There is no good reason why Google should make Android less secure, so us demanding it or moving to iOS (which has similar precautions in place) is silly. Adapt. If you want to root, buy phones with a bootloader that can be unlocked. Save your rage for something that deserves it, like selling phones with no headphone jack. Don't even get me started, 'cause I'll get stupid.

In the meantime, be good to each other. I'll see ya next week.

Jerry Hildenbrand
Senior Editor — Google Ecosystem

Jerry is an amateur woodworker and struggling shade tree mechanic. There's nothing he can't take apart, but many things he can't reassemble. You'll find him writing and speaking his loud opinion on Android Central and occasionally on Twitter.

  • Great article, Jerry. Couldn't agree more. Loving these articles, and seeing your viewpoints on things. Keep 'em coming.
  • For me, at least For me, the real utility of root is being able to install custom roms, ask Samsung with their ****** update laws, so this means that we arent going to be able to install New roms versions, and that also means that if our version of android is obsolete we arent going be able to change it, that translates in few words: " buy a goddam New Phone or screw you"
  • Unlock or we walk
  • Well no, as long as the bootloader is unlocked then you can install a custom ROM (and root that if you want). You just can't root the stock ROM. I feel like Jerry was pretty clear about that. And companies have always locked bootloaders, you just have to check before you buy. That's still the case.
  • The bootloader For security purposes isn't going to be unlockable, so no i think it isnt possible, its going to be like the priv,No root no rom no ****, from now the intelligent decition is buy a Phone whose manufacturer deliver MAJOR updates For a long time, we have Sony, the Pixel or anything that ressults from Google, or anything like that
  • He said right in the article the bootloaders on the Pixel phones probably won't be locked and Google doesn't care if you root, just not their ROM. As for other manufacturers and buying from carriers, many of them are locked anyway.
  • My Verizon S7 edge just got September's security update. In fact it's been updated quite regularly, so you can't ***** about Samsung on this.
  • My Oneplus 3 just got the September security patch, so no one has the right to cast doubt on whether it'll still be getting updated in a few months either, right?
  • I dont know about oneplus, i know its hardware its gold and all, but i cant talk on something than i dont know, security patches is pretty meh For me, Major updates are important For me
  • Yes i can, than the S4 mini didnt received lollipop is shame, than the Galaxy Note pro didnt receive marshmallow and even 5.1.1 is shame too
  • Most of us buy Android for the purposes you mentioned.... But now it's slowly turning into iOS without the ability to jailbreak...
  • You shouldnt ***** about samsung and their shiitty update laws. Just dont buy phones made by samsung.its simple.
    If you dont like a company's policy,choose another.
    thats the beauty of android!
  • Good stuff as usual Jerry.
  • Glad that I kept my old phones for this purpose. I actually don't root and ROM as often as I used to. That's because the stock ROMs on most phones I've used and owned recently have matured to be actually quite usable and in some cases (especially HTC Sense), enjoyable. The only reason why I root and ROM these days is for fun and to push my old devices to Android versions that they weren't supposed to be on, like my Galaxy S3 and HTC One M7 are both on 6.0.1, and the former will be getting 7.0, which is just unbelievable for a 4 year old phone, let alone a 4 tear old Samsung Android phone, which only saw 2-3 major system updates and 2 actual name changes (ICS -> JB -> KK (the i9300 version only jumped to JB 4.3).
  • No change to your use case indicated in what info we have so far. Those new ported Roms are already custom.
  • Funny how it works both ways: "Getting worked up over any of it will do no good. There is no good reason why Apple should make iOS less extendable, so us demanding it or moving to Android (which has similar challenges) is silly. Adapt. If you want to use your existing headphones, buy phones with a headphone jack. Save your rage for something that deserves it, like selling developer phones that can't be easily developed on. Don't even get me started, 'cause I'll get stupid." Food for thought - just because it's okay in your book doesn't make it okay everywhere for everyone.
  • Don't think he's saying you have to be ok with anything. Reasons for the change were provided and explained to appeal to logic. Those who still aren't happy are then confronted with one final argument: this is how reality is now. Either get on board or make decisions to go another direction. Reality is what it is; which decisions you make based on it are totally up to you... but at least you get to make those decisions with eyes wide open.
  • Who said Pixel is a developer phone?
  • Does fastboot oem add_headphone_jack work?
  • It does on my HTC EVO.
  • I loved that phone.
  • That takes a drill in addition to that command
  • Good catch sir! And well said.
