Aug 05 AT 1:51 PM Dima Aryeh 38 Comments

AT&T says it will not support unlocked bootloaders once and for all


Verizon has long been on an anti-modding streak, locking down every Android phone that comes through their doors. This includes offerings from HTC, Samsung, and Motorola. In fact, Verizon’s Motorola devices used to be the king of locked bootloaders, with a system that took quite a while to crack. But they aren’t alone anymore. It seems that, with the Galaxy S 4 onward, AT&T is joining the movement to keep you out of your own device.

The latest Samsung Galaxy S 4 has a locked bootloader on both AT&T and Verizon, despite the Galaxy S III not sharing the same fate on AT&T. And from now on, it seems that they will be locking down all the phones they can. When asked by Android Police about the Moto X bootloader status, AT&T replied with:

To ensure a safe and consistent experience on your wireless device, we do not support unlocked bootloaders.AT&TOn Locked Bootloaders

That’s pretty much a definitive statement that all of their phones will come with locked bootloaders from this point forward. You can’t really misinterpret that. This will definitely upset a lot of people, but we shouldn’t act like we didn’t see this coming. Motorola even announced that the Moto X will be locked down on AT&T, but will be open elsewhere.

While this is an absolute shame for many (I am an avid flashaholic and a happy AT&T customer), there are always ways to fix it. Though it’s unlikely, you can try to reverse this decision by voting with your wallet. There aren’t too many phone modders compared to Android owning public at large, so it may be difficult to make your voice heard. However, if it’s that big of a deal to you, you can always switch carriers. While not viable for everyone, T-Mobile is heading in a great direction. And of course, you can just buy unlocked phones for full price.

None of these solutions are ideal for everyone, but at least there are other options out there. What do you think of AT&T taking this stance on phone modification? Leave a comment!

Source: Android Police

Dima Aryeh is obsessed with all things car and tech. His time is split between gaming and fixing his racecar. He also does photography in his spare time.

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  • jaxidian

    This is yet another reason why we should all be happy that AT&T failed to obtain T-Mobile.

  • Christopher

    I for one am not surprised. Personally I support T-Mobile always have and always will. I don’t like being told what to do and what not to do when I am the customer, my voice should be heard. This is one reason Im not an Apple user nor an AT&T or Verizon customer. Which only leaves T-Mobile or Sprint. And in all reality Sprint shouldn’t even be a carrier they are so garbage. T-Mobile isn’t the greatest carrier in the world but to me they are solid and they are constantly working and looking out for MY best interest.

  • redraider133

    I feel Verizon and AT&T are honestly in it to be the worst to customers and always want to 1 up the other. Watch Verizon will come out with a statement like this in a few days saying something similar. It’s like in the battle of greed and evil neither wants to be outdone by the other

  • Matt B.

    SUCH BS!!! They should at least give you the option if you buy your device outright. This makes me never want to purchase a device from AT&T ever again. Will definitely be buying the unlocked international Samsung devices from now on. HSPA+ is fast enough.


  • Crankin

    Honestly T-Mobile may not have the best coverage but at least I can do literally whatever I want with my phone. Unlimited actually means unlimited, no overages actually means no overages, and “no contract” actually means no contract. I’d like to see AT&T adopt this policy but I doubt that will happen.

  • randyw

    The Dev’s at XDA will find a way. They always do. But AT&T will lose even more customers.

    • thel0nerang3r

      It’s my understanding that they will not support it “officially.” So, if you buy a Nexus4 from PlayStore or bring your own device, then more power to you. They will not prevent you from using it. Or that’s my understanding.

  • Havoc70

    I am a Verizon customer, purely because i still have unlimited, and this makes me glad im not on AT&T. T-mo is looking better and better every day.

  • reddragon72

    Again this is not but at the same time is a correct thing for ATT to do. If you get a subsidized phone through ATT then they have the right to do what they want with it till you have paid it off. Once paid off and you are no longer using the phone then sure they need to unlock it.

    No with that said there are a few issues here. ATT is treating the phones you buy in a way that is not how you buy everything else. Buy a car with a loan, the loan company doesn’t force you to show the car each month to ensure you have not changed it. This is done with TONS of everyday items houses are also on the same plane. So why should you not be allowed to change a phone rom? if you have problems then it’s your fault right…. you can’t just walk back into the dealer and the loan company and make them take the car back because you blew up the engine putting NOS in it…

    Sorry but there are two sides to this but the first side is weak and doesn’t happen anywhere else in the industry so laying blame on modders isn’t the way to go. We’re adults if we fruck up ours phones then it’s our fault and we should be forced to pay to get it fixed. plain and simple.

