The hacking and modding community scored a small victory this week when HTC announced it would no longer be locking bootloaders on its handsets. In other words, it will be easier to unlock future HTC phones and, hopefully, tablets. Once a phone is unlocked, it is possible for the end users to load any custom ROM or experience they'd like. What's more, while many of HTC's products are loaded with Sense UI and carrier-branded applications, modders often load a clean and clutter-free version of Android.
HTC's CEO Peter Chou delivered the news via a Facebook post late Thursday night, thanking the company's users for their "passion, support, and patience" in the matter. Earlier in the week, HTC indicated that it was looking into the idea of unlocking bootloaders and promised a followup statement in short order. A few hundred comments and "likes" later, HTC is one of the most popular kids in the smartphone school today.
There's no indication as to when the new bootloader policy will go into effect, nor which handsets will be affected. HTC has a few new releases on the horizon in the form of the Evo 3D and Sensation. And with only a few weeks to go before the models are expected, it would be safe to say that the old system will still be in place
Yet, that could change with a software update down the road. AndroidPolice has gathered a few e-mail responses confirming HTC's plans to include the Evo 3D in the new bootloader policy, either at launch or with an over-the-air (OTA) update. I'd be interested to learn how far back, if at all, HTC will go in making it easy to unlock its phones.
To say that this news only affects a very vocal minority of users would be an understatement. The average Android owner doesn't know anything other than what comes out of the box and wouldn't be able to discern the bootloaders if given the chance. After all, the most popular custom ROM for Android users is CyanogenMod, boasting about 300,000 active installs. That's not a tiny number, but it's nothing when compared to the more than 400,000 new Android activations happening every day.
Regardless of how many people actually benefit from such a change, I am a fan of HTC's new stance. By simply giving customers the choice to tinker a bit with their phones, it adds to the allure of Android. Though many consumers tailor their devices with wallpapers and ringtones, others like to tweak everything, right down to the bootup animations. Another common reason to root a handset is the ability to wipe preloaded applications and services. Whereas most users will be unaffected by HTC's decision, others applaud its effort.
I'd love to hear from you readers on this subject; have you rooted your handset? What phone are you using and why did you choose it? Does this new policy have you reconsidering HTC for future devices?