Diving into the world of rooting and modding your Android phone or tablet can feel like an overwhelming endeavor. Open a forum thread with some instructions and you’ll find yourself staring at all sorts of strange words and confusing combinations of letters. ROMs, Kernels, Nandroids, TAR images…what does it all mean?! We’re here to help! Below you’ll find the newb’s dictionary to the strange language of modding/H@cking Android devices.
Although so many of us carry out rooting and modding/h@cking process on our devices, it’s funny that some of us don’t even know the meaning of some of the terms we come across but do have a clear understanding of what it does. So, we’ll be sharing some of the most popular Android terms and their meaning in this article. This is not intended to be a technical definition of each concept, but an easy to understand explanation for the average Joe.
Get reading after the break;
Table of Contents
- 1 Android Terms And Their Meaning
- 1.1 1. Root / Rooting
- 1.2 2. Bootloader
- 1.3 3. Recovery / Custom Recovery
- 1.4 4. Backup / Nandroid
- 1.5 5. Wipe
- 1.6 6. Flashing
- 1.7 7. ROM (Stock ROM/Custom ROM)
- 1.8 8. Flashable ZIP
- 1.9 9. Kernel / Custom Kernel
- 1.10 10. Radio / Basebands / Modems
- 1.11 11. Mod
- 1.12 12. Brick (soft & hard brick)
- 1.13 13. SuperSU
- 1.14 14. Magisk
- 1.15 15. SafetyNet
- 1.16 16. Overclock / Underclock
- 1.17 17. Under Volt (UV)
- 1.18 18. APK
- 1.19 19. Odex / DeOdex
- 1.20 20. Android SDK
- 1.21 21. ADB
- 1.22 You May Also Like
Android Terms And Their Meaning
1. Root / Rooting
Acquiring ”root” is the process of gaining total control over your device. When you purchase your device, there are certain files and systems that you cannot access because they are blocked by the manufacturer. By
Before you can root your device nowadays, you must unlock your bootloader. The bootloader is a line of code that is executed even before your Android operating system boots up.
The bootloader’s code is specific for each make and model of the many Android devices. Bootloaders come “locked” because the device manufacturer doesn’t want you tinkering with the software that they worked so hard to optimize for that particular piece of hardware.
Unlocking the bootloader allows you to tinker with the phone’s firmware, or even replace it with a custom firmware (
3. Recovery / Custom Recovery
Android recovery is a piece of software that is called up separate from the actual Android operating system. The primary purpose of the Android recovery is to help recover a device from an unstable state which includes making changes to the Android OS at a core level, such as delete user data, apply updates, factory reset and more.
Android stock recovery, however, is limited in function, so if you are planning on modifying/H@cking/rooting your phone, you will need to install a “Custom Recovery”.
A custom recovery on the other hand also performs the primary objectives of the Android stock recovery, however, it offers more advanced built-in functions and tools which can be used for modifying the core system. A custom recovery will allow you to make backups, restore them, wipe partitions, install custom software and more. Some of the popular custom recoveries are TWRP, PHilZ, CWM, and COT recovery.
4. Backup / Nandroid
This process refers to taking a complete backup of your Android system during modification of the of its core file system. Once you have a custom recovery installed, the next thing you want to do is play around the Android file system by installing custom ROMs, mods etc which make it a mandate for you to take a backup (also known as a Nandroid). It will store all of your data, apps, settings, SMS messages, and more, basically allowing you to restore your phone to the exact state that it was in when you made the backup if anything should go wrong while you were modifying the Android system.
A lot of us understands Wipe to mean factory reset, this is absolutely correct but the Wipe can also mean delete in some scenarios. Let’s say your phone got infected with some sort of virus, and you ask an Android enthusiast how to go about removing the virus, he’s most likely to suggest you to wiping your device which in this case simply mean factory reset your device to return it to its original state.
Another instance of the “wipe” is when you’re trying to install a custom ROM on your device. In the process of installing a custom ROM, you may be asked to wipe your device, in this case, you’re deleting your entire stock Android OS from your device to make way for another one to be installed.
This type of wipe, however, can only be achieved using a custom recovery. Unlike the normal factory reset, this clears the Android OS and data partition just like preparing a new hard disk for installing Windows or Linux OS
Flashing refers to the process of installing an Android system image into a device’s internal flash memory. In a more simple language, flashing is the process of installing/restoring an Android firmware in a smartphone with the use of certain PC programs. This process involves getting Android firmware/stock ROM of a particular device either from the manufacturer or from a ROM dump.
Flashing can also be referred to the process of installing custom ROM or mod in the rooting community.
7. ROM (Stock ROM/Custom ROM)
A ROM as we all know mean Read Only Memory, however, this is totally different to what it been referred to in the Android community. It can be confusing at times, but, it simply means Android ROM.
An Android ROM is the main firmware or set of programmed files that communicate with the hardware of your phone directly, in other words, the OS. Just like Windows 7 runs on your PC, or Mac OSX runs on your Macbook, a ROM is the main software you interact with to use your phone. It includes all the system apps (messaging, email, phone), the launcher, the notification bar…everything really.
– Stock ROM/Custom ROM
Android stock ROM is an unmodified OS that comes with your Android smartphone. Manufacturers make significant changes to the look and feel of their ROMS before they ship them with your phone (for example: note the difference between the Google’s Pixels software and the software on Samsung devices). (
Custom ROMs, on the other hand, is that one that has undergone some sort of modification in other to give an Android smartphone a better look and feel or to enhance its performance.
The Android source code is available for anyone to play around with, and people take this code and alter it to their taste either to add new features which they felt should be included in stock ROMs and redistribute it as a customized ROM (Custom ROM). TWO most popular custom ROMs are Lineage OS (formally CyanogenMod) and MIUI.
