[Update] Be Careful When Tampering With the Motorola Droid X: It Could Brick Itself


The plot thickens. Motorola’s under a heavy barrage of verbal backlash from the Android-hacking faithful due to their completely locked and encrypted bootloader on the newly-released Motorola Droid X. It’s one thing to lock the bootloader, but what if your phone was designed to brick itself if you so much as tried to hurt its feelings (or – more accurately – try to hack it)?


That’s exactly what some are saying the Droid X can do. MyDroidWorld‘s reporting that the device is rocking an eFuse chip that’s hardcoded to verify the software running on the phone. If the firmware, the kernel, or the bootloader is different from what’s defined by the chip as “OK”, it blows up.

Ok it won’t *really* blow up (these aren’t iPhones, of course), but your phone will become as useless as – oh, say – a brick. It doesn’t render the device absolutely dead, but only Motorola would have the special hardware and software required to fix it. What does this mean for the development community? It just became a great-deal-more difficult (and expensive) to even attempt to hack this device.

This is as locked down as locked down will get, folks.

[Update]: We may not have a problem, after all. Via BGR, it appears that the TI OMAP-based processors that Motorola has been using in all of their higher-end devices have had eFuse all this time, they just don’t use that feature of the chipset. Reports claim that the same technology can be found in the original Droid, the Milestone, and the Droid X, and that we’ll probably be seeing it in the Droid 2, as well.

If he’s correct, then we can probably start putting those pitchforks down. The only way to verify is by getting official word from Verizon or Motorola, or to see if any Android hacker has the guts to attempt to do anything with their brand new Droid X.

Quentyn Kennemer
The "Google Phone" sounded too awesome to pass up, so I bought a G1. The rest is history. And yes, I know my name isn't Wilson.

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  1. Well so much for this being a phone I would ever buy. Thank god for Samsung and HTC.

  2. interesting. although a big set back, i feel pretty optimistic in saying that it’s only a matter of time before we see a workaround. doing this only makes people work harder trying to deal get around it

  3. A phone could brick itself! Im glad I have my Evo

  4. Who owns this device?!

    vote with your feet people,


  5. Shame on you, Moto.

  6. oooooooo…this will cause a stir

  7. @t1jordan. Yese at least with your EVO you only have to wait for Sprint to send an OTA to successfully brick it.

  8. You know what the worst bit is? It was the community that made Moto consider the eFuse in the first place – a while back there was a big discussion between some milestone owners and Moto, with the users suggesting Moto employed and eFuse so the warranty was visibly broken if you rooted your phone. Obv Moto took the idea, and made into an evil version of its former self!

  9. Wow they went to such extent!

  10. Be careful, Motorola. The Droid was a hit, the Milestone was a flop. The difference (apart from the type of network supported, obviously)? A locked bootloader.

    I’m not saying that was the cause — there were certainly other factors — but it should be a concern. Personally, I was considering buying a Milestone on Telus right up until I learned about the locked bootloader. I ended up opting for a Nexus One.

    I’m a geek, for sure. The average user doesn’t care about an issue like this. But if you turn off the geeks and enthusiasts, who will be the early adopters that evangelize your product to the masses?

    When Motorola and Telus were trying to promote the Milestone, its Facebook pages were flooded with complaints about the locked bootloader. That can’t be the message they really wanted to send.

    Interestingly, this may actually be less of an issue in the US, where unique carrier factors and Verizon’s killer marketing have already pushed Droid to the masses. In the rest of the world, Android phones still need every advantage they can get.

    So, this particular move might not hurt Motorola that much, but it’s puzzling to see them continue to shoot themselves in the foot like this. And for what? What is the benefit to Motorola of locking the bootloader?

