One of the most elementary aspects of phone security is the idea of a locked bootloader, which is supposed to prevent a handset from flashing or booting arbitrary code, ostensibly keeping the software on the device secure. It's super basic—or, at least, it's supposed to be. Turns out, the OnePlus 6 will allow you to boot any arbitrary or modified image you choose, even on a locked bootloader. Read More
Many people, like myself, look at Google's phones for one specific reason: they have an easily unlocked bootloader. That means when software support runs dry, or you get the itch to root/ROM, you can modify things without having to compound any potential security concerns with additional issues like exploits or undocumented software. If that's your motivation too, this news could be a small concern. Some Pixel 2s purchased directly from Google seem to have locked-down bootloaders. Read More
Motorola's relationship with unlockable bootloaders, and thus with the ROM-flashing aftermarket community, can be summed up as "complicated." While its default approach is to offer a consumer-friendly bootloader unlock on most of its phones, it nonetheless bows to the whims of its carrier masters (Verizon and AT&T) whenever they insist that said feature be disabled, and they don't offer those handy full-price Developer Editions anymore, either. Add Amazon to the list, because the retailer's customized, super-cheap edition of the fourth-generation Moto G can't be bootloader unlocked. Read More
Google's approach to releasing preview firmware for upcoming versions of Android is evolving into a pretty cool system that allows developers to simply sign up a device and wait for the OTAs to come rolling in. However, no product launch is perfect, and this one is causing some real problems for some users. Complaints started rolling into the Nexus Help Form and AOSP Issue Tracker about devices that were left unable to boot after attempting to install the OTA. This problem is greatly compounded by the fact that many users are not able to unlock their bootloaders, which means they can't fix the issue with a factory image. Read More
Any grizzled veteran of the aftermarket Android community (well, grizzled, in the sense that said community has been around for less than a decade) knows that users complaining about bootloaders is nothing new. Locked phone bootloaders with no user-accessible unlock option have become less of a contentious issue of late, now that customers on Neolithic carriers like AT&T and Verizon have more hardware options. But frustration is brewing in the growing and dedicated fanbase of Chinese manufacturer Xiaomi.
The XDA-Developers blog reports that Xiaomi has added locked bootloaders to several of its phones, including the Redmi Note Pro, Mi 4c, and Mi Note Pro, some of which are getting new bootloaders installed with the latest firmware. Read More
Pity the poor Verizon customer, whose options for user-moddable Android phones are more limited than any other US carrier. It's particularly cruel, then, that Verizon tends to get some awesome Motorola exclusives in the DROID line. 2014's entry is the DROID Turbo, which is basically the Nexus 6 crammed down into the 5.2-inch body of the second-gen Moto X, plus the usual DROID Kevlar styling and an enormous 3900mAh battery. Oh, and a locked bootloader that makes root and custom ROMs difficult.
But as often happens with high-profile, locked-down phones, someone has found a way around it. Someone associated with the Disekt computer security team has released a tool called MOFOROOT, which was updated to work with the DROID Turbo yesterday. Read More
Sony's international phones have unlockable bootloaders, and the company even encourages users to tinker around with neat extras like AOSP builds. Alas, in markets like the US the carriers are still the keepers of the keys for a lot of customers, and T-Mobile has once again insisted on locking that sucker down for anyone who buys its version of the Sony Xperia Z3. Now users with this lamentable affliction can at least get root access on their phones, thanks to a bounty-winning method from an XDA user.
The method is intricate and time-consuming, requiring the user to operate one Windows tool to create a pre-rooted version of the phone's firmware, flash a model-specific recovery image, and finally apply the root exploit itself made by "zxz0O0," a Swiss developer and modder who has created similar tools in the past. Read More
If you bought/plan on buying AT&T's variant of the Galaxy S4, we have some bad news for those of you who like to flash custom ROMs, kernels, and the like: it's locked down tight.
Historically, Samsung devices – up to and including the SIII – have been bootloader-unlocked on AT&T. The Galaxy S4 brings a major change in that respect, as Steve Kondik (Cyanogen) has confirmed that it is indeed locked, in that it "authenticates the recovery and boot images before executing them." In layman's terms, that essentially means that it won't allow any sort of custom recovery or boot image to be flashed and/or run. Read More