Jul 13 AT 9:22 PM Taylor Wimberly 78 Comments

Motorola deals blow to the Android modding community

Just like the Motorola Milestone, it appears the upcoming Droid X and Droid 2 will have a digitally signed bootloader that will prevent users from flashing custom ROMs.

The original Motorola Droid had an unlocked bootloader and that device became one of the most popular among the Android open source community, but it comes as no surprise that Motorola wants to lock their devices down.

Motorola explained their position in a blog post during the Milestone controversy:

“Securing the software on our handsets, thereby preventing a non-Motorola ROM image from being loaded, has been our common practice for many years. This practice is driven by a number of different business factors. When we do deviate from our normal practice, such as we did with the DROID, there is a specific business reason for doing so. We understand this can result in some confusion, and apologize for any frustration.”Lori FraleighMotodev

I have little doubt that hackers will gain root access to the Droid X and come up with all kinds of cool tweaks, but the encrypted bootloader will be a major hurdle to overcome on the path to custom ROMs. If you like to hack your Android phone and mod it ’til it won’t boot anymore, you might be better off going with HTC or even Samsung at this point.

Via: Android Police

Source: XDA-Developers

Taylor is the founder of Android and Me. He resides in Dallas and carries the Samsung Galaxy S 4 and HTC One as his daily devices. Ask him a question on Twitter or Google+ and he is likely to respond. | Ethics statement

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  • http://Website Bubbles

    They didnt lock the first droid down,but now they lock these 2,cant stand motorola,i glad i getting the samsung galaxy where i can load roms as in see fit,should boycott droid x and droid 2. MOTOROLA r a bunch of pussies.

    • http://Website Daniel

      They *did* try to lock the first one down, it was just a problem of incompetence. This “business reasons” talk is silly.

  • http://Website Bill Nye

    The only blow they dealt was to themselves. It’ll still sell well due to Verizon’s great advertising, but there’s a sizable community that probably won’t pick it up. Why get a Droid X when you’ll be able to do what you want with a Fascinate?

  • http://Website Kcarpenter

    I really think this will cause more harm to Motorola’s Android line than it will do good – I really think they are missing the boat by locking this down so tightly. Given I do feel that EVERYTHING is exploitable so root WILL happen. Just a factor of when will it happen.

    I won’t own another Android phone unless I know it can be hacked because I have seen what it can do with my Hero. Not to mention I don’t think there is an electronic in my house that hasn’t been tampered with by me somehow or another.

    I would also like to see their business logic that says they can open one phone but lock the rest. I guess its a “get em hooked” idea. Let em mod one phone so they want another but don’t let them mod it.

    Side note: Any Twitter users fight the urge of Hash tagging(#) words of emphasis or importance in things that aren’t twitter? It was hard to fight in the above.

    • http://Website DaveC


  • http://lettersfromdave.wordpress.com daveloft

    Will that makes the decision easy. Samsung Galaxy FTW.

    • http://Website Derek

      Yep, I was going to get a Droid X first thing tomorrow morning, but not now. I wont touch that locked down phone. Samsung Galaxy for me. Its already rooted and the bootloader is unlocked.

  • Noice


    2005 – We never stop working for you
    2008 – Can you hear me now? …Good.
    2010 – RULE the AIR… but only with if you avoid our flagship phones.


    • http://Website jacob

      moto android service center – 1-800 – 331 – 6456…

      i was on the phone with them for 30 minutes validating phones that are not encrypted. We must be pro-active to let them know there is a community that is livid. One that is willing to leave verizon/moto to have the freedom that we are accustomed to.

  • http://Website Eric

    what does this mean?

    The original Motorola Droid (US version) did not apply unsigned update.zip files from recovery mode. So it wasn’t exactly a modder’s paradise. It shipped with a firmware that had a recovery image that had an easily exploitable bug in it using an interestingly formed zip file to deliver an unsigned payload. Unless somehow I’m really missing something, how are the new phones different?

    Is it that not only will the recovery mode not flash an unsigned image, but somehow the bootloader will double check the validity of the kernel or something?

    • http://Website Daniel

      It means they messed up real bad on the first Droid, and fixed it ASAP. Now they’re pretending the first one was open on purpose (if you can call that open).