  11. a friend of mine just left a VZ store – did not get their shipment yet, rep said 25 million were ordered but only to receive 10 million …

  12. Sweet, a lockdown company that makes products for an open-source platform. Fuck MOTO and their ugly-ass phones. Still as ugly as RAZRs…and from the sounds of it they’re trying to take their phones the way of cupertino. Samsung isn’t much better, putting their unneeded revolting skin on top of an otherwise great OS…

  13. If Moto would have only released this phone with plain Android and not Blur they would be able to avoid the shit storm that they are going to receive when people realize that they aren’t getting Gingerbread first despite how many Droid X’s are sold or that they are on the biggest network in the U.S. Then to make it worse the smallest of the four T-mobile will have the first phone that gets Android 3.0. When that story is written I hope Phandroid is ready for all the angry comments.

  14. I can see Motorola’s position, but I wouldn’t buy this phone simply because of the lockout. Such a nice piece of hardware too.

  15. They would actually sell more devices and get brand loyalty if they didn’t treat the customer like a child.

    This policy of locking out the user from what is fundamentally an open source product is frankly criminal.

  16. And to all but a statistically insignificant percentage of users this will mean exactly nothing. The proportionally very few people who want custom ROMs are SOL because it’s won’t be worth the time (and money!) to try and hack the encryption.

  17. I have had bad experiences with Motorola phones in the past but I had actually considered giving them another chance until now.

  18. It Would be funny as hell if the droid x did get hacked.. LoL…. These impressive devs won’t let a dozen bricked phones it more until they get it right.. Well Maybe they would mind. But My point being there will always be a dev out there willing to try

  19. I’m going to buy this phone — today — as I need to get a replacement for my Blackberry but I’m doing so under a one-year contract and I’m hoping that I hear something in the next 30 days which convinces me to swap the phone in for something from a company other than Motorola.

    If I wasn’t in such a dire position vis-a-vis needing a new phone, I’d skip this — despite the great hardware — and go with an HTC or a Samsung or something else.

    Really sucks buying something knowing it’s morally wrong to do so :-(

  20. Do you folks not understand that VZ wanted this? Motorola followed VZ’s guidelines.

    With a rooted phone and a third party ROM, VZ wouldn’t have control of the options they want to sell (tethering, etc). By locking the bootloader and adding the eFuse protection, VZ can still make their money.

    I *hate* this, but blame VZ not just Motorola.

  21. This sucks, but I pretty much have to buy it anyway. I have to stick with Verizon and want to get a phone now. But the Droid X is the fastest on the market (by far) and I don’t want to wait for something faster (Incredible is backordered anyway and Droid 2 will probably also be locked). If already had an android phone, I could wait a little longer, but I’m tired of waiting.

  22. So for someone who has never rooted or messed with this stuff, I will be unaffected right?

  23. I can sum up the collective angst of the Android geek community in a single syllable:


    Get over yourselves. Despite how important the ROM hackers think they are – they’re adding to the fragmentation problem that Android is going to have if every Tom Dick and Harry can make their own ROM.

  24. @Nick: You will be fine. As will 99.9999% of the other Android/Moto/Droid users out there.

  25. I would guess it is VZW that wnats it locked down so they can charge for tethering… among other services they want to control on their network.

  26. Moto came back in the game with Android, but now there contradicting what android is for in the first place…

  27. I work in a service dept for electronics and I think this is a great idea. Customer damage is one of the most annoying reason for return.

    This is a smart move and will save MOTO A LOT of money. For everyone person that knows how to properly load a cooked ROM there are 25 people that do not know how to properly load a cooked ROM.

    I don’t really know what an fuse is but it’s genius. Now they can tell with out a doubt that you did something to the phone you should not have. :)

  28. cross this phone off the list. Samsung, here I come!

    I question whether or not this is even legal.

  29. ok….i’m a non-techie and have to make a decision today at work to stay with my blackberry or get a new droid x.

    welcome any advice?!?

  30. @Tad: yeah, say that to my Milestone which reboots 1-5x per day since the 2.1 update (and i’m not alone). And you can be pretty sure it’s because Motorola screwed up something (see the update they are (not) releasing now).

  31. With Verizon buying 1million IPhones the only reason one would buy a Droid instead is the advantage of customization. Take that away and you will loose your market share. Just watch and see.

  32. glad i got my incredible. same device, a bit smaller screen, but wont brick itself when i try and use it to its full potential.

