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HTC sides with consumers: No more locked bootloaders in Android phones (facebook.com)
402 points by drivebyacct2 on May 27, 2011 | hide | past | web | favorite | 77 comments

This is exactly what I've been talking about -- customers want unlocked phones, and because with Android competition is tough, sooner or later unlocked phones will be the norm. Maybe not just yet, as I don't believe HTC or Motorola until I see it, but soon.

I just bought a Galaxy because SG phones can be easily unlocked. That's a lost sale for Motorola - as my first option was a Defy (those phones are cheap and solid and I tend to mistreat my phones, so Defy seemed like a good option, until I found out that unlocking them is a bitch)

+1 for unlocked phones being the norm. This has been the case in asia for years now. It's about time we catch up.

unlocked phones != unlocked bootloader.

"unlocked phones" mean that you are not restricted to using one service provider and you can just change your SIM cards to subscribe to a new service.

But this still does not mean that you can change the operating system of your phone hardware.

This is the bootloader. Unlocking the bootloader gives you to freedom to flash community developed Android variants.

HTC's commitment is to unlocking the bootloader - not the service provider SIM unlock (though you might be able to do so - however they are NOT the same thing)

Carrier lockdown only happens when you buy a phone under contract. You can buy unlocked phones, easy.

But they are so expensive!!!!

Well, yeah, that's because you're paying the real price, not a subsidized price. When you're paying the subsidized price, IMHO you have less leeway to complain about carrier lockdown.

Well, just for the record, I bought a heavily subsidized Galaxy S sim-unlocked with a 2 year contract (the cost was something like $30). Gave it to my wife, then bought myself a SG II. And I'm happily paying for my contract btw.

The carrier I'm talking about is a smaller one from Europe. It's unthinkable to ask this of Vodafone or Orange (the 2 big ones) since their heads are really up their buts. And the unlocking prices they charge are freakin` insane! It's not as if carriers can't do this, they just don't want to.

I really don't understand what's their problem. If I'm terminating my contract I have to pay the phone's subsidized price for the months remaining, their only loss is me as their customer, so WTF is the deal with sim-locked phones? I hate it when companies, instead of pleasing customers, are innovating in better lock-in methods.

But yes, I was talking about bootloader-unlock in my previous message. Really, Nexus S is the best Android sold right now, unfortunately it was only available from Vodafone and I'll never make a contract with Vodafone again.

I suspect part of the subsidy is the expectation that you'll make some calls/data/texts which they miss out on if you switch networks.

I know that's what they say, but that's bullshit and you know it. If they don't want me to leave, then they should keep me happy.

It's a company they are going to do what helps their bottom line the most, if keeping people happy helps they will do that, if not they won't.

I bought a Wildfire which was locked to Vodafone. I took it to the nearest Vodafone shop and they unlocked it for me without charge. I was surprised and highly pleased until I realised that removing the sim-lock does not remove the lock on the bootloader.

Should have gone for the Desire, after all.

I've found it depends where you get the phone. All the phones I've got from Carphone Warehouse have been unlocked, all the ones from operator shops have been locked.

If that were true, an unlocked phone should cost less per month in subscription fees since it is not being subsidized by the carrier. No US carrier does this.

T-Mobile does, with their "Even More Plus" plans. Of course that's unlikely to survive the AT&T merger.

This is the plan I have, but I couldn't find it on their website yesterday. I didn't look too hard, but I'm pretty sure it's going as well.

It hasn't been on their website for a while, you have to either go to a store or call and specifically request it.

Or just search harder: http://www.t-mobile.com/shop/plans/flexpayplans.aspx?direct=...

(Yes, I know that these are FlexPay as well, but the prices are the same)

Wow, still there. Good find.

Plenty of european carriers do this.

If I want to buy a new phone I can either pay full price for an unlocked one, get a small subsidy to lock myself to a carrier for 12 or 24 months, or I can get an even bigger subsidy by paying an increased subscription price for 12 or 24 months.

As an owner of an unlocked phone, that would be awesome. It's probably still very uncommon to buy an unlocked phone though, and the carriers don't want to give up money. As it grows more common, maybe I will get to see that day.

I'm not sure you can buy a carrier-unlocked CDMA phone. I think that's only possible with GSM.