      So, any of their newer phones will have to be unlocked by an exploit.

      …just like the first Droid, the G1, the mT3G, the Droid Incredible, the EVO… so yes, nothing changed, only that a new exploit is needed.

      • http://Website Darkseider

        Not true. With eFuse now in the equation if anything changes in the system, recovery or bootloader the phone will insta-brick itself. There is no recovery from this and the only option is to have the phone sent to Moto via VZW for an unbrick, voided warranty and a repair fee. Steer clear of Motorola and go with something known to work at this point like an EVO 4G or any of the Galaxy S variants. Motorola has screwed the pooch big time on this one.

    • http://Website mike

      from what i understand there is software built in that will check the kernal and other lines of code. if they do not fit “approved” parameters, the program will brick the phone. then you have to take it to verizon to have it fixed.

  • http://Website larry

    I havent bought a motorola anything since RAZR V1. I guess that trend will continue for eternity.

  • http://Website MDMAaron

    I am disapointed that motorola isn’t embracing the open source platform that android has become, I rooted my first droid as soon as I got it and realized the possibilites available on the android platform, and motorola devices in particular which have always been above par.
    Overclocking a 550 mhz phone to 1.4 ghz stabilly and being able to use it to provide internet to my home which was previously limited to dial-up made me love the phone enough to hack, mod, and tweak every aspect of my phone. And through everything I found the best, fastest, least buggy ROM to be the stock Droid; android2.1_update1, ROM. After rooting my phone I was able to do anything any other ROM could do and my phone remained stable, it crashed a week ago and since I was using the stock rom verizon shipped me a new phone, though after re flashing my old droid I was able to fix it.(still not sure I want the one they sent me, its keyboard is flat, my old droid had a very nice raised keyboard) But anyway, my point is that somebody is going to gain root superuser access to motorola’s new phones, and even without a custom rom, superuser access can give the clever android user complete control over every aspect of their device.

    PS: I have NO doubt someone will also find a way past the encrypted bootloader, it already happened with the iphone, and then every android device. There’s a large enough amount of people that want to find a way past the encryption that it will inevitably happen, whether through some 19 year old geek living in his moms basement, or through motorola giving into their clientel’s demands(yes companies still have to do this if a large enough amount of clients are strongly opinionated) and releasing a firmware update that allows custom ROM’s and root access, though it will still void any warranty.

    HAHA APPLE FELL ON THEIR FACE WITH THE NEW IPHONE “what are you going to do to address the issue with the antennae on the new iphone? -Well were telling people not to touch the left side of their phone while using it” ha

    Now damnit sony, where’s our amazing smart phone with a cell processer that controls your entire electronic collection and which will inevitably link with every other sony device, become self aware, and use the combined proccessing power

    • http://Website AdamZ

      I wouldn’t be so confident about being able to break into the bootloader fully. Yes, root will more than likely be obtained in some way or another. The bootloader is a whole other ballgame – go read the Motorola Milestone forums. They’re still trying after over 7 months – and this is supposedly the same/similar bootloader to that one.

      No Thanks…

      - AdamZ

    • http://Website frank the frowner

      Cool story bro…

  • http://Website AdamZ

    And this is why I’ve given up on Motorola as long as they continue this… it all depends on what they decide to do with the phones they release toward the end of the year when I’m ready to upgrade.

    - AdamZ

    • http://Website Josh

      AdamZ where the hell have you been? SG was the first ROM I ever put on my phone, when alldroid went down I sort of lost track of you, where are you posting your work these days?

  • http://Website kz570

    I love my N1 because it’s free from all this BS. I realize the device is an anomaly, AND I understand the perspective of manufacturers and carriers to seek control so they are able to support in a reasonable manner.

    BUT with every “little” move to close the platform will only lead to increased fragmentation (not less) of the Android platform. And what does that do?? IMHO, it dilutes the entire premise of the Android platform, it’s open sourceness, it’s open-ness even if AOSP didn’t exist, and the well being of the developer community who supported Android in the first place, because of the open ness.

    Methinks the hw manufacturers, carriers, and the larger devs (Google included) should come together to ensure a truly “proper” path and vision for Android.