  • How come peole are happy about this. Is not about security is about control. If you root they loose control over your device. Its sad ...people purchase laptops and they are not locked yet they are save. If they want control they should provide the phones for free. If not I should be able to do with it whatever I want and still be able to make a phone call etc. After all it is my device I paid for it. Posted via the Android Central App
  • You can still unlock the bootloader and install custom software and play with whatever you want, assuming that you bought a device with an unlockable bootloader. What's different is for the 99% of users that don't know what a ROM is, they're getting devices that are much more safe for them to use and Android can have more apps and features that help interact with the outside world without third parties worrying about their products being abused. It's a win for everyone except those who want to run "stock rooted" - and they can run any AOSP based ROM with root that they want.
  • Exactly, I am disappointed that Google has taken this path with Android. I was hopeful that Android would mature into an OS that would give the user root if the user wanted root, much like Canyogenmod 13 does. I see no reason why the verified boot process couldn't still work. Just do what Motorola does and make the bootloader unlockable.
  • That was addressed in the article. If you unlock the bootloader and install custom software, you can still root to your heart's content. There are just limitations on doing so with stock software.
  • You think that a toggle to enable root access would be secure? that's possibly the least secure idea ever.
    Also PC's aren't very secure at all and get malware much more often than phones. Google is drawing a line in the sand, it's OEM's rom will focus on security. which root compromises so you can't use root with OEM software.
    You can buy a phone that supports unlocking your bootloader and install a custom rom, with a custom kernel that doesn't use verified boot and do whatever you want. But it's securing OEM software for it's normal users. Whether you view it as control or security is up to your interpretation and most root users are going to view it as control. but I think the security of the vast majority of users is more important than making it easy for those who want to root to do so.
  • Yes, it's hard to have both worlds and if this new way changes attitudes that Android is inherently insecure then let's have it.
  • You're missing the point... Millions upon millions of people use Android and probably 99.99% of them don't root. They are designing the security of the OS for the 99.99, not the .01%.
  • Well, the sad truth is, only few users (like us) actually care about root access, and most people who use a smartphone have no idea that "root access" means. They have to cater to the masses and provide better security. That said, they should be able to provide a way to root the device, although at a significant cost in security.
  • You had control over features and apps. Who released AOSP? Yes, Google, now tell me how much control you have over everything else outside of what I previously mentioned?
  • Such tight control that you can disable all of it using the directions Google gives you.
  • They growl about (stagefright) vulnerabilities, they growl if the devices are more secure...
    I like a secure device so looking forward to N. Not that I had any issues so far with any version.. Good reading Jerry. So, tell us how you feel about the no headphone jack thing mate haw haw haw....
  • I wouldnt use a phone without Xposed Installer.
  • I'm curious what Xposed is giving you that you can't get elsewhere, but it's kind of a moot point since you can still unlock your bootloader, load a custom ROM and install Xposed via custom recovery. What you won't be able to do is run Xposed on stock firmware. Since you're likely using twrp anyway, should be a very small change to your world that only applies once you upgrade to a new device that shipped with N. So far there are zero of those that have been released.
  • YouTube AdAway - because Google isn't nice enough to bring YouTube Red to Canada
  • Because fuck paying the people who made the video, amirite /s Ads are not the end of the world, and they are not worth rooting your phone.
  • Says you. Ads are absolutely worth rooting my phone for. Ads versus no ads is very noticeable to me and I very much prefer the latter.
  • YouTube Ads are not bad. Now, if you want it for those obnoxious "Your phone is slow. Make it fast" ads, then yes. This might mean using another browser like Opera or Firefox with an ad blocker.
  • GravityBox. Moto N6 only give you your battery % in 2 places. One is from the lock screen, but only while charging. The other is pulling down notification, then pulling down again to access the settings. I want to see my percentage at a glance so I alter the battery icon. I have yet to find anything that does that without root. Everything in the play store I've seen makes you put a widget on your phone screen to see it. I also use GB to allow options in my power menu. Stock N6 is just power down and that's it. Not even a reboot.
  • Look up UI tuner for that nexus
  • I love that they're doing this even though I have been in the root/ROM community for years, it's honestly been over two years since there was any functional reason to root. There are no longer feature gaps and there's no functionality that makes the giant security hole that rooting creates with the trade-off. I did root my 6P awhile ago basically for fun, but went right back to stock when N was officially released. It doesn't hurt that most of the best ROM makers are already out if the game, most of the most popular devices were NEVER supported by the community and that the users are becoming more informed about their custodianship of their own privacy and security.
