The social media pages of mobile networks are usually inundated with posts from disgruntled subscribers expressing their dissatisfaction with certain services. One of the most common complaints is that of mysteriously disappearing airtime and data. Some networks, especially MTN, have been accused of stealing airtime in order to maximize profits, putting the blame on background apps. However, while there is evidence of disappearing airtime, the truth is that mobile networks do not deliberately steal it from their subscribers. Some factory apps, which may not be essential, can consume a lot of data downloading updates in the background. Not only does this increase data and/or airtime usage, it can also consume significant disk space and RAM, thereby slowing down your phone and making it impossible to update or install new apps without uninstalling others. One of the steps you can take to solve this is rooting your phone.
Rooting your phone gives you superuser permissions, allowing you to uninstall any factory app that cannot be removed without root privileges. However, it is important to note that this is risky and can potentially render your phone unusable, void its warranty and make it less secure. Therefore, it is not something you should try on a new phone which is still under warranty, a phone which has important data in it or one that you use for cellphone banking. However, if security is not important to you, and all you need is to browse the internet, read news, chat and play mobile games on your old phone without worrying about disappearing airtime, rooting your phone may not be a bad idea. If done right, it can save you hundreds or thousands of rands in the long run by reducing airtime and/or data consumption.
When I decided to root my phone, I was spending +- 200MB of data a day, buying the 1GB MTN weekly bundle every 5-7 days. I had auto update deactivated for all apps but I kept getting a notification saying I was running out of space, and therefore some apps could not be updated. That is when I learned that some system apps do not abide by your preferences. They do what they ‘think’ is best for your phone, without taking your tight airtime budget into consideration.
My phone, which I bought in 2014, has a RAM of 512 MB and 1GB of internal storage. Before rooting it, the only apps I had installed were Whatsapp and Opera Mini, which I use regulary. Both of them combined occupied less than 200MB of disk space and I cleared the cache several times a day. Therefore, I expected to have around 800MB of free space. However, the opposite was true. The internal storage was 80% full, with only 200MB available for installation of new apps and I had no idea what consumed so much space. My phone was extremely slow and consuming data like there was no tomorrow. My budget did not allow me to buy a new phone and I knew that performing a factory reset would only be a temporary solution. I wanted to permanently get rid of the apps that kept bloating my phone and wasting my airtime. I finally decided to root my phone. After backing up all my data and saving it on my computer and flash drives, I realized that I had nothing to lose. I no longer cared about security. The phone is four years old (out of warranty) and I don’t have any credit card/banking information saved on it.
I rooted my phone using a free tool called Kingo Root (for PC, Windows). The tool allows you to root your phone in just one-click. After installing it on your PC, you simply connect your phone to the computer using a USB cable, with debugging mode enabled, and then click “Root”. After a minute or two, when the rooting process is complete, you have unlimited access to your phone. There are many different rooting tools for different phone models. Once you decide to root your phone, you will most likely find all the instructions for your phone model or Android version on the internet.
After rooting my phone, I uninstalled a number of apps that came with my phone, including almost all Google apps, namely Play Store, Gmail, Chrome, YouTube, Maps, etc. When I was done getting rid of all the bloatware I didn’t need, my phone ran like a brand new one. My airtime no longer disappeared. I now spend about 1GB per month (not per week). I have installed all the apps that I need and there is still over 700MB of available internal storage!
As mentioned earlier, rooting your phone is risky and can make your phone less secure. However, sometimes affordability and usability are more important than security. Rooting your old phone may be the way to go if you feel that airtime and data costs are starting to take up a significant percentage of your monthly expenditure due to data-heavy, non-essential apps whose behaviour is hard to manage without superadmin permissions.