    All the news about frag of Android … I fear it’s true, and without a transparent and explicit plan for Android, the worst case scenario is obsolesence through lack of trying as opposed to technical issues (which there are little)

  • http://Droid101 James Harris

    I hate this! I was honestly thinking of leaving t mobile, taking my corporate account with me, to Verizon just for the Droid X. Now this! I’m not a huge Samsung fan, but I will be in the line tomorrow picking up a couple of vibrants – yes they go on sale the 14 th. Moto, I was waiting for you to do something amazing, and you did, but now you have gone and done something really stupid – this will cost you millions of $$$. You are being short sighted again and look where that got you last time. To bad!!!

    James Harris

    • http://twitter.com/TMCraver TMCraver

      glad to hear that you are sticking around :) Hspa+ speeds are faster anyway plus the vibrant is awesome from what i hear. I’m surprised i’m saying this after the *cough* behold2 scandal but GO Samsung!!

  • http://Website Kennon

    Samsung has even posted the source code for the Galaxy S I-9000 on their site http://opensource.samsung.com and the easy zip file flash for root access works so far on the Captivate and Vibrant. The assumption is it will work on all 4 North American Galaxy S models…sounds like the Galaxy S is going to be the hackers delight…and we couldn’t ask for a better hardware platform IMHO.

    • Gee

      Not really. HTC is still the best. Samsung still uses some non-open source components that prevent anyone from porting unofficial ROMs. Sure you can still root and use custom ROMs but half the fun is using newer Android builds that have either not been officially released for the device yet, of better yet, maybe never officially supported.

      The Galaxy S is impressive but with Samsung’s track record, you may never see Gingerbread on it.

  • http://Website Chris

    I think you guys overestimate the amount of people who mod their phones. I know quite a few people with Droids and none of them have done anything to them, and we’re all happy. I agree, it does suck for those of you who like to do this stuff, but for the most part, not many people will really care that much. It’s not going to cost Motorola much of anything.

    • http://Website Derek

      Yes, you’re correct. Most people will get the Droid X for its large screen and VZW and never even know what the heck rooting is or custom roms are.

      But it still seems illegal that a hardware company is forcing you to run only its software on it, even after you purchase it.

  • http://Website digitalthug

    And here I thought Motorola was giving HTC some competition..not with this decision they wont be…

  • http://Website Trong

    I just hope I’m not missing out on too much. This’ll be my first Android device. If rooting is a success, then I should be happy with the root-only apps. But can someone tell me the advantages of custom ROMs? I have the famed WRT54GL router which was renowned for firmware hacking and using a different firmware added a ton of features. What kind of features would I get on a phone (except early Froyo)?

    • http://Website Luca

      For instance, you would be able to flash a custom updated firmware and run new apps when Moto will decide to stop support for your droid.

      (may be they will run slowly but you will decide if it will deserve).

      I own a Hero and HTC stated no froyo for me; luckly I can flash a custom froyo.

      … I simply don’t buy a new 450€ phone every 1 or 2 years.
      (it has to last at least 2,5 / 3 years, AT LEAST!)

  • http://Website Mast3rShake

    We have to remember we are the minority here. I would guess that less than 5% of smartphone owners root their phones and I think I am being extremely generous with that estimate. Droid 2 will be great out of the box with just vanilla 2.2. iPhone 4 can barely make phone calls. Again, Andoid rules no matter what companies do. The more competition the better for all of us.

  • geniusdog254

    And people complain that an OTA from HTC locks out their root.

    We need to learn that HTC & all the other big mobile players could have shut the hacking community down years ago if they wanted. HTC let’s us hackers do what we want to our phones, they don’t go out of their way to lock us out like this, they just patch security holes we exploit.

    Face it, if HTC didn’t decide to let us hack away, we wouldn’t be doing it. They could have shut down XDA years ago for hosting intellectual property. They take a passive stance to it, and that’s why I’m a loyal HTC user (although the Epic is trying to pull me to Samsung)

    • Gee

      So true. Back in the WinMo days, HTC and XDA single handily made it (barely) worth using WinMo.