  33. ugh… why can’t there just be one phone that’s the best? i thought this was it but apparently not.

  34. So is this confirmed or not? Because the post on mydroid pretty clearly states that this is based on conjecture but everything else I read essentially presents it as fact. I’m sure we’ll get confirmation soon enough one way or the other but until then lets not all lose our minds.

  35. “lets not all lose our minds” — Oh, that ship sailed a long time ago…

  36. Wow, this sucks if it ends up being confirmed.

    We need to organize a group to send a message to Motorola that we won’t accept crap like this. I know I won’t be buying this phone now.

  37. @ Matt
    Cable companies do it with their cable boxes, so I don’t see why not. From what I’ve read, most omap processors have this ability built in. Wether it’s used or not is another matter.

  38. @otto So true haha. This is killing me, I just want a new phone!

    @barry- I’ll be interested to see what moto has to say about this. It’s not something I’m interested in (Custom ROM) but considering I’m not buying an iphone on principal, it seems only right to hold off on this device haha

  39. I just want to know if any of the non-techies out there which pre-ordered the phone at BB, received their “so-called appt. phone call” to pick it up? I’m at work right now and I’m waiting for that call. If my local BB doesn’t have the phone, there will be hell to pay. I’ll bring a REAL brick w/ me if it isn’t available…LOL

    P.S. I could care less right now if it’s locked or not. IT SHALL BE HACKED…just like everything else.

  40. Why doesn’t Motorola just change it’s name to Apple? When my T Mo contract is up, I am willing to switch both providers and phones to get the next step up from my N1. Moto just put themselves on my do not consider list by doing this.

  41. I got an idea….. If you are mad and don’t want to buy it…. THEN DON’T!!…. stop flooding the comments with the same thing over and over….. Try to say something positive for a change…. Have faith in the hackers out there……. It will be rooted… just may take a little longer than normal…. DEAL WITH IT!!

  42. @Rodney: rooting does not equal custom roms. Rooting is not a problem, problem is if you are stuck with a buggy Android from Motorola (Milestone is in this period right now), Motorola takes their time to put up a patch for it. Now, in normal cases you would try a non-official ROM, which would have these problems fixed for ages, like most people did with HTC & WinMo. But with Milestone you can’t do that – because the bootloader is signed, you cannot have custom ROMs.

    All you get with these Moto phones with signed bootloaders is root, and that is where the route ends.

    Hell, right now the status of 2.2 update for Milestone is “under consideration”. Seriously ? A half year old phone and they are thinking about stopping providing new Android versions for it ? And you ask why people are angry at Moto & signed bootloaders ?

  43. Now, we can’t even bash iPhone for being locked down. Sooner or later HTC, Samsung, LG will follow suit and Android will be no different from iOS.

  44. I believe the issue here is customer satisfaction. It’s not about whether or not you root or not. It’s about property that you pay your money for. It’s kinda like buying a home and the bank tells you that can’t renovate the kitchen. That royally s**ks. :\

  45. #23 Tad: Are you freaking kidding me? Open source ROM hackers… creating fragmentation? Last I checked it was the ROM hackers that have contributed to the AOSP, not Sense UI, ShitBLUR, or whatever.

    Last I checked Froyo has many features directly inspired by the rom community. Countless bugfixes, etc.

    True, rom hackers are small in number, but they are certainly a part of the creative evolution of Android. The sad thing is the hacker version of many things are at least technically superior due to their unconstrained development!

  46. Woo- Okay, I’m glad fire will stop raining from the sky now. That was really intense for a little bit, It turned my stomach to knots (what does that say about me?) to hear about this so now I’m crossing my fingers we get the official OK from Moto.

  47. @Rodney: Stop…using…ellipsis…you’re…not…even…using…them…right!

    In reality Moto can do whatever they want with “their” phones. Is it a smart move? Not really.

  48. Why do you idiots think the criminals are always one step ahead of the police?! Someone on the inside is always on the take. How do you think you get all this leaked info on upcoming devices and software? There is always someone willing to give up classified intelligence, even if it means their livelihood. Rest easy. You’ll get your precious codes. Until then, blast Fight The Power, have another Pop-Tart, plan your next trip the Star Wars convention, and grow a set!

