According to a study conducted by Kaspersky, 7.6% of Android users are raiding their phones. That does not sound like much, but with more than 2 billion Android devices, there are more than 150 million rooted phones – more than the total population of Russia, Mexico or Japan ̵
However, the status of a superuser is not always easy to achieve. Many vendors lock their device bootloaders and add additional layers of security to prevent users from crawling and installing a custom recovery. Still, people still find ways to get around those hurdles, as Roote lets them uninstall bloatware, block ads, and use cool mods and system-level optimizations. For many people, this level of customization is why they've even opted for an Android device.
If you're a modder or just have the ability to tinker with your device, it's important that your next phone roam easily and have an active development community. So we've sorted out some of the most popular devices on the market today and created this list of the top four rooftop phones.
Table of Contents
When it comes to rooting and modifying an Android device There are several important factors:
- Bootloader Unlock Method: Traditional root methods rely on an unlocked bootloader, and you can not use TWRP custom recovery without one. Some phones allow you to unlock the bootloader with a single fastboot command, while others may require you to retrieve code from the manufacturer's website first. The manufacturer code method is fairly simple, but has a big drawback – your OEM will know when you have unlocked your boot loader, so you are likely to lose warranty coverage.
- Tamper Fuse: Most cell phones these days have a sabotage backup or a flag that fires if you change the firmware of the memory in any way. If you ever need to return your phone for defective hardware, the manufacturer will read the status of that fuse and is likely to decline the warranty once it is triggered. Some phone manufacturers can reset this backup and restore full warranty coverage, while other manufacturers track their status by recording whether your account is registered for a bootloader unlock code.
- Stock Firmware: If you're rooting and modding a phone, there's always a risk that things will go awry and you'll be left with a soft-walled device. So it's important that you can just download the firmware for your model so you can fix things up.
- Project Treble: The new Google system for updating manufacturers has a clean page effect for modders: Because Project Treble separates the vendor implementation from the underlying system framework, developers can create custom ROMs that simply replace the system partition. This means that there can be a custom ROM that works the same on all Treble-supported devices (GSI or Generic System Image), resulting in faster custom ROM update times.
- Kernel Sources and Binaries: When the kernel sources of a device are published, third-party developers have the minimum required to create custom kernels. All Android vendors need to release kernel sources, though some may pull their feet. On the other hand, manufacturers are not required to publish driver binaries; if so, there will generally be a wider choice of stable custom ROMs and custom kernels for the device.
- TWRP: TWRP recovery is perhaps the most important tool when it comes to modifying an Android device. While some phones are officially supported, others may only have ported versions of TWRP available that generally work well but may have some bugs.
- ElementalX and Xposed: Two of the most popular mods are the ElementalX Custom Kernel by Aaron Segaert and the Xposed Framework. ElementalX offers great features like double-tap awakening, while Xposed allows the installation of modules that change the core features and change the behavior of apps. Xposed is now available directly from Magisk (read more), which means that you can have all your favorite mods without triggering SafetyNet.
- Magisk: If you want to root without triggering SafetyNet, Magisk is your best bet. The popular mod not only gives you systemic root, but also a framework that lets you install modules and run mods at the system level. Given how important that is, all phones in this list support Magisk.
- Developer Community: When large developers own a particular device, this phone usually gets some of the best mods. In general, when a device has an active XDA forum, the variety of available mods is also increased.
- Custom ROMs and Kernels: Custom ROMs can give you additional software features, change the user interface of your phone, and even speed up performance. On the other hand, you can use custom cores to change the CPU frequencies and gateways to find the right mix of battery life and performance. Occasionally features such as color control and double-tipping are added. Since these are two of the largest types of mods for Android devices, it is important that the phones listed here have a good selection of cores and ROMs.
