Of Locked Bootloaders or why I learned to love the E-fuse

So the tweeter /Android world has been abuzz lately concerning the fact that Verizon has chosen to lock the bootloader in their version of the Samsung Galaxy S3 device.

Customers who have received their devices ahead of the expected shipping time have reported after much work that the device has a locked bootloader.  Making it different and not as Dev friendly as the other US versions that do not.

What does this mean exactly?  Hell what is a Bootloader really?

a bootloader is the code that runs on a device before the operating system starts up. Almost all computer operating systems have bootloaders of some sort. This low-level code contains the instructions that tell a device how to start up and find the system kernel. The bootloader usually lives on the system board in non-volatile memory and is often specific to a device. It has to be, since the software and hardware loadout will vary so much from one device to the next. Every time your phone starts up, that bootloader code is telling your device what to do in order to get you to the home screen. As you can imagine, this process is vitally important. As such, manufacturers often use security measures to keep you from tampering with the bootloader.

Got Bootloader??

But Why would you want to unlock it since it sounds like such an important piece of software? Well, there’s a whole internet full of custom ROM makers that work their magic on devices and having access to the bootloader makes that all the easier.

Now having a locked Bootloader has not stopped Rom makers from hooking up devices such as the Motorola Razr with amazing roms but its much harder and if the device is corrupted apparently there is a Efuse.. misunderstandings occur and a puppy is killed in Mountain View…

Dont Root..  Save a Puppy

So is this another sign that Verizon who has been under attack recently for everything from New plans, Lebron winning a title to the current heat wave on the East coast is up to their tricks again or something else?

While people that are interested in Roms and tinkering with their devices find this move to be anti customer friendly to be honest it maybe the right move. I deal with users every day that place themselves in what Nokia likes to call ” The smartphone beta test”. One of the great features of Android is the “open” aspect that allows people to cook Roms and the like but with the popularity of Android there is the potential for disaster. I recently went on a twitter rant about this subject and the fact that users are becoming “flash happy” and trying out Roms with reckless abandon.

#Begin Blog rant#

What happens if these people end up trying “SuperRom V3.5231.A” which is built from “Source”…

guess the 1 click cant fix this

  Well they can email or PM -ICEMASTERZ5433 who cooked the rom and hope for a reply but what happens when they find out that good ole IceMasterz5433 is a 23 year old living in his mom’s basement in Nebraska?  I mean really did you think it was a good idea to load something that a guy on the internet made in a week?  I mean companies take months building software with real ya know.. Engineers.  But hey he has a bunch of tweeter followers and the forums swear by him so why not…   So there you are stuck with a shiny dual core LTE enabled HD display having plastic brick with no warranty and no upgrade..  Now is that promised 12.5% percent faster OS worth it?

#End blog rant#

So what you end up doing is call up your trusty carrier and make up some wild story involving a ferret, sunspots and a packet of grass seeds in order to get a insurance replacement.   So your phoneless a few days till you get a newly refurbished device and your carrier gets a useless brick, costing them and other users money.   Thats a bad thing..  a very bad thing..

As stated before in THIS very blog… Verizon is a for profit company and they take this very seriously.    Because of the costs they have seen raise due to the large amounts of replacements from the Android community and those “Flash masters” that would make any company think twice about how “open” they want to be.   Its not a new thing as Verizon has for a while now ask Motorola (maker of their popular Droid line) to lock and encrypt their boot loaders.  Heck this is a company that got a Nexus and made it NOT a Nexus,  that takes…

They say the squeaky wheel gets the grease and based on the Outcry from the hacking community I would not be surprised if Verizon and Samsung will offer a solution similar to what HTC has done for their users.    Give the people that want an open device the chance to have one after they go through a process of waving their warranty etc.  As I have told the hacking community quite a bit,  if you want to play out there then Verizon will never be the place for you, CDMA issues aside nothing is more Rom friendly then the Nexus line of devices..  available now (mostly)  from the Play Store :)

Just think twice before you trust Icemasterz5433….

Panda…

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About blackmannx

Just a man with a mission.. to share my unique and sometimes scary view of the world we live in.. Be it tech or just a new cereal
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14 Responses to Of Locked Bootloaders or why I learned to love the E-fuse

  1. CodeInVB says:

    I’ll gladly waive off the warranty. If only they’d give the option. It’s my hardware and I’m willing to pay to play.

  2. fizeauw says:

    Great post, brings light to the situation. But, you would think that Verizon would then put a little more effort into accepting updates faster.

