I can still remember Dan Bader’s anti-modding screed on Mobile Syrup back in 2013, which got him a lot of notoriety and ultimately a guest spot on TWIT.tv (the link to that episode is unfortunately down at the moment). It was the reaction to his post that was so surprising to me—Android users everywhere seemed to breathe a collective sigh of relief, as if to say: “Finally, someone’s saying what we’re all thinking…!”
In the years that followed I’ve observed a growing derision of custom ROMs and such on the various Android-centric blogs and forums that I follow. There’s even an xdacirclejerk board on reddit, filled with in-jokes like How do I partition sim card? and BATTERYGUIDE[SUPERPOWER][100 hrs SOT]—all good fun, until you read the rant that XDA editor-in-chief Mario Tomás Serrafero wrote about people buying Nexus phones and doing absolutely nothing with them.
It’s true that with full disk encryption turned off the Nexus 5X is an entirely different—that is, much faster—phone. It’s also true that your technology is yours to do with as you see fit. Or not. I just have to ask, are there still Android modders amongst us?
I could give you my stock, pragmatic reason for rooting an Android device, to block ads at the system level with AdAway. But that would belie the real reason why I unlock the bootloader on every Android phone in my possession.
I learned more about computers and networking in the first month of using Linux than I had in the previous decade using Mac OS; thanks to Android I have a similar understanding of the handheld computer that I carry with me everywhere I go. I may never touch the build.prop on my phone but I at least know what the damn thing is. And I don’t mind getting myself into trouble every so often, because the modding community has provided the tools I need to restore my device to a previous state.
I remember the pre-iPhone era, when these very forums were filled with boasts of overclocked and undervolted Nokias and the like. Are those days really gone? Are rose gold and space grey really the only options left to discuss?
Modders, if you’re still out there, I need an amen!