Motorola Responds to eFuse and Bootloader Talk: Doesn’t Brick, But Still Just as Useless

Motorola’s chimed in with Engadget to clear up all of the eFuse confusion. To keep the story short and sweet: it’s in the Motorola DROID X, and it is in fact enabled. How it works is a different story, though. Instead of bricking the device upon finding unapproved software, it will boot into recovery mode and will continue to do so until approved software has been reinstalled. Motorola wasn’t clear on explaining if software could be reinstalled through the recovery menu right on the device, though, which means there’s still a chance you’ll have to take it into Motorola or Verizon if you want to be able to use the thing again.

Motorola’s primary focus is the security of our end users and protection of their data, while also meeting carrier, partner and legal requirements. The Droid X and a majority of Android consumer devices on the market today have a secured bootloader. In reference specifically to eFuse, the technology is not loaded with the purpose of preventing a consumer device from functioning, but rather ensuring for the user that the device only runs on updated and tested versions of software. If a device attempts to boot with unapproved software, it will go into recovery mode, and can re-boot once approved software is re-installed.Checking for a valid software configuration is a common practice within the industry to protect the user against potential malicious software threats. Motorola has been a long time advocate of open platforms and provides a number of resources to developers to foster the ecosystem including tools and access to devices via MOTODEV at http://developer.motorola.com.

droid-x-front-back

It doesn’t sound unlike what we already heard: your device is at the mercy of Motorola and Verizon. The term “bricked” is usually used to describe a device that’s practically useless (more accurately, it renders the phone inoperable at hardware or software level), and a phone that can only boot into recovery until official Motorola software is reinstalled sounds pretty useless to me. Anyone trying to throw custom firmware on it would have to hope that a system dump is kept in tact for them to throw onto their microSD card and attempt to bring their phone back to (usable) life.

It doesn’t change anything, but at least Motorola’s being upfront about it. We’d love it if they could clear up how one might go about reinstalling the software in case you can’t get it to boot, but I guess we’d probably just have to wait to see if anyone will get ballsy enough to do anything to the phone.

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  • Epell

    Why are all corporations control freak?
    Why can’t they just let us go?

  • AndroidsOfTara

    I’ll be keeping my rooted, overclocked and custom ROMmed Droid as long as possible. My next phone will almost certainly be the current Google ‘developer’ phone when the times comes. I want nothing to do with locked phones or customized versions of Android like SenseUI and MotoBlur.

  • Phillip

    I usually hear the term applied only to things where it not recoverable at all… Which might not be the case here. But it’s close enough I’m certainly not going to try to find out.

  • freakin’ out

    Why is this getting so much attention??? The only people it affects is the geekdom that wants to load custom OS’s on their phone. for 99.9% of the public THIS IS A NON-ISSUE.

  • C Doggy

    It doesn’t change anything??? We went from describing the problem as “BRICKING” your phone to “[re-booting] once approved software is re-installed”. I would say this is a DRASTIC difference.

    I’m not trying to play Motorola representative here, but the original stories were completely overblown.

  • Otto

    “a phone that can only boot into recovery until official Motorola software is reinstalled sounds pretty useless to me” — So, only a phone that runs custom ROMs is useful? The phone runs perfectly fine (as the vast majority of users can attest) unless you try and hack it. It won’t run hacked (and potentially illegal) software. That doesn’t make it useless.

  • LaMarcus

    why do they care what you do with the phone once you buy it?

  • DroidXisMyFirst

    If I had to venture a guess to resolve any issues they’ll probably just make ROM’s “official” in the near future since it is such an issue and will affect their bottom line. Just a guess though

  • Clucerno

    So I guess my next phone will be an HTC?? Awesome Moto…good job.

