November 27, 2014

Motorola's Response to Droid X Bootloader controversy

You have probably heard all the noise from the angry shouts in the Android Community concerning the newly released Droid X, and it’s super locked-down bootloader.  Motorola has gotten a lot of flak because they have made it next to impossible to root the Droid X, which is something that a lot of people who are active in the Android Community want to do so they can try out different custom ROMs on the unit.

There has been a rumor floating around that Motorola has so locked down this device, that it can sense when a non-native ROM is installed, and cause your phone to brick.  The culprit of this supposed functionality?  An IBM program called eFUSE, which allows the circuits of a device to be altered on demand, giving higher security to developers and manufacturers, and supposedly giving them power to brick as many handsets as they want.

According to a quote from an article over at Engadget, this absolutely not the case.  eFuse does not brick the Droid X, but causes it to boot into recovery when it senses unapproved software.  Here is Motorola’s response about this issue as stated in the Engadget article:

“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.”

While not a popular response or stance, it is not fair to say that Motorola has been out to maliciously brick devices as retaliation for hacking up their ROM.

As for an opinion on this development of the lockdown of the Droid X, I think it is a bad move on Motorola’s part, the Android platform and community brought them from the precipice and made them lucrative again.  They have begun to make impressive handsets again, and they have done so on the coattails of Android.  I think it is always a bad move to alienate your strong user base by denying them something that does no harm to your brand, but yet gives them a reason to own and use your handset for longer than the expected life span.  Let’s hope they do not make this corporate policy for future handsets.



  • http://intensedebate.com/people/Michael_Martin Michael_Martin

    Agreed as Apple fanboys are trying to wag the dog with antennagate by pointing this out.

  • b87

    I’m still shocked to see(after all these devices) everyone is annoyed if they find a device that cannot be loaded with custom ROMs. How come there are no articles talking about the advantages of having locked down phones? Open platform doesn’t necessarily mean that you can do whatever you want with the os and the device. Have you ever thought about what actually runs in the background of those custom roms? How many of you have all kinds of credentials and account data within their android devices? You cannot know exactly know what the device does in the background…what servers does it sync to…and where exactly it can send your private data. FYI: Buying a phone doesn’t necessarily mean that you can do whatever you wish with it. Try buying a car..then wreck it in the middle of street after you’ve driven it on the wrong side of the road…your property…you do what you want with it right? Well expect the consequences to come along.

    • Scott

      "How come there are no articles talking about the advantages of having locked down phones?"
      Because the advantages are few and far between. Custom roms offer greater speed, less bloat, and cutting edge hacks/software.

      "Have you ever thought about what actually runs in the background of those custom roms? How many of you have all kinds of credentials and account data within their android devices? You cannot know exactly know what the device does in the background…what servers does it sync to…and where exactly it can send your private data."
      You don't really know much about android do you? Being open source people are able to read the source of these roms and if they even a single malicious intent it would be found out extremely quickly.

      "FYI: Buying a phone doesn't necessarily mean that you can do whatever you wish with it. Try buying a car..then wreck it in the middle of street after you've driven it on the wrong side of the road…your property…you do what you want with it right?"
      Ridiculous analogy mate. How about this one- i buy a car and then i can mod it as i see fit, after all, i own it. I can stick custom rims on it, mod the exhaust, even throw in a new engine because guess what? i paid for that car. I own it.

      Most people who run custom roms know the risks and consequences (re: warranty) and are willing to accept them. I have run custom roms on all my WM phones, all my android phones (G1, Magic and Nexus one) and have never had an issue.

      Custom roms if froma reputable and public source are totally safe and you suggesting otherwise is misinformed.

      • b87

        Actually I do know a lot of Android and what I'm talking about (background data syncing) is totally realistic. I develop android apps, I've got good notion about open source, and I do realize that 90% of the users who install custom roms have no idea about looking up code in them. If you don't agree with it..your problem.

        Just to state something. I don't bash custom roms. I actually consider them a great thing. I also think that every company that makes their own mobile phone, makes their own android build (since it is open source) have the right to sell their devices when where and how they want to as long as they are legally OK. Don't like the device? don't buy it. Don't like the company policy? Don't buy it.

      • http://intensedebate.com/people/Davest010 Davest010

        Dude…don't feed the trolls.

    • steve54

      “FYI: Buying a phone doesn’t necessarily mean that you can do whatever you wish with it.”
      i say yes it does. we have laws to prevent things like assaulting somebody with the phone but when i buy a product and i want to customize it that is my decision.

      “Try buying a car..then wreck it in the middle of street after you’ve driven it on the wrong side of the road…your property…you do what you want with it right? Well expect the consequences to come along.”
      so you’re saying car manufacturers should lock the steering wheel so that cant happen? we can just leave it parked and not have to worry about that right?

  • ari-free

    this is why *I* want the ability to custom mod: http://guardianproject.info/

  • Haggie

    It's purely greed on the part of Motorola. Rooted phones have a much longer usable lifespan than stock phones.

    If I hadn't been able to root and overclock my droid, I would probably be looking to upgrade. Instead, I'll be waiting until late in the year when the dual Snapdragon processor is available.