How We Picked These Phones
To make this list, we have established a number of basic rules. First, every phone had to be rootable, so a number of devices were excluded. The largest phone model that was excluded from this rule was the iPhone. With iOS 12, jailbreaking methods are currently not available, but even for older versions, Apple has completed these exploits almost faster than developers can build them. Thus, the iPhone X S X S Max, and the iPhone X R could not be considered realistic here.  Second, we disqualified devices that were rootbar only through kernel exploits like Dirty COW or Towelroot, as these methods are usually blocked pretty quickly. In other words, each device must have a traditional root method. This is the case when devices like the Galaxy S9 suffer as Samsung's newest US flagships simply do not have a traditional root method.
Traditional root methods focus on unlocking the boot loader and flashing custom images like TWRP Recovery. For this reason, we only included devices with unlocked or unlockable bootloaders, and we excluded devices that did not have a fastboot interface for flashing the images.
There were a couple of devices that could easily have made this list – the Pixel 2 and the OnePlus 6 – but we've left them out since there are alternative models from Google and OnePlus that are a bit more future proof. For example, the OnePlus 6T has just been released, and the Pixel 3 will all be the same box as the Pixel 2 of 2017, but will be supported for another year over the older model. Apart from that, we only tested the current generation phones that were for sale in the United States. Carrier-branded mobile phones, such as offered by Verizon and AT & T, often have bootloaders that can not be unlocked. The phones listed here are only SIM-unlocked variants, which are distributed directly by the manufacturer. Tiebreakers were then determined based on how active the development community of the device was, leaving us with the following phones.
Phone 1: OnePlus 6T
With the death of the Nexus line, there was a gap in the market that came to phones with high-end specifications at medium prices. OnePlus fills this room with the OnePlus 6T a Snapdragon 845 flagship with a true hodgepodge of high-end specs. The company is able to keep its prices low by cutting the cost of marketing and shipping directly to the consumer, giving you a great modding value for your dollar.
The OnePlus 6T is a fashion-friendly mobile phone by design, as the manufacturer has always adopted the Android development community, starting with its Cyanogen-based ROM on the OnePlus One. You even went so far as to explicitly state that unlocking your boot loader does not invalidate your warranty, and this is as simple as sending a single fastboot command after enabling OEM unlock.
The OnePlus 6T has a software-based manipulator flag, which is great because you can just reset it so the manufacturer does not know you've ever changed your software. And if you ever need them, you can just download factory images for the 6T directly from the OnePlus website and then flash them into Fastboot to restore the phone to its original state.
Because the phone is so new at this time we write, we are reputation for some of the other key factors in this comparison. For example, earlier OnePlus devices immediately released kernel sources and binaries, including those related to the Dash Charge feature. Therefore, it is certain that custom ROMs on the 6T are as feature-rich as the inventory.
Big kernel developers did not have enough time to get their products onto the OnePlus 6T, but we expect that will change soon. ElementalX developer Flar2 has created a version of their popular Custom kernel for each of the last five OnePlus phones, so it will only take a few weeks for the OnePlus 6T to be supported. And because of its modesty, the OnePlus 6T will be one of the most active developer communities on the market, meaning that both custom ROMs and root apps and mods should be numerous.
How to ship with Android Pie The 6T supports Project Treble. This not only means that firmware inventory updates must be done quickly and frequently, but also that Generic System Images (GSIs) are available from their own ROM developers. This is another reason why we are convinced that the root scene of the 6T will be extremely active.
All these points also apply to this year's older flagship, the OnePlus 6. However, OnePlus broke sales records with the release of the 5T in 2017. This indicates a trend that more people will use the model for the late year than buy the version for the middle year. Therefore, we recommend the newer model because more users usually mean better development. However, if you get your hands on one of the older models, you could save a little money and still have a very modder-friendly phone with great ROM support to help with the longevity factor.
With a lower starting price than just about any other phone with comparable hardware, the OnePlus 6T is one of the cheapest flagship phones, and that's a great combination when it comes to modding. The phone will have plenty of processing power available, no matter which mods you throw at it, and you will not have the nausea you would have if you flash things on a more expensive device.