You can/could in the US - Nokia stores sell them (if they're not closed down now)

Sure, but you can't activate it anywhere worth mentioning; Verizon and Sprint won't activate phones they didn't sell.

That's besides the point. Just because you can't use it anywhere doesn't mean it's not available.

The OP was talking about bootloader unlock and not carrier unlock.

"There are four major stakeholders in the Android smartphone market: the cell carriers, the consumers, the handset makers, and Google. The carriers want smartphones to be locked-down carrier-controlled devices through which customers obediently buy services on carrier terms. All the other stakeholders, by contrast, gain from unlocked devices. Consumers win because they’re not limited to what the carriers choose to provide them; handset makers win because an unlocked phone is more valuable to a consumer than a locked one (and a little less expensive to ship, too); Google wins because its long-term strategy requires it to commoditize the carriers into a passive channel between the customers and Google."

More at http://esr.ibiblio.org/?p=3285

where is the fking downvote button? ESR-hole knows nearly nothing about the smartphone market.

And until last week, he didn't know that the iPod Touch would run apps.

We value polite conversation here.

I'm glad they're doing this, but it's sad that it's news. We ought to be able to take for granted the freedom to run whatever software we want on the computers we buy. (Don't tell me a cellphone running Android isn't a computer. You know better.)

You know it's a computer, and I know it's a computer, but to the "average person," it's an appliance. It's kind of like the electric motor. Someone (sorry, I don't recall who) recently posted an analogy here on HN between electric motors and any other technology.

At first, factories would install a single giant motor with belts running everywhere, and Sears sold a general-purpose home motor. Eventually, motors were miniaturized and specialized into all kinds of devices. Now nobody thinks about using a motor; they think about using a lathe, blender, or sewing machine.

The same trend is happening with computers. Initially, people had generic computers (ignoring the anomaly of the standalone word processor). Increasingly powerful computers are gradually getting built into everything. You and I see computers everywhere, but everyone else just sees smarter devices.

Of course, and I think that's a pretty good trend in both cases. The thing is, though, bad motors can cause electrical fires, which are dangerous. If the trend toward smaller motors were accompanied by a trend toward higher risk of burning your house down, I'd say we need to work on that.

Here's how I explained the bootloader issue to some people yesterday who I think were average:

The bootloader is the software that runs on your phone when you turn it on. It starts up the rest of the software on the phone, and if it's "locked", it will only start up software that the phone's maker has approved to run. This enables your cell phone company to cheat you by, for example, charging you a dollar for a ringtone that the musician released for free, or to charge you rates a hundred times as high for text messages as for other data transfer.

There are worse things they could do, too, like making your phone never turn on again if they have a contract dispute with you, or activating the camera or microphone without you noticing upon a request from law enforcement or because some guy in their law enforcement service center wants to see you get undressed. They haven't been caught doing those things yet, but when they do, people with unlocked bootloaders will be able to stop them, and other people won't.

Motors cannot control computers. Computers can control motors.

Motors do not require an operating system.

There is something else that bothers me with this analogy...

The computer (as the 'average person' uses them) is a synergistic experience between both the hardware AND the software.

Without the software, it would be useless. Without the hardware, the software would be useless.

For the motor analogy, I assume the motor is the hardware, and the belts are the OS?

Motive power and computer power are 2 different things.

Yes, I wanted to point out the critical difference that software makes, but my post was already getting long enough. The average person doesn't (yet) seem to understand that difference though.

I think the lesson is that you can never take consumer freedom for granted.

"Consumer", "customer", "user". What is in a name?

Personally, I like to put myself in terms of the second two. The first carries connotations of more passivity. The second has that old "... is always right" adage on its side. The last takes the money out of the discussion and bridges nicely back to other movements toward user freedom in the realm of computers.

Consumer freedom

Is that an oxymoron?

More reasons HTC is my favorite phone manufacturer right now. After a bike accident left my Nexus One screen broken, $100 and a 4-day turnaround got me back on my feet. Thrilled. Maybe they'll drop the Sense UI from the stock phones. One can dream.

I doubt they'll drop Sense. Many people like it (as you can see by looking at the demand for custom ROMs with it).

As long as the bootloaders are unlocked, who cares what the default software on there is? Just load up CM7 and you're good to go.