  • Totally agree, I was a flash addict for years and couldn't care less about security back in the day.
    These days, I'm a little older and think about security a lot more, especially as I've moved to doing more banking / secure things on my smartphone.
    I stopped rooting and roming for a few reasons, like you said the real functional gaps just don't exist anymore, I now care about my security and would never think of doing a lot of the stuff on a phone with root enabled or even worse a custom rom that I downloaded from xda. Lastly the rom community has gotten really boring over the last few years, it's left with extremely niche things to alter and customize your phone to the nth degree the really game changing features that existed in custom roms just don't exist anymore.
  • Same. The only reason why I root/ROM now is for fun. There's just no other benefit for me other than pushing my old devices further in the Android version timeline.
  • Totally agree, I got off my high horse a while back and since then I have accepted what the OEMs give me and I've had no reason to go back.
  • I disagree. I root for one reason only now.... Viper4Android. Why the hell do we have to suffer with crappy audio i will never understand. Just include a real dsp program like viper and then Ill wont root anymore.
  • I've never rooted, don't see the point in it. I swear some users over on XDA actually spend more time flashing ROMs than actually using their phones! My banking app (and many others) as well as apps from Sky TV UK won't work with root.
  • It can definitely get time consuming, but almost all of the reasons I had for doing it in 2010 - 2013 have already been addressed by Android making it pointless in today's devices. And integration with banks, finance companies and even games who don't want their products stolen or to enable cheating will cause more and more apps and services to not work on rooted devices or devices that can't pass these boot checks.
  • Correct...devs bridged the gap and provided invaluable input for the Android ecosystem. They were probably THE most relevant factor in Android surviving through to and past honeycomb. Yes, I used to wonder about dev security and how it integrated with the phone once it was rooted. I'd rather have a greater level of security now that phone performance is relatively elevated. Thx Jerry
  • The OEM'S moved android forward. Most of the additions to nexus software were ideas taken from Samsung, HTC, LG and especially Motorola.
  • Moto Voice still hasn't had enough stolen from it...
  • Don't forget Moto Display.
  • Haven't found a need to root my 6P, but if I got a phone from a manufacturer that is slow to release new version of Android (aka everything other than Nexus phones), I would consider rooting to install a custom ROM running the most recent version of Android.
  • Guys missing the point it is your device you paid for it you own it you should be able to do whatever you want with it. Imaging you purchase a house and two rooms you can't never open don't have a key whats up with that? Posted via the Android Central App
  • Poor analogy. And you're argument is old and wrong. As said in the article, nothing indicates that the bootloader of Pixel will be locked down.
  • You can't do anything you want to your house. There are building codes you have to follow, and if you don't, selling your house is pretty well impossible until you fix it. Your not 100% in control of anything you own, because at some point what you want to do breaks it, or voids a warranty, or breaks a law.
  • You're missing the point. You are given the key to those two rooms, you just don't know how to use it. The people who told you how to root the phone you have now do know how to use it.
  • Its not about security its about control Posted via the Android Central App
  • Control of what?
  • Question is, though, what does this increasingly rigorous focus on security mean for the future of pages like these? I guess if Nexus is fated to become a thing of the past, these pages will just stay on as repositories until all existing Nexus phones finally go the way of the dinosaurs. But will locking down root access make life more or less difficult for developers, who these pages were allegedly for in the first place?
  • Where has it been said that you won't be able to unlock the bootloader on Pixel? Seems like a lot of doom and gloom over something that is technically unknown.
  • No one knows yet if it is unlockable, what is known is that modifying the system image will cause it to be unable to boot unless it has custom software. So far it sounds like that leaves the door open for custom ROMs and shuts the door on intentional security holes in the stock firmware.
  • People have to stop purchasing locked devices . Sooner or later the industry will adjust and give user what they want if they want to sell ... Note 3
  • That's exactly what they're doing. The VAST majority of consumers want secure devices, even if it's not their #1 priority. A super tiny percentage of consumers want to be able to root and use custom ROMs, etc.
  • This is true when looking at it from a user base standpoint, but the tiny percentage of users who want root access are usually developers and without developers tinkering around in root, Android development will ultimately suffer greatly. I mean just look at how much iOS has suffered since it's release due to lack of development. Without Android, iOS users would still be dismissing pop-up notifications. Even though Android is mature, it needs continued development.
  • Nothing stopping them from continuing
  • I mean just look at how much iOS has suffered since it's release due to lack of development. Oh, so you are both out of touch and delusional.
  • The industry is adjusting, to more security. That is what more people want.
