Forget about GPS issues, it looks like ASUS has a bigger problem on its hand with the Transformer Prime: a locked/encrypted bootloader. Like with other devices, as soon as the development community found out about this, there were some rather irritated people. The typical backlash against the company has now started on popular social networking sites, along with a petition that has managed to get over 200 signatures in just a few hours.


This is definitely not the type of publicity that ASUS wants surrounding the world's first quad-core tablet, and users are hoping that the Taiwanese manufacturer will eventually reverse its decision and open the device. After all, this full-court press method has worked in the past.

[XDA Developers]

Cameron Summerson
Cameron is a self-made geek, Android enthusiast, horror movie fanatic, musician, and cyclist. When he's not pounding keys here at AP, you can find him spending time with his wife and kids, plucking away on the 6-string, spinning on the streets, or watching The Texas Chainsaw Massacre on repeat.

  • David Ruddock

    It's almost funny to watch ASUS undergoing what will likely evolve into a full-scale PR disaster for the Prime.

    While I don't agree with the tone of many of those complaining about this (it's quite childish, reading that XDA thread), I do think there is little reason to lock the bootloader on a Wi-Fi only tablet, especially one whose reputation is probably in large part hinging on its popularity in the enthusiast community.

    It may not affect 85+% of people buying it, but that remaining 15% or so have proven to be a very vocal and persistent group, as HTC found out last year. These sorts of things can quickly devolve into a general demonization of a company on places like Twitter, Facebook, etc. - at which point damage control becomes necessary. ASUS's poor reputation in terms of customer service won't help, either.

    We'll have to see how many of these complaints (aside from the locked bootloader) about GPS, light leakage, and poor casing fit turn out to be true, and on what scale - or if people's expectations have simply been set too high.

    • tim

      Childish comments are a pretty common on xda, unfortunately.

      Anyway, I agree with what you said 100%

    • Chris O

      First - just to point out to anyone else reading - I signed the petition as soon as I read the article, I hope everyone else does as well since locked bootloaders (even though I have zero plans to make use of unlocked bootloaders personally) are just bad. We WANT creativity, we WANT great products and features right? allowing people to CREATE those GREAT features is the ONLY way to get it! If we all wanted a locked ecosystem I think we would all be Appleheads bowing down to the 'great' (term used loosely) Apple Inc. and praying at the alter of Steve Jobs.

      David R,

      I'm sure your 100% correct about the 'childish' tone the XDA thread took - keyboard warriors rarely try to hold themselves to a maturity level above 4th grade.

      I also agree that locking the bootloader is a very unintelligent choice - the development community is rather talented and trying to stifle some of this good talent is just a bad idea. (These programmers are likely to be the exact same people ASUS, HTC, Samsung, etc. end up hiring in the next few years to create that next great feature / device.)

      The one issue I'm taking issue with is "ASUS's poor reputation in terms of customer service won't help, either." I've been working with ASUS products since at least 2000 and of the thousands of their products I've handled I've only had to deal with customer service a handful of times. Of those times; I've never really had a bad experience; I've been given decent service and on occasion when a unit is in for service whoever was doing the work tossed in a free upgrade here and there (a great example was a notebook that got upgraded from a 802.11B wifi adapter to an 802.11G adapter when it was being serviced for an unrelated issue.) All other times they've been quite able to help even in an event where a replacement unit got shipped to the wrong address and they took the loss on it and sent me another replacement unit to my address. Perhaps it comes from knowing what to expect and after dealing with hundreds of other companies, hearing some clients who have had REAL horror stories from some and personal repeated bad experiences in customer service from the likes of AT&T (local telco, not wireless) that I just couldn't fault ASUS on customer service. I'm 100% sure there have been incidents where they have fallen on their face - no doubt every company has had a few well deserved black eyes. but overall, between the service I've received, the basic expectation that I get good products with good warranties from them, and the fact that on my TF-101 they've released a plethora of updates (even one recently AFTER the Prime was released meaning they didn't drop the ball on the TF-101 just because the TF-201 was released) I've been more than happy to recommend them in the past and certainly will in the future. If anyone ever wants some good horror stories of bad customer service, we'll talk AT&T - I've got so many we could chat all day. (Also to make it clear about AT&T - few if any of my beefs with them were due to a single human; it is generally the employees when they have the ability to do so that things have been resolved but more often than not they are hog tied and unable to help a client who is down or having an issue that doesn't get resolved using their script of acceptable problems and solutions.)

  • caliber

    My interest in this tablet was previously high, and I wanted one even though I can't think of what I'd use it for. Whenever people asked for tablet suggestions I would suggest they consider the amazing transforming Asus tablet.