Just curious: what ROMs come with Sense? Do you mean that owners of say, a Galaxy S2 want to (and could be) running HTC's Sense?

when htc improves their battery life (as far as the manufacturer can do) they'll be tops in my book.

I was about to ditch my Incredible with it's hilariously bad battery life until I rooted it. I can probably get 2 days out of it now. My Nexus One had great battery life. It's the software. Not saying it's an excuse (they put the OS on there) or that this is palatable for the average person, but the hardware is solid.

EDIT: To add to this, it's likely Verizon's fault for the Incredible's battery life, because they require the vendors to install terrible, low quality applications & system extensions that can't be uninstalled from the phone.

I've had the same experience with my Incredible. The fact that CyanogenMod 7 is Android 2.3 based, while there isn't an official Gingerbread ROM for the phone, is probably also a factor.

I had a pretty sweet extended battery for my Incredible thing lasted for well over a day with heavy voice and data usage. Sure it's not a fix from the manufacturer, but it worked out pretty well.

> lasted for well over a day

I've never had the spare money to buy a smartphone, but isn't that /ludicrously/ low? My cheap little nokia brick lasts (under normal usage) for a bit less than a week. Admittedly, the power drawn is not comparable, but I'd still think the manufacturers would try to give the users a somewhat longer battery life.

It's not comparable at all. Every smartphone I've had (Palm Treo, Nokia, iPhone 3G, and now Droid X) has needed daily charging. The Droid is down to ~50-60% battery by the end of the day, unless I'm on the phone a lot. It's not a PITA to plug it in before I go to sleep.

These things are full-on computers, in your pocket. Woot!

Not really, no. I had one of the original iPhones and with heavy 3G usage the battery drains like nobody's business (it barely lasted half a day if I used it to stream music on the train to work). Right now I have a HTC Dream (also known as the G1) which lasts slightly over a day. Newer iPhones and Androids seem to last a bit longer, but not much. Its the price you pay for internet connectivity...

Newer phones are almost all battery with just a sliver for a motherboard. The iPhone4 in particular uses a microsim because they, physically, do not have the space for a larger sim.[1] I'm also getting great use out of it, the battery lasts 2.5 days with moderate usage. Which is something I haven't been able to do with a Verizon Droid Incredible.


Calling it a phone is very misleading. It has a lot more in common with a laptop than a phone, and imagine how thrilled you'd be if your laptop battery could last all day.

Apples to Oranges.

I stream Pandora/Rhapsody at the gym in the morning, watch tv shows movies (transcoded for android), read email, rss, run python scripts at night to copy off my pictures, run locale to automatically adjust my ringer volume for work, etc, etc, etc.

A cell phone is not even close to a the computer that is the android phone.

A better comparison is a laptop.

And like a laptop, a lot of power is going to the fancy screen.

However, I get a couple of days out of mine with cyanogen + extended battery.

My Motorola Milestones battery lasts 3 days if I switch off mobile data (CM7). SMS and calls are still coming in.

I bought the extended battery _from_ the manufacturer when I first got mine. Works very well. There's an even larger third party battery you can get.

I got mine from Verizon but there are others available on Amazon, etc.

The one I had was Seidio and I had zero problems with it. I'm actually now using a Seidio extended battery on my Nexus S as well.

Do you have a link? Also why are you talking in the past tense? What happened to it?

Now that HTC has committed to removing locked bootloaders, it's only a matter if time before all other android handset makers have to follow suit. This is a very good thing for the cellphone industry, and tech in general.

One of the things that I find really cool about this is this happened without using a copyright license (i.e. GPLv3) as a bludgeon to force HTC to do the right thing. This was done using simple market forces, and not the anti-Tivo clause of the GPLv3. Which has been the Linux kernel developers' objection all along to the GPLv3....

This is great news. The HTC CEO made a pretty quick and sudden decision.

Meanwhile, Motorola vaguely semi-committed months ago and nothing has happened.

I don't really buy that carriers are demanding this as Samsung currently doesn't do this.

I remember Paul Obrien tweeting that the GSII was really open, seemed to actively encourage modding. Twitter search is horibble so I can't find the tweet now though.

Just so you know, twitter's search only goes back a limited amount of time because its targeted at real-time results, not historical. Google with site:twitter.com might get better results.

