HTC softening its position on locked bootloaders, modders rejoice

Summary:HTC cracked down on phone modding and several of its recent phone models have featured a locked bootloader. Owners have cried foul loud enough that the company is rethinking about locking down its phones.

You have likely heard of the practice of rooting a smartphone to open it up to personal modification. Some owners root their phones to provide simple benefits such as removing preinstalled crapware, thus freeing up precious phone memory. Others root their phones to provide access to tethering the phone to other devices, sharing the data connection without paying the carrier for mobile hotspot service. The carriers have taken an increasingly negative stance toward phone rooting due to the tethering, and have forced some phone makers to take more drastic steps like locking the bootloaders. This practice can yield a phone practically unbreakable by rooting or other modding.

HTC has recently taken this approach and several of its recent phone models have featured a locked bootloader. HTC phone owners have cried foul loud enough that the company has indicated it is rethinking about this practice of locking down its phones.

Thanks so much for providing feedback, we hear your concerns. Your satisfaction is a top priority for us and we're working hard to ensure you have great experiences with our phones. We're reviewing the issue and our policy around bootloaders and will provide more information soon.

Modders are happy to hear this, as a locked bootloader can really make rooting a phone (and other customizations) very difficult. If HTC does halt this practice then it becomes easy to root their phones, and even replacing the phone's software with a custom ROM is a straightforward process. Phone owners feel they should be able to do what they want with the expensive phones they buy, and this will go a long way to allowing that to happen.

For those considering rooting the phone for whatever reason, be aware that even this is not without consequence. Most phones are unable to get carrier over-the-air (OTA) updates once a phone is rooted. Modding community sites are full of owners asking how to "unroot" their phone once they realize they are not getting phone updates from the carrier. The update systems can detect if a phone is rooted, and shut down that avenue of support.

Image credit: Neoliminal

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Topics: HTC, Android, Google, Mobility, Smartphones

About

James Kendrick has been using mobile devices since they weighed 30 pounds, and has been sharing his insights on mobile technology for almost that long. Prior to joining ZDNet, James was the Founding Editor of jkOnTheRun, a CNET Top 100 Tech Blog that was acquired by GigaOM in 2008 and is now part of that prestigious tech network. James' w... Full Bio

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