  • Quentyn Kennemer

    @Otto, I didn’t mean the phone running its shipped firmware vs a modded ROM. I meant a phone that couldn’t do anything but boot into recovery (with no clear explanation as to how one will be able to reinstall official firmware). Of course, if Motorola were to offer the official firmware file on their site and instructions to get back up and running, then problem solved. If you have to take it in to Motorola or Verizon, however, you’re back at square one. The thing is: the Motorola rep didn’t say if they’d be offering the necessary files for public download. So it’s still quite like the original eFuse scare, except it’s a software break and not hardware break. As of today, there is no download on Motorola’s official support site for the phone.

  • Clucerno

    It doesn’t change a thing, the article is right. The bottom line is that you can’t use your phone until Moto lets you by loading their software.

    Maybe they are upset that the hacker community can produce higher quality ROMs in less time than they can? That would make me upset I guess…

  • Mike

    I think we should cut Moto some slack on this. I know our community is about freedom and openness, but sometimes we really don’t give our markets enough credit. Lets be honest for a second. Not every rom out there is stable and tested. Many will brick your phone and when that happens we take it right back and make up some lie. Then cut into others profits because we messed up and don’t want to pay more money. I have seen many compare their phones to a car. Saying that we should be able to change what ever we wish. The difference between is that if you screw up your car and need it fixed. YOU HAVE TO PAY FOR PARTS AND SERVICE.

    I really respect the developers that are already in the market who bring us apps that give us the experience we would get from our OTAs. ADW launcher gives you a froyo experience on 2.1. The biggest thing we need is the ability to install apps on our sim cards, because we really do run out of room and slow down our devices. Motorola has made a phone with 8 gig phone storage. So it really does solve issue well before your froyo update. ANd that Froyo update is coming soon anyway.

    Honestly you don’t need to install a rom to get sense UI because ADW or Launcher Pro have you pretty much covered. If you want a faster browser There are options for you. Now there are lower end devices that there only prayer is to get a rom. But honestly your time to upgrade from the G1 has come. You should be able to get something new for a fair price.

  • step21

    imho a device is really only bricked if it cannot be restored at all, not even in the shop. (meaning that something deep down got corrupted and can’t be restored, most likely won’t even turn on)
    On the iphone for example even if the software gets corrupted, it normally is always possile to connect to itunes to restore a backup, thus the device is not bricked, and the device behaviour you describe isn’t bricked either.

  • Clucerno

    Mike, I understand what you are saying with regards to messing things up and then taking them back to Moto and lying. But think about this, if Moto would just release the sbf for the phone, then that would never be necessary at all! I have tried over a dozen DIFFERENT ROMs on my droid, and have never bricked it. But I do know people that have screwed up and had their phone almost bricked…luckily the DROID community has the backup that Moto would use to revive your phone and anyone can use it on their own. Therefore, if the companies were even more open with their software, the users could log onto a forum and fix it themselves without ever going to Moto at all. That makes more sense to me than restricting it like this wouldn’t you agree?

  • The_Omega_Man

    @Epell & @LaMarcus Because the Carrier and Motorola have to support the users that screw up their phones and and then replace them under the guise of it being a warranty. “I don’t KNOW WHAT Happened, one minute it was working fine and then it would not boot again!”

  • The_Omega_Man

    @Clucerno so Motorola and Verizon should outsource all technical support to the modder community? That’s an idea! Transfer the cost of support and replacement to the folks out there creating the potential problems!

  • John

    This is most concerning…

    I haven’t rooted my Droid yet. I’ve been patiently waiting, reading, considering the options and I just haven’t decided to take the time to root yet.

    I’ve got an upgrade in October and I was seriously looking at the Droid X. Now I’m hesitant…not that I’m a “rooter” (clearly, I am not) but it would be nice to have the option.

    I do like to have my options… :)

  • Rimzy

    You don’t have to buy the phone, motorola makes good products and i can see why they want to protect that, there is a reason some phones are stock android, i don’t intend to root my x, so i am getting it. The phones are made for normal people who don’t want to root thier phones too….

  • Steve

    @freakin’ out that geekdom is probably 90% of the folks leaving comments and 75% of this sites readership.

  • Steve

    @The_Omega_Man not an issue, verizon stores would just reflash the phone back to stock and everything would be fine. They already do this for updates that fail and the like.

