When you root your Android device, it means that you gain root access to your phone or your tablet device. This is something that programmers may do if they wish, but anyone can do it with an Android device. You can (of course) do it with other devices, but you would have to hack into the root systems. With Android, the field is a little more open, and you can tinker with the settings as much as you like (if you know how to).
What can I tweak at the moment?
Assuming that you do not root your device, there are still things that you could fiddle with if you like. The manufacturer decides what you can alter and fiddle with in your Android device, and quite often they will give you lots of settings to play with. There are even apps that will allow you to tinker with your device even more. But, at the moment, you are only allowed to alter the things that your device manufacturer says. If you want to customize your device even more, then you are going to have to root it (gain access to the software root systems)
If you root your device, you can play with your apps more
Rooting your device does not simply involve your Android software; it also involves your apps. Many apps will not allow you to tinker with their core software, but if you have access to your root systems, you can tinker with your apps without breaking into them.
Imagine that your apps are plants and your Android device is the soil. If you alter the soil, then you can also alter the plants. Your app will gain information from your Android software, so all you need to do is change the information that your Android feeds your apps (from GPS or the Internet, etc). It takes a lot of programming finesse in order to achieve any practical results, but if you just want to watch your apps go loopy (a bit crazy), then you can alter different root directories and see what happens.
Try to remember that you may also break your mobile device if you are not careful. If you do not know what you are doing, then it is the equivalent of pushing an octopus into your car engine (frankly, you will just make a mess of things).
Update your Android on your own terms
There are often operating system updates that you may (sometimes have to) install. If you root your device, you will be able to customize your updates. Again, be very careful that you do not mess it up. But, if there are certain things that you like about your current operating system that you do not want to change, then you can stop them from being changed within an update. Or, after an update, you can go back and restore some of the older functions/elements that you lost in the update.
This takes a lot of programming skill, but as you probably already know, if you have the skill to adjust your operating system, then you have the skill to make your mobile device do just about anything (within reason). It allows you to better backup your Android (in case of viruses or hackers).
You can change the skin of your Android
You can already do this in some rare instances, but if you root your device then you can do whatever you like with your Android skin. Many manufacturers like to brand their devices, and so will make it so that you cannot change the skin without keeping their branding in place. If you root your Android then you are able to change whatever you like about the skin. The branded skins are not often as clean and/or functional as the one that comes with the basic Android OS. By rooting the Android, you can purge the system of the bulky and unneeded skin elements and get back to clean and functional basics.
You can remove your unneeded apps:
Some apps come as standard with the Android device that you buy. You can root your device and remove these apps if you wish. The ones that come pre-installed with your Android are very rarely able to be removed unless you root the Android device yourself.
Bio: Kate Funk coaches individuals in SEO and business networking skills at tutortop.com.