    My interest in this tablet is now zero. I will be giving precisely zero recommendations for it in the future. Enjoy your locked ecosystem Asus, a little bit of success went straight to your head.

    • Cameron Summerson

      Why? I'm genuinely interested in what would cause such a turnaround in how one feels about a device strictly based on one detail.

      • Bryan MacKenzie

        I will still be buying it. broke down and got the nexus instead of waiting for nizomi and ICS is really nice.

        Probably will not do anything to the device ever. gingerbread and HC needed custom roms ... ICS doesn't in my opinion.

      • caliber

        Locked bootloader is a make or break issue for me.

        There is absolutely no reason for the bootloader to be locked on this device other than Asus being evil. They can't even fall back on the claim it's the carriers being evil and not them.

        It's a simple grab by Asus to have more power over how the stuff they sell is used, and to reduce consumer power over how the stuff they bought is used.

        I find this unacceptable, and don't support companies that I see as bad guys. Mobile devices are the future of computing, and if people aren't making a stand now for the power to do what you want with your general computing device, someday we might not have any general purpose computers left.

      • http://www.ldrit.com/ Louis Richards

        Most people buy a computer with an operating system loaded on it and never change it. They get the updates provided and never look back. Others, on the other hand, have reloaded their systems. They have upgraded Windows and also may run Linux on their systems. Being allowed to make these changes can also make some older equipment continue to perform useful tasks.

        I would never buy a computer that could not be reloaded with a system of my choosing.

  • hillbilliegreg

    Asus is not forcing anyone to buy their product
    so don't buy it! Let the market do its thing.

    • http://me.com Ben M

      That is what most people in the know will do. But there were a lot of people who have worked really hard to get the Prime as soon as they could. They have already bought and waited/are waiting for this devices to arrive so now they have to work to return turn these dvices to the seller costing them more money in shipping.

    • Bryan MacKenzie

      I highly doubt a loacked bootloader will impact sales by itself. Maybe less than 1% of people buying it will actually care. The biggest issue is people who have no clue with google it and see it on the Cons list. Even though they dont need it or care about it it makes the tablet seem like it has a bad rating and might choose a different one. thats the only thing ASUS will be caring about right now.

    • http://www.pretentiousname.com Leo Davidson

      Not buying a product does not send a message to the company about WHY you are not buying the product.

      Complaining tells them what they need to do to make the product into what more people want, which will help both them and their potential customers.

      I can't see what the upside is, to anyone, in having a locked bootloader on an Android device, unless the device exists just to sell content via a store you want to lock people into (which doesn't seem to be the case with the Transformer).

      Companies need to learn to stop closing things just for the sake of it.

  • Paul R

    This is disappointing, as one of the main reasons I'm going to for Asus is because of the community and good product. I had an EEE netbook and the community was active in producing linux distro for it. I would have expect likewise with the Prime but with Android roms.

    This would have made the device last for years and years, something that appealed to me.

  • Mark

    Cameron, I'll of course let calibre reply for himself but I understand and feel the same way. It is the principle. Even if I had no plans to ever flash or in any way modify the device I still would not buy it simply because they have violated what I consider to be one of the primary tenets of Android device development, marketing, and sale. If I wanted a device that was closed I'd buy an iPad 2

    • http://me.com Ben M

      +1 I have to agree with you as well. It boils down to the old argument "I paid a lot of money for this hardware, I should be able to do with it as I please." If Asus came out and said if you unlock and/or root the device then we are not going to honor any warranty then that is fine.

  • tim

    I was actually going to buy the prime, but I wanted to find out about the booloader first. I'm glad I waited..guess I'll keep waiting.

  • Kevin

    I certainly think it would be swell if the bootloader was unlocked, but seeing as every phone I and my wife have owned has been locked down on purchase, and subsequently unlocked and rooted by XDA (and others), I'm not going to sweat it.

    As far as expectations go, all of MY excitement hinges on the potential of the Prime. It IS the fastest thing out there right now, they managed to put a port or two on it, and once developers start to "explore the cores", we might see some pretty cool things.

    Certainly ASUS could have had more of the wrinkles ironed out before launch, but unlike some other manufacturers (Samsung, for example), they managed to get the Prime into our hands fairly quickly after product announcement, with the absolute latest tech included. Think on how long it took the Galaxy S2 to arrive in our hands, and still with some teething pain...

    In the meantime, I'm just going to enjoy it and wait to see what happens. I briefly had the Galaxy Tab 10.1, and so far, the Prime has been superior in every way. Oh, and its bootloader was locked too.

    • Andrew

      @Kevin...the problem is not that it's locked...it's that it uses 128bit encryption...essentially impossible to break. It will NEVER be unlocked unless ASUS pushes an update to unlock/unencrypt it.