  • Steve

    @Mike why bother when you can just get a better rom? This is just to make your phone obsolete before its time, and to prevent unpaid wifi tethering.

  • Matt

    Does this mean home grown applications cannot be installed / used? Or only non standard ROMs? Currently worried about beta software not available through the Market.

  • Zer0-9

    While this certainly means some will not buy the phone for the average consumer this should be viewed as piece of mind. That the manufacturer is looking to protect the user from malicious attacks.

    There are 10 Android powered phones in my office at work. Only 2 of those are rooted and running a custom ROM. Mine and one of the other two Systems Admins. This is only because I showed mine off to him, and then started maintaining his as well. Loading custom ROMs is critical for me as I want to have control and the latest greatest. However even after offering to do it for them, everyone else around the office has declined. Even amongst all my “tech geek” friends (24 phones) only about half of them are running custom roms.

    So while I am disappointed, as I prefer the build quality of Moto, I think the Droid will be my last Moto phone. I don’t foresee them changing their outlook on this subject. I have continually dwindling hope that when my contract with VZW is up next year that someone will have a qwerty android phone that will still run custom roms.

  • The_Omega_Man

    @Steve agreed but they should not have to! This means that Verizon has to spend money (resource) to do this function.

  • The_Omega_Man

    @John I have not heard that Rooting is an issue. Only the ROM replacement is the issue so far.

    And if the modder community firmly believes what Steve is saying here, then they will be hard at work attempting to crack that Bootloader encryption or trick the eFUSE, without fear.

  • Paladin

    What are you guys talking about when you say “bricked phones”? I’ve tried a lot of rom’s on my Nexus, and a few on my friends android phones like Magic, Samsung Spica ans so on, never happened.
    In the worst case scenario, the phone doesn’t boot, but you can push, by adb or by a different method, another soft. The only way it could brick is if it has a bootloader designed to brick it if it sees something it doesn’t like.

    This is bulls**t! How would you feel if you couldn’t install a different OS or version of the OS on your computer? How is this different? You pay money for a device, you put what you want on that device.

  • Matt

    You guys don’t think its a big deal now but wait till other companies start doing this with other products..

    Once I buy the device its MINE!!!!!

    You need to be concerned with companies trying to put things in a walled garden and control what you do with the item YOU bought with YOUR money.

    So yeah no big deal just keep supporting this walled garden bullcrap!!

  • Otto

    @Quentyn — Maybe Motorola might not be offering an image on their website (or anyplace else) because modifying the phone voids the warranty, does it not? And if they gave you the means of restoring your phone after you voided your warranty, well, that’d be pretty stupid of them, wouldn’t it? This way, when you void your warranty, you have to fess up and get them to reload your phone (which they probably should charge a service fee for doing, too.

  • Otto

    @Matt, after you mod a phone do you send it to the FCC for recertification? Do you send it to the network so they can verify that it doesn’t interfere with other users? You don’t own nearly as much as you think you own. Phones are not self-contained systems. They’re access points.

  • James

    It’s getting attention because these are geeky blogs, the Droid X is a geeky phone, geeks like to tinker with things. Motorola is spitting in the face of these people.

    I really liked my Droid, I love it now that I rooted and started playing around with custom roms and overclocking. I won’t buy another phone that I can’t do this on. It’s my phone and I should do what I like with it.

    If Motorola doesn’t want me as a customer, I’ll gladly never buy one of their phones again.

  • n2imagination

    This crap has absolutely changed my mind to wait on the Incredible. I cant believe moto is pulling this “Appleish” control over an open source software phone. I think they should be vetoed by everyone just in principle. This is an insult to all the devs that have helped moto troubleshoot and improve the product for free.

  • Matt

    @otto- Maybe I don’t want to use my phone on a network and decide to use it to game on..

    If you put a custom engine in your car do you report that also and have it tested for emissions so your fumes you’re putting into the air don’t kill someone?

    I know one thing I OWN THE PHONE WHEN I BUY IT!!

