HTC Evaluating Locked Bootloader Policy

After HTC, which has in the past been warm and welcoming to hackers, stated that its HTC Sensation 4G (coming to T-Mobile USA) and the EVO 3D (coming to Sprint as a 4G WiMax phone) would both be launched with a locked bootloader, user outcry has prompted the company to release a statement on its policy. Addressing those concerns, HTC turned to Facebook to let users know that it is reviewing its bootloader policy and would let users know soon:

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. Thank you for your interest, support and willingness to share your feedback.

A locked bootloader is similar in many ways to a locked bios on a desktop computer. The bootloader checks the OS against various hardware components to ensure that it is running the right OS on the right phone. As the bootloader is signed for each specific handset, it is often difficult, if not impossible, to run custom ROMs on handsets with locked bootloaders as the ROM OS would not pass the bootloader to even boot the phone as it’s not properly signed.

In recent years, Motorola and others have resorted to locked bootloaders to ensure that their vision for the right branded user experience would remain and ensure that their handsets are not tinkered with. Also, it prevents un-knowledgeable people from bricking their handsets by doing something that they aren’t supposed to.

However, given HTC’s long-standing history of remaining open–or at least turning a blind eye–to custom ROMs, hacking, and tinkering in the past with communities like XDA-Developers, there is a lot of public outcry when people found out that the bootloader would be locked.

So why custom ROMs? Custom ROMs enable users to modify their experience. For instance, as many HTC phones come pre-loaded with the HTC Sense experience, if a power user wants to remove the Sense UI and go with a stock Android UI, they can run a custom ROM. This ensures that their handset remains fast as it doesn’t have to dedicate resources to powering the pretty widgets you see on handsets like the HTC Thunderbolt.

HTC probably implemented locked bootloaders, or wants to, because newer handsets like the HTC Sensation and EVO 3D comes with a new version of HTC Sense, called Sense 3.0. HTC probably wants users to a) use that experience and not try to go with another experience, and b) ensure that only the right handsets for which Sense 3.0 was designed for get that experience.

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Keep checking back on this space as we’ll continue to follow the HTC bootloader story and keep you apprised of the company’s final decision.

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