We’ve heard about Google’s increased emphasis on security before, with the company going so far as to fight root by giving developers a root check API to hook into to block access to apps on insecure phones. While their reasons are sound and solid, that doesn’t stop users from hating the reality.
Unfortunately, things could be even worse once the Pixel phones arrive. If you didn’t know, as of Android 6.0 Marshmallow and higher, rooting most Android phones required a “systemless root” method, meaning a method that could achieve root without editing the /system partition of a phone. This is because Google implemented a new check in Android that would make the phone fail to boot if /system was modified.
With the current implementation of systemless root methods, the ramdisk (a block of memory that’s used as if it were a secondary drive) is used to achieve the same result, but according to code commits found within both Android Nougat’s ROM code and kernel code, the ramdisk is now being tucked away inside /system. Long story short, the methods we use to achieve root today won’t be possible on the Pixel phones.
Is that to say that Pixels won’t be rootable? Absolutely not. Developers can still find ways around these limitations, such as unlocking the phones’ bootloaders to be able to edit the kernel and disable the dm-verity feature that’s blocking traditional methods, but that comes with the usual pitfalls (lack of OTA updates and support) that you come to expect when you tinker with things. Google very much wants root to go away, folks, so you’re just going to have faith that the development community will keep us afloat as long as they can, or get with the program otherwise.