Finally, the OnePlus 6T will be the first OnePlus phone to be sold in US carrier stores. This should benefit the development scene as more users should own this phone than previous OnePlus devices. However, you should be aware that some of these aspects do not match the models with carrier brands. Most importantly, there is another bootloader unlocking method for the T-Mobile variant that uses a manufacturer code. Therefore, we recommend purchasing the unlocked variant directly from OnePlus, if rooting is one of your top priorities.
Phone 2: Pixel 3 (or 3 XL)
Google's pixel phones have only been around for two years, but thanks to a great camera, they already have one Name made (seriously, it is incredible). The pixel's marketing campaign seeks to position the phone as an iPhone alternative – almost an "Everyman" device – but do not make a mistake, the Pixel 3, like its predecessor, the Nexus, is a modders dream phone deep inside.
Let's be clear, we recommend either the Pixel 3 or Pixel 3 XL – all important aspects when it comes to rooting are identical for both phones. So it's up to you whether you want a larger screen with a notch or a smaller phone with slightly larger apertures. This year's Pixel features a new Titan M security chip that locks the boot chain and prevents the firmware from being reset. However, Google has spared no effort to redraw or modify the phone's software. It's just an extra layer of security against external threats .
Why pixels are so high on our list, we start with the development support. On the same day, the phone officially went on the shelves, TopJohnWu brought Magisk to Pixel 3 and reached The Root . This is mainly due to the easy-to-unlock boot loader. Each model, with the exception of the pixels sold by Verizon, can have its boot loader unlocked by simply enabling a setting and then sending a single command with Fastboot. And since unlocking the bootloader does not void your warranty, you can modify the software of your device as you like.
The pixel has a sabotage flag, so if you unlock your boot loader or install custom firmware, there is a bit of leftover data that lets Google know that you've changed your software. However, this is just a software-based tamper flag, so you can send a simple fastboot command to reset it, and Google will not recognize that you have changed your operating system.
Google Releases All As soon as a new version of Android is released, you can easily flash the firmware of your inventory to get back to work. The pixel's driver binaries are released as well as the kernel sources, making it very easy for developers to create custom ROMs and kernels for the pixel.
Speaking of custom kernels, the very best for Pixel 3 should be available soon: Aaron Segaert, AKA flar2, has made his ElementalX kernel available to all previous Pixel models. We're sure it's only a matter of time before Pixel 3 becomes available. ElementalX has some cool features like color control and saving CPU profiles
As mentioned earlier, Magisk developer John Wu bought Pixel 3 on the first day, so he's already updated his popular mod to work with Google's latest phones work. This means that the pixel provides full Magisk support, including the ability to roam the phone without triggering SafetyNet, and you can also install Magisk modules such as the Systemless Xposed Framework.
Since Pixel's stock interface is so close to AOSP Android already and the Project Treble support is already installed, many custom ROMs will be available for the device soon. While we do not expect it to be as active as the OnePlus 6T, the Pixel's development community is usually one of the most active, so you can expect a constant stream of pixel-compatible root apps and mods.
The cost is the biggest drawback with Pixel 3. The smaller, 64 GB Pixel 3 brings you $ 799, and it just goes up from there. This price tag may make you hesitate to tinker with such an expensive toy, but if you can handle the $ 899 starting price of 3 XL, it's just as good as the smaller pixel 3, because again, everything we've said this section is always valid still for the larger model.
Do not forget that the Verizon variants of Google Pixel 3 all have locked bootloaders. For this reason, we only recommend that you buy a pixel directly from Google when you are planning rooting and modding.
Phone 3: Essential PH-1
Essential is a new company founded by Android founder Andy Rubin. Her first phone has seriously boosted the trend for a cordless phone, and it's still a great buy today, even though it's just over a year old. The Essential PH-1, the AKA Essential Phone, is still the company's flagship product. Despite reports that is shrinking as a result of a Rubin scandal, its flagship continues to offer world-class software support.
In many ways, the Essential Phone is identical to the OnePlus 6T and Pixel 3, at least from the perspective of a modder. The boot loader can be unlocked by selecting OEM Unlock under Settings -> Developer Options and then sending a single fast boot command. This means that there is no manufacturer code invalidating the warranty, and the warranty is maintained even when the boot loader is unlocked.
