The Android dev team has generally been assumed to have a passive stance on rooting and unlocking Android devices. That is, do it if you want - we won't stop you. And there's certainly evidence abound supporting this - Google's Nexus One could be unlocked via a simple ADB (Android Device Bridge) command: fastboot oem unlock. The same is true of the Nexus S.
Of course, it only makes sense - Google doesn't want to put any unnecessary barriers between Android developers and the open source OS, especially on developer phones.
But a new post on the official Android Developers Blog shows that team Android is a little more concerned with how their operating system is being used than some of us may have previously assumed. That is, they're concerned with how handset manufacturers are using it, and they don't sound thrilled.
Why? The reason your DROID X, or your HTC Incredible are so difficult to unlock (or were, rather) is not at all related to Google. Android enthusiasts can thank Motorola, HTC, and Verizon for the sleepless nights spent by community heroes like Birdman and Cyanogen poking away at potential security flaws on fully brand-butchered Android handsets.
Here's a part of that post that really stuck with me:
Unfortunately, until carriers and manufacturers provide an easy method to legitimately unlock devices, there will be a natural tension between the rooting and security communities.
We can only hope that carriers and manufacturers will recognize this, and not force users to choose between device openness and security.
It’s possible to design unlocking techniques that protect the integrity of the mobile network, the rights of content providers, and the rights of application developers, while at the same time giving users choice.
Users should demand no less.
That's a pretty bold statement, if you ask me. While carriers are charging for tethering and releasing their own branded Android markets, and manufacturers are locking down their devices with increasingly draconian security measures, community developers are on what seems like a daily a basis making it easier to thwart those designs.
Why the big fuss? Wireless carriers are holding fast to the "various services" model of rates and fees, while smartphones are making it increasingly apparent that the carrier is nothing more than a means to an end: the sending and receiving of bytes. Manufacturers have to cave to the demands of the carrier to receive subsidy pricing benefits - and thus implement the security measures needed to meet those demands.
So how does this relate to rooting? It's all dollars and senselessness. What do I get with a rooted and/or custom ROM-ed Android phone that a carrier doesn't want me to?
- Free tethering: $15 a month lost
- VOIP/SIP calling: I only need the cheapest minute plan
- No carrier crapware: can't sell me those garbage add-on services
- Control: any crackdowns will lead to lost customers
Maybe that puts things in perspective a little bit more. On top of that, think about how many add-on services Android and Google's Android app suite have culled from your phone's monthly bill. Voice mail transcription and storage? Google Voice. Exchange e-mail? Built in. GPS and navigation? Standard feature. Ringtones? Don't make me laugh. Being a power user just isn't as expensive anymore, and that's frightening to the mobile regime.
The times - they are a-changin'.
Source: Android developers blog
Image credit: ~Seele-Zerkleinerungs