This is XDA Developers, and contrary to popular belief, we actually talk about a lot of development stuff. This article is slightly different from news or tutorial content. In this, I talk about my views on root and its usefulness in 2020 and show you my rooted Samsung Galaxy Note 20 Ultra. There may also be a link below that points to instructions on how to root your American galaxy if you wish, but you have to promise to read the entire article. To promise? Pinkie-swear? OK well.
In 2018, I bought the Galaxy Note 9. But not just a Galaxy Note 9. I imported the Exynos variant via eBay. Why should I do something like this? For two main reasons. The colors of the United States were a bit dull. I really wanted the copper color. Also, the US variants cannot be unlocked by the bootloader and I like to have root access. Bonus perk: It was significantly cheaper than the US variants at that point.
I have T-Mobile, so having an international Samsung phone wasn̵
Fast forward to 2020 and things are a little different. T-Mobile’s 71 LTE band is much more prominent in my area than in 2018 which means a compatible phone will have better coverage. Band support is also much more fragmented in international Galaxy phones, thanks to the chaos of 5G. And it’s not as easy to import an international Galaxy as it was in 2018, and the units available are generally more expensive than the US variants, which tip the scales.
Finally, I got a trade-in Note 9. Samsung was offering (and continues to offer) a trade-in value of $ 550 for the Note 9. That’s a lot of value. A casual eBay seller wouldn’t have given me $ 550 off a Samsung phone if I sent them my Note 9, and selling it on Swappa to a cautious buyer wouldn’t have brought that much.
I’m a huge fan of the Galaxy Note line. I like having access to a proper active stylus when I need it, even though I don’t need it that often. So obviously I wanted to get the Galaxy Note 20. The base variant could “only“Being a $ 1000, but despite all the trade-offs it makes, it wasn’t worth it. So I got the Note 20 Ultra. Using that $ 550 trade-in, the student discount of about 7% and a referral bonus of 5 %, I dropped my purchase to $ 700. And because I pre-ordered my unit, I also received free accessories for $ 150. I saved $ 600 on the phone and $ 150 “extra” off some useful gadgets.
Samsung Galaxy Note 20 Ultra review: for those on the cutting edge
Now, you may have a different take on this, but for me, having root wasn’t really worth all the trade-offs this year. So now I have the Galaxy Note 20 Ultra unlocked in the US (in Mystic Bronze, of course).
But I have the root! Why am I rooted? How can I get root? You’ll have to keep reading to find out.
Because I like Root
First of all, maybe I should explain a little bit why I like to have root access.
The first reason is comfort. I am an app developer and I make some low-level apps for Android. Many of them require special permits which can only be granted through ADB…. or with root! It is much faster to simply tap a “GRANT” button in the app than to connect it to my computer, open a command prompt and manually type ADB commands. It may not be worth doing a few times in a month, but any increase in frequency beyond that makes the root a worthy step.
Second: theming. I know that on Samsung devices it is possible to install custom themes without root using tools like Synergy. But it’s still a nuisance. There are many limitations and many steps to install themes. If you fear third-party apps that get frequent updates, things get worse.
The rooted theme is as simple as pressing a button and rebooting. I use my app, OneUI Tuner, to get around a whole host of One UI annoyances, like adding more tiles to the quick settings header or turning on the clock seconds. I also use Swift Installer to make the notification hue transparent and give my apps a more unified look. It’s all possible without root, but it’s much more complicated.
Third, I like to tinker. Root gives me access to the entire filesystem. I can use MiXplorer to browse through the various partitions and folders to perhaps find something of interest. I can also use apps like Root Activity Launcher to open hidden or limited activities in installed apps.
The fourth reason is the DSU. Android 10 has a nice feature where, on bootloader unlocked devices, you can temporarily load and boot a GSI. It’s an easy way to test Android 11 without having to worry about deleting data or reinstalling a firmware. On Android 11, this will probably not be needed anymore, but I’m not on Android 11. Unfortunately, this doesn’t immediately work on the Note 20 Ultra. It installs but does not start. I’m sure it’s possible with some kernel tweaks, but that’s not my area of expertise.
Yet another reason is ad blocking. Sure, there are plenty of non-root ad blockers like DNS66 or NextDNS, but in my experience, none of them work as well as root solutions like AdAway. Non-root apps constantly let ads pass in Chrome and other apps, while AdAway’s method of overwriting the system’s hosts file works flawlessly. This method also has the advantage of not using any extra battery life.
Finally, it is my Phone! I want to be able to use it on my terms. After three years, I could flash an AOSP based ROM or One UI port from a later device. Or maybe not. It should be up to me, not Samsung.
Because others like Root
Now, it’s possible that my reasons for rooting and unlocking aren’t as compelling to you as they are to me. And this is absolutely right. But these aren’t the only reasons for doing so, and I’m not the only one who went through this process. Here are some reasons given by other people who have rooted their US Galaxy devices.
