10
Apr
1

When it comes to root and mod action on Motorola devices from the last couple of years, all eyes turn to brilliant Android hacker Dan Rosenberg. Since the Droid 3 was released two years ago, Rosenberg has successfully found root exploits for every Motorola device, including the D3, Bionic, RAZR, Droid 4, Xoom 2, Atrix HD, RAZR HD, and RAZR M. Add to that the fact he just released a tool that unlocks the bootloaders on the most modern Moto phones (RAZR HD, M, and Atrix HD), and it's not hard to see why he's such an important part of the Motorola modding community. Heck, without him, there probably wouldn't even be a Moto modding community.

But with his most recent exploit also came the harsh reality of the current state of Motorola phones – fact is, it's just getting too difficult to find useful vulnerabilities. This makes sense – Android is getting more secure in itself, and companies are finding new ways to ensure devices stay locked up tight. According to Rosenberg, the days of exploiting Motorola handsets may have come to an end.

I see this as the end of an era for Motorola rooting and modding. At this point, it is significantly more difficult to find vulnerabilities that may be used to root Motorola devices than when I started two years ago, due to fixes for the all the bugs used in previous exploits. It has gotten to the point where there may not be a "next time" for publishing a Motorola root exploit. Of course vulnerabilities still exist, but as the pool of bugs shrinks, the number of people capable of finding them grows smaller and the time investment required increases. As a result, I have no plans to continue publishing Motorola root exploits after this release.

Rosenberg goes on to say that he hopes Motorola's acquisition by Google will "gradually lead to changes in policy allowing more open devices." Whether that will happen or not has yet to be seen, but I think we all hope for the same. Until then, Rosenberg offers up a fantastic piece of advice for anyone who wants the ability to root and/or mod their device:

If an unlocked device is important to you, buy an unlocked device instead of expecting someone to accomplish a difficult hack.

I think that sums up the state of the Android community as a whole pretty well: don't buy locked devices if you ultimately want/need/hope for an unlock to show up in the future. We're getting to the point where you can no longer count on the fact that "someone will do it eventually," and it's time to start purchasing accordingly. Sure, this isn't the most economical option – paying full retail for a bootloader-unlockable device is difficult for most to justify. Unfortunately, it's time to start making the tough choices.

Of course, you could always just buy a Nexus.

[via DroidRZR.com; Thanks, Michael Pahl!]

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.

  • http://www.facebook.com/Shad0wguy Chris Jutting

    I dropped moto for a Nexus after they screwed us Photon owners over by promising ICS just to bail, yet push an update that broke the only bootloader unlock method. Google needs to fix moto's policys

    • http://twitter.com/explodingwalrus Carl Draper

      Indeed, Atrix 4G user here, I'm running Avatar ROM (JB) and runs great apart from stuck with VGA-only camera

  • http://twitter.com/Mancunian__Red Vasanth

    Be direct , just say buy Samsung or Nexus .

  • wideopn11

    I will not buy another non-Nexus device for the foreseeable future. Whether it be a phone, tablet or something in between, I'm not going to waste my time or money on something that I can't have full control over to use as I see fit.

    • http://jordanhotmann.com/ Jordan Hotmann

      Agreed. My experience with the nexus 4 and 7 has blown away all other Android devices I've owned.

      • http://twitter.com/snookasnoo Idon’t Know

        Which part do you like most? The extreme throttling of the CPU? The bad battery life? The poor camera? The glass breaking? How about no LTE?

        • http://jordanhotmann.com/ Jordan Hotmann

          If the CPU is throttled that's fine, my Nexus 4 has never even stuttered. I make it through the day fine with heavy use, what more could I want? No broken glass, and I huck myself off cliffs every weekend (occasionally resulting in some gnarly crashes) with it in my backpack. You almost have a point with LTE, but hspa+ is plenty fast for the few times I'm not on wifi and I don't have LTE in my area anyways.

          Then lets consider the pros of instant updates, no bloat, no carrier restrictions, fastboot oem unlock, supreme romability, gorgeous screen, perfect size, and striking good looks.