    If I want to void my warranty then so be it..If I want to drive over my phone with my car then I damn well should be able to.

  • Matt

    You people are such sheep I swear!!

    What more dangerous modding a phone or modding a car? I guess they should just lock down EVERYTHING we buy!!

    Lets not own anything lets just kiss all the Companies asses and be thankful they graced us with a product for us to buy that we don’t own and they control for us..

  • Drizzle

    I think this is getting way too much attention. Im sure someone will figure out how to fool the phone into thinking a custom OS is official Motorola software.

  • Otto

    “If you put a custom engine in your car do you report that also and have it tested for emissions so your fumes you’re putting into the air don’t kill someone?” — You might want to check with your state EPA before asking that. In most states, emissions tests are required.

  • Dave

    The point is moot. It uses the same encrypted bootloader as the Milestone that no one has been able to hack. So, you wont beable to even load a custom ROM.

  • Steve

    @Otto STFU, you clearly have no idea what you are talking about. The baseband firmware is not being modified.

  • Steve

    @The_Omega_Mann they already use this procedure, no extra costs involved.

  • GPL

    “Motorola has been a long time advocate of open platforms”

    WHAT??? I had to seem edit every Moto phone I had, just to do basic things like load my own ringtones, change the display from Verizon to my own name, and perform other mods that allowed me to customize it to fit my lifestyle, not Motorola executives. And here we are once again. If you don’t want to mod your phone, fine. You have a choice, but it sounds like they’d prefer I not have one.

  • Matt

    @otto- you should move to China..

  • Mad Tweaker

    I have two trucks and a motorcycle , none , I repeat none are stock , I have tuned the computers on the trucks with 3rd party software myself , the motorcycle has also been modified , but all within legal limits of the EPA (pass emission test) . My Home PC’s I build myself and OC and tweak to the max .
    Droid (rooted . custom ROM) , so I say modding is a way of life for me , so if I can’t mod it , it ain’t any good to me !
    Was going to get a Droid X , but not now !
    Sell me the parts and I will build my own phone !

  • J.Rogan

    I am sad. Verizon has forever tainted the image of Android as the “open alternative” with this damn efuse. ReFuse the eFuse!

    How much will you pay Verizon to un-brick your eFuse’d Droid?

  • Justin

    This would not be a big deal if Motorola would disable it when they stop supporting it. But you know they won’t. That wouldn’t be too bad if the software was perfect, but it isn’t. When the hardware is capable of an upgrade but the manufacturer won’t and prevents you from doing it, you’ve just been victimized by forced obsalescence. No one wants to be forced to spend money they don’t have to. That is why I advise people not to buy this phone: because ultimately, you don’t own it.

  • Ross

    Android is an open platform, and Motorola publishes what they need to publish to comply. The bootloader is not open source, however, and it can load or not load whatever Motorola feels like. Everyone has every right to tinker with the Android source as much as you like. You don’t have a right to run that tinkered with build on any platform you choose. Sorry. If you don’t like the bootloader, don’t buy the phone. Throwing a hissy over it just makes you look childish.

  • Adam

    Why don’t they just train their techs to look for modified software on the phone when it is sent to them for repairs? They could then say that the customer violated their warranty when they modified the device and not fix it unless a price is paid. Then, all of the less technically inclined people will think twice before rooting and the more technical of us users can root and mod as we please. The Moto droid is a virtually un-brickable device if you know what you are doing, and they could easily make the X the same way. I’m tired of large corporations trying to “protect” me from myself. I paid hundreds of dollars for your device. Let me do what I want to it.

  • Adam

    @ross, not so much childish but entitled. Which is what we should be. The way I see it if i were to pay for a device that the manufacturer crippled to ensure I wasn’t able to modify, I would not consider it a purchase, I would consider it leasing the device from the manufacturer.

  • My brain hurts

    Ross@ , you ignorant sl¿t , SNL throw back.
    Don’t remember signing something agreeing that the boot loader was not mine to toy with! So the phone is mine just not the boot loader , God so simple , NOT!
    My phone , my boot loader.

