There’s an understandable disconnect between the companies that are subsidizing phones on their networks and the people who want to take those phones, open them up, and play with them. While it could be argued that the carriers don’t have the right to tell you how to use your technology, I would say that only goes as far as the people who buy a phone outright.The Android hacker community is substantial, now reaching millions of users who all want their devices to have access to the goodies that are baked in custom ROMs. Motorola is the latest company trying to bridge the gap between the carriers who want more control and the users who want full control. The Motorola Developer Edition devices announced at a recent press event seemed like a step in the right direction, but after a glimpse into what Motorola has planned for these devices it is clear that no one will buy them.The hardware manufacturers sit in between the users and the carriers on this situation. Carriers put pressure on the OEMs to lock down the devices, and the users take their money elsewhere. As long as they aren’t switching carriers, the only people this hurts are the manufacturers. These Android hackers are an incredibly vocal minority, and have proven several times over that their influence is significant. So, in the spirit of compromise, Motorola announced Developer Editions for their new phone.The idea is pretty simple; buy a developer edition of the phone and you can do whatever you want to it. The carriers aren’t stuck footing the bill if a device breaks, and the users get what they want. In a perfect world, everybody wins. Unfortunately, the Developer Edition devices aren’t quite as cut and dry as all that. There’s red tape that every user needs to go through, even though they have purchased a special version of the phone to get the bootloader unlocked.Motorola’s customer portal outlines a four step process where the user must surrender personal information and device ID’s to Motorola in exchange for the tools to unlock the device. Every user who wants an unlocked bootloader must add themselves to a registry where, should anything happen to your phone, Motorola is not responsible. The language used in describing this whole process sounds downright threatening when said out loud. Users are told that unlocking the bootloader is “not for the faint of heart” and that once you unlock the device you will “have only yourself to blame” if something goes wrong. One particularly troubling line says that even if you have issues that appear unrelated to the unlocked bootloader, Motorola won’t be helping you out.So lets say you do buy a special Developer Edition phone and decide to do things Motorola’s way. You hand over your phone number and Google account, and Motorola attaches that information to the device ID and stores it away. The unlock process from this point all feels very familiar. In fact, this part of the process is almost step by step the exact same process that HTC goes through to unlock their devices for users. The biggest difference between HTC and Motorola in this situation being that you can unlock and sign away your warranty for any HTC phone, not just the developer editions. Additionally, if something happens to an HTC phone that is obviously not related to the bootloader, HTC will still honor the warranty.To recap, Motorola wants you to pay full price for a special version of their devices and then make you jump through hoops to actually unlock the bootloader. Then, after you have gone through all of this, you lose your warranty anyways. If a clever Android hacker comes along and finds an exploit that bypasses the encryption that Motorola has set in place, you have the exact same level of support from Motorola if something happens to your device. There’s no actual benefit to following the rules in this situation. If anything, Motorola is encouraging users to find exploits to hack their phones, since in many cases the changes you make can be reverted in case of warranty repair.This is not a solution for anything, and as a result I doubt that Developer Edition devices will sell at all. Motorola will need to offer an actual benefit to using a Developer Edition device, which really shouldn’t be all that hard to do.
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