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There are many similar questions to what I am asking, but from my searches so far have not pointed this out:

What keywords on the device advertisement or how can I tell prior to purchasing a device, if it can allow root access to applications?

For instance, is there a brand or a model, or even OS version, that comes with an "allows Switch User" application by default?

Is there a way for me to direct possible customers to "easily" check if a device can be made rootable...

Long story:

I built a device to help users without mobility to control an Android device. The users are usually illiterate, have no Internet access and have low resources.

My application requires root access, however, my users are very uninformed about technology, and thus I need some sort of pointer or something to help them purchase Android devices (currently, they send me an e-mail that they usually can only check/reply once every 3 weeks, then I check that product, and give yes/no replies to that device.... this scenario is not working out, and giving out lists with all possible/know devices is also troublesome, since most shops will sell an Android device, but will not be able to tell the client the model.

As an example, we had the D2212 Sony E3 model working (this was my local testing device)... but clients keep on asking if the "Sony one", "the black one", "the telephony dealership one", etc.

  • As far as I can figure out the answer is no. I'm tagging @Izzy here to catch his eye, he'll know better. – SarpSTA Nov 23 '15 at 16:21
  • @SarpSTA: @mentioning someone who hasn't participated in a question (by answering, commenting, or editing) won't send an alert. – ale Nov 23 '15 at 19:38
  • @AlE. The more I know. Thanks for the heads up. – SarpSTA Nov 23 '15 at 19:44
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Rooting is not something endorsed by vendors (otherwise they would provide official instructions for doing this, or even ship the phones already rooted). Sony provides instructions to turn your device into a developer tool by unlocking the boot loader and changing the OS to a custom build. Motorola once offered the same. Also Nexus devices are friendly to rooting.

But in general there's no simple way to answer your question. Every user is on his own with this problem. Yes, I know this is disappointing.

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  • Thanks for the reply, I will keep this open for a bit longer, in the hopes someone knows a trick or two how to get a hint on this.... btw, what do you mean by Motorola once offered the same, do they block the bootloader in any way? Or even prevent you from adding some sort of Super User (switch user, shell user, etc.) tool? – Bonatti Nov 23 '15 at 18:00
  • @Bonatti there's no trick available, and here's why: Sony Z3 can be rooted, but via the extremely painful procedure that even I, experienced software developer, didn't risk to take. Would you count it as "rootable" or not? As for Motorola, -- once they positioned themselves as "hacker-friendly" brand with easy rooting options, but I don't know the situation now. – Eugene Mayevski 'Callback Nov 23 '15 at 18:02
  • I would count as "root-able"... I understand your pain... I am a PHP developer, fumbling about in the Android/linux ambient, trying to come up with a "backpack" device to be worn by "cerebral paulsy" patients, and then teach them, from a distance, with text only e-mails, how to root, assemble, wear and care for all those devices.... trust me, I do understand pain... still, I want to hope, even for a week, that somewhere, someone tried to make a way for an "all around insta click app", that install itself on the linux, and overrides the default ROM – Bonatti Nov 23 '15 at 18:09
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    @Bonatti, about that "all around insta click app" (sic), see second-to-last section of the answer for How do I root my Android device?. They are categorized under 1-click root method. Either it would be an app for Android or a software for PC, but both relies on exploiting a vulnerability to push the su binary. They have proved useful to those devices whose bootloader cannot be unlocked or where bootloader unlocking is not supported (such as, MTK devices). Nevertheless, as said, there is no universal method applicable on every device. – Firelord Nov 23 '15 at 18:45
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How to check if a device can be made root-able[?]

If you go to a retail store and finds a device unknown to you, you, in virtually no fashion, can come to know whether the Android there can be rooted or not (exceptions reserved for 1-click root methods). The reason is simple. There are three common techniques to root a device:

  • unblock the bootloader, flash or boot into a compatible custom and use it to place the superuser binary
  • exploit a vulnerability when booted into Android OS and push the superuser binary, known as 1-click root access
  • interface at low-level to flash a pre-rooted and device specific ROM

As you can see, the first method requires interfacing with bootloader which you can't do at retail store; the second is of course not allowed either (though you may be in luck); the third is usually not supported for all devices either and always requires a PC.

Since Android's security model is almost useless against a process running with root privileges, it explains why a device (if has to be shipped with Google Apps, it must be compatible with Android and hence, should abide by guidelines under Compatibility Definition Document) wouldn't be having a switch to change the user to superuser or give access to superuser privileges.

Is it all hopeless than?

Yes and No. The only good option I see is the Web. Use it to search about rooting your device.

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