Samsung's Android devices have always come with easily unlockable bootloaders, so seeing the Verizon version of the Galaxy S III locked down at the request of the carrier (we don't buy your excuse, Verizon) was quite a shocker to many enthusiasts (not like it stopped them). Samsung, realizing how important it is to have unlockable bootloaders on its devices, decided to go the same way Motorola did back in January and release a user-unlockable Galaxy S III Developer Edition specifically for VZW.

The device will be only available online through Samsung (it should appear shortly), and because Verizon is obviously not going to subsidize it, will likely cost about $600 (Samsung has yet to confirm the final amount). This means you won't have to sign or renew your contract as you'd be buying the S III at full price, but it does make it prohibitively expensive for some. Of course, it goes without saying that the situation for existing VZW Galaxy S III owners as well as ones who are considering purchasing subsidized units still leaves a lot to be desired.

Samsung provided Android Police with the following clarifications (thanks, Samsungjohn):

Who is this for?
Samsung and Verizon Wireless recognize that there are many enthusiasts and professional developers that are interested in customizing their device with third-party ROM software.  Unlocking the bootloader can put the stability of the phone in jeopardy; therefore, only experienced developers should attempt to unlock the bootloader.

What about the other carriers?
Other versions of the Galaxy S III are sold with a user-unlockable bootloader as a standard feature. Those models are available directly from the respective carriers.

Where can I buy the Galaxy S III Developer Edition?
The Developer Edition will be sold online directly from Samsung. When the device is available for purchase, it will be sold through the Samsung developer portal at developer.samsung.com

Why is Verizon Wireless’ version locked?
Depending on the device, an open boot loader could prevent Verizon Wireless from providing the same level of customer experience and support because it would allow users to change the phone or otherwise modify the software and, potentially, negatively impact how the phone connects with the network. The addition of unapproved software could also negatively impact the wireless experience for other customers.  Unlocking the device also voids the warranty.

Has Samsung always unlocked the bootloader on its phones?
While not all previous Samsung Android devices have had an easily unlockable bootloader, all of our other current Galaxy S III flagship lineup, and all Nexus-branded devices, support the standard bootloader unlocking procedure.

What happens if I load custom software and damage (“brick”) my phone?
Problems caused by your unlocking the bootloader and installing custom software will not be covered by the warranty. Problems with third-party and customized bootloader software can cause irreparable harm to the Galaxy S III. Users interested in performing these actions should proceed with caution and at their own risk. Out of warranty Galaxy S III Developer Edition devices will be serviced directly through Samsung, and service charges will apply.

Bravo, Samsung, for working out a solution when things got out of your control. Verizon, on the other hand, not so much.

Artem Russakovskii
Artem is a die-hard Android fan, passionate tech blogger, obsessive-compulsive editor, bug hunting programmer, and the founder of Android Police.
Most of the time, you will find Artem either hacking away at code or thinking of the next 15 blog posts.

  • Lekz

    This gives me so much hope for development in general for the S III!

  • Jason Hanford-Smith

    How is this a "Bravo" to Samsung?
    It's not like Samsung just decided to do this to help out the developer community. Samsung can't just release a phone to work on VZW's network without VZW's say-so.
    This was planned. It was planned between VZW and Samsung and if anything, I would bet it was VZW that told Samsung how it was going to happen.
    Samsung appears to have met it's match.

    • Mapekz

      Samsung didn't want to block it's bootloader on any carrier and hasn't, but they also want to sell the same device on every carrier, especially the largest US carrier.

      They decided to sell the dev edition (basically an unadulterated version of the same VZW device) from their own warehouse since VZW wouldn't allow it. If they wanted to lock the bootloader in the first place they would have done so on every carrier (especially AT&T).

      Samsung hasn't met it's match. Verizon is just very complacent. When America is LTE-only (with some HSPA+ here and there) and people start working towards consolidating their wireless frequencies we will be able to simply buy the unadulterated phone from the OEM directly and use it on whatever network we please. It will happen for sure but it's a matter of time, along the line of 5 to 10 years.

      • Jason Hanford-Smith

        Nonsense. Samsung can't just "decide" to one day sell a phone on Verizon's network without their permission. For one thing, that would negate VZW's statement about impacting the experience of other users on the network.

        This is something that both Verizon and Samsung hashed out. Most likely at Verizon's bidding. Samsung put profits ahead of principle and caved to the one carrier that could change the first, true global Android phone. Do I blame Samsung for making this choice? No. Not at all... profit is profit. I DO blame Verizon for forcing this - obviously contrived - situation. I just think it's naive to suggest that Samsung just came in and saved the day.

        • Mapekz

          That's not what I was saying at all.