    ATT will not be getting my business if they treat their customers like children.

    • Nick

      Talking like one of the big corprate guys lol…

  • Jimmy_Jo

    This is why I left Sprint for T-Mobile! Verizon and AT&T are in a race to get every nickel and dime out of your wallet and Sprint’s coverage makes it seem like its a Regional carrier instead of “Unlimited Nationwide”. I can use an unlocked or rooted phone with no worries. Meanwhile AT&T and Verizon are trying to convince everyone to spend more money on less services with their new plans and business strategies. I’m riding the T-Mobile wave for as long as I can.

    And with the purchase of Metro PCS they’re actually making moves to increase coverage not just revenue.

    • IT_Architect

      I can see it both ways.
      1. If I were a manufacturer, I wouldn’t want to WARRANTY a phone that could be cpu or video overclocked. I would have that protection built in like computer manufacturers do today.

      2. If I were a wireless provider, I wouldn’t SUPPORT a rooted phone. I would make the customer reset it to the factory image before supporting it.

      IMHO anything beyond these are counterproductive. The only thing it does is anger a significant percentage of their clientele. That percentage is who the ones with deep pockets consult with before buying a phones or service for themselves and their companies. That percentage will be the decision makers of tomorrow. If someone’s first car is a good experience, they will favor that brand from then on. IMHO they are messing with the wrong crowd. It sounds like T-Mobile has that figured out, and is trying to build a network on that principle.

      Some of the things cell phone companies do is illegal. SIM locking is one of them. Earlier this year I communicated with the lawmaker whose bill made it illegal, and perhaps others did also. Sprint issued a statement some time later that they would be shipping unlocked phones early next year. There are certain games they can play, but making a group of senators look foolish is not one they care to play.

  • Jeff D

    Here’s a solution to AT&T not offering phones with unlocked bootloaders:
    1) Buy an iPhone 5S when they launch for $200.
    2) Sell the iPhone 5S brand new in the box for $600 to $700.
    3) Put the profit towards a Google Play Edition Android.

  • Tangent

    I’m completely fine with a carrier denying you software-related warranty coverage if you unlock or otherwise play around with your phone, but doing all they can to prevent it entirely just sucks.

    This is what makes T-Mobile’s coverage so frustrating for me. They’re just about the only carrier that doesn’t pull that idiocy, they have the best customer service I’ve ever dealt with, and the plan I’m on simply can’t be duplicated. ($110 for 2 cell lines with completely unlimited/unthrottled data and a VOIP home line) I’m just so sick and tired of being stuck with spotty coverage at best when my Verizon/Sprint/AT&T using coworkers all have blazing speeds. >.<

    • John Weiser

      Lol….. He said Sprint and blazing fast speed in the same sentence. Haha

      • Will Howard

        Some area’s like New York City have 4G LTE for sprint and even T-moble. Sadly I am no in one of those area’s and have to get AT&T to even get 3g.

    • Tony Williams

      Dual Sim…. $10-20 pre-paid at&t for when my T-Mobile can’t be reached…

  • JAD845

    I’m an AT&T customer and this is the very reason why Il’l never buy a subsidized phone ever again. I’m rocking a Samsung GS4 GPE (I couldn’t be happier)and the phone before that was a Nexus 4.

  • Kennon

    To ensure a satisfactory experience on my wireless device, I will never buy an AT&T phone ever again.

  • donger

    AT&T sucks anyways.

  • jamal adam

    Oh AT&T!! The stuff that comes out of your mouth just never seems to sits well with me.

  • r00t4rd3d

    Fuck At&t

  • Ruebarb

    Been on the fence with moving to T-Mobile, this confirms it, waiting on the Note 3, contract up December.

  • marque

    Here’s the thing I don’t understand. What’s in it for these companies to lock the bootloaders to this extent? The vast majority of people don’t even know what a bootloader is and will never unlock or root their phones. It’s really just us techy types that are interested in going through this effort. So why go to all this effort to block such a small number of your customers?

    Even the “legal” bootloader unlockers will void your warranty so it’s not like they’re going to be out of money because we’re suddenly returning bricked phones for a refund or exchange.

