HTC’s pledge to keep bootloaders open: what does it mean?

Roughly 17 hours ago (according to Facebook) Peter Chou, CEO of HTC, made an announcement on the company’s Facebook wall. An announcement that, so far, has over 2,000 comments, and over 7,000 “Likes.” What exactly did this announcement say?

“There has been overwhelmingly customer feedback that people want access to open bootloaders on HTC phones. 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.”

Of course details beyond this are sparse, but the initial reaction across the Internet to this decision has been overwhelming joy. Why? Because HTC is essentially granting you full access to your device, should you decide to use it.

With an unlocked bootloader, flashing a custom recovery (necessary for flashing a custom ROM) is incredibly easy. There’s very little, if any, hacking, decoding, and exploiting involved. The reason why this is such huge news, is that HTC has been making headlines recently for locking down their bootloaders tighter than ever. Unless developers get lucky, there’s a very slim chance the most recent HTC devices would ever even see a permanent rooting solution. Hopefully, rooters, modders, and hackers alike will never have to worry about that again with an HTC device.

There’s still a lot to be figured out when it comes to how this will all play out, but I have a theory.

I imagine once unlocked bootloaders make their way into HTC devices everywhere, the unlocking process will be something like that of the Nexus series of devices. There are tons of Nexus devices in the wild that have never been rooted or anything close to it. There is also tons of Nexus devices that are running custom ROMs, as it was quite easy to do so. All you have to do to unlock the bootloader, and install a custom recovery to flash custom ROMs, on a Nexus device is fastboot OEM unlock the bootloader through ADB. The key to this type of unlocked bootloader strategy working out for HTC, is the general level of comprehension for the sentence before this one.

You see, there is an estimated 300,000 devices running CyanogenMod out there, but that number pales in comparison to how many Android devices are out there that are running stock firmwares. The bulk of Android users don’t even know what the terms ADB, bootloader, ROM, and Fastboot mean. So it’s only logical that those users won’t know how to use ADB to unlock a bootloader. Those that want to learn will find a plethora of information available on the subject (I’m sure every blog under the sun will have tutorials up in no time), and those that already know will have CyanogenMod up and running before they even unwrap the headphones.

If HTC was to just release devices so that you could hop on the Market, install ROM Manager, and flash a custom recovery right out of the box, there might be a small problem with bricked phones and general malfunctions. Which brings me to a great point made by Chris Zieglar of This is my next. By saying bootloaders on future devices will be unlocked, HTC has inherently agreed to take on a lot of controversial topics.

Topics like carrier decisions in locking and unlocking bootloaders and warranty returns for software bricked devices. This could end up causing a lot of controversy for HTC in the long-run, but it’s a rare bold move made just for consumers. No one else will benefit from unlocked bootloaders, except the vocal community that’s going to utilize them.

From here on out, all that’s left to do is wait and see how everything is handled. HTC may have jumped the gun a little here because now that it’s been said, it has to be done. Otherwise, well, let’s just say HTC won’t be able to easily back out of this one.

If you have any questions about unlocked bootloaders, or anything else associated with HTC’s decision, feel free to fire away in the comments below.

Image via Cristiana Bardeanu

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