Whatever it was that tempted you to root your Android device, you’ll need the right apps to take advantage. You’ll find apps to customize the look of your device, tweak the performance, help you to manage files and apps, enable hotspots and secure networking, and a few other things besides. Google doesn’t necessarily recommend that you root, but it’s not frowned upon either, and so you’ll find most of the top apps for rooted Android devices in the Play Store.
We’ve already taken a look at how to root your Android device, now let’s take a look at how to get the best out of your rooted device.
Updated on 11-20-2013 by Simon Hill: Added five new apps and removed two out of date apps.
Best apps for rooted Android devices
There are loads of great apps for rooted Android devices, but most of them won’t work on any smartphone or tablet that isn’t rooted, so don’t waste your time (if they do work it will be a limited subset of the full functionality). Apply the same common sense rules that you would to installing any Android app when you go shopping for rooted apps – only download from the Play Store, always check the reviews, and stick to apps with a good rating and a high number of downloads.
Titanium Backup (Free, $7 Pro version)
As the name suggests, the primary purpose of Titanium Backup is to backup all of your apps, your data, and your device settings. You can automate these backups, and you can save the backup files to your SD card. If you plan on flashing a lot of ROMs, then this app is essential. For power users, the Pro version is well worth the outlay as there are no restrictions on your backups and schedules, and you can sync directly to cloud services like DropBox and Google Drive. The Pro version also allows you to freeze or completely uninstall bloatware that your manufacturer or carrier preinstalled. TB is one of those apps with a never-ending list of features.
ROM Manager (Free, $6 Premium version)
With ROM Manager you can back up your existing ROM, flash new ROMs, and install custom themes or kernels. It features a long list of ROMs which is frequently updated and you can install ROMs to the SD card or OTA (over the air). If you want to unlock features like premium ROMs, update notifications, and automatic backups, then you’ll need to spring for the premium version.
(ROM definition: ROM stands for Read Only Memory. On Android phones, it is when you install a new OS or OS version with related apps. It’s not for the faint of heart.)
WiFi Tethering (Free) (Google Play/Amazon)
Some carriers block wireless hotspot functionality, or they try to charge extra for it. If you root your Android device and download this app, then you can set it up as a wireless hotspot for other devices, such as your laptop or tablet, and use the mobile network to connect them to the Internet. Once you’ve installed the app, you can tether other devices to it via Wi-Fi or Bluetooth. The app supports encryption, it’s completely free, and it’s very easy to use, but you may encounter issues with specific devices.
Greenify (Free) (Google Play/Amazon)
If you’re convinced that some non-essential apps are running in the background and eating up your battery juice, or impacting on system performance, then you can do something about it. While other apps allow you to freeze or uninstall bloatware and unwanted services, Greenify is designed to put apps into a state of hibernation when you aren’t using them. The beauty of this is that you can use them as normal when you want to, but when you close them down they won’t be running in the background and consuming resources.
System Tuner (Free)
You can analyze exactly what is going on with your Android device and make a few tweaks to tune up performance with this free app. It enables you to tweak CPU settings, kill background processes and apps, backup and restore apps and their settings, tweak cache and memory settings, and a whole lot more. You can dig into exactly how your device is running, but exercise some caution before you start making changes.
GMD GestureControl ($5.56)
Could you be getting more out of gesture controls? The answer is – yes, if you use the GMD GestureControl app. There are a number of multi-touch defaults, so you can swipe four fingers right or left to cycle through apps, or use a series of other gestures to launch and kill apps, or even use the controls within apps, such as playing music or tweaking the volume. What makes this app special is the ability to create your own custom gestures. It works best with Android tablets, but you can use it with smartphones too.
DroidWall – Android Firewall (Free)
Here’s an easy to use firewall that lets you block apps from eating any data. You can limit mobile network or Wi-Fi access for individual apps. This is ideal for ensuring you don’t exceed your data limit, run down your battery, or fall victim to a suspicious app. It includes a full log of what is happening, so you can analyze app behavior.
Anyone who wants to record video and audio from the screen of their rooted Android device should be using this app. It outputs high quality MPEG-4 with audio and you can choose your frame rate. You can also use it to grab screenshots, which is handy for people running older versions of Android. It’s easy to share your captures directly from within the app.
ES File Explorer (Free) (Google Play/Amazon)
Dig into your file structure and Android’s entire file system with this handy management app. You can do whatever you need to your files, it’s easy to search, view, edit, and change permissions. You can categorize, encrypt, and compress. It can also serve as a cloud storage client so you can share files easily. Throw in task management and remote access functionality and it’s not hard to see why this free app is so popular.
The scourge of spam calls and texts can be effectively ended with this app. It’s a powerful tool for blocking specific numbers or simply rejecting unknown, withheld, private, and restricted numbers. On rooted devices this can be done without your phone even ringing, so the spam really is kept completely out of sight, which isn’t the case with many call blocking apps. There’s a free trial version that lets you try it out before you buy.
Combine Tasker with your rooted Android device and you have a toolbox that’s capable of automating everything from the simplest tasks to impressively complex sequences. You are going to want to work through the tutorials if you expect to get the most from this app, but it’s worth it. Start off with simple things like automatically launching the music app of your choice when you plug your headphones in, or turning on Wi-Fi when you fire up the browser, and build your way up to more complicated scenes.
If you’re playing a game on your smartphone and you want to switch to your tablet, but pick up where you left off, this app can make it happen. It allows you to use your Wi-Fi connection to sync app data with other Android devices. You can also sync to the cloud for later if you’re not at home. A couple of bucks unlocks the ability to sync via NFC or Bluetooth, and it lets you schedule automated syncing.
Everyone knows the pain of accidentally deleting a photo, but if your device is rooted then you should be able to retrieve that lost image, and it won’t cost you anything. This simple app does exactly what it says it will: it undeletes and recovers lost images or photos from your internal memory or your memory card (even if it has been reformatted). You can restore the files or send them directly from the app by email.
More great Android apps for rooted devices
There are a lot more great apps for rooted Android devices out there and people are getting more and more creative about the potential uses. The Game On app costs $1 and allows you to share saved games, which can be a great way of progressing if you’re stuck. The problem is that it only covers a limited selection of games right now. Another app in its infancy, but still worth checking out is Pimp my ROM which lets you add all sorts of tweaks, mods, hacks, apps and features to your current ROM (see above for definition).
If you’ve got any other suggestions for root apps that people need to check out then please post a comment and share them. We’ll revisit this list and add to it in the future so check back.
Article originally published on 3-29-2013.