  • True, but is verified boot the best solution? There has to be a solution that would provide security with the option for the user to root and loose that security. Google is forcing their hand and no one is asking why, that's a move straight out of Apples play book.
  • It probably is the best way because most exploits are run during the phones boot process. And again, the article is talking about doing away with exploits to the boot process so bad things can't happen. This affects mostly carrier locked phones. It's not going to stop a Nexus user from typing OEMUNLOCK (or whatever the command is) into a command line on a Nexus phone.
  • There is. You download the kernel source and a few Perl scripts. You alter SELinux and disable DM-verity. You assemble a new boot image and flash it to the phone. You then do anything you want. Google tells you how to do this and gives you all the tools you need.
  • And this is supposedly being done in the name of security ? What a load of b.s.
    So when another huge hole is found in nougat and later rubbish from Google,what excuse will they have left to trot out then ?
    I loathe Samsung,but I hope they really bring on tizen quickly and then use it to stuff Google at their own game,we are going to be in the position very soon of paying out $1000+ us to buy a device outright,that will have locked bootloaders and then Google will have exact what they always wanted,a bloom users locked into their walled garden,because what choice do you have ?apples tied up rubbish or Google's tied up rubbish,fingers crossed one of the Chinese makers jumps in and starts pushing a range of devices aimed specifically at devs and players..
    There's a it I would like to say about the thieving,luring folk at Google,but it's all very rude,I can't be bothered and you would remove it anyway..
    They all deserve their fan ids to dry up and their ducks to fall off,but they wouldn't notice anyway,too busy counting wads of money...
    Die Google.
  • Even their crap keyboard and dictionary is *****.
    Death to Google,the sooner they get in it the neck,the better..
  • You can buy a Tizen phone right now. So why are you here?
  • "That is what more people want." Are you *sure* that's what people want? And exactly what do you think they mean when they say 'security'? Case in point: the feature that is on by default such that if you try to reformat your Android phone from a cold boot, you'll have to reenter the password of the last account used on the phone. If you can't, you're locked out of your phone. It *sounds* like a great idea... except it was originally added by Apple to the iPhone to discourage theft which was epidemic, especially in larger cities. Android phone for the most part, never had this problem. Unless something goes wrong... which happened to a friend of mine. When installing a new SIM on his Samsung Note 5, something glitched and locked him out of the phone. The service tech then tried a hard reformat and immediately locked my friend out of his phone. My friend tried entering his password, but got it wrong enough times to 'permanently' lock the phone. Then he did something very unfortunate and reset his password on his Google account. Which is how it sat for the next two months with Samsung ping-ponging him around as to how to get it fixed. Fortunately, there was a way out - but it took me a bit of searching to find out that Google locks you out for a month after a password change. I entered his new password and since more than a month had passed by, it worked. My friend isn't into tech. He barely wanted to get the phone. Imagine his feelings about all this. He asked me to disable the entire feature... preferring to lose the security over the pain of managing it. And my friend is actually rather paranoid about such things.. that's how much this 'security' feature rankled him. Now, how about someone whose phone develops a bad bit in an otherwise irrelevant file and instead of just letting him know there might be a problem in his system - refuses to boot? That's going to go over well.
  • A bad bit in a file on the system partition means things aren't going to work correctly even if it does boot.
  • The only reason I root is when I get a device that has issues without root, namely lack of OS updates from the manufacturer. Samsung stopped updating my Galaxy Note 8.0 at Jellybean 4.1. With CM 13 I am now running Marshmallow 6.0.1 and it is worth rooting! The UI is much improved over Jellybean, the battery lasts 2x longer, apps transition smoothly, the whole OS is extremely optimized over the version Samsung abandoned it on. Admittedly, I question if Android can mature enough anymore to make root useful on new devices running 6.0.1. But, I thought the same thing on Lollipop 5.1. Smartphones see much more hostile environments than Tablets and other large devices so it makes sense to expect them to be replaced every 2-3 years for me. Large devices like my Tablets, laptops, and PCs last much longer and should be supported much longer, Root access gives me that option.
  • You don't need root to have the latest OS version. Only bootloader unlock and custom recovery. It seems a lot of people here can't grasp that, if this article is correct, this change does not stop you sticking CM and root on a Pixel phone. Just that you cannot root the factory software.
  • Great article, thanks.