  49. @Gerg,

    I dont agree, it does create fragmentation, I’ve gotten numerous bug reports from users of Cyanogen mod that have problems with my app, an never the same reports from anyone running stock. Something in the modded ROM doesn’t work quite right.



  51. Its wonderful all you folks don’t have any problem paying for something and having someone else tell you what you can do with it..

    It will be interesting how you feel about that when it happens to the car you buy or house or TV etc..

    Hey its Motorola’s phone they can do with it what they want..Who cares if you spent YOUR money to buy it just do as they say and be a good boy!!

    Great mentality!!

  52. For instance over clocking a processor may emit a different EMI signature. I *think* that the FCC does all the EMI scans and probably has a pretty strict standard. So, in a weird way you might be breaking the law if you change the EMI signature of your phone because you may be transmitting frequencies that may be harmful to other electronic devices.

  53. So I was really hoping to get a Meego device, but the company says I need to get a smart phone asap, and it seems an official device launched with Meego is still a ways away…so I was thinking I could get a Android device, and that eventually some enterprising hacker would allow me to dual boot the device and get the best of both worlds…but it looks like that won’t be happening with this device. :(

  54. Got the Droid X and i don’t give a fuc+k

  55. @Amanda. It’s a matter of choice. Motorola, a US company wants to keep things from getting out of hand (lol out of our hands… get it?). HTC / Samsung are not under US jurisdiction nor are they US companies and they want the community support to make them the number 1 phone manufacturer. So that one day you can rely on Vietnam and Korea for all of your technology needs. I hear a lot about Vote with my dollar and F moto. But seeing our economy the way it is… I’ll buy Motorola and wait for ROM.

  56. Barry, cable boxes are rented they are still the property of cable companys. This really irks me if I buy a phone its my property and I do something that bricks it that should void the warranty but when this efuse goes off that’s Motorola destroying my property it goes to far! Any lawyers out there is this a violation of consumer rights?


  58. I like the idea of openess and an unlocked phone, but I will never use a custom rom. I’ll be unaffected and never know better.

    I am getting the Droid X and I will survive. But as mentioned before, blame Verizon as well. They have more say of what they want blocked more than anything.

  59. Less than 2% of Android users actually root they’re phones, so I don’t see what the big deal is. It’s Motorola’s software, why shouldn’t they be able to protect it? My Nexus One handles all my rooting/rom needs.

  60. These companies like Motorola don’t make the big bucks by catering to geeks who won’t leave their equipment alone.

  61. @tgor. No. While it is your right to try and hack your phone. It is not your right to hack the phone (lol). However it is their right to protect their phone from being hacked. (think bluray) When you do brick your phone will you pay $599 to replace it or will you commit fraud to have your insurance replace it, because you “dropped it” and it doesnt work anymore? I really gotta ask myself wth are people thinking… Yes its your phone, you break it you buy it. No fraudulent insurance claims please…

  62. @ Amanda. I’m jealous. Enjoy your Droid X. I’m not elegible for another 20 months. :( | :)

  63. Quadrant scores:

    My Original Droid overclocked to 900Mhz running Android 2.2, gives 1255. The Droid X running Android 2.1, 1Ghz chip, gives 1205.

    I’m thinking though that when DroidX gets a 2.2 update, it will be the fastest thing out there.


  64. @Amanda. Your keyboard seems to be broken, you might want to fix that.

  65. There is no eFuse. Really, this is a rumor at best.

  66. Maybe HTC and Samsung put that out there so you’d go buy a third world phone… what ever happened to Go USA? lol… yes I’m old and obsolete… but I can be overclocked.

  67. This website needs more quality control.


    (Long story several paragraphs long about how it’s become self aware and is targeting babies for termination)

    update: I just found out that it doesn’t kill babies.

  68. Droid X is AWESOME!!!! (posted from my Droid X)

  69. @RS Glad you’re lovin it.