  • Idear

    Offer a unlock key , make a sign up registered to the phone serial, you get key , you have to pay small few if damaged, fair to all.

  • Ross

    @Adam, Then just replace the bootloader and nothing will be there to stop you from modding away. Right?

  • Quinten

    this honestly did not stop me from buying a Droid X lol i could care less about rooting

  • BinaryBulge

    @Ross, what’s childish are responses like yours that condemn the outcry and don’t see the big picture.

    The plain and simple fact is this is an enthusiast level phone. The part of the public that doesn’t care about modding or rooting their phone is less likely to even care about the Droid X.

    Also, and perhaps more importantly, if no one condemns this sort of practice by Motorola, more and more companies will partake.

    Here’s to hoping that HTC never pulls this stunt. I think they realize that in order to support Android, and enable people to modify and contribute back to the platform, they have to continue to at least ALLOW their phones to be rooted.

  • Carlos

    Was thinking of getting this in the fall, but if I can’t root… Don’t want it!!!

  • Carlos

    Of course the vast majority of Droid x buyers have no idea what “root” even means.

  • Freddy

    dorks

  • http://www.geratreplicasell.com yuland

    that’s right

  • Ace Curry

    I don’t see how this stops you from rooting your phone or overclocking your CPU. You are still running approved software, just using slightly tweaked kernels and have superuser access. Am I wrong? If I am, can somebody please explain to me why.

    Somebody will figure out how to root this phone, just like they did the Milestone. And once it is rooted, you can easily remove the bloatware and have it running super smooth. You may not put in a custom OS with extra features but you will still have control over a great phone.

  • Mike

    I don’t think its fair to compare Motorola to Apple at all. Those people have far less freedom with their device then we do. I love my droid aswell. I can go anywhere with this device, but I do not think we give our devs enough credit. I understand some people like to play with roms and over-clock, but I think we need to cut Motorola a break. There are plenty of other devices we can root guys. Its not like we have a shortage anymore. I understand extending the life of your device, but Google needs these phones selling. The issue comes from phone vs. computer. These devices need to remain current and being pushed in a regular manner. Thats how people make their money. More people buying the device means more apps sales.

    This isn’t a huge restriction. You really don’t need to do anything to this device considering how stacked it already is. Can we give a hand to Motorola for that major blur overhaul. The widgets look and run great. These people worked hard and listened. Let us not make our owns devices unattractive just because we can’t run a few roms.

    Its one thing to run roms on an outdated device to get more out of it, but honestly you can update for a fair price, and considering I want Google to one day beat out Apple. I would prefer we did update, but hey guys just go grab a htc device and root away. Lets not judge harshly strong hardware. :)

  • Rappstar

    I think the overwhelming point of the looked bootloader is about VZW/Moto’s customer service reputation(s) LONG TERM. People hear about “rooting,” and think “I want THAT!” But many have no idea what it is or how to do it. Then they can’t get their phone to work, or – in many cases – particular apps don’t work, and then they complain to VZW/Motorola. There have been numerous comments from application DEVELOPERS – who form the real core of what makes Android open source – about how often they get complaints from folks running custom ROMs that prevented their app from working. As long as the Android market and Android app development remains as open as it is, I think we should be thankful. Android is a very fractured OS (knowing that Google hates that word), and I think that reducing the custom ROMs will help bring it back into line. The next step that I’d like to see, though, is for Google to lock down these manufacturers and prevent Android from being so “skinned.” I would hope that by the time 3.0 comes around, these manufacturer-developed tweaks to the UI are a thing of the past.

    Ultimately, I want app development to be open source. And I would like to see all phones ship with STOCK Android. I’d also like to see these manufacturers make their own bloatware easily removable. If they want to pre-install it, fine. But at least make it removable. I don’t think they should be allowed to block custom ROMs and then also force you to have apps you don’t want.

  • Jared

    Is it easy to get in to recovery mode otherwise?
    Wonder if there is a way to spoof a software version which would rejected so that you could boot in to recovery mode.

