Verizon locks the bootloader on its Galaxy S3 model

by: LucianJuly 7, 2012

If there’s a good phone out there that doesn’t have too many flaws, and it arrives in the US, you can usually count on Verizon to ruin it.

It happened with the One series from HTC, which they made unrecognizable by turning it into the less pretty and underpowered Droid Incredible 4G LTE, which also comes a name to match its looks. The same thing is now happening with the Samsung Galaxy S3, which Verizon decided to release with a locked bootloader.

Verizon is known for consistently locking bootloaders on Motorola and HTC phones, but until recently, we weren’t sure if it’s the manufacturers or the carriers who are to blame for the policy. It was usually the manufacturers who got the backlash, though. But now, I’m starting to think that it was actually Verizon forcing their hand all along.

Carriers are even imposing certain phone designs on manufacturers, which goes to show how powerful the carriers have become in their relationship with manufacturers. The only example that I’ve seen to buck this trend lately is the Galaxy S3, which, surprisingly, managed to keep the same design across all carriers in the US. I guess Samsung didn’t win everything, which explains the locked bootloader on Verizon.

Carriers want locked bootloaders for different reasons. The main reason they will bring up is security. They don’t want phones to be hacked. But I think the actual reason why carriers want locked bootloaders is because they don’t want users to use tethering apps or other such apps that they wouldn’t normally approve on their network.

But if carriers are are genuinely worried about the customer’s security, then there are better alternatives to locking down the phone.

HTC’s model of allowing power users to unlock their phones through a webpage is a pretty good one, but I believe Google’s model for the Nexus devices provides the best compromise between security and full user access. On Nexus devices, rooting and unlocking the phone is done easily through a command sent via ADB to your phone. This approach secures the user’s data against being stolen, by wiping the phone out when the device is lost. So, if someone steals your phone (and presumably it has a PIN or lock), he won’t be able to access your data, even though rooting and unlocking the phone is very easy to do.

Samsung hasn’t recognized this “issue” yet, let alone provide tools for unlocking the Verizon Galaxy S3, like HTC does. But the guys at XDA developers are hoping to find a way to unlock and root the phone soon.

  • b1six
    • nic

      That just circumvents the locked bootloader. The bootloader is still locked. Though I am sure someone will find a solution.
      I woudnt worry too much just is a prime example how much Verizon has contempt for the end user for profit. Locked bootloader = less perceived % of bricked phones or damaged devices in the return or replacement cycle. Remember these sort of companies always blame the user first. They have likely convinced themselves that rooters are to blame for all of the replacement devices and looses related to it.

  • Androidbeginner

    I just got a Samsung Galaxy 3III for my birthday. I don’t know the first thing about smartphones (or iPhones, for that matter), so I have no idea what a bootloader is or how it being locked will affect me as a user, and I don’t even know what Verizon is. Would I be better served getting a different smartphone, or is this not a big deal? I’m located in Europe, if that makes any difference. Not seeing any mention of Verizon anywhere on the package.

    • Bob

      Theres probably no verizon in europe

    • EddieT

      This only applies to Verizon customers in the US

  • Droidhackangel

    You should not get any smartphones at all.

  • Having root access is the only thing that has made me keep my original Droid for so long. If I had known before hand that they were going to lock the Gs3, I wouldn’t have ordered it. Carriers have way to much power over manufactures. That is why a superior piece of hardware with a larger screen and battery (aka: a tablet $300) can sell for hundreds of dollars less then a phone sold through a major carrier. $700

    As long as we are forced to buy our phones from the carriers then they run the entire business. It’s a monopoly. Carriers don’t have a monopoly on tablets yet. That is why we pay closer to what they are really worth.

  • TommyNYC

    I give it a week (or less) and we see a root / unlocker around.
    I for one plan on rooting the phone asap.
    On a side note: fuck you verizon for screwing up devices.

  • Cole Raney

    Verizon used to cripple blue tooth on phones. I guess they haven’t given up their old tricks. That mixed with their slow service in non-LTE areas keep me from ever switching from AT&T.

    • anon

      They also cap, shape, and port block their data lines.

  • Richard

    Verizon can suck a big dick

    • bachinphx

      And they do!

      • anon

        NO, Verizon customers are sucking the Verizon dick.

  • Hi,