  • This is my thing, if we're not going to be able to root stock ROMs then I'd like some control over certain files or folders that are in the system partition. Off the top of my head, we should be able to fully uninstall bloat, backup & restore user data, delete or replace sounds and ringtones, edit hosts file, edit build.prop file, etc. Posted via the Android Central App
  • Yeah this is the thing that pisses me off the most. On Windows, app data is stores in /appdata. If I have an application on one computer (or user profile), and I want to move that setup to a new PC, I just need to copy the right folders out of the appdata folder and over to the new PC. On Android, you simply cannot do this without root. Some apps give you the ability to export setitngs, others don't. The process of moving to a new phone means manually exporting data from a bunch of apps, and losing a bunch of stuff in the process because you just can't backup everything and move it.
  • Android definitely needs a iOS-like backup and restore feature. I wouldn't use it because I like to start afresh but it is definitely needed for the majority of the population.
  • That would be nice... if it actually worked. Like a lot of things that Apple does that "just work," a lot of times it just doesn't, and there's no way to MAKE it work, because you aren't given the level of access you need. Android phones of the PCs of the modern era, and you shouldn't have to root your phone to use it the way you want. There should be a user-accessible "sudo" equivalent, just like you can enable developer access, you should be able to enable root if you want to.
  • After using AdAway and AFWall+ for so long, i doubt I'd enjoy a mobile experience witbout them.
  • Some of the browsers do a decent job, obviously not in other apps, but then again shouldn't you pay your devs to ax the ads?
  • One root app I can't live without is BootManager. I'm glad Google FINALLY gave us a way to control permissions, but it's not enough. Posted via the Android Central App
  • Hmm... It's not a big deal for me to flash a new boot image really, but I do worry it's taking us down a path where everything is locked down and customisation is impossible... I depend on root mainly to fill in for the huge gaps in Google's UI and accessibility features (I've given up on ever getting a system wide dark theme including apps) and with windows phone basically being dead there's nowhere to jump... But that's a bit pessimistic, we'll see how things go.
  • Samsung has a system wide way of theming it's phones. So does HTC yes? I have a completely black with white text theme that is system wide.
  • I haven't had chance to play with Samsung's theme engine, but I'm told the notifications do not get themed, please enlighten me if this is incorrect. I know for sure though that no Google apps will be themed by it. It's something Google need to integrate.
  • The quick settings do. Not the actual notifications.
  • Thanks, didn't think they did cause I have a basic understanding of how systemui and frameworkres function. There you go, that ain't system wide.
  • If Google starts locking bootloaders..... I'm walking. BTW Jerry......That article was a piece of work. You must be getting something out of it. What is it? Money? Exclusivity to OEMs?
  • What the hell are you talking about? Did you read it? This isn't about locking bootloaders. If you need help understanding anything I can try to help you. If you're only here to shitpost and make poor attempts to insult me, carry on.
  • It was a conspiracy joke dude. I completely understand your article. I've been modding phones for a long time now. From the bitpim days. I have also been reviewed quite a few times for my BB Hybrid ROMs and I'm a retired XDA Devs themer. Apparently you don't know who I am. Calm down. Next time, I'll make sure I add 100 :laugh: emojis to my post so there's no confusion.
  • I derped. You can imagine the genuine hate I'm getting right now. I just assumed ... :)
  • Never assume. It makes an ass out of you and me...;)
  • Nothing but love here bromigo. :D
  • I worry about this. If rooting is still available along with unlockable bootloaders then the developers like Chainfire will figure out a simple way to get root eventually. Now what I don't agree with is the sentiment of " Getting over it" as put forth here. Everyone that roots does so for a reason, and if those reasons are not being met by the stock firmware the Google should be able to address this. Annoying ads.. Be able to opt out of them and be done with it.. Theming.. There have been several Theming engines that can be baked in and be allowed to used. The big 2 for me of course is being able to debloat and to upgrade the OS further than the OEMs have supported the device.. and these last 2 I feel is the whole reason behind this, and they are using the security angle to sell it. Yes I firmly believe that is about control and this is just the beginning of the end of freedoms we have been used to... This years Pixels may be unlockable, but next year's I will bet won't be..
  • I'll take that bet. Tell me the stakes. ;)
  • For just you bro.. A good cup of coffee..
  • Headphone jacks will be gone from Android phones soon enough, you'll have to carry around a silly USBC to 3.5mm adapter. It sucks but moto did it and now that Apple has done it, more will follow
  • Just go bluetooth
  • I'm with you there. I'm so tired of the no headphone jack schpiel many are on. I can't wait til most Android phones do it in the next couple years and see what all the same people say then. I guess they'll "just adapt". I've been looking for a decent pair of USB C headphones for my Note 7.