  • Tamara

    Ugh. Sprint hasn’t seen fit to add 4G LTE to my market yet, T-Mobile’s coverage blows, and Verizon’s phones cost too much. Guess I’ll have to kiss my Amazon apps goodbye when I upgrade next year unless I luck into something on eBay. Thanks for nothing, AT&T. :-\

  • Jeff Nussbaum

    I can’t believe this shit is actually happening I thought these companies were moving forward and unlocked bootloaders were the norm. I rushed and got the Samsung Galaxy S4 only to be stuck waiting for the devs to break the MF3 bootloader! Hopefully soon

    • Anonymous

      Hashcode on XDA is working on Safestrap for galaxy s4′s locked bootloader. He’s originally working on a verizon s4 but mentioned how it should be with all s4′s including AT&T. I’m sure you can google it with “xda hashcode galaxy s4 safestrap recovery”

  • daniel kiselev

    If only ATT wasn’t the only carrier that has service in my house. Verizon and tmobile are both deadzones and sprint is suupppper slow. Guess ill have to buy my phones from att, sell them or trade them on craigslist for tmobile variant.

  • John Blair

    Petition is UP on CHANGE.ORG! This is the FIRST wave of the drive to get AT&T’s attention.

    Consider: Who are the first people someone asks when considering a new phone, and upgrade, or a change of carriers? It’s US, that’s who. I think it’s time to make AT&T aware of just how much influence we have, and how much we can affect their bottom line.

    In addition to signing the pettion here:

    Please join this campaign:

    we need a blitz on AT&T’s Social Media Pages on FaceBook

    and we need to make our voice heard at Samsung, who, as a partner to AT&T, may have additional influence when they know that THEIR business will be affected as well.

    Go to these sites, and blitz the wall with this line: AT&T: Unlock OUR Samsung Galaxy Note 3 Bootloader! or Samsung: Please ask AT&T to Unlock OUR Samsung Galaxy Note 3 Bootloader!

  • Ray Ackerman

    If you’re going to lock the friggin bootloader at least roll out the updates faster. Like seriously, AT&T is almost always last to update

  • shawn

    If you want to complain then write the fcc:

    I tried to purchase a new Samsung Galaxy Note 3 Without a contract at full retail price. AT&T. I would like to modify the phone for a visual impairment application. AT&T has a phone unlock policy:
    They have limited the unlock definition saying it does not apply to an “unlocked bootloader” which is necessary to modify the device. AT&T and Verizon are the only worldwide carriers with this practice. They have added custom software to permanently destroy the device if tampered with. They created a shadow policy on bootloaders:
    The claim “To ensure a safe and consistent experience on your wireless device, we do not support unlocked bootloaders” is nonsense since they allow ANY GSM device on their network. Please add bootloaders explicitly to the FCC unlock policy.

  • C

    Looks like I will start buying my phones from T-mobile!!!

  • Daniel T Cormier

    I’ve been an Att customer for over 2 years now..and I personally think locking the bootloaders is bullshit…we pay hundreds of dollars a month for these phones and I believe that earns us then right to do whatever we want with them!.. I’ll probably be switching carriers soon so I can continue modding..the stock tw ROMs on these phones are lame and no better than a crappy iPhone period!..absolutely fucking rediculous!

  • Corry Holt

    Lock me out of my own device!
    AT&T just lost a long time customer.

  • vista9184

    Only unlockable phone is iPhone then. Sad. Hope s5 and new HTC one will survive.

  • Brian C

    This decision by AT&T nullifies many rights of ownership regarding YOUR phone. It would be acceptable to state a voided warranty in accordance to a modded boot loader, but to deny the phone’s owner from the option is just bad business.

  • michael

    this is exactly why I have decided to switch to T-Mobile I feel penalized for being an AT&T customer.

  • Redsrone

    My ATT S2 was unlocked… got that damn S4 active… the screen is like paper… got a crack in no time… ( I have had at least 20 cell phones and may have dropped in fact I am sure dropped many of them…first screen ever broken) S4 Active was unique to ATT only. The S2 was fun to learn rom’ng on… I have run so many different roms on it… just do the oden restore to ATT and it is great…. that Damn S4 )locked bootloader( you gotta do that safestrap, load to original rom… and guess what the devlopers hated it from the start… no updates… no new anything…. turned it into a mp3 player… did manage to get hyperdrive to work./..tho camera doesnt work no one seems to know how to get that fixed… oh well. A T T is the w o r s t carrier… STAY AWAY… overcharge no tech support no customer support. THE W O R S T…. maybe your rich… you gotta be and not care how much they take…. cause they never stop robbing you. ATT never stops taking… and giving less.