        • Matthew Fry

          My favorite is when it stutters and then reboots while doing strenuous tasks such as web browsing.

        • harvz

          Personally i have not had any of those problems. i have always had a case on my phones, the camera is more than adequate for my needs i get a full day of use with 4hrs screen on time and a few hrs of podcast listening, as for the cpu i have had at no point where i was lacking power while using the phone.
          plus because it was only $400 i know i can upgrade in a years time and still be cheaper than getting on a 2 year plan

    • http://twitter.com/armus75 Armus

      Full control so long as you you don't want an sd card.

      • Martin Nutbeem

        Exactly! Battery too. Full control and then a massive limitation in how you use it for media etc unless you chain yourself to areas with wifi or take on data packages with prohibitive pricing plans. Fine if you never leave a city, if you like venturing a bit further then not so much.

      • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1745689461 Hal Motley

        For me if they provided 32/64GB of internal storage in the first place, I wouldn't need external storage.

        • saibz

          Exactly! I don't care about removable storage IF they give you a larger storage option. I'd gladly take a 32GB variant and they can even make more money charging 50 to a hundred for a component that costs them a couple of dollars.

          • http://jordanhotmann.com/ Jordan Hotmann

            Embrace the cloud my friends!

          • Matthew Merrick

            With data plans as expensive (and tired/throttled) as they are, who can afford to in the cloud?

          • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1745689461 Hal Motley

            And with terrible connection, living in the UK countryside we barely get a good Wi-Fi connection, let alone GSM.

          • Irinel Loghin

            everybody else on the world that are not in the US ? :))

          • ikith

            The cloud can only do so much, I can't store and run apps from the cloud yet, some apps have data that must be on the phone and take up space (Dungeon Defenders for one) that can't be read from the cloud. So what is my solution once I turn to the cloud for everything else but apps extra data uses all of my storage space?

      • flosserelli

        ...or LTE

      • Matthew Fry
        • lljktechnogeek

          Except that the Nexus 4 doesn't supply enough power over its microUSB port for devices like that to work. Which you would know if you had read your own link.

          • Matthew Fry

            My apologies. I have a Nexus 10 and it most definitely will work. As will the Nexus 7 and the Galaxy Nexus. So... basically any Nexus devices made after 2011 excluding the 4.

      • http://twitter.com/snookasnoo Idon’t Know

        Better get used to that.

      • David Grossberg

        Or a physical keyboard. (Yes I've tried Swype/SwiftKey/etc.)

      • meijin3

        Great point. I've been able to make it work with this DNA that's on loan to me but I'd like not to have to worry about storage

    • Qliphah

      While the nexus 7 is very open and customizable it lacks any real expansion hardware wise. I got the AtrixHD on the hopes it would be unlocked because of the hardware not software. Guess I got lucky though.

  • Dan Wilczynski

    +1 for buying Nexus. The fragmentation of android devices alone has to be hard for devs/hackers to keep up with.

    • Michael Pahl

      by fragmentation you mean diversification, right? Fragmentation is Apple brainwash lingo

      • Jadephyre

        No it isn't.
        There are still too many devices out there and being shipped new with completely outdated software (Android 2.2 & 2.3).
        And i've used Android exclusively since I got my first HTC Magic.

        • Trevor Marshall

          "Completely outdated software like 2.3"
          What a load of rubbish. My Galaxy Note 1 with TW has been tweaked and locked down step by step, currently gets 10 days on a battery charge while running K9 email, GrooveIP, and a host of security and travel apps. I have no interest in the new textfree menus, and the phone makes voice calls just fine.
          Don't buy into this 'outdated' rubbish...
          If a phone does the job, it does the job...

          • flosserelli

            Screenshots or it didn't happen. The only 5"+ phone that goes 10 days between charges is one that doesn't get used.

          • http://twitter.com/snookasnoo Idon’t Know

            For you. But shockingly not everyone is like you.