  • Excellent, excellent article. Clears things up perfectly.
  • There was a period a few years back which i call rom fatigue. Where many roms were not completely stable but provided more options than stock. Many stopped rooting and romming because stock became good. But people are missing out in todays roms that are debloated very stable and much faster versions of stock. Also being able to have full immersion no ads anywhere on web pages, youtube and apps are a much more enjoyable experience. Never having to worry about popups, having dual speaker, volume boost create such a clean android experience that when i try to use any of my unrooted phones it's like ad ware hell.
  • For the most part, I don't need root for much. But I do need it to properly back up my phone. I also need the ability to install custom Roms. This is not about security. It is about control. Which would be somewhat OK if Google's stock rom offered the flexibility that others do. What happened to "Be together, not the same"? Let's hope some more open hardware comes along to fill the gap.
  • I guess I'll be the one to address the tiger striped monkey in the room. So how does everyone really feel about the possible demise of the Nexus program/stock Android? A lot of the rumors we are hearing about the Pixel phones sounds like they are not going to be very Nexus-like. Do you all think this marks a major change in the direction of Android? Do you all think this what Android maturing looks like? Do you all think this is going to be a major cultural shift in the world of Android? 
  • Stock Android is going nowhere. And the Nexus never ran stock Android.
  • When it comes to the OS itself (not talking about OS update frequency or length of device upgrade life), I've never liked stock Android. It's UI is too bland, often ugly, and frankly, sorely lacking in features (some of this has been addressed in Nougat though). What Google needs to do is further abstract 'core Android' so that OEMs can add value added features and UI elements on top of it instead of having to surgically insert these kinds of features. If they could do this, it would dramatically reduce the turn-around time between a new OS release and OEM updates for that release. (Much easier said than though.) BTW: I know it will get hate (it *always* does), but Samsung's GS7 TouchWiz and especially Note7 TouchWiz are far superior to stock IMO. The whole "TouchWiz is slow and ugly" is a such a tired, old, dated, and inaccurate refrain now, and has been for a long while. I've never seen anything in stock that I haven't seen done better and more visually pleasing on an S7 or Note 7. Literally--not one thing. Yes, there is some bloat ware, but most can be disabled down to an inactive stub, and you've always been able to choose your default app in Android. Finally, for the purists, 'stock' Android has never been just Android Open Source Project code. It has always contained proprietary, closed source Google code like Google Play Services.
  • If you're talking about the people who frequent and post on AC, then yes, there will be push back and lots of complaints regarding Pixel and Google new direction. For the vast vast majority of Android customers, this will make no difference whatsoever and actually Pixel phones may entice a new type of Android customer.
  • Who would've ever believed it would be easier to mod an iPhone that it is an Android phone? Posted via the Android Central App
  • Even tho I like rooting and enabling stuff on my phones that don't come with the original ROM, I really don't get sad for not being able to do it as I'm getting used to not rooting anymore. I try to use my phone the way it it comes out of the box. What I really care is about updates and I'm always changing phones anyways so I'm always gonna have the latest updates as I'm always getting newer devices.
  • ^^^^^This!
  • Root should be as near impossible as Google can make without an unlocked bootloader. But every manufacturer should have an official process for bootloader unlocking a'la HTC, Xiaomi and Sony.
    99. 9% of buyers do not give a s h i t about root but that doesn't mean those who do should be denied.
  • Exactly!! Let me decide if I'm willing to lose my warranty as the cost of freedom. If so,I should be able to. OEM's should be happy because that's one less device they have to worry about paying to fix under warranty. It's win-win. And I'll be so happy they're treating me week that I'll tell everyone that they really care about their customers and should by their devices.
  • Absolutely right. Next phone gonna be a pixel phone.
  • I like huawei's approach, lock bootloader, then have a "official" bootloader program, that let's you unlock it, if you want to. Why can't Google have that for Nougat? Give the user a choice.
  • "Why can't Google have that for Nougat?"
    Nexii are unlocked. Nobody knows if the Pixels have theirs bootloaders locked.
  • Lock bootloader its only about control and control only it does not benefit the user in any way shape or form Note 3
  • Guys why can we purchase a laptop unlock but yet we cannot purchase a phone unlock. Can you even begin to imagine having a computer at home in which you ARE NOT THE ADMISTRATOR? I can't... why would you even try to justify it in a phone it's beyond my normal understanding Note 3
  • Not to mention I can upgrade the hardware instead of buying a whole new PC, which is what modular was suppose to be about. Would love a phone where I can keep the $700 dollar phone and just upgrade the processor or graphic card or cameras. Phones are going to hit the wall soon, a screen is only so visible to a naked eye, and no advancements in batteries. Phones will be like PC's where if you take care of it , it should last you 5 years without a replacement, don't need a 2 year upgrade cycle or a new phone every year, I'd even be willing to pay for an OS update at a reasonable price if that's the problem with not updating phones. But it's stupid Samsung and others only give you One OS update per device, my Nexus 6 has had around 5.