  • Ross

    @Jared, Why on earth would you want to? Recovery mode means the phone is sitting in a mode where it can do nothing except be flashed with a new ROM. It acts as though the phone is blank, no ROM code at all. You can do that, but what good will it do you? Anyone with the right tools can probably flash the ROM, but creating a ROM that the bootloader with see as valid? Best of luck with that.

  • earmuffs

    Open platform should be open. Seems to me Droid DOES NOT! Encrypted bootloader is why I went with HTC EVO 4G and might move to Samsung epic shame I was gonna buy Droid X and be on Verizon so BS cost both companys money. It was good for me though cause HTC rock like a MOFO and Verizon sucks whale ummm… I love my sprint service although in my area data is 600kilobits per second slower than US cellular @ 1.5mbit downstream.

  • Mike

    If for one support the locking of the ROM. It’ll stop me from flashing, reflashing, wiping and flashing again all the bloody time! :P

  • honkj

    ———————————
    Why are all corporations control freak?
    Why can’t they just let us go?
    ———————–

    because you (the user) is stupid, case in point, Windows users, 20% to 50% have malware installed on their systems, and don’t even know it… 5% to 20% of users, will fall for a phishing scam sometime in the next 2 years…

    98% of all users get junk email, when they don’t have to. yet they don’t have to without ever using any type of filter or security software. (worse 20% or more click on the crap, even though it ensures they will receive even more junk email)

    and worst of all, 20% of all applications in the Android’s app store collect personal information from you the user that can possibly be used to drain your bank accounts of everything you have….

    you dumb **(*s

  • OpenMind

    Droid handset manufacturers haven’t cottoned onto choice.

    If they are going to lock us out at the bootstraps then they should at least give droid users the choice of swapping a vanilla rom.

    Android moves fast they want their hardware to age prematurely = the landfill evil.

    They are simply loosing the sales of us people who understand reusability.

  • http://920-design.com Adi

    You can not brick your phone by flashing a ROM as long you as you dont flash SPL(boot loader) or ANTENNA. As far as MOTO goes they just want to be in control because when android 2.3 comes out they will tell you that you have to buy new phone because droid x can not run it. If I spend $200 on the phone and sign contract for 2 years I want my phone to be up to date, and if I have a root I can do that my self since MOTOROLA is not going to do it. Proof is that they are releasing “best android phone” and it is running ECLAIR 2.1 HA HA I have 1 year old MyTouch and I’m running very stable version of FROYO 2.2…….IT IS ALL ABOUT CONTROL AND ANDROID IS OPEN SOURCE OS.

  • http://ekos06.student.ipb.ac.id Kojeje

    Great phone…!
    I saw the Google there..
    Is this Google product too?

  • patronanejo

    Huh…so YOU’RE the asshole driving the Porsche at the speed limit!

    The essence of open-source is organized resistance to the crippling effects of runaway proprietary claims over otherwise useful and highly-capable technology. The combative comments here in evidence are like an allergic reaction to a paradigm this community exists to subvert: Motorola is asserting walled-garden protectionism over hardware that owes its existence to a passionate distaste for that very behavior.

    Putting up roadblocks to exploration won’t prevent it–it just makes the stakes higher for everyone while helping exactly no-one. Motorola’s bottom line would be better-served by leaving the bootloader wide open and including a utility on the driver disc–or on their web site–that can flash a factory-fresh recovery ROM over USB: Fix it yourself, cause we ain’t fixin’ it for you. Most of us know that Motorola/Verizon doesn’t owe us any help if we get into trouble messing around inside the black box. Anybody that would leap in without planning his way out doesn’t doesn’t deserve the charity of service under warranty; no-one here thinks otherwise.

    Corporate hypocrites talk about freedom like they own it, but flag-waving is all they really understand…every opportunity they get they try to infect others with their sense of moral obligation to obey authority. If you like going through life without having to think about anything, go get an iPhone and buy the Fox News app. You don’t get to support those who would take away our right to think for ourselves. Not here, anyway.