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Oct 272011
 

One of the significant features of Android is the freedom it gives to its users. A person’s smartphone is defined neither by its faster processor nor the operating system it carries.  Rather, it is defined by how freely a user can make the smartphone his or her own device.


Freedom makes Android stand out from the rest of the mobile platforms. A smartphone, with a blend of personal touch, will stand out from the pile.  This fact has never been more demonstrated than in the active development of custom ROMs in Android’s developer community.

Custom ROMs prove Android’s openness and flexibility.  But, take away users’ freedom to customize their Android smartphones to their liking, and there’s the likely chance that users will feel fenced in.

Such is the possible case that Verizon could face with its much-flaunted, super-thin, and Kevlar-protected Motorola DROID RAZR.

Possible Non-selling Point

Recently, two mobile gaints–Samsung and Motorola–revealed their latest powerful Android smartphones to the public, leaving consumers with a very crucial choice–will it be GALAXY Nexus or the Motorola DROID RAZR?

Being the first to sport Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich, the GALAXY Nexus will turn many heads.  In terms of specs, the GALAXY Nexus has more modest specs than Verizon’s Motorola DROID RAZR.  But, Android 4.0 is a sure head-turner and the DROID RAZR won’t come preloaded with it.

Yet, there are many areas where the Motorola DROID RAZR can easily outshine the GALAXY Nexus, especially with its thin chassis, durability, and protective cover.

The DROID RAZR has a real fighting chance, except that Verizon could have made another wrong move that could make customers turn away from the device: the Motorola DROID RAZR will have a locked bootloader.  This could be a big blow to customers, especially custom ROM enthusiasts whose freedom could be restricted by the locked bootloader.

Seemingly Not Motorola’s Fault

It is not Motorola’s fault at all.  Rather, it is Verizon’s.  Motorola has already developed a solution for locking or unlocking the bootloaders of its upcoming Android smartphones, and Motorola has already said that the Motorola DROID RAZR will be the first to carry that solution.

However, the decision to lock or unlock the bootloader is still the carrier’s decision–and Verizon has decided to keep the bootloader on the DROID RAZR locked.

Verizon opted to keep the device locked for security reasons.  The decision would make perfect sense if one considers the possibility of Verizon’s desire to keep their apps such as VZ Navigator and VCast intact on the DROID RAZR.  These apps are generally useful, although many consider them bloatware, and with a locked bootloader (which consequently restricts root access), users can’t easily remove those and other similar apps if users want to.

Potential Legal Issue with Locking Bootloaders

It’s not just the DROID RAZR that Verizon is keeping tightly sealed.  An earlier popular, although problematic, handset also has a locked bootloader–the HTC Thunderbolt, and it seems that Verizon has itself a legal issue because of it.

The issue has something to do with the HTC Thunderbolt’s use of Block C frequencies, Federal Communications Commission (FCC) regulations regarding use of the Block C frequencies, and Verizon’s decision to lock the HTC Thunderbolt’s bootloader for (possible) “reasonable network management” purposes.

A very informative post by Andrew Krug on AndroidActivist explains more of what the Block C frequencies are all about.  As for why “It is Illegal for Verizon to Lock Some Bootloaders,” azrienoch explains in a read-worthy post on XDA Developers and even recommends filing a complaint with the FCC over the Thunderbolt’s locked bootloader.

Does It Matter?

For many Android users–the average Joe and the average Jane–all this talk about bootloaders, locking/unlocking solutions, rooting, Block C frequencies, and the like would probably never mean anything.  All that the average Android user wants is to be able to use an Android smartphone that works and on a network that provides acceptable service.  The question is, should Joe and Jane make bootloader issues matter when purchasing their next phone?

Feature image uses photo by David Quigley (Flickr); post images courtesy of Flickr users Dazzie D, Johan Larsson, smlp.co.uk, and Daniel Borman

 

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