    • Phil

      And now with the Droid being End of Life only 8 months after it's release. You are LUCKY that you can root the Droid.

      8 Months from now, all the Droid X and Droid 2 owners will be at the mercy of Motorola to provide them with updates on an End of Lifed phone.

  • Ohpahlsase

    Ever think that Verizon didn’t require this? It’s the US Carrier$ that want you to have their experience, not yours..

  • http://twitter.com/NerdUno @NerdUno

    Excuse me but Motorola and Verizon are SELLING open source software. Not sure what the fine distinction is between bricking and endless rebooting of a device. These folks are creeps, period. If Toyota disabled your car for installing new tires, you'd never buy another Toyota. I'll never buy another Motorola phone EVER!

    • GetEdumacated

      Comparing cars and phones is a such a weak straw-man argument. Only part of the phone is Open Sourced, there remains quite a bit of proprietary software onboard. Ever look at the licensing terms? It's under the Apache OSS (Open Source Software) license which means vendors can add software on top of or (in this very case) underneath the Android OS without having to contribute back to the OSS project in question. Lemme translate that for you: vendors can further enhance the bare-bones OS to make it more meaningful and useful for the end User. This further means being able to retain the rights to the software they create. Ever try to create a hardware abstraction layer?

      This "Oh it's Open Source, that means I can do whatever I want with it" is a bunch of SHITE. Stop being ignorant and educate yourself on what OSS Licensing terms are in play let alone what they ultimately mean to the Vendor, the OSS project communities and the End Users.

      If Android was GPLv3/LGPLv3 then there might be some wiggle room there if the vendors invasively integrated with the OSS content – or for that matter invasively integrated with LINUX (which they wouldn't have since Android took care of that already in their implementation of the OS through logical encapsulation and adhering to acceptable practices for deployment builds).

      Feel free to purchase some other guy's crap implementation with weak-sauce audio and a wide open bootloader that can load up Ghu knows what sort of hidden malware. REPUTABLE ROM sources? Quantify that one – even if the producer of the ROM has good intentions, ever security scan OSS code? The incidence of crapware is on the rise since the rule of "release early and often" and "many eyes" is a bunch of crap in the face of Secure Software Development. See http://www.csoonline.com/article/439625/open-sour… to start. There are Static/Dynamic analysis vendors out there like Ounce, Fortify and Coverity trying to help out the general large OSS projects, but that doesn't mean the ROM developer you've hot a hard-on for is going to make good, secure decisions or even take the time to make sure there aren't any BOT/Dial-Home/Logic Bomb content to his/her/its offering – they're out to make a quick name for themselves. Remember, FREE ain't necessarily so. TANSTAAFL!

  • Chris

    Response changes nothing for me. my droid is the last motorola phone I buy if they hold this line.

    It I want locked down stock I’ll buy an iPhone.

    Cd

  • meanmcclean

    it'll get rooted sooner or later……..

    • Phil

      Rooting the Droid X is no easy task. In addition to the eFuse, the bootloader is cryptographically signed and locked. Same as with the Motorola Milestone, which has resisted every attempt to crack it in the 8 months its been out…

      While anything is possible, it probably would require resources in excess of anything your typical ROM hacker has.

  • Phil

    The original Verizon Droid is now being End of Lifed, just 8 months after it's release. Eight months from now, the Droid X will be end of lifed, and users will be stuck at whatever Android version is on the phone at that time…

    No Thanks Verizon.

    I'm moving to the T-Mobile Vibrant. It's already been cracked.

    • Edward

      It's just a question but want makes you think it will End of Lifed for the DroidX? Maybe we will be able to go to the store where they can upload a new version of the android software when it comes out! I mean I think what I will do anyway is buy the next phone that comes out after this one.

  • Dan

    Ill buy one if they learn from this and change their policy back… Just so long as we stop buying right now while they are being dicks.

  • http://ekas0615.student.ipb.ac.id eka

    cool…
    i hope i have 1..
    :p

  • http://ikil06.student.ipb.ac.id/ adryan

    soo…. how i can get it….

  • http://oki.maulana08.student.ipb.ac.id oky

    it'z very cool… this is the best technology….

  • James

    I can just imagine if Apple did this on their iPhone. Would everyone give them a pass like they are for Motorola? Of course with Android you can choose a different phone (as long as every manufacturer doesn't start doing this.)

    The most amazing thing is that Motorola is recommending people buy competing phones from HTC if they want to hack them. That may be unprecedented.

  • http://bambang.wijonarko.student.ipb.ac.id wij

    that's new awesome technology…

  • http://twitter.com/madhatter7zero @madhatter7zero

    I stopped buying motorola phones a long time ago.

  • Josh

    Another reason why Motorola needs to die I think, and IBM for that matter. I pay money for a phone, I want to use it how I want to use it and if I want to root it, it belongs to me. What if Chevy made a car that would only run on Shell gas??
    Great write up Ray.

  • JR Cease

    This person seems to have found a way into the bootloader, at least: http://www.wonderhowto.com/how-to-hack-into-bootl

  • JR Cease

    Actually, it's been ROOTED! Birdman successfully did it: http://www.wonderhowto.com/how-to-root-motorolas-