      • http://twitter.com/snookasnoo Idon’t Know

        Hah, no, he means fragmentation and so do you. Using another word doesn't change the fact.

  • ProductFRED

    Either buy a Samsung or a Nexus device. If you're reading articles on AndroidPolice and/or you're also on XDA, chances are you're looking for a rootable phone. Rooting is not just about "tricking out your device to show off to your friends." It's also about fixing issues the manufacturer hasn't even realized exist yet, or have simply ignored. And more importantly, it's about supporting your device when the manufacturer decides they don't want to anymore (something Motorola is notorious for). Manufacturers are getting better at shipping more solid devices from the get-go, but there's still a lot to be done before I can consider an unrootable device.

    One thing, for example, I noticed on the Galaxy Note 2 is that the AT&T version supports T-Mobile's LTE frequencies, but unlike the T-Mobile version it doesn't do AWS (1700 MHz) 3G. However, if you go on XDA, you'll find AT&T just asked Samsung to disable it, and a simple flash from a computer can re-enable it. The HTC One is probably the same story (The AT&T and Developer versions don't do 1700 MHz for T-Mobile), despite the fact that all the carrier variants are exactly the same on the hardware level. Thing is with HTC, it's difficult to modify anything beyond the ROM and kernel.

    • silver_arrow

      Heck I can confirm that almost all AT&T devices have 1700 MHz LTE support because they are the same devices that the Canadian carriers, who use 1700 MHz LTE, are selling right now

      • ProductFRED

        I'm talking about 1700 MHz 3G, but yes that too.

  • Sqube

    Well, looks like there's no chance I purchase a Motorola device then. I'm at the point now where, if I'm not going to buy a Nexus device, I need to purchase a device that can be rooted and ROM'd and generally made my own.

  • Steve Green

    If you want unlocked devices to exist you have to buy them. Money talks.

    • http://twitter.com/snookasnoo Idon’t Know

      Not many available.

      • Steve Green

        Really? Is there some shortage of dev devices and Nexus phones?
        If it is a priority for you, like it is for me you would not even consider locked devices.

  • ranova

    People keep saying to buy a Nexus device. But when the Nexus devices do not have the specs or features you want/need, it rules it out. I really wanted the Nexus 4, but without a microSD slot, removable battery, a great camera, and most importantly, LTE, it was a no go for me.

    If you enjoy putting roms on your phone, then yes, nexus is the way to go. I've had my fare share of the modding community (Ive owned the nexus one, galaxy nexus, and other easily rootable phones such as the SGS1, SGS3, Evo 4G), but in MY experience, custom roms are never fully stable. Something is always wrong with it, whether or not its apparent or not.

    I bought the HTC One Dev version, not because it has a unlocked bootloader, but to be free of shitty ATT bloat, logo, and to obtain quicker updates from HTC. I choose the One over the SGS4 mainly because of how much I despise Touchwiz. Touchwiz is 10 steps back in the design of ICSJB. I need a phone where I can turn it on and not cringe

    I know I'll get tons of downvotes for this, but I had to say it. Hell, I own an Atrix HD right now (modded with the maxx battery though), and when rooted, its completely fine. Its main downside is the crappy camera on it. But it lasts 2+ days, has a microSD slot, has LTE, 720p screen, etc.

    • ProductFRED

      Same about the Nexus 4. If just one of those was missing, then ok. But not with the card slot, removable battery, AND good camera AND LTE missing. To be honest though, you can just flash CM on a Galaxy S4 and still have your great camera, removable battery, and MicroSD card slot. The release version in most of the world and the US is a Snapdragon S600, same as the one in the HTC One.

      • ranova

        The issue is that, at least for the SGS3, when you flash an AOSP rom, the camera is junk. I believe it was an issue of Samsung not releasing drivers for it. I havent checked in a couple months, they may have figured it out.

        And like I said, I'm turned off on flashing roms now. It doesn't go through the same testing as the phone was meant to be run on originally. Battery life also seems to suffer on AOSP roms vs the original touchwiz software

        • ProductFRED

          True on all accounts. I noticed the camera issue on my S3 as well. It's really a night and day difference.