  • I haven't rooted in ages, but I understand the frustration. I just got used to buying phones less and less for pros and more for the cons. I just try and find a phone with the least number of negatives.
  • Pretty soon our phones will be uncustomizable just like my other appliances like TV refrigerator dishwasher dryer washer toaster .........
  • For me, custom ROMs like CyanogenMod are really useful in the few extra features they bring. One big one for me is the ability to hide the capacitive keys with Amoled screen devices. Those cause burn in, and stock versions don't even give you the option of hiding those like I can on CM13.
  • "It's a really good thing"...blah,blah,blah..."It's not about the Pixel"...blah,blah,blah..."It's about Android 7 and security". I stopped reading as soon as I read that BS.'t.root. EVER.
  • Probably should have read it so you would know you can easily root the phone.
  • I'm on the same boat you are. That's reason I left Samsung after the Note 4 developer edition and went back to nexus.
  • Being able to root is what keeps me on Android. Removing this takes away lot's of customizations. I may as well be on iOS.
  • Absolutely correct
  • Android has been the only echo system I've have since I left blackberry. Android gives me the freedom to customize my phones the way I like it. Custom ROM, kernel, viper4android, xposed, titanium backup, theming that requires root. I have had more than a dozen android phones since 2008 all rooted and never got infected with malware.
    The Pixel phone already looks mute to me compare to my 6P. You lock your bootloader Google, I'll walk, I don't use root to cheat and create infected malicious app etc. I am flashaholic and everytime I flash a new ROM or kernel my phone feels new again.
  • Who says the bootloader will be locked? I'm curious where people are hearing this because I'm hearing the opposite. These changes make the SOFTWARE harder to root. The HARDWARE is still easily unlocked and open.
  • Seems nobody is figuring this fact out! It's not that the Pixel or V20 can't be rooted; it's the stock software running on them out of the box that can't be rooted!
  • Glad to see, I'm not the only one having exactly this view :D. PS. What is that t-shirt (or whatever it is) with "pure android" and where can you get it o.O?
  • That was a shirt they offered a while back. No longer available.
  • who should be able to expect that the phone they bought is safe from random dumb **** they downloaded from somewhere. Why? If people are daft enough to do that why should they be protected against their own idiocy.
  • People should start a list of Nougat phones that have unlocked bootloaders. People that want to root should patronize manufacturers that ship their phones with unlocked bootloaders. I guess devices that get upgraded to Nougat from Marshmallow will also be impossible to root. I have decided to stick with Marshmallow custom ROMs for my Nexus 9 LTE.
  • Here's my issue with this. I want my phone to be able to do sensible things without having to use an app that will constantly run in the background. That's why I root. For example, I want to be able to lower my notification volume independently of the ringer volume. I want to be able to control which apps are able to blink the light when I'm in priority mode. I want to be able to control what apps blink what colors without using an app like light flow that has to run all the time and can be hit or miss. Root isn't just for "fun" . In fact, I don't think anything I use root for is for anything other than to make the phone more usable. So I am quite disappointed in this.
  • After reading through all the comments, it seems there is a general confusion over unlocked bootloader versus rooting stock software and people seem to be using these two items to mean the same thing. READ Jerry's article carefully. You will not be able to root the stock Android 7.0 software that comes with new phones. However this is not preventing you from installing any custom rom and getting "root" via that method. For example, I am still rocking a Note 3. I stopped installing custom roms since I bought this phone 3 years ago however I did want to root it to use some software (Root Explorer etc). This was possible. With Nougat, I now won't be able to do this on stock software -- which in my opinion is a good thing. I am all for tightening things up.
  • Google should release two versions of android then. One that comes rooted or is easily rootable and one that is not. Then during your OTA update you just install the version you want.
  • Jerry, thanks for the article. As far as increased security i'm good with that. For those who want custom roms and stuff sounds like as long as the bootloader is unlocked, or can be, then all is good.
    I root really for one reason. I want a good backup of ALL my apps and settings. With Titanium i just tell it go and give it a schedule and bang, done. when i reset the phone to factory or move to a new phone a few taps and i have all my apps and the settings for said apps back in place, no issue.