    • Michael

      Unfortunately you didn't catch the whole point, it's not that it's locked (that can be unlocked), but it's the fact they used an AES-128 encryption, which, while not impossible, is way beyond the scope of developers at XDA to crack, so either it's unlocked by ASUS, or by no one at all.

  • TBR_Starkey

    Really not regretting my Galaxy Tab purchase.

  • Ruben

    Frankly, and this is going to sound crazy, ICS is so good I may not care about this. ICS is money, imo. Every complaint I had for Android is fixed. Just dicking around with the early alpha builds available for my Sensation and I think it is perfect. Locked bootlader used to be a deal breaker for me, but with the release of ICS, I am beginning to be more flexible.

    • Bryan MacKenzie

      Felt the same way after I got my Nexus.. XDA does great work.. but it would be a lot easier to screw up ICS then make it better (assuming its close to vanilla)

    • http://www.pretentiousname.com Leo Davidson

      That's fine today. What about in a year's time when Android 5 is released and ASUS can't be bothered giving you an update?

      Having a Nexus S, I've never had to resort to a third-party OS build yet and I'd rather not have to, but it's always nice knowing the option is there if it's ever needed.

      • http://www.ldrit.com/ Louis Richards

        That's it in a nutshell. It's not about today. It's about being allowed to make software updates in the years to come to maintain a device. Of course, they would prefer you bought a newer one.

        My car dealer would prefer I bought a new car too. Luckily I was allowed to just repair the worn out transmission as if I had paid for and owned the car.

  • diaz2611

    I strongly suggest that we start returning the tablet till Asus decides to unlock the boot loader this way I know Asus will unlock the downloader ASAP.

    • obsess

      Would you let me have yours? I'm still waiting for my preorder and I couldn't care less for unlocking boot loader.

  • ssaxt0

    It is disappointing to hear that not only did they have issues with their deployment but they did not disclose this issue with bootloader. I am not a developer of Android so it is not a big issue for me but I do understand how the developers would have an isue with this.
    I was going to purchase the Prime and had it pre-ordered but cancelled that order because of their deployment. Now this issue comes up. I want to actually play with this item before I think of purchasing it now. I am also waiting to see what Apple brings to the table with iPad 3 if it does in fact come out in the next 2 or 3 months.
    They did not handle this deployment well at all. I have a G74 Asus Gaming laptop and I am impressed with their Zenbooks so I am still an Asus supporter so I will not rule out that I will purchase this device later this year but we shall see.

  • Darkseider

    Oh well looks like ASUS screwed the pooch with this decision. I'll be waiting for Acer or Toshiba to see what they do.

    • 40cal

      the acer a700 sounds like it could kick ass. Im disapointed. it feels like they rushed this or something. Didnt do enough real world testing with the gps. and Made this godawful decision!

  • Ryan

    I would like to point out that I don't give a shit. It's a great product and Android is a great system. People are now buying tablets after Apple got the ball rolling..and it is the best tablet out there. But I feel people will be like sheep as usual and jump on a bandwagon that is of absolutely no interest to them.

    • caliber

      Yeah, stupid people standing up for ethics and principles and long-term thinking, even if an issue doesn't affect them in the short-term. They should stop being sheep and be smarter and just buy like good consumers.

  • cosmic

    Torn on the bootloader issue. On one hand unlocked bootloaders used to mean better performance and longer updates via custom roms. ICS performs pretty well and Asus has been pretty decent on updating.

    Its a nice little safety net to have, would even take HTC's version of unlocking it online.

  • Robert

    As it was said, 1% of Prime buyers will be furious about this, others simply won't care.

    Plus, can we blame Asus for locking and encrypting the bootloaders? No, because I suspect they don't want their service centres clogged up with devices that were messed up by halfwits who were tinkering with something they do not understand, but saw others on XDA doing and decided to have a go at it despite having zero technical skills.

  • Steve

    The real problem I have with this is ASUS is being hypocrites about it. They locked down their Android devices but they actually ADVERTISE that they value their DIY community when it comes to their other products, like their routers:


  • John Blair

    Either folks have short memories, or are taking this small piece of the picture out of context (as usual, the whole story is ignored) The original Transformer TF101 had the Bootloaded locked the whole time, and it was only opened by an exploit that someone leaked from Asus. Asus responded by locking it down further from Serieal number B70xxx forward, and it was months before an exploit was found to root THOSE.

    This is NOT a new situation, as sad as it is, and I totaly agree that for the development community, it is a major issue, for the rest of us, not so much. However, a lot of us RELY on the Dev community to make great strides forward in the capabilities of our devices, and it is for that reason I will sign the petition as soon as I post this. Granted, I am leery of rooting when it prevents, or hampers getting updates from ASUS, but that is another example of why they need to open things up and stop trying to be Apple (They aren't even in the ballpark) and instead make the most of what they are know for, and HOPEFULY have done with the Prime: Deliver a premium hardware experience.