          • ranova

            Build quality of the One definitely was a plus factor, but Sense 5.0 seems to be a lesser evil than Touchwiz. Thats my opinion at least!

          • http://twitter.com/shanghei2 rob

            You are on an AHD Maxx right now and are switching to a HTC One?

            Hope you arent far from a wall outlet.

            HTC aka Have To Charge

          • http://twitter.com/snookasnoo Idon’t Know

            Read some reviews. Not true.

          • Anonymous

            Yep, 6 hours screen on time and around .5% battery drain or less per hour of standby time, have to charge all the time.

          • flosserelli

            I'm no proponent of TW, but it's not so bad that I cringe every time I turn on my phone. Why do you hate it so much? I use Nova Launcher on top of TW and it's not that bad.

            I agree that AOSP roms and SGS3 do not mix well. And the SGS3 battery does seem to last longer on TW. So I went back to TW-based roms and a 3rd party launcher (because TW launcher sucks donkey balls)

    • Kevin Cox

      Why does everyone think a microSD slot is so important? I thought I wouldn't like not having one after going from the Incredible to a GNex but then I thought, how many times did I really ever take the card out anyways? 32GB internal is fine with me. I've not felt like I needed expandable storage even once on the GNex. I agree with everything else though, 2 day battery life, multiband LTE, (now) 1080p screen all sound great. And yeah it shouldn't need a removable battery if the battery would actually last awhile but I don't think I would be comfortable buying a phone without one. Never know when you're gonna need to do a battery pull :)

      • ranova

        its not "important" per say, but its nice to have. Id be ok with the Nexus not having MicroSd, but like ProductFred said, if its missing the other stuff, it really is a no go for SOME people. Thats why Im ok with the HTC One with 64gb, should be more than enough. But the Nexus 4 with 16gb (but like 12gb usable) is such a limitation.

        Power users either need a good lasting (3300mah or higher) battery or have the ability to swap batteries.

        LTE also isn't needed, but boy, it definitely makes a difference with everything you do that requires data. I couldn't go back to HSPA.

        The 1080p screen doesnt bother be as much, we're at a point where most people can't tell the difference anyways.

      • http://twitter.com/TwinShadow_SH Ryan

        I could go without an SD card as my song library takes up about half of my current one that's in my Bionic. (that's roughly 5.8 GB of songs, card itself is a 16 GB SDHC card) So, having 32 GB of storage would be more than plenty if a Nexus device offered that much. But, do they? No. I avoid them because of the space limitations. I also do other things and having plenty of room helps. LTE can be debated on.. T-Mobile is slowly lighting up new LTE towers in select cities, so its only a matter of time before we in the DFW area can get it. Their plans are also appealing, so if the Motorola X Phone comes around, I may just get that and ship off from Verizon.

        Though, there's always one thing that ALWAYS makes me cringe. Embedded batteries.. Its a bad idea no matter how you look at it. Some phones are a little easier to remove that battery to replace it, others not so much. What these companies don't realize that lithium ion batteries are not fool-proof, and could bloat and destroy your phone at any time. And when you have an embedded battery that you can't even remove and it bloats, your phone is SCREWED. My battery in my Droid X finally bloated barely even a year and a half from use, but the phone itself is fine because I can remove the battery.

        I could say that embedded batteries could potentially be a huge deal-breaker for me. The rest not so much. Its just a bad idea all around, especially if you forget to charge your phone and don't have a cable with you to charge it.

        Ok, my rant is over.

      • JG

        I have one SD card, it was put in the phone when I bought it, like two and a half years ago, and has only been removed once. But the reason for the removal is the reason I prefer SD enabled devices over internal only. My phone decided to only complete half of a reboot and refused to power back up randomly one night. I had 3 reps looking at it at Verizon but none could figure it out, so they got me a replacement. All I had to do was swap the SD card from the FUBAR'd phone to the replacement and all of my pictures, music, etc were ready to go. If it was internal storage only, when the phone died, I wouldn't have been able to retrieve any of my files. Granted, it wouldn't be a total loss. Pictures and videos are (now) uploaded to G+ nightly, and I do (somewhat) "regularly" backup the other files on the phone, but still....

        • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1304767408 Steven Lam

          exactly

      • http://twitter.com/snookasnoo Idon’t Know

        Hardly anyone uses an SD slot or removable battery and the manufacturers know this. So does Google and they have never like SD cards.

    • dsass600

      I have a Note II right now and I plan on selling it for the developer version as well. How is the battery life and expected development on the One?

      • ranova

        there will be devlopement for the one, most of the versions can get their bootloader unlocked through the HTC Dev site (ATT version will not). Battery will last a day with normal usage.

    • Mike Reid

      - Down Votes: can count on 2 fingers.
      - Up Votes: need all fingers, thumbs toes, and a few other things to count.

      We should ALL demand and buy "Developer Devices" when they're harder to unlock than Nexus or Samsung.

  • Michael Pahl

    One thing of note, missing from the above article, is Dan's optimism here. He noted that Moto, now being owned by Google, has a bright future ahead of them. Dan has done some amazing things, but I soon see the need for his hard work and dedication to be replaced by a new Google backed Motorola policy on the issues at hand. Aside form that lets not forget Big Red's hand on the throat of OEMs. Its not always up to Moto.
    I wouldn't trade my Razr Maxx HD for any other phone out atm, especially given the Nexus' inability to hold a charge for more than a (half)day.

    • http://www.androidpolice.com/ Artem Russakovskii

      It's not missing: "Rosenberg goes on to say that he hopes Motorola's acquisition by Google will "gradually lead to changes in policy allowing more open devices." Whether that will happen or not has yet to be seen, but I think we all hope for the same."

      • Michael Pahl

        missed it
        of course it will happen. Imagine a Google/Moto device w/o root access

    • http://twitter.com/snookasnoo Idon’t Know

      It is rarely if ever up to Moto. Only Apple stands up to the carriers.

  • Jadephyre

    Exactly why I sold my Razr just three months after having bought it and jumped ship for the GNex.

  • Dan r. Maor

    ... or an unbranded HTC. Sure It's not fully unlockable, but it is fully mod-able after using their online unlock utility.

  • Andy_in_Indy

    This makes me nervous about the Bionic's upcoming 4.1 update. I hope the current exploits can be used, because I would hate to give up my lapdock!

    • NuLL.n.VoiD

      Sorry, this would be a no go. I too have a Bionic and was hopeful but then I did my reading. The latest exploit doesn't work on OMAP processors. They remain locked. Thankfully, my contract is up in May and I plan on buying my next phone outright so I can keep my unlimited plan a while longer. Try the IcarusHD ROM for your Bionic. It's smooth and much easier on the battery. It may not be 4.1 but it should do until you're ready to upgrade.

  • Chahk Noir

    Let's just all hope that the Next Nexus is a Motorola phone with microSD Card, removable (and huge) battery, great camera, and one of those new modems with 5000 LTE frequencies.

  • NuLLnVoiD

    Rooting is important to me but so is my grandfathered, unlimited plan. With no new Nexus phones coming to Verizon in the near future and no HTC One, the S4 is really the only option for me. It's not just about the phone. The network and the plan should be equally as important. That being said, people like me still look to the modders who "will do it eventually" to allow us to have full use of our phones on the network and plans of our choice.

    • http://twitter.com/snookasnoo Idon’t Know

      I'd love an HTC One on Verizon but they have such a gap in LTE coverage that AT&T isn't even close. Typical.

      • Anonymous

        The One is coming soon. All that is left is to announce preorders, even HTC retracted their denial that it wasn't coming to Verizon.

  • Floss

    This is actually a very good thing. Having these root escalation exploits was a VERY bad thing in practice. Now, if only all manufacturers would make them unnecessary by allowing you to get root in the safe and secure manner in the first place.

