Sony Ericsson Also Revising Their Policy On Unlocked Bootloaders


Before you run and grab your pitchforks, Sony Ericsson isn’t locking down their phones just yet but they are revising their policy on the popular Android buzzword: bootloaders. But first, lets start at the beginning.

Sony Ericsson was one of the first companies that announced they would NOT be locking down the bootloaders in their upcoming devices even going as far as providing links on their website with instructions on how to do so. This was a breath of fresh air seeing how rival mobile companies like Motorola (and even HTC at the time) were going to great lengths to lock down their phones and keep them “secure.” Sony Ericsson also went on to say that their handsets, even when unlocked, would continue to receive regular firmware/software updates from SE whenever they were made available. Under one condition. The device had to be running the stock SE software. Sounded reasonable enough.

Well, it looks like SE may be doing a little backpedaling adding new stipulations to their previous stance. They are now saying that once the bootloader is unlocked, you will NOT be receiving regular firmware updates from SE. While this sounds like a bad move, they actually have a pretty good reason for doing so. SE explained that because they have no way of knowing what software a user will install on their device, it makes it nearly impossible for them to give their customers 100% certainty that an update will be compatible. That actually makes perfect sense. In a world where most companies ignore their customers its refreshing to see a company like Sony Ericsson going to great lengths to please everyone. Even the minority. As an Android modder myself, I know how hard it is for a developer to guarantee ROM compatibility between software versions.

I am aware that we don’t have a recovery ROM in place. There are some reasons why that is the case. One reason for not supporting FOTA updates after the phone has been unlocked is that FOTA is a delta between two know SW releases and as the phone has been unlocked we can’t be sure of the SW release currently on the phone. I will bring this question back to see if we could allow phones that has been unlocked to be updated via “SW update service” which would be a way to get a Sony Ericsson ROM back on the phone, but please note the warranty may still have been voided as the phone.

Currently we don’t support SEUS for phones that has been unlocked. I have initiated discussions if we can support that going forward, but there are several things that needs to be investigated before I can give you an answer (e.g. will it affect customer call centers, repair centers, which SW should be used for unlocked phones, how to identify phone model if other things has been modified, are there security concerns for unlocked phones etc). Will get back to you as soon as I have more information. Sorry that I can’t give a better answer at this time.

So what’s going to happen now? Well, if you still want to hack up your phone and unlock that bootloader, you will be at the mercy of ROM developers to keep your phone up to date and hope that Sony Ericsson can release the source code for their stock ROMs once available. Only problem is — no devs, means no support. What is still unclear is if once unlocked, if it will be possible to lock it up again and go back to stock (something Nexus One users know was impossible).

While I certainly can’t knock Sony Ericsson for going this route, rooting a phone has always meant voiding one’s warranty, it will be interesting to see how this affects popular opinion on a company trying so hard to please everyone and make a name for themselves in the already crowded Android market. Good luck to ya, SE!

[Via XperiaBlog]

Chris Chavez
I've been obsessed with consumer technology for about as long as I can remember, be it video games, photography, or mobile devices. If you can plug it in, I have to own it. Preparing for the day when Android finally becomes self-aware and I get to welcome our new robot overlords.

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  1. the best way to solve that problem is, stop using it. 

  2. I applaud Sony they are trying to please everyone that’s very hard to do in today’s world of technology.

  3. Nice move Sony, quite a sensible decision.  If someone wants to customise their device, they have a choice, if people want to stay official, they also have a choice.  Win.  Win.  That Xperia Play is looking even more appealing… I just wish it had more onboard storage >_<

  4. I think that’s a perfectly reasonable stance. A FOTA could easily brick a phone if the ROM has been messed with. If they release something like a RUU at the same time as each FOTA update so users have the choice to return to stock, everyone will be happy.

    1. Yeah, just like current phones with ROMs installed. Can’t get an OTA unless you flash back to stock. Makes sense. What’s weird is that even when back to stock, still no updates if the bootloader has been unlocked. Weird.

      1. I think that’s just them being cautious, ie. the bootloader’s unlocked, something *could* have changed, so don’t update. They could maybe run a pre-update script that checks the md5sum of all relevant partitions to see if they match an official ROM but it’s less risky for them to put the onus back onto the owner who chose to unlock. I think that’s fine as long as the owner is told of all of the consequences before they unlock.

  5. ” They are now saying that once the bootloader is unlocked, you will NOT
    be receiving regular firmware updates from SE. While this sounds like a
    bad move, they actually have a pretty good reason for doing so.”

    No, it’s wrong. Standard Android practice is to attempt to patch the current files, and fail if the patch won’t work. If you unlock the bootloader and stay with the standard software, then an OTA will still work, even if nothing has been modified!

    1. That’s what I thought too. While I don’t know ALL the technicals behind it, sounds like Sony is new to this ROM/kernel modding stuff and hopefully will change their stance once they gather more information. 

  6. Apparently they don’t want a backlash like they had with their PSN.

  7. Well Sony are well on their way to restoring my image of them, which has been tarnished for years which their silly proprietary formats and sub standard software. If they had a phone with a decent CPU it would actually be enough for me to by one of their phones… Specially since HTC seem to have forgotten how they got to where they are now. And to anyone who will say that Tech Geeks are a minority of consumers I have to point out that 1) We buy 3 to 4 times as many high tech gadgets as a normal consumer. 2) All the non-techie friends I have come to me for advice on what phone they should get next! So yeah! Good one Sony, and I love the camera in the Arc, it actually made me consider buying a phone with an outdated CPU! 

  8. Look at xda, people with unlocked bootloaders just have to flash the updates themselves instead of getting them from SE. Not a very big deal imo :)

  9. Sux

  10. This is great news, now all they need are good phones.

  11. If they are able to unlock the bootloader, those same users should be able to flash an “official” upgrade through recovery mode.

  12. If someone is rocking a custom ROM, they won’t want an OTA anyway and it wouldn’t even work. If they are running the stock ROM while rooted, I don’t see why it wouldn’t work though.

    It would remove root probably, but that is all. So, the policy change does make sense in that regard.

  13. I think this is a reasonable move by Sony. We still have the freedom to unlock if we want, they have no obligation to support us with updates if we do this.

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