    I don't blame them for wanting to maintain control of the ecosystem on the device, but I disagree with the very concept. Asus: You have made WAY too many blunders with the Prime. Don't add this to the list!

  • ab

    its really disappointing & shameful that ASUS lock & encrypt the bootloader of prime transformer...
    ASUS.. be sure you gonna so much customer

  • Mike C

    I wanted this device. But now ... not so much. The thing is: I don't trust ASUS. I think they will let me down fairly soon by not issuing updates for the Prime. They will do that when they have a successor. Not that ASUS is any worse than others. This is unfortunately something I've come to expect from Android devices.

    What usually saves the day is custom firmware and the whole community around it. But with the locked bootloader, ASUS has locked that community out.

    Too bad. It looked like such a nice device.

  • derek

    did you even have a transformer or pay attention to the updates for it?

    i had the original transformer. asus had the 3.1 and 3.2 updates on it before motorola had them on the xoom.

    please, dont talk unless you're at least semi informed of the situation

    • Dan

      Are you naive enough to believe that you will ever see a update to android v5 for the original Transformer? Seriously? That ok though, you can just install CM10... oh wait... no you can't.

      That is what this is about. I can walk down to my garage, grab an old computer, and throw win-xp onto it because the local church needs a replacement for their failed word processing machine. Or, I can throw red hat or ubuntu on it because I need a simple file server or whatever else I want to do. I can do that because I paid for the computer, I own the computer, and the original manufacturer has no right to any opinion about what I do with it.

  • Glen

    loss of people saying xda will come up with a work around for this our something well get leaked like they did with the original transformer. This isn't the same situation. It's not just locked it's encrypted. that's a bit of a show stopper. I'm not bothered about android updates if ICS is as good as they reckon. But not being able to dual boot it into Linux is a big deal for me. I was looking for something i could use as a tablet and a replacement for my Linux net book

  • Glen

    and i should add, if there's no chance of being able to do that then that's a deal breaker for me and i wont be buying one when they hit the UK shelves. I'm very disappointed because i've had my eye on this as my next computer purchase for months.

  • Tenoch77

    Selling mine on CL as soon as it arrives, how disappointing... Asus really ruin this product...

  • Dan

    If the locked bootloader causes you to not buy a TPrime, Asus will never know about it. So, instead, everybody go buy one as soon as Best Buy or Office Depot or Staples has them in stock. Wait a couple of days and then return it. How many open box TPrimes can we generate in a couple of weeks? Yes, those numbers are tracked and yes, it will be noticed.

  • Pete

    where is this pertition that I can sign ?

    I'll still be buying the device despite disagreeing with what asus have done with the bootloader. It does promote alot of negative publicity and hopefully they will see the light.

  • Steven

    1) ASUS paid a lot more for the hardware than any buyer is. All that extra money that the buy is NOT required to pay for it, could technically be seen as partial ASUS ownership.
    2) ASUS never claimed you could do any of the things people are finding they can't do because of the locked bootloader. The tablet is exactly as functional as ASUS intended it to be, regardless of whether it's what some people want.
    3) If people really cared enough about how they paid "a lot of hard-earned money" for a product, they probably should not have bought it the moment it came out, expecting it to fulfill all their dreams without even giving it time to make an impression on the shelf and community.

  • Peter

    Just cancelled my orders on Amazon for the Prime. I'll wait for another company to come out with a quad core tablet that's not locked. Too bad ASUS, could have gotten a few tablet sold to my business if it weren't for this move.

  • http://www.vrdwellersblog.com Miles

    Honestly I think the delays will prove much more of an issue than the locked bootloader. Don't get me wrong, it's ridiculous and it does nothing but hurt Asus more. But failing to roll out the Prime to places like Best Buy back in December was a much bigger fail from the standpoint of the average consumer.

  • rc

    I can't even update my software from asus. I can't believe I'm the only one having this problem. I don't care much for locked boot loader. sorry to offend anyone.

  • John

    It's brutal. Epic fail on the Prime launch:

    0. Very late.
    1. Locked & encrypted.
    2. WiFi issues.
    3. GPS issues.
    4. Light bleeding
    5. Case cracking.

    CES is right around the corner...

  • Drewskeetz

    Im supposed to receive my tab today. UPS actually has it on the truck heading to my house but the encrypted bootloader is a letdown. I really hope they stop being duesche bags and let us use our paid for device however we decide. Were not freaking borrowing or renting it..We paid top dollar for this so I'm definitely signing the petition and Im calling Asus and will yell at them and tell them they are all FIRED!! Scumbags

  • Ryan