If you have an Android device or are staring to looking into what your Android device can do, you have most likely come across the terms: Rooting, ROMs, Kernels and Mods. So what do these terms mean exactly? Let me break it down for you individually.
Rooting is a process that allows a user to gain access to administrative controls on an Android device. The process of rooting is somewhat similar to jailbreaking on iOS, but it varies for most devices. Over time this is process is being streamlined, so rooting on some Android devices is similar to other devices. That being said, still to this date, no devices has an identical rooting method to another device. The administrative controls that are given with rooting include being able to bypass a wireless carrier or handset-maker’s restriction or limitations. Many root to remove bloatware from a carrier or manufacturer. Other abilities include being able to alter system settings, or running specialized applications. The biggest reason people root are to be able install custom ROMs, Kernels, and Mods.
Upon rooting, one has opened the ability to install custom ROMs. In one sentence, a ROM is an aftermarket version of Android. This version of Android could be debloated, stripped of UI overlays such as TouchWiz or HTC Sense, or be modified to improve performance and battery life of a devices; or it could be a combination of all three of these! These versions of Android can have even more features, it all depends on what’s in it. It is basically an Android operating system built to the developer’s liking. Thousands of ROMs can be found on sites like XDA or Android Central, here developers post their work and allow for the communities of any particular device to try their work and give their opinion. If your phone is on the older side, and you’re running an older version of Android and your carrier or manufacture isn’t releasing any OTAs, there’s a chance someone has a ROM based on a newer version of Android than you can install. Installing these ROMs is often referred to as flashing, not all ROMS will give you the best performance on your phone, especially if it’s older, but having the newer features is a nice pay off for some. Some devices have larger communities than others, but even the smaller one’s can have something to offer. ROMs also allow for the installations of custom Kernels and Mods.
In Android’s case a Kernel is a set of codes that helps when the device does anything. When you want to do something, such as turn down the brightness, or hit the back button, Android requests a Kernel which in turn works with the hardware to do what you want it to do. A bad Kernel can result in functions that can be broken or cause the system to crash constantly, a good Kernel can help a device utilize its hardware better and improve performance or battery life, or both. Custom ROMs use heavily modified Kernels at times to bring you what makes that particular ROM special.
Mods are exactly what you think they are. They’re modifications. These modifications can be a simple theme overlay of your ROMs UI, or it could enable an optical joystick to work as a power button. Think of it this way, the more you modify, the more customized you’re making your phone.
I hope that helps you in understanding what these terms mean. For questions and more, leave a comment!