- Better audio tuning, for example with Viper4Android. – @mentalmuso
- Correct debloating of the app, where
pm disableit just isn’t enough. – @mentalmuso, @perennialexhaustion
- Privacy features, such as blocking or removing untrusted apps and blocking intrusive services. – @perennialexhaustion
- Using custom kernels for better performance or battery life. – @ klabit87
- Installation of native Linux tools such as
iptablesto make the use of the terminal more powerful. – @perennialexhaustion
And here are a few reasons why I have found that they are not particularly convincing to me, but are quite popular in the root space.
- Wireless ADB. Yes, I know it’s native to Android 11 and you can enable it via wired ADB, but I’m on Android 10 and using wired ADB to enable wireless ADB defeats the purpose.
- Custom ROMs, both based on shares and AOSP. Many people aren’t happy with the features included in their stock ROMs, or simply prefer a more vanilla Android experience.
- Reverse engineering of the apps. There is a neat tool called Frida that helps you reverse engineer Android apps. But it needs root.
- Kernel optimization. Not all kernel changes need to be made with a custom one. Using apps like Kernel Adiutor, you can fine-tune the balance between battery life and performance to suit your personal tastes.
- Enable pre-release or hidden features. Google, for example, is known for A / B testing new features in its apps. Root allows you to forcibly enable these features for yourself.
- Xposed. Yes, Xposed still exists. But now it’s called EdXposed and works without a system thanks to Magisk.
In case you are new to the rooting scene (or have never paid much attention to it), Xposed Framework is a powerful customization and modification for Android. It allows module developers to override, add and remove various behaviors in Android. This in turn allows you to do things like create in-depth themes, add buttons to the power menu, move status bar icons – pretty much anything you want. Xposed has been around forever, and in its most recent EdXposed form, it still gets a lot of attention.
For example, there is an EdXposed module for One UI which is like a OneUI tuner with steroids. Instead of being limited to resource overlay support, Firefds Kit lets you do things like enable biometric unlock after a reboot or disable app signature verification.
Even with all of that, it’s entirely possible that you’re still not convinced that root is needed. Which, again, is completely justified. If root isn’t for you, it’s not for you. But I can tell you that at least 25 other people have unlocked at least one US Galaxy device with this method. We are dozens of them! Dozens!
Root test on the Samsung Galaxy Note 20 Ultra
Before anyone complains (even though there are already 1300 words), I am actually grounded and can back up that claim with evidence. Check out the screenshots and video below.
As you can see, I have Magisk v20.4 up and running, along with a build of TWRP for the international Snapdragon variant and a custom kernel. The kernel and TWRP were made by mentalmuso, who will soon also have an unlocked US Galaxy Note 20 Ultra bootloader.
I also changed my Recent provider to use Lawnchair instead of Samsung’s default or Good Lock’s Task Changer. And of course, I use Swift Installer and OneUI Tuner to create themes and customize my device. Although Swift Installer and OneUI Tuner both work without root, thanks to the use of Synergy, they are much easier to use with Magisk installed.
It’s still a rooted Samsung smartphone
This is not some magical root exploit or anything. My Galaxy Note 20 Ultra is successfully unlocked with the bootloader and that means KNOX has tripped. I cannot use Samsung Pass or Samsung Pay. The first notes that I am rooted, just like it would on an international variant. Oddly enough, Samsung Pay doesn’t complain about root. Instead, it appears to have some sort of server connection problem. Either way, it doesn’t work. And of course, Secure Folder won’t work without being edited, but I don’t use it, so I don’t really care. Finally, OTAs are disabled. Attempting to check for updates results in a connection error. But with tools like SamFirm, Frida or Samloader, this isn’t really a problem for me.
But everything else works fine. Magisk Hide is still letting SafetyNet through, so things like Google Pay work flawlessly. I can (and have) installed Magisk modules with no problems, and now have the experience I wanted, with full US compatibility is an adequate guarantee.
XDA Forum for Samsung Galaxy Note 20 ||| Samsung Galaxy Note 20 XDA Ultra forum
How to root an unlocked Galaxy Note 20 Ultra in the US?
Interestingly, this isn’t an exploit either. The root process makes use of internal Samsung tools.
It is also not free. I paid quite a bit to unlock my phone. It’s not worth $ 550- $ 700, but it’s still a good chunk of change. But for me it was worth it. Now my phone is my phoneand since Samsung has an unlockable variant of the bootloader that uses the Snapdragon 865+ itself, I have access to a lot of development work. Again though it is not freeand you will pay up to $ 150 to unlock a bootloader. Compatibility is currently also limited to the Galaxy S10, Galaxy S20, Galaxy Note 10 and Galaxy Note 20 series.
If, for whatever reason, this interests you, I’ve put together a super simple Android app that answers many questions about the process and then lets you request your unlock. Check it out on XDA Labs. The app is free, so there’s no investment in surveys other than your time. You can proceed if you still feel comfortable.
The Samsung Galaxy Note 20 Ultra has the best hardware of any Android smartphone, but Samsung’s One UI software isn’t everyone’s cup of tea. That’s why I bought it and rooted it.