So the big headline late last night was that the new Nokia X, a low-end smartphone running Android 4.1, was “rooted”. That’s geek talk for getting access to the bootloader so that you can load other things on to the phone, after all, all smartphones are just mini-computers.
Immediately sites jumped on it as proof that Nokia’s strategy would never work, because you know, you can now flash the Google Play store and even an updated version of the Android onto the darn thing.
Here’s the thing. This is much ado about nothing. Let me break this down for you as much as I can: people don’t care about what OS they are running on their smartphone. Oh, I know you do. After all, you’re visiting a site dedicated to your phone (we won’t judge). But the vast majority of people in the world who toss down money on a low-end device just want it to work. They want it to have access to the apps that they want and services. End of story. Rooting or not rooting are truly first-world problems.
Remember all the Android hubbub years ago about fragmentation and updates? Yeah. The only people that cared about that issue was the tech press as it didn’t even dent Android sales. Why? Because mainstream consumers out there don’t even know what version of Android they’re on – nor do they care, they care if the phone works.
Same situation with rooting, but even more so.
Rooting is not a trivial thing. It’s also not something your average user is going to bother with in an emerging market. Last I checked, people in emerging markets don’t have a lot of leisure time to be surfing XDA or checking headlines on Android Central (who's core audience is in the US anyway). In fact, most ordinary people will look at you like a freak if you told them you rooted your phone – nerd alert.
People who root Android phones typically do it on high end devices because it’s the gear they’re after. No one who really wants an ‘Android experience’ is going to buy the Nokia X just to root it. Why? The hardware design is nice, but under the hood there is no magic, nothing unique to offer.
The Nokia X is part of a larger Nokia strategy to replace their 200 million-a-year dumb phone line with yet-another-option. It’s not about the cost, it’s about apps. I’ll go into detail later about this strategy, and how it feeds into Windows Phone, but suffice it to say, no one is surprised that the Nokia X was rooted, it was a given and means little.