This is June 2013, exactly two years after the Android tablet “Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1” was released. And two years is a very long time in tech years: in this interval, the Galaxy Tab 10.1 was announced, released, and then discontinued. Moreover, not only has a second generation of this Android tablet long been released, but its third generation has also been announced and is due to be released now in 2013, which only serves to show how far behind one can get in only two tech-years. And this is the tablet I own!
Not only are my tablet’s body and looks outdated, but so is its soul (the Operating System, or simply OS). The OS is all that we see and experience when we use a tablet, phone or computer. Without the OS, our gadgets would be similar to that lifeless, black-screened thing we are left with when our gadgets are out of battery. And by holding on to an older OS, we miss out on many new and cool apps, which become incompatible with our gadgets.
The Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1 was released with Android 3.0 Honeycomb as the pre-installed OS, which was later updated — remotely, via internet — to Android 4.0 “Ice Cream Sandwich.” An Over-the-air (OTA) update, as they call it. And then that was it; the tablet was forgotten! New versions of the Android OS continue to be released though: versions 4.1 and 4.2 are already out, both dubbed Jelly Bean (I will assume that, by now, you have noticed that Android OS versions are named after desserts), and Android 5.0 Key Lime Pie is also set to be released sometime later this year. But, of course, none of these releases has — nor will — ever reach my forgotten tablet.
So what does one do in this situation? What should you do with your tablet — or phone, for that matter — that is in this same situation? Well, enter the world of “Root”. No, not Ruth: root!
Root and Custom Operating Systems
Android Rooting (don’t mind the meaning of “Root” itself) is a process that allows users of Android devices, like you, to break into the mobile Operating System (OS) and gain privileged control of the entire file system, with full administrative rights; this is known as “root access”. Rooting has numerous advantages (read here), but the most appealing of them all is probably the ability to install other versions of the Android OSs or Custom ROMs. Again, do not mind the meaning of “ROM” itself, just remember that in the Android world ROM is mostly equivalent to saying Operating System (OS).
Rooting is the process that allowed me to upgrade my Galaxy Tab 10.1 from Android 3.0 Honeycomb to Android 4.2 Jelly Bean, something that Samsung and Vodafone (my carrier) would never have done, since this tablet has been discontinued and support for it is equally dwindling or nonexistent.
And rooting processes have gotten quite simple lately; with sites like the galaxytabhacks.com providing step-by-step video instructions on how to do it, and Cyanogenmod supplying most of the Custom ROMs available, free of charge. There is only one — and major — inconvenience about rooting and installing Custom ROMs though: that there is no “one size fits all” solution. You would need to google a little to find a process that suits your device, or find someone who is more tech savvy than you to do it for you.
If you know a thing or two about the installation of new OSs on Desktop Computers and Laptops, then you will know that a CD of the Windows 8 Operating System, for example, will install on almost any computer – be it a Dell, Acer, HP, etc. Well, that does not work the same way for Android devices: one same generation of the Galaxy Tab 10.1, for example, may have different installation procedures and slightly different Custom ROMs too, depending on the carrier that supplied it. So, one same Android OS will, most certainly, not work on two different Android devices. This is commonly known as Android Fragmentation and is hopefully going to end soon, since the next Android OS (Android 5.0 Key Lime Pie) is expected to bridge the gap by being compatible with a number of older devices and even Desktop Computers and Laptops.
But until then, I say root your device nonetheless, and upgrade your Android Operating System to a more recent release. Do not worry if you don’t know all the nitty-gritty, simply seek the help of someone who does. By now you should have enough knowledge to know what to ask for.
Whatever you may loose by rooting your device (if there is anything to lose), I say it will be far outweighed by what you will gain from it. I, for one, love having Jelly Bean as my new OS: it is a lot more beautiful, functional and it simplified a lot of previous processes, making my tablet more intuitive and fun to use.