Android Phones

HTC backs down and agrees to open bootloaders. Give them props. [OPINION]

May 27, 2011 | by Andrew Kameka



People flooded the streets last night, screaming at the top of their lungs and honking car horns in a symphony of glee. My city raucously celebrated the Miami Heat winning the NBA Eastern Conference finals, but for a brief second, I thought it could have been because HTC announced that it would stop locking its bootloaders.

HTC CEO Peter Chou confirmed via Facebook last night that his company would no longer lock the bootloader on phones. Following outrage from a small but vocal set of users upset about the HTC EVO 3D shipping with a locked bootloader, HTC decided to give the people what they want.

“There has been overwhelmingly customer feedback that people want access to open bootloaders on HTC phones,” read a status update attributed to Chou. “I want you to know that we’ve listened. Today, I’m confirming we will no longer be locking the bootloaders on our devices. Thanks for your passion, support and patience.”

Props, Peter. Props.

What’s a bootloader and why should I care?

A bootloader is part of a device’s start-up process necessary to load a custom ROM. When companies “lock”(encrypt) bootloaders, the prospect for customizing software is incredibly difficult and hardly worth the trouble. Only a drop in the Android waters didn’t need to that explanation; the rest don’t care enough to load custom ROM’s on phones. However, that’s only because Android has grown so much that the portion of tinkerers has dwindled. CyanogenMod has more than 300,000 active users; Google claims to activate more than 450,000 new Android devices each day.

There’s still a sizable population of people running custom Android ROM’s, and HTC was right to respect those customers’ wishes. HTC has an excellent reputation for its hardware that left room for customization and has fervent support from most of the Android power uses and early adopter crowd. With LG and Samsung introducing incredible hardware that doesn’t lock the bootloader, and Sony Ericsson providing access to most who ask, it didn’t make sense for HTC to squander that good will.

HTC wisely chose to let Android users make their own decisions about what they put on their phones. My HTC EVO 4G running CyanogenMod, MIUI, or Fresh (depending on what day of the week you’re reading this post) appreciates it, HTC. Glad that I can keep you on the list of possible vendors when it’s time for me to upgrade to a new phone.