AFAIK The SGII is open, but I had heard rumors a while back from people I trusted that Samsung was headed in a similar direction. There's no reason to believe it, and with HTC taking a stand I'm hopeful.

Well, now I know who I'm buying my next phone from.

A million times this. But really, I probably wouldn't even consider it if the phones didn't have extra programs on them that ran pointlessly and/or I couldn't uninstall.

well the whole point of having an unlocked bootloader is so it makes it easier to run custom roms. Most roms are aosp or stock that remove all the crap.

Oh I get it. I just mean that, if it didn't have that stuff, I wouldn't be too concerned with running a custom rom, and the bootloader wouldn't be as big an issue.

Why was this announced via a post on Facebook? Don't they have a corporate blog or something?

HTC is a Chinese company, so even if there is a corporate blog, it's not directly hitting English speaking users. HTC probably saw this as its most direct path to that audience.

Taiwanese, to be precise.

I once had an HTC HD2, and while WM6.5 wasn't very good, the xda-developers community loves this device. I was able to try out all sorts of Android builds on this device, as well as getting WP7 sort-of working on it. Truly amazing.

My only gripe was that it was built with TMO in mind, and didn't have the right radio to talk 3G on AT&T. The battery didn't last too long either, but it was user-replaceable, so not that big of a deal.

The HD2 came out 18 months ago, and is still near par to current hardware (1GHz, WVGA, etc.). I've been testing these XDA Android releases: http://forum.xda-developers.com/showthread.php?t=957652 ; I get standby battery drain of 1% / hour, which is about the same as the original WM6.5.

Unlocked bootloader is awesome. I would have settled for just being able to turn off Sense at this point.

The unlocked and unbranded HTC Android phones that I bought so far did not have any locked bootloader. E.g., on my HTC Wildfire there was some kind of engineering bootloader preinstalled.

Carrier-branded HTC phones are locked down, but IMO that's OK and I have no problem with that as long as I have the choice to buy and use an unbranded phone.

Too late for me - I bought a Samsung Galaxy S2 instead of an HTC Sensation precisely because of the locked bootloader.

That's great. HTC is going to be shipping unlocked bootloaders, SE has committed to allowing users to request an unlock code for all new/current devices and the Samsung Galaxy S 2 comes unlocked. Motorola probably won't be able to resist the pressure.

Seems this will be standard for android devices very soon.

I just hope they will allow the Sensation to be unlocked -- or release a SKU that comes with the ability to unlock it.

Perhaps it's time to upgrade my HTC Hero (rooted, of course)

Hero user here: You mean that particular phone that they threw on the market and neglected ever since, right?

I do like these steps in the right direction, but HTC won't win me back for a long while after receiving my (pre-ordered, one of the first in DE) Hero and waiting ages to receive any updates/support on it afterwards. It was more or less dead on arrival and really only usable because of the fine folks over at VillainRom.

Wow, it's about time!!

After much consumer push back against locked bootloaders in new devices, HTC has (apparently) decided to discontinue the policy. This arrives just after Motorola makes some unsubstantiated comment about reconsidering the policy.

For some history, the Droid 1 was very open and easy to flash with custom ROMs. It's European brother, the Milestone, featured on-chip security that verified the signature of the bootloader which in turn verified the signature of various boot files including the linux kernel at the heart of Android. Subsequent Motorola devices in the US featured similar security and thus do not have official CM7 builds.

HTC recently adopted a similar strategy with respect to some of their more recent phones. The Thunderbolt had a buggy implementation though, and was still hacked quite quickly. The Evo 3d (And another? maybe?) featured a fixed version that more closely represented the impenetrable Motorola style bootloader.

Anyway, it appears now, that they maybe embracing the community more, which makes me happy. My mom won't stop talking about how fast her Droid OG is. I put CM7 on it which includes Gingerbread... a treat her phone would have never otherwise seen. Meaning it also includes a fix for an awful race condition that can make it impossible to answer phone calls. Good stuff all around.

Also, for context, this is the statement Motorola made a month ago: http://ausdroid.net/2011/04/27/confirmation-motorola-to-unlo... They make very specific caveats for "where carriers allow it".

I'm a Milestone user and long-term customer of Motorola... I can't recommend against them enough. Their problems extend far beyond locked bootloaders, far more than following HTC on this issue would be required for Motorola to be worth dealing with.

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