          Your original post about how "this was planned" implies that Samsung intentionally wanted the bootloader signed, but my point is that they seemed to stall (VZW's SGS3 is the last of the four major carriers' variants to be released) hoping to change VZW's opinion. The fact that we are only learning about the locking of the device and the developer edition now should be criminal, though I again suspect this is because VZW imposed an 'embargo' to prevent Samsung revealing this device until preorders shipped out.

          However, at least Samsung is still offering an avenue for people to get the unlockable version so people who have been waiting for the device don't have to switch carriers or wait another six months for a new, albeit unlikely VZW Nexus. The motivation is most likely raw hard profit but the effect is empathetic. In a way, Samsung still is laying the law by selling their unadulterated version alongside the controlled version. Ideally the developer edition (now that you lose unlimited data if you upgrade your line) will sell like hot cakes so that Verizon gets the picture, but that probably won't happen.

  • AdamOutler

    Samsung, you've removed ALL developers from this device. No one buys a carrier device TO DEVELOP ON. They buy a carrier and begin developing. Samsung has lost their fucking minds.

    Congratulations on violating the GPL.. The end user must be able to compile and install GPL protected code. You are violating that agreement.

    Congratulations to Samsung for releasing a steaming pile of PR Bullshit. Do this on AT&T and you've lost me as a customer.

    Sincerely, Adam Outler, Senior Electronics Tech, XDA TV producer, XDA news writer, and XDA Elite Recognized Developer.

    • CoreDuo08

      I dunno, this seems like less Samsung's problem and more Verizon's idea of a compromise since none of the other SGS3s have locked bootloaders that I know of. To compound the problem, we've seen the same thing on other Verizon phones like the Droid RAZR mentioned in the article. Make sure you point the pitchfork at the right people.

      • AdamOutler

        Verizon doesn't make software. They sell phones. This is Samsung wanting them to sell phones which they make. This is the start of Samsung downfall as the last great maker.

        • http://twitter.com/ToysSamurai Toys Samurai

          All variants of S3, except the Verizon one has a locked bootloader. Your theory just doesn't make sense.

        • Cheeseball

          But why are you blaming Samsung when all the other carriers have an unlocked bootloader? Blame Verizon for advising (more like forcing) Samsung to give them units that have a locked bootloader.

        • CoreDuo08

          But since any device on Verizon's CDMA network has to be approved by Verizon, they still get to make the call whether Samsung likes it or not.

  • Seth M

    They couldn't have announced this before people preordered the locked one? I see what Motorola and now Samsung pulled as a bad thing. Trying to double dip and whatnot.

    • Mapekz

      Notice how Samsung spilled the beans only after the preorders shipped out. I suspect this secrecy was due to Verizon's meddling.

    • bjn714

      At least Samsung didn't wait until after the return policy was up like Moto did with the RAZR. This at least affords those that preordered one the opportunity to return it in time to get this one if they want it.

  • http://twitter.com/jjclemens jjclemens

    Will this make it easier to root a Verizon model soon? Or should we root before the upcoming OTA while we can?

  • bjn714

    While this isn't at all an ideal solution, I applaud Samsung for the quick action here since it wasn't their move in locking them in the first place. Contrary to what Motorola did in releasing their developer edition after the return policy was up for the RAZR for those that bought it at launch, at least those that just bought an SIII still have the chance to return it. Also in a good move for consumers it appears that the D.E. will still have a warranty, unlike the RAZR with NO warranty. Also given Samsung's past history with unlocked and customized phones, I don't anticipate too many rejected warranty claims either. Samsung has not seemed to care if devices go back unlocked or rooted as long as they weren't directly damaged by something the user did.

    +1 Samsung
    -666 Verizon

  • btod

    This is a win-win for verizon and samsung. Samsung gets to sell more phones, and verizon appears to appease the developer/rooting community. This sort of behavior shouldn't be praised. When the rezound came out it had a locked bootloader but htc provided a way to unlock it through their site, and Verizon clearly allowed it. Samsung could've done the same thing.

  • kenyanguy

    I believe you're utterly missing the point of these phones. What does the Nexus Experience mean to you? EXACTLY what it fucking says! Stock Nexus!!!!! No Samsung's Air-play, and HTC's Zoe, and all other bullshit. It's just a plain Vanilla version of Android, and believe it or not, there are people who would prefer that, regardless of the cost. If you care so much about the OEM features that get stripped off the NEXUS EXPERIENCE, then why not go and buy a goddamn Carrier version? No one, and I mean NO ONE, is forcing you or anyone to buy or even like this phone or idea, and that's the beauty of capitalism. For those who can afford it and want it, boom! And for those who can't afford it or don't want it, no pressure. Your $650 is not going to break the company's back.