  • http://Website keith

    You should nix developer out of the title and it should just read motorola deals blow to the android community. Motorola is just destroying what android is about with any of their motoblur phones expecially the cliq and backflop but its looking like the droid x may end up the same way with updates not coming 4 months after a new os comes out that is 4 versions ahead of what your on… if you buy a motorola good luck.

    • Haulngas

      I agree about motoblur.I own a moto clix xt it’s the worst phone I have ever owned due to moto blur. My old G1 out performs my moto clix xt.

  • http://Website briaking

    Sounds good to me, not like I am going to buy a Motorola anyway.

    And why is Verizon the wireless hero in all of these articles? Its not like they are special. I have t-mobile and have never had an issue.

    Oh and before you ask; Yes, I will be in line for a Vibrant.

  • http://Website Chris

    As someone who is looking to upgrade to a smartphone by the end of summer, quick question:

    I know the Android market features NES, SNES etc etc emulators. Does this at all affect the ability to upload game ROMs to the phone?

    • http://www.artifactzero.com/portfolio Jeremy

      I’m not 100% on this but it’s highly doubtful it would affect that. ROMs come in .zips or by themselves and you can just transfer them onto the SD card where the emulator would read it from.

  • http://Website enki

    oh, poor Moto :-) you lost it

  • mkrmec

    Better this than stupid Samsung doing some weird crap with the radio of the phone. Bootloaders aren’t that tough do beat.. but Samsungs crappy thing.. that’s a diff story.

    • http://www.episode-alert.com/ Staba

      Bootloaders aren’t that tough to beat? Look up the Motorola Milestone issues. Made me sell the device and get a HTC Desire (that is now running 2.2).

      • http://Website Derek

        Yea, Milestone hasnt been hacked in over 7 months, its pretty much not getting hacked.

  • http://Website jo

    i was going to buy a droid2 but this killed it for me! it was/is just a lot fun to play with new rom’s/mods all the time and it keeps older devices alive! shame on motorola. jjust bought a galaxy S :)

    • http://Website mkrmec

      You pass Droid 2 and buy an even more locked phone … lol

      • http://Website Derek

        Really?? Even more locked? You clearly know nothing so just shut up and go away.

  • http://Website Josh

    I’m extremely happy with my original Droid, but that’s because of all the options that having root access and an open boot loader has provided me. If this is the model that Motorola is going to follow for the future, then when my contract is up and it’s time for me to find a new phone, it will not be another Motorola.

    It’s not huge, but the modding community is still sizable, and I hope Motorola isn’t surprised when their future devices fail to live up to their flagship product.

  • http://Website laicha

    does it mean we can’t even gain the root access? if it is, it just too bad!

    • http://Website WIllofD

      There are alternate methods for Root and Overclock developed by the Milestone community. The only thing you can’t get is Custom ROMS.

  • http://Website Derek

    This is garbage. Once you purchase the phone, you OWN it. You should be allowed to run any software you want on it. If I purchase a PC that comes with win7, I can remove it and run XP, or Vista, or Linxu, or even OSX if I want. Same with a MAC. If I felt like it, I could remove OSX and go with Windows or Linux if I felt like it. Motorola needs to be sued. This behavior is illegal; forcing end users to use only Motorola software… smacks of anti-trust does it not???

    • http://Website Woopsies

      MAC != Mac

      Also, you really don’t know what anti-trust means, do you?

      And anyway, Samsung locks you out too, but nobody talks about it.

  • http://sundazed.net iSunday

    This leads me to believe that a lot of people are going to move to the Galaxy S series… I know that Samsung’s support is not too reliable, but it is already rootable.

    My opinion, for what it’s worth, is that Google unifying the UI on phones in 3.0 leaves the upgrade choice to the consumer, and not the company anymore. But, even if that’s not the case. The Galaxy S phones will fly on 3.0 with the stock source as soon as it is available.

    Certainly a shame, though… I would have surely opted for a Droid X if VZW had 3g data in Morgantown, WV.

    • Gee

      …that’s if Samsung even upgrades the Galaxy S to Gingerbread/3.0…

      They are already upgrading it once to Froyo which, combined with their track record, leaves me uneasy on getting the Galaxy S/Epic 4G no matter how great the hardware is. No unofficial ROMs on the Galaxy S = No stable future OS upgrade path.

