One perk of Android phones is just how customizable they are, and that customization can go beyond simply using the tools Google has given you and the apps on the Google Play Store, because in many cases you can root these phones, giving you almost complete control over the hardware and software.
But this is a practice that some companies make easier than others, and it’s one that Asus might now be preventing altogether.
You see, to root a phone you need to be able to unlock the bootloader, and according to a post on the official Zenfone forums, a user was told by Asus support that this would no longer be possible on the Asus Zenfone 9 or the Asus Zenfone 10.
No other phones were specifically mentioned, but if Asus is blocking the ability on these handsets, then it’s likely that it will prevent rooting on future Zenfone models too, and perhaps also on its ROG line of gaming phones.
Unclear on unlocking
That said, there’s an element of uncertainty over the whole situation, because – as Android Authority notes – the company had previously said that the tool allowing you to unlock the bootloader was only being temporarily disabled, in order for it to be updated to support the Zenfone 10.
Additionally, a Reddit user claims that a developer liaison on the company’s Telegram channel has no knowledge of the company blocking rooting, and echoed earlier comments that the bootloader unlocking tool was simply being updated, and would return in the third quarter of the year.
So it’s unclear whether Asus is really locking down the bootloader or not, but we certainly hope it isn’t. While rooting phones is a fairly niche activity, it’s a major selling point for some users, and would have factored into their choice to purchase Asus phones.
It’s also something that can be tricky or impossible on some of the best Android phones, including some high-profile ones. For example, you can’t unlock the bootloader in North American models of the Samsung Galaxy S23.
Could this be the start of a trend?
Many other brands, such as OnePlus and Google do allow it, but if Asus really does remove support for this, then there’s a worry that other companies could follow suit.
After all, rooting can allow you to remove the bloatware that comes pre-installed on your phone, which may not be something manufacturers want you to do. It can also cause issues with your handset and lessen the security, so there are reasons phone makers might want to keep their devices locked down, and may use this move by Asus as a reason to do the same.
But that would be a real shame, because rooting also has all sorts of upsides, including giving you complete customization of the interface and even allowing for new operating systems to be installed. As such, we hope Asus isn’t planning to put a stop to this – or if it is, that it changes its mind.
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James is a freelance phones, tablets and wearables writer and sub-editor at TechRadar. He has a love for everything ‘smart’, from watches to lights, and can often be found arguing with AI assistants or drowning in the latest apps. James also contributes to 3G.co.uk, 4G.co.uk and 5G.co.uk and has written for T3, Digital Camera World, Clarity Media and others, with work on the web, in print and on TV.