    Google seems to have improved app backups in Marshmallow but as my carrier has seemingly forgotten to release for the phone i use I'm basically stuck. Also, i'm not sure that the newest backup process from google still picks up backups for non PlayStore apps (ie sideloaded or from Amazon etc). If with Nougat I get a "real" backup. That is all apps, all data, all settings and the ability to restore completely then I'll be just as happy not to root.
    Failing that I would like to see a way for apps like Titanium to have a way to do what they do. Maybe via a process where Google does extra scrutiny before giving the app access and then signed similar to the OS updates as Jerry mentioned. This way only approved versions get out. Attempting to install a non-properly signed version wouldn't gain the access. Haven't thought out all the angles obviously and likely there is something i'm missing that would prevent having something like that and keeping the phone/os secure. However, having that would take care of the only reason i still root my phone.
  • Agree with you 100%. If you want to root, buy a phone that you can do that on. Very simple. I'm sure there will be phones that are easier than others. No need to get upset over Sammy or LG or any other company that decides to lock down their phones. I'd rather have Samsung pay and know it's secure than have the ability to root. Haven't rooted a phone in years because there hasn't been any need. Android has gotten much better as an OS.
  • The point is "choice". I could care less about Samsung pay. Why can't I have the choice to root and not use Samsung pay or the choice to use it and not root? Give us what Android was built on. If they want to copy iPhone's walled garden, then what makes them different?
  • Its all about control ....if you want to be secure pay with cash. It does not get any better than that. Note 3
  • Cash is only secure if someone doesn't rob you......
  • Personally, the only time I ever rooted one of my Android devices, was just to learn how to do it. I don't mind not having the ability to root my phone. I see no need for it. I'd rather be secure, and I love that Google and Apple have been hardening their OSes the last couple years. Anything to make it more difficult to be hacked. Especially by the government.
  • No, we shouldn't be happy about it, no root is a bad things as it gives the users less options with their phones, that is a bad thing, especially so with the state of phones in the US where the carriers screw up the phones pretty badly at times with their modifications, now if manufacturers would take a hard stance against the carriers not allowing carrier changes and apps so we could get the phones as they were intended and designed to be it would be less of an issue, but right now, no, root is important to fix phones, AT&T, Verizon, Sprint, and T-Mobile mess up.
  • Still being able to install a custom ROM isn't good enough for me. More often than not, custom ROM's are sub-par. They lack the vendor camera driver, resulting in poor photo's, they often lack all the extras like fingerprint scanner and hearth rate sensors. So it still makes sense to have root on the stock firmware. I currently use it for AdAway, backups, freezing / removing baked in apps, Tasker based auto reboots, prevent my telco from spamming me by disabling SIM Toolkit, the list goes on. I would hate to give this all up because of Google's increasing desire for control.
  • A very big reason I use Android is because of how easy it is to root my device and install an adblocker. I would say 90% of why I root is for adblock. The other 10% is for titanium backup because Google doesn't require app developers to have cloud backup so most choose not to. If root becomes annoyingly difficult I would rather switch to an iPhone. At least then I know I would get better quality apps that are released earlier and updated faster and a more refined operating system. The iPhone hardware is always nice as well, even if it is kind of boring. As long as I can still easily root I will stick with Android. I don't mind having to modify boot files or having to install custom recoveries or not being able to get monthly OTA's. I never expected to be able to one click root a phone and still be able to accept OTA updates like we can right now. I expect a little work to go into it. But if rooting a nexus/pixel ever becomes as annoying as jailbreaking an iPhone I will switch. I am not upset about this news as every time a new version of Android is released we hear the same sort of things and they are always dealt with. As long as we can unlock our bootloaders we should be able to have root access. However, I am just stating what I would do if rooting becomes too bothersome or cumbersome or becomes reliant on hacks rather than simply unlocking a bootloader, flashing a new recovery and installing the necessary files..
  • I'll stop needing root when Google comes up with a real way to backup/restore apps/app data. Until then I'm pretty reliant on Titanium Backup. If all it takes is a custom ROM to get root on 7.0 then I guess I'm going custom.
  • So what is stopping them from giving 90% (number pulled from arse) of us the ability to customize our phones. If they want people to stop rooting and feel like they don't need to root, why not just give the reins to our status bars and nav bars and notification pull downs and dark theme and ...? I could care less about all the other root stuff and I'm sure most people (that are into "modding" their phones) would be happy with just that as well. I hope this is a thing soon.