      • http://Website Derek

        The entire source code of the phone is already posted on Samsung’s website. The phone has already been rooted. The bootloader is not locked or encrypted. What part of any of this do you NOT understand?? You can load and run any custom ROM you want (as long as it was created for the Galaxy S, a G1 ROM certainly wont work). And there is going to be one huge dev community writing for this phone since it will be released in 100 countries. This is where its going to be at.

  • http://Website Jay

    I think its funny that a good deal of ROMs are HTC sense ports for non-sense phones because people want to use it or at least check it out. Whereas the first thing I wanted to do when I had my cliq was to get Motoblur off of the freaking thing and use ANYTHING ELSE, vanilla, sense, or whatever! Motoblur is the worst UI / skin for Android and I’d bet 95% of users would agree. Now if you buy a motoblur device, it sounds like you are stuck with it.

  • http://rjgonza.com Ramon

    ++Samsung Galaxy, my last moto phone was a razr

  • http://Website GuardianAli

    I hate this to say this but so what? I dont buy a phone cause of its ability to have ROMS swappable. I buy the phone for its built in features. If it supports being unlocked so ROMS can be swapped, thats extra gravy….NOT a necessity.

    And people are confusing ROOT with the bootloader…you CAN still root this thing and get things like Titanium backup or SetCPU working just fine. Its the BOOTLOADER that is locked down so you cant install a custom rom.
    Personally, Im ok with that. Root is more important to me then a custom rom.

    • Noice

      Dunno man, while it’s true that the majority of Android users don’t root or play with custom ROMs, root is not the desire of most of the people that do… it’s the custom ROMs. Root offers some perks… ROM flexibility is the gravy-train of having Android for many.

      In my the house I live in, we have 11 smart phone users (of 12 residents). 3 have iPhones, 8 have Android phones and there’s a Blackberry. All of the Android users are using Cyanogen ROMs… it’s a no brainer once you see the perks – especially with the epic delays of getting OTA updates, or complete lack of them ever to come to your phone.

      Hell, only one of the iPhone users has any plans to stay on the iPhone when their service agreement expires.

  • http://thetrendaholic.com The Trendaholic

    And see here folks this will be the beginning to Moto’s demise once again. These guys are the kings of over reacting when they tend to receive a little success their heads start to explode more than their profits. It’s like the tortuous and the hare, they start fast become cocky then in the end they get surpassed.

    I jumped out of the Cliq in and N1 almost two months ago and it most definitely looks like I will be staying in that for a while. Moto won’t be getting my money for a while because I love prompt updates and custom roms something apparently they do not believe in…

  • http://Website Karmablur

    Such a shame, I bought my Milestone not because of Motorola but because of the Android OS.

    I enjoy being able to have the flexibility with my phone to do whatever I want with my purchase. Sadly my Motorola Milestone is locked down and I’m envious of my friends who have HTC’s, watching them being able to flash ROM’s which suit their needs, and I’m left with my locked down Motorola.

    One big reason to why people have been attracted to the Android OS phones is because of the freedom, thats the great thing of Linux, it’s infinite flexibility and usability for all users.

    Looks like my next phone will be an HTC with Android OS. If I wanted to be locked down and told what I can and can not install, I would by a IPhone.

  • http://Website bubbles

    That is why I love my N900,it comes rooted right out of the box. Just go to termianl and type sudogainroot. I am picking up the samsung vibrant,will pick up tomorrow. The droid x is a nice phone,motorola sucks and from this point I will never buy a moto phone

  • http://Website RW-1

    Leave it to Moto …

    Here is a company, which if the Droid died and was not the success story it became, would no longer BE in the cellphone, let alone smartphone business.

    Moto, you got lucky with the Droid, and as some have said, you now let that go to your head.

    HTC, I await your rendition of a 2Ghz screw up that Moto will try to foist upon us locked down.

    • http://Website Woopsies

      They’ve been in the cell phone business longer than anybody out there, seeing as they invented the cell phone, I really think you’re overstating this. Yes, they wouldn’t be in the smartphone business if they hadn’t made the droid…but they have been doing just fine making the cheap little cell phones that normal people (And by that I mean non-smartphone users) buy.