  70. I’m starting to think this site needs every heading posted with [RUMOR]: blah blah blah

  71. AHAHAHAHHAHAHAHA you guys(phandroid) should really do some research before you put out dumbass posts!!

    This site is so noob!

    Many of the new Android phones have eFuse…. and what… all rooted… shhhh.

  72. This isn’t due to Motorola, but Verizon. Verizon doesn’t want users rooting their phone and doing wireless tethering… etc, as it will eat up bandwidth. Bandwidth they are aggressively trying to stay ahead of as not to get tagged with the APPLE lable of a clogged network.

  73. Ordered my first droid phone, the Droid X this morning at 1215AM from the Verizon website. Was shipped 2 hours ago from CA, will be here in the morning. Might be a little off topic, but it looks like they have their supply chain in order. Hacking it…. um, will wait a bit on that.

  74. Ohhh the best thing since sliced bread. The Droid is the be all and end all, a completely open system. Unless, someone locks it down for you. At least you can hack an iPhone without turning it into a paperweight.

  75. Moto needs to wake up that tech oriented phones are being sold to, well, tech oriented people. Seems I just paid full value on the phone since I paid full sales tax. Therefore the phone belongs to me. Let me do what I want to it.

  76. @67 @70: We’re just the messengers. If we didn’t report on even the slightest of rumors, it’d be a site filled with press releases. If that’s what you want, sign up to prnewswire.

  77. dev’s help alleviate fragmentation by helping end users update there phones to the latest builds so that they can take advantage of new software and functions. Whoever says otherwise; think about it. Fragmentation = removing or ability to add unnecessary UI, rem limitations, fixing glitches and keeping OS up to date among a crap load of other sweet stuff. No dev’s means my or your ignorant but having an obsolete phone every 6 months or so at the current pace of things (or monthly if you want every advantage) Relax, fight the good fight; be a good consumer by telling them what you want and not taking no for an answer.

  78. I’ll never buy another phone from Motorola…not since they decided to lock the android. Nothing else matters, simple as that!

  79. Yeah- I don’t think phandroid can be faulted for reporting that, it’s what they do. I agree with the rumor tag but look at the initial reactions- while it was clearly stated it was based on conjecture, just about everyone lost all self control.

    This is certainly my favorite android site out there!

  80. lol t1jordan says “glad i got my evo”. like u hacked ur evo anyway. DOUBT IT

  81. First off… this illustrates so clearly the PROBLEM of manufacturers exhibiting extended ownership rights over equipment they SELL and no longer own! This would be ok, if for example on LEASED equipment. But equipment that I purchase, that I own, let alone on one which runs an open source OS that I CAN change by license… Hmmmmm… Good time to see an attorney and discuss possible litigation to prevent such PROGRAMMED MALICE into an electronic device. I wonder if Automobile manufacturers could accomplish such ridiculousness, or TV manufacturers, , etc., etc.

    I pay for it, I own it, period!

    Enough!!! Hahaha and yes, this is a very GOOD reason NOT to purchase the handset, even if I never intend to root/hack it. What a shame…

  82. apparently this droid doesnt. :(

  83. All I can say is i hope they know what they are doing. Contrary to some of your beliefs the dev/modder/hacker community is getting bigger every day. The whole point of open source is to make it your own right? Or have we forgotten that. You’ve never seen a version of linux that said u cant change this. Why? Its open source.

    Secondly. My girlfriend had a cliq she liked until motorola accidentally pushed out a half done update (1.3.18) that messed up a lot of the phones. keyboard went crazy, touch screen non responsive at times. Basically rendered it useless. I had to root it just to get it back to a working state. Fun fun.

    Glad i’m with t-mobile. Rooted mt3g running 2.1 for a while. Clean and smooth. Better than anything they could ever make. Waiting on froyo to come out and its almost done.

    They can join playstation with advertising options on a device and then slowly taking them away one by one in the name of “safety”. What a shame.

    Have fun

  84. I have the droid x it the fastest android device out there they already have root faster then the increadible so it can’t be lock that bad they will have roms. Soon so by a droid x. It worth it.

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