In preparation for reporting on the general state of the Moto X bootloader, we reached out to AT&T for an official statement on the matter. We know that many potential buyers want to know whether they can fully modify their phones, especially after the HTC One X and Galaxy S4 were denied unlockable bootloaders on the carrier. Here's what they said in reply:
To ensure a safe and consistent experience on your wireless device, we do not support unlocked bootloaders.
That's a blanket statement. There's no room for give and take, and presumably it's applicable to all AT&T phones and tablets going forward. It is not what power users want to hear.
The idea of locking down devices for the sake of security and a "consistent experience" is not without its merits, but it's usually not well-defined, either - it's the same reason that Verizon has been locking down Android devices for years. (And remember that customers on CDMA networks can't buy international models.) But this is part and parcel of AT&T's approach to customer advocacy as of late: they don't have one. Those new Next plans, which boil down to more frequent hardware updates as an expensive incentive to keep you tied to their service, don't really help.
What's the solution? Easy: buy unlocked devices off-contract and pop in your AT&T SIM, or just switch to another carrier. Of course this isn't great if you like the savings of the contract -subsidy model that's become the standard for American carriers. I can't help but feel like all this would be much less of a problem if carriers (and to a lesser extent, device manufacturers) were more on the ball when it comes to software updates.