  3. Brandon says:

    Panda, while I agree with most of your rant about flash-happy newbs who know nothing of what they are doing and typically don’t even read instructions well and then commit insurance fraud, it still doesn’t lead to the conclusion that locking the bootloader is a good thing for Verizon.

    As I have tried to discuss this point many times before, I’d like to reiterate that locking a bootloader only makes it EASIER to brick your phone with custom software. One of the reasons why Nexuses (including the VZW…which IS a Nexus) is such a great device is because it’s virtually impossible to “brick”…and one of the reasons for that is that the bootloader is unlocked (as well as system images being available).

    • Sam says:

      Correct. Looked bootloaders generally make it more difficult to recover a device. Really the only time you can potentially brick a device with an open bootloader is by replacing the bootloader with a bad image – which you can also do on phone with a locked bootloader. The difference being if you flash a system image, etc. the locked bootloader doesn’t like, preventing your phone from booting, and potentially hindering a fix, that’s when you’ll see excessive returns.

      People that want to mod their device are going to. Period. People that don’t, won’t. All the locked bootloader does is frustrate people unnecessarily. Let’s not pretend this isn’t about verizon trying to limit the breadth of a device’s functionality. Which is fine, that’s their call to make. Let’s just call it what it is.

  4. Good write up. WIll Verizon ever get another Nexus? Or will Google say F U. But the average consumer on VZW doesn’t need nor no what to do with ROMs and an unlocked bootloader. After coming from a GNEX its hard to like Touchwiz

  5. JFMFT says:

    So, just like the 1-2% of users using ridiculous amounts of data who were responsible for the change to tiered data, this is another case of the few ruining it for everyone.

    The people flashing untrustworthy ROMs or just plain doing things they shouldn’t be doing with their phones and then expecting their phone’s warranty to cover their f***-up are to blame here.

    I guess I buy that. It’s a sad reality, but probably pretty accurate. /sigh

    I really hope Samsung goes the HTCDEV route and offers an unlocking solution where users can do so by waiving their warranty. *fingers crossed but not holding breath*

  6. Nope, don’t agree, except about bashing stupid verizon and crappy cdma

  7. mrwirez says:

    I absolutely and completely disagree.. The only time I bricked a phone was WITH A LOCKED bootloader… The Droid II Global, was a real POS because of Verizon and their tampering.

    As soon as the “other” companies catch up with LTE, I’m gone. Just like my unlimited Data Plan. Thanks again Verizon.
    Douchebags….

  8. mrwirez says:

    I completely disagree. The only phone I nearly bricked was a replacement phone. The Droid II Global… A real POS, due to Verizon’s tampering. The three other Android phones I owned were unlocked and never bricked. My fake Galaxy Nexus and my Death Row Data Plan are the other VERY IRRITATING Verizon moves that will one day make me switch.
    Thanks Verizon, you corporate Douchebags….

  9. patfactorx says:

    I would love to see your evidence of people returning phones because of flashed ROM. Also I have yet to hear Verizon say this is a problem.

  10. My biggest complaint, is VZW doesn’t even give the option (at least not easily) to customize your phone with ROMs. SGS3 is just another example. So many people say, go somewhere else. Well, I would if there was any other carrier that provided decent service in the midwest outside cities.

    So I’m stuck with VZW, and they do have a great network…and I’ll even deal with their over-pricing. But locking bootloaders on phones is getting to be a big pain in the butt! I have owned 5 Android phones, the Palm Pre, and 2 Windows Mobile (6.5) phones. Rooted/hacked all of them. Installed ROMs and made other mods on all of them. Never bricked a phone once. That’s because I read and read more before ever installing things. I pay a lot of money for my phones and won’t the ability to do what I want with them. All other carriers are giving this ability, why can’t VZW?

  11. Daniel says:

    I agree with most of this blog. But I’m in the boat that having an unlocked boot loader with factory images makes bricking your phone virtually impossible. I mean it would take extreme dedication and effort to brick a device that is truly open to modification. On the other hand insurance fraud has been going on ever since the inception of having the opportunity of knowing your going to fuck up one day and we will be here to replace so ultimately you don’t go to another company because we know we sold you a possibly defective device or your a dumbass that’s going to screw up. It seems that Verizon or any software engineer would have developed some indicator that once triggered is encrypted so it could not be reversed. That way if you do brick while indulging as a pseudo- programmer you turn in exhibit A of you being a dumbass. Peace and love. Twitter @dwjr82.

  12. Jacob Dupont says:

    Awesome read as always . Definitely agree with people just flashing anything . Its not always a good idea .

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