  • http://Website Geo

    unhackable? That’s almost like saying… HEY I HAVE A DOOR WITH A KEYHOLE YOU CANT PICK. Yeah? Well then i’ll drive my car through it. The droid x will be hacked, Where there is a will There is a way, and even if that way takes months the point will be proven, No door is strong enough to withstand a car going through it.


    • http://Website Derek

      Check with the Milestone in Europe, been 7 months and not hacked yet. Its rooted, but the bootloader is not hacked.

  • http://Website Jason Alexander

    Glad I stuck with the HTC brand…..

  • http://Website frankie

    The truth is that google should step in and make policies regarding the locking of boot roms. Google preaches open platforms and allowing vendors to lock their systems will only lead to an Apple like OS. If they step in now and force the issue they can ensure that we all do not have to worry about which version of android we purchase. They have the power to do this. They can always offer a disclaimer to void warranty if rooted or if rom is replaced.

  • http://Website thisismyname

    Nice job Motorola, you just made me an HTC man. I like my Droid mostly because I am able to mod it in any way I like, that’s a big reason I kept it. I will not be getting a Droid X or a Droid 2 even if they do end up getting rooted because of your corporate stance on independent developers and modders.

  • eddieonofre

    Ok I understand they they might want to lock the Droid X (really I don’t but I can accept that)
    but they can not do it with the Droid 2… because Droid 2 its a continuation or upgrade of the original Droid so by definition and logical sense they can not take features away from it, it just doesn’t make any sense…. I will stay with my Droid (droid 1) until it dies…. It would be great if there is a way to change cpu or Ram.

  • http://Website Lollerskates

    This is the largest group of overreactions I’ve seen since the Mayans predicted 2013

    • http://Website Lollerskates

      Or rather, a lack of 2013

  • http://Website LoneMisfit

    So a product I purchase has something built into it that causes it to fail….Something seems odd that this is allowable. What happens when Moto/VZW puts out an update say 2.2 that causes this efuse to blow for what ever reason….seems like a PR nightmare in waiting

  • http://www.greggreno.com Gregg

    I think this is a bigger deal than Motorola realizes. Yes, there are only a small number of people who will root their phones. But there is a much larger group that wants the option of rooting in case the manufacturer stops supporting their phone. How many Android phones are going to be stuck at 1.5 or 1.6?

    Also, where do the potential Android buyers get their recommendations? Probably from a techie they know who reads Android and Me or Engadget. I bet these people are responsible for more sales than Verizon sales reps. If a techie tells a potential buyer not to get a particular Motorola phone, they aren’t going to buy it.

    To me, this feels like the same issue as AT&T preventing side loading of apps. And I’m sure AT&T underestimated the negative press that got.

  • http://Website Daniel

    Total deal breaker!

    I was actually planning to switch from T-Mobile and my Nexus One, to Verizon and the Droid X.

    That is not going to happen now. I will just have to wait for a better phone to be release, which will probably be next week at the rate these high end android phones are being produced :-)

  • http://Website not mad anymore

    i was pissed at first especially since i’m shopping for a phone for myself and a friend. And if the bootloader wasn’t locked i’d be waiting for august 12th and the droid 2. but motorola has locked their phones and lost me as a customer. But the samsung epic 4g looks great so now i don’t care. and even better the less phones that can be modded the more teams like cyanogen can focus on getting just a few phones working really well. So whatever energy might have gone into getting the droid 2/x phones mod made, now twice as much energy can go into the samsung galaxy/epic phone’s mod. motorola doesn’t seem to understand the point of open source. they’ll learn.

  • http://Website arrrrrrg

    Locking Android’s, not cool. In fact it goes against the very notion of what an Android exemplifies.

    Motorola. EPIC FAIL!

  • http://Website Larz

    What are you thinking Motorola?!?! Please unlock the Droid X. I will hate you forever for this insubordination.

  • http://Website Rallllllllph

    How can you sleep at night Motorola? This is the most terrible act of Mobile Treason I’ve ever imagined!!

  • http://Website Motorola_hate

    User complain a motorola phones was reach 75%,
    i prefer wait nexus phones with dual core