    PS I have seen the same trend with iOS. It is taking longer and longer and the user has to jump through more and more hoops to jailbreak with each successive version.

  • http://twitter.com/armus75 Armus

    More reason to buy Samsung. Thanks Dan for all the fish. It's time to end moto's run.

  • Scott

    Motorola Nexus on Verizon. Done.

    • http://twitter.com/snookasnoo Idon’t Know

      Not gonna happen.

  • bobbutts

    I'm happy to be done with Motorola until they offer unlocked bootloaders. At least we can get a Nexus.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1745689461 Hal Motley

    I may have never bought a Motorola smartphone, but I don't find this surprising at all after watching last year's CyanogenMod seminar at Google I/O: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=puSdhvC0ExY

    Steve Kondik emphasised that Motorola was a real effort for CM because not only is the bootloader just locked (like most devices), it also actively checks the ROM even after booting and there probably other limitations too. I thought that since Google acquired Motorola they would be more relaxed and other modes that allow you to flash ROMs, but that was wishful thinking.

  • Thisguyneil

    I love all the "but ....but...buut google hates sd cards...so i should too"
    No, google loves it when you buy google drive accounts with a high storage amount.
    Give me a nexus with at least a 5 inch screen (currently using a galaxy note) and a removable battery and an sd card slot and ill buy 3 of them the first day. There is little to zero cell signal in my area so no, im not going to stream all my music via google play music and im not going to upload all my photos "2 THA CLOUD XD"

  • Simon Belmont

    Eh, Motorola has always been a pain about bootloaders. I never really figured they'd let up on that, but it's a shame that the key developer who thwarted the bootloaders is hanging up his hat.

    The whole bootloader thing with Motorola has really been the key reason why I haven't been interested in their devices since the OG Droid. Sadly, we, the enthusiast crowd, are the minority voice on stuff like this.

  • Michael Pahl

    Moto haters are also forgetting the fact that Moto's radios are far superior to the Nexus - it is a phone afterall.

  • Freak4Dell

    I think he said he was done after the last generation of Motorola devices, too, and then he came back with a root method for the RAZR HD/RAZR M.

    Anyway, what a lot of people fail to realize is that most of Motorola's security is done for Verizon. It just so happens that most of their phones are for Verizon, so it looks like they lock down all their phones. The international versions of Motorola's phones are unlockable without any hacks needed. Sprint's Photon 4G and US Cellular's Electrify M are also the same way. While I do wish Motorola would stop bending over backwards for Verizon, it's really Verizon that we need to be blaming here. Motorola doesn't seem to care whether or not you unlock the bootloader. After all, it's one less device that needs to be supported with a warranty. Verizon demands that their phones be locked, though, and Motorola complies with that.

    • Anonymous

      This is so true. All HTC devices have been locked down just the same, and even the mighty Samsung must bow to Verizon.

      And even put that disgusting logo on the home button.

  • http://profiles.google.com/danielm.nc Daniel Marcus

    If you can point me at a well constructed, modern, keyboard phone with an unlocked bootloader, I'm all ears.

  • http://rilgon.tumblr.com/ Rilgon Arcsinh

    "If an unlocked device is important to you, buy an unlocked device instead of expecting someone to accomplish a difficult hack."

    Unfortunately no such thing exists that also has the features I require (namely, a hardware QWERTY keyboard and being on Verizon). I can't really fault him since he's done a lot of good work for Moto users, but christ that quote just comes off as out-of-touch and self-absorbed.

  • sg

    summarı: do not buy motorola... long story: check what happened to motorola atrix.

  • leo Finn

    The reason I never got a gnexus was cause it never had an sd slot. I thought lte was the only way to go and i that I would need a big battery so I got the razr maxx. Well i rarely even touched the sd slot. Lte is fast but it only drains the crap out of my battery and could never really appreciate the full speeds I was downloading a big app which was rare. I finally got my beautiful nexus and well battery life still sucks and speeds aren't lte fast but fast enough for loading Web pages and youtube videos with out a studded.