Wednesday, 22 August 2018

HMD Global, give us the ability to unlock the bootloader of our Nokia smartphones!


We, Nokia blogs, exist not only to spread Nokia news but also to point out the mistakes done by Nokia Mobile/HMD Global. It has been almost a year since HMD Global promised to unlock the bootloader, but there has not been a single word about it from them yet.


Firstly, what's a bootloader? The bootloader starts up the Android operating system when you turn on the phone. Alternatively, the bootloader can start up recovery mode. When a phone is in recovery, it can execute large pieces of code that totally rewrite the Android operating system. However, they contain an extra layer of security that checks to make sure that it only loads an operating system that passes its approval process. The exact process of checking for unauthorized software varies from phone to phone, but the effects are the same no matter what. You can’t run any operating system the manufacturer did not approve.

A locked bootloader means you can’t install your own OS. For most people, that’s fine. However, if you want to put the latest version of LineageOS or any other custom ROM on your phone, a locked bootloader means you can’t. 

When Nokia entered the mobile business again, they choose to go with Stock Android promising faster and consistent updates. It was a great move since they don't have to build any skins of their own, saving them time and money. But Stock Android is a double sided sword. It is the form of Android as Google intended it to be. You get a pure AOSP version of Android with no bloatware. The Manufacturer lets the users decide what to install on their phones and not the other way around. It also ensures a fluid and snappy UI, unlike some of the heavily customised skins (say Samsung experience etc). On the flip side, it lacks features. It's just a bare-bones version of Android, meaning there're no extra features say applock or themes or whatever. 

Not everyone is a fan of pure Android, mainly because it lacks features and customisation options inbuilt. So, what they do? Install Custom ROMs and/or gain root access! Custom ROMs can improve the performance, battery life and you can even modify things like the force of your vibration, the saturation of the colours on your screen and much more. Last but not the least, Updates! Custom ROMs bring Android Oreo even to a four/ five-year-old device. HMD Global have been doing great in terms of updates. But that's for only two, three years. After that? You will be stuck on that last version of Android Nokia provided you. But if we had unlocked bootloader and open sourced kernel, that wouldn't be the end of the road. Developers can build the latest version of Android for your device. This will make Nokia 6 2017 run Android Q, R and maybe even the next versions and not just be stuck with Android Pie. 

Actually, all the Android manufacturers have to go by the GPL/LGPL licences and agreements. GPL requires you to release the modified source code(Android in this case) if you release the modified program to the public. As of now, Nokia Mobile have released the source code only for a few of their devices. Come on HMD Global, speed up! 

Hey, wait. What is the use of source code alone without a proper way to unlock the bootloader? Developers can't still build their own ROMs. We don't want Nokia Mobile to be seen as a community which is not developer-friendly. This is keeping many away from buying Nokia phones, again! We are already seeing ports of Android Pie making their way to legacy devices. This won't be worrying us until Nokia provides updates. But after that? We'll be seeing devices older than Nokia phones getting the latest version of Android. But Nokia phones would be still running an old version of Android, leaving the Nokia users to envy. 

Nokia Mobile argues that unlocking the bootloader will pose security concerns. While that's true, people who're getting into these know what they're up to and are mostly aware of the risks involved. An average consumer, wouldn't even get into these things. So they'll be still "secure". 

Because of that locked bootloader, we have to only dream of getting more features which Android One doesn't offer. Why doesn't HMD Global provide a more feature-rich yet stock-ish OS like on the phones sold in China? You can still provide monthly security updates and system updates without the Android One banner. You are doing it in China. It sure takes more time and energy, but it's worth that. HMD Global has the commitment and can provide a ROM with more features and still provide monthly security updates, staying true to their "Pure, secure and up to date" motto. If Nokia Mobile can't do that, at least let the developers do it. An unlocked bootloader unlocks the door to endless possibilities.

Back in, September 2017, Mikko Jaakkola, CTO of HMD Global agreed on unlocking the bootloader of Nokia smartphones and later tweeted that they will unlock one model at a time. But, it's been almost a year and there has been no word on this topic



Smartphones won't be perfect all the time. Problems do arise from time to time, whatever be the brand. In those scenarios, an official stock firmware and flashing tool come in handy. Nokia gave users a Nokia Software Recovery Tool. Will HMD Global provide these to us?

So what can we, the end users do for that? Reach out to them on social media!  Tweet your thoughts to @NokiaMobile, @Sarvikas and also sign this petition on Change.org and make our voices be heard. They have promised to unlock the devices after all. Let's hope they hear us :) 

Nokia always values the feedback from their customers. HMD Global will you listen to those users requesting this?

We, on behalf of all those Nokia fans, request HMD Global to provide us with an option to unlock the bootloaders of our Nokia Smartphones.

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