A Custom ROM is made for a specific model phone and comes in a Flashable ZIP file that is installed (“flashed”) via your custom recovery.
8. Flashable ZIP
A flashable ZIP is an actual file that you install or “flash” via the custom recovery to make changes to your phone’s software. This is/are set of file in a .zip file format that contains the lines of code to modify your phones software.
These Flashable ZIPs can be used to flash a ROM, Kernel, Radio, mod, and more, which we will define below.
9. Kernel / Custom Kernel
Unlike a ROM the Kernel does not alter the look and feel of your phone but is a “deeper” line of code that rests beneath the surface, so to speak. It tells the software how to interact with the hardware.
A custom kernel is a kernel that developers have added code to, in order to create all sorts of new options and abilities. They might add code to make the phone’s processor run at a higher speed, or make the battery draw less power when the phone is in “idle” mode. Kernels are like the soul of the software. They can be flashed in the custom recovery and the files are usually called Tar Images or Zimages.
10. Radio / Basebands / Modems
The radio / baseband / modem is a firmware that allows your phone to connect to the wireless network. This firmware controls basic low-level functions of your phone like cell-network connectivity, Wi-Fi, and GPS.
Oftentimes an updated radio / modem will help with signal strength issues, battery drain and more. The radio / modem firmware is specific to each device and carrier and is flashed via custom recovery.
A “mod” is simply a modification made to the phone’s software. This can include adding functionality or changing the visual layout of your phone, like moving the location of the clock to the center of the notification bar, or inverting the colors in the SMS app. Mods are usually Flashable Zip files that are flashed in the custom recovery.
12. Brick (soft & hard brick)
A brick is when your phone won’t recover/turn on from a bad rooting/flashing process. Your device becomes unresponsive and unable to boot into the Android OS. Bricking your phone usually happens when you modify your Android Core files or you do not follow instructions carefully when trying to flash/install a ROM, tried to achieve root access while your device does not allow for root.
Bricking your phone is a real possibility and risk in rooting and modding your phone, but it is very rare to occur, and most unlikely to occur if you simply follow the instructions
– Soft brick & Hard brick
This is a state when your Android device powers on but is unable to boot into the Android OS. In this state, your device can still be recovered from an early backup if you made any before you ran into a soft brick. While a hard brick is a state where your Android Smartphone is not coming on at all (not booting) and can only be revived by flashing with some sort of sophisticated PC software.
If you find yourself rooting your Android device, then you’ve come across the word SuperSU. SuperSU simply allows advanced management of Superuser access rights for all the apps on your device that requires root access.
Once you’re able to gain root access correctly on your smartphone, you automatically become a Superuser (SU), which means you’ve become a complete and total admin of your device, allowing for most, if not all root permissions to be accessible.
A lot of Android enthusiast choose Magisk over SuperSU because of Google’s SafetyNet protected apps.
If you’ve rooted your device, you probably would have noticed you’re unable to use some apps on your device. i.e banking app and a few other nonbanking apps. This is due to Google’s SafetyNet integration. Safetynet is Google’s “root detection system” that blocks the ability to use certain apps if it detects you have root access. This prevents users are from using some banking apps and some other apps like Android Pay, Mario Run by Nintendo, Pokemon Go, etc. because they come with the SafetyNet verification.
With SuperSU, Google is able to detect root access on your device because the system partition has been modified while Magisk has been able to counter this with its systemless root ability.
16. Overclock / Underclock
This means that you have installed a custom Kernel that has allowed you to speed up or slow down your phone’s processor speed. Most phones are clocked at a certain processor speed (ie: 2.4 MHz), but if you overclock it, you are allowing your process to push the limits by working at a higher speed.
Overclocking will make your phone perform faster, but often comes at the expense of battery life. Underclocking does the exact opposite of overclocking. It makes your processor perform at a lower speed, slowing down perceived performance, but helps increase battery life.
17. Under Volt (UV)
Undervolting is a feature that is enabled in certain custom kernels. Undervolting lowers the amount of power your processor needs to perform at its normal level which, in theory, saves you battery life. The feature is known to cause issues in many phones.
An APK is the file name for an Android application that can be installed on your phone. All apps downloaded from the Google Play store come as APK files. APKs can also be “sideloaded” by downloading them from outside of the Google Play store and placing on the phones internal or external memory. To install a sideloaded APK you need to enable that option in settings, then find the APK file on your phone and tap it to begin the installation process.
19. Odex / DeOdex
DeOdexing APKs is a way that developers optimize APKs (apps) to be compatible with different themes that themes devs have created. Please see this very good explanation on Odex / DeOdex here.
20. Android SDK
Android SDK is a software development kit written by Google that enables developers to create applications for the Android platform. The Android SDK includes sample projects with source code, development tools, an emulator, and required libraries to build Android applications. In many cases, if you want to H@ck your phone, you will need to have the Android SDK installed on your computer.
ADB stands for Android Debug Bridge which is a tool that comes in the Android SDK. ADB lets you modify your device (or device’s software) via a PC command line. ADB is mainly for developers to create and test their apps, but it can also be used by curious hackers (like you!) to access your phone from your computer and run some commands via your computer’s command prompt.
Well, that’s it on the popular Android terms and their meaning for now! Hopefully, this has demystified some of the strange languages for you beginner hackers and interested parties.
Now that you have a basic understanding of the words that you find in the forums, be sure to do some in-depth reading on how to properly root and mod your Android device. Remember, if your device breaks, it’s no one’s fault but your own. Check out XDA Developers forum and Android Development Groups on Facebook to find many great resources for H@cking/rooting your specific device. Happy H@cking!