HTC reviewing bootloader policy for their Android devices

HTC has certainly made a name for themselves in recent years and most people would agree that their recent success has been thanks to Android.

Ever since the launch of Google's Nexus One, a once-top-of-the-range Android device manufactured by HTC, things have been on the up and up with consumers, developers and enthusiasts alike all praising the company for their fantastic smart phones. Part of the reason the Nexus One was so popular amongst enthusiasts was how open the phone was - as soon as you got it out of the box, you could completely unlock the device with a few simple commands, allowing you to install customized roms and easily achieve root. Still, this was a Google phone, how could anyone expect anything less?

Not long after the Nexus One was released, HTC released a very similar phone in the European market that was called the HTC Desire. This phone boasted very similar specifications to the Nexus One (To the point where device roms were largely interchangeable), but there were one or two differences. The most obvious was the inclusion of Sense, HTC's customized interface, but there was another difference that went unnoticed to most people that weren't enthusiasts - it had a locked bootloader.

This meant that those who purchased a HTC Desire would have trouble if they wanted to install a custom rom or root their device. More crucially, the bootloader wasn't just locked, but so were specific parts of the phone's NAND memory, preventing write access even if they did manage to somehow root the device. This upset a few people initially, but it wasn't before long before someone found a way around it. Every device HTC has released since then has had similar, or more advanced protections on both the bootloader and the NAND memory. This includes the HTC Evo 4G, the device Google themselves gave away at 2010's Google I/O. With each new generation of devices, HTC has been implementing stricter and more secure bootloaders, with some devices still being locked out today. This has irritated many users who feel that part of the reason to own an Android device is being able to have complete control over it.

Locked down bootloaders were a fairly common occurrence with other manufacturers like Motorola and Sony Ericsson guilty of the same thing. However, recently there has been a shift in opinion from these manufacturers, with Motorola, Sony Ericsson and Samsung all promising some sort of solution to unlocking their future phones, purely for the benefit of enthusiasts and developers and now it looks like HTC are finally considering something similar:

Thanks so much for providing feedback, we hear your concerns. Your satisfaction is a top priority for us and we're working hard to ensure you have great experiences with our phones. We're reviewing the issue and our policy around bootloaders and will provide more information soon. Thank you for your interest, support and willingness to share your feedback.

It does still remain to be seen just what they decide to do, after all, this is only a review and not an announcement of anything just yet. But, hopefully HTC will remember that it was the enthusiasts that helped them launch their own brand in the first place and will remain loyal to its roots.

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20 Comments

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I hope they reconsider the lockout policy for their bootloaders. Ever since my phone got the 2.2 update, I can't install a custom ROM. I really, really want to try out CyanogenMod 7 too, damn it!

Educated Idiot said,
I hope they reconsider the lockout policy for their bootloaders. Ever since my phone got the 2.2 update, I can't install a custom ROM. I really, really want to try out CyanogenMod 7 too, damn it!

If you are an educated idiot why did you update before hitting up xda for info first!

acnpt said,
What is the reason for locking bootloaders?, possible security problem in future?

They pull the warranty BS, stating that their calls to the warranty dept would increase tri-fold...and that it 'could' be hard for them to make the line between a flash bricking it or the phone malfunction on its own (to warrant the warranty).

Also now with the recent root lockouts from googles video and blockbuster apps, this will probably push them back to keeping it locked .

"of course HTC dont want the software on older devices it sells the new dual cores, which is just marketing hype and a battery drain." You are so right BookerT. Its like putting in a new engine on your 200k pinto....not what the companies want you to do, they want you to buy more instead of updating and not buying their new hardware. But I seriously hope they dont really think like that .

BTW, if you do keep an eye out on the dev forums, youd see 3.0 is already running on several phones , some are geniuses out there!!!

acnpt said,
What is the reason for locking bootloaders?, possible security problem in future?

I think it mostly has to do with the cell service providers. They test each phone on their network before the phone is allowed to be on their network (in the USA, anyway). Even updates for phones they test before allowing the update to their customer's phones.

Rooted phones with custom roms undermine the cell service provider's testing efforts. I think their fear is that un-tested and unauthorized use of hardware could lead to network instability.

BookerT said,
If HTC lock the bootloader with more security they have lost me as a customer no two ways about it.

And where are you gonna go? There is no other unlocked bootloader manufacturers left...

I have to say, I own the original Desire and I love it to bits, but this locked bootloader malarky made me seriously consider a different manufacturer for my next phone.

Kushan said,
I have to say, I own the original Desire and I love it to bits, but this locked bootloader malarky made me seriously consider a different manufacturer for my next phone.

You unlocked it so...........

Its alot more fun to unlock it than just let it be

seasonic said,

You unlocked it so...........

Its alot more fun to unlock it than just let it be

Yeah I did unlock it and have loved it 10x as much ever since. That's why I'd have to be sure that my next phone can be unlocked.

If they decide to do the right thing would the boot rom locked phones be able to be fixed with an update? eg: Desire HD, incredible etc?

HoochieMamma said,
If they decide to do the right thing would the boot rom locked phones be able to be fixed with an update? eg: Desire HD, incredible etc?

It depends entirely on how they handle it. It might just be new phones only, or it might be future updates (meaning if your Desire HD was to get an update to Ice cream, it might be unlocked). Or indeed it could be for ALL phones, hard to say at this point.

"hopefully HTC will remember that it was the enthusiasts that helped them launch their own brand in the first place and will remain loyal to its roots."
+1

raindrop said,
"hopefully HTC will remember that it was the enthusiasts that helped them launch their own brand in the first place and will remain loyal to its roots."
+1

+∞

External HDD said,
they must release Sense 3.0 for all their models.

Well that's not going to happen is it, HTC have already stated that and hardware requirements for Sense 3.0 exceeded that of the Desire HD/ACE

Exosphere said,

Well that's not going to happen is it, HTC have already stated that and hardware requirements for Sense 3.0 exceeded that of the Desire HD/ACE

they said ace models might get a "lite" sense 3.0 so to speak. but you can get custom roms with sense 3.0 for ace and they run pretty much fine

Exosphere said,

Well that's not going to happen is it, HTC have already stated that and hardware requirements for Sense 3.0 exceeded that of the Desire HD/ACE

Dont talk crap Exosphere - you know nowt! I am running a kingdom rom and a sensation rom on my Desire / not HD! oc to 1.2 GHZ and lasts 2 days.

of course HTC dont want the software on older devices it sells the new dual cores, which is just marketing hype and a battery drain. the HTC Desire is still one of the best phones out there due to optmisations with custom roms. tell me your iphone lasts for 2 days heavy use?

BookerT said,

Dont talk crap Exosphere - you know nowt! I am running a kingdom rom and a sensation rom on my Desire / not HD! oc to 1.2 GHZ and lasts 2 days.

.. tell me your iphone lasts for 2 days heavy use?

I was referring to the official statements from HTC and in context to "them" releasing Sense UI 3.0
I'm fully aware of rooting and running hacked roms thanks, it's not going to happen via HTC! - that's what was asked above.

And what makes you think I have crappy iPhone?, I do believe you're talking crap now!

Exosphere said,
I was referring to the official statements from HTC and in context to "them" releasing Sense UI 3.0
I'm fully aware of rooting and running hacked roms thanks, it's not going to happen via HTC! - that's what was asked above.

Who said crap? you did again!
who said crap i think you did again.

And what makes you think I have crappy iPhone?, I do believe you're talking crap now!