Motorola’s Latest Phone will no loger be Friendly With Hackers

For phone modification junkies, the Android software platform comes with a host of mod-friendly features. It’s too bad, then, that Motorola’s latest Android phone lacks all of them.
Motorola’s Droid 3 features a locked boot loader, which is a program that loads the operating system software on every smart phone when it’s turned on. The company said it planned to change the policy this year.

The news first came from a Motorola support forums representative.

“As we’ve communicated, we plan to enable the unlock-able/re-lockable bootloader in future software releases, starting in late 2011, where channel and operator partners will allow it,” said a Motorola spokesperson in a statement provided to “DROID 3 is not built on a software version that includes this feature.”

Locking down the bootloader is a big pain for those who want to modify their Android phone operating systems. Essentially, it drastically limits the extent of modification and customization you can accomplish on your phone. If you wanted to install a particularly popular piece of modding software like, say, CyanogenMod — a very popular custom Android build that optimizes a phone’s hardware performance and adds a number of nifty flourishes — with a locked bootloader, you’re out of luck.

In today’s smart-phone landscape, handset manufacturers face pressure from wireless carriers like Verizon and AT&T to lock down phone boot-loaders. This is done especially to prohibit the potential installation of software used to do things that carriers don’t want you doing, like, say, capture licensed streaming content. There’s also software available that lets you tether your phone to your computer (providing it with an internet connection) for free, a feature for which wireless companies normally charge users. Bypassing that charge means cutting into a carrier’s bottom line.

Motorola doesn’t want to deal with the tech support nightmare that widespread phone hacks entail. “If you brick your phone messing with it” — which basically means rendering the device useless (like an electronic “brick,” as it were) — “we don’t want to have to fix it under warranty,” a Motorola representative wrote in a message board post.

Because of all this, hacker-unfriendly phones aren’t uncommon. Motorola’s Atrix debuted with a locked boot-loader, as have many of the company’s phones since the release of the Droid 2. Motorola’s upcoming Photon 4G smart-phone will also be locked down.

Android modification junkies aren’t happy about Motorola’s decisions. In March, one Motorola smartphone owner started an online petition, asking others who don’t agree with the company’s locked bootloader decisions to sign and bring up the issue on Moto’s Facebook page. As of this post’s publishing time, the petition has over 10,000 signatures.

Given the hardware specs on the Droid 3, it’s especially disappointing for hackers to see the phone debut as mod-unfriendly. The Droid 3 has a beefy dual-core 1GHz processor under the hood, which when used in conjunction with modding software, can be overclocked to faster speeds.

The future isn’t entirely grim for phone hackers. Motorola continually promises a change in locked bootloader policy come late-2011, and other companies like Sony Ericsson have even begun to court the modding community, providing a detailed list of instructions on how to unlock the company’s phones.

It seems as if the predominant feeling is: We’ll believe it when we see it.

“There’s not a single reason to believe that Motorola has truly changed their views,” wrote an angry Motorola message board user in a post. “We’re not saying you have to unlock all our devices now, but a little sign of good faith would be much appreciated.”

-News Source (Gadget Lab)


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