The similarities do not stop there. The PH-1 has a software-based tamper flag, which means that even if Essential decided to terminate the guarantees on bootloader-unlocked phones, you could simply reset that flag so they are not smarter. And even if you have equipped the device with a soft-bricking procedure, you can always download the firmware version directly from Essential – something that is also useful for defrosting and updating your device.
Project Treble is supported so that generic system images can be viewed if you are not a fan of the available custom ROMs for the PH-1. However, this is an area where the Essential Phone falls short of what Google and OnePlus offer – custom ROM support is not terrific. At the time of writing, only eight non-ROMs are available. That means the developer community is pretty active for the PH-1, and there are several root apps and mods to play with.
The kernel sources and driver binary files are being released, and this has led to custom kernels like ElementalX support the essential phone. In fact, all the most popular root-level mods are available for the PH-1, including Magisk, TWRP and Xposed.
However, there are two major disadvantages of the Essential Phone. First, the phone is over a year old at the time – but you can see that as a plus, as you can get the phone for relatively cheap nowadays. Second, the company itself does not appear to be in good shape and even goes so far as to cancel its planned Essential PH-2. But despite these issues, Essential has continued to provide the PH-1 with first-class software support.
Phone 4: Moto G6
Motorola has virtually invented the budget smartphone space with its Moto G lineup. Prior to the release of the original model in 2013, smartphones costing less than $ 400 were considered drop-outs when buying a mobile phone tariff, but Motorola's sophisticated looks and balanced performance have raised the bar in the budget segment. As it stands, the Moto G6 can keep up with cell phones costing twice as much, making it one of the best value-paid phones on the market.
With a starting price of $ 229, the Moto G6 simply can not be ignored here. Think about it: you could buy a G6, cement it, buy another, build it, then buy a third … and you would pay even a lot less than a base model Pixel 3.
It's easy to unlock the G6's bootloader via Motorola's official website to generate an unlock code. However, the company states that once you receive a bootloader unlock code, "Your device is no longer covered by the Motorola warranty." The account-based boot loader unlock method also ensures that Motorola can track whether you have changed your firmware or not, regardless of the status of the tamper flag. To put it simply, if you want to make the Moto G6 root you must be content with the loss of the warranty.
Driver binaries and kernel sources are released on Motorola's Github site, plus Project Treble is supported so developers have won. There is no problem creating a custom firmware. Magisk root is available for the G6 and TWRP is officially supported to cover all basics. In contrast to last year's Moto G5 Plus, however, there is no ElementalX support.
Developers seem to be attracted to the Moto G6 low-price and near-stock version of Android as the device's XDA forums are already quite active. Although there are not many custom ROMs or kernels yet, we suspect that the phone in the US is still fairly new. However, the Android interface means that there are many root-level mods and apps that will work with the G6.
There are some disadvantages to rooting and modding the Moto G6. The biggest one is how difficult it can be to find firmware downloads for the G6, as Motorola does not offer an official factory download page. This means you'll have to scour the Internet for a third-party firmware download if you've chewed your phone, or wanted to uproot and / or update your phone. All factors taken into consideration, although the Moto G6 is a solid choice if you are planning to modulate your next phone.
If you have the opportunity, your next Telephone root and install firmware are your top requirements, then stand out two devices from the rest: the OnePlus 6T and the Google Pixel 3. The OnePlus 6T gets a small advantage, because it is a bit cheaper with slightly better development support and it meets all other main aspects boxing. The Essential Phone is good in most areas, but falls behind the two, as it is a year older and does not have the usual ROM and kernel support.
The Moto G is a step back when it comes to rooting and modding. The main distinguishing factor is that you lose the warranty coverage when you unlock the bootloader. But if you're ready to risk it, the G6 will make a compelling case for you, considering how cheap it is.
Once you've decided on a phone and are ready to rooftop and modulate, we think the following links would be a great starting point:
This article was published during the annual Tweaks & Hacks Celebration Week by Gadget Produced hacks. Read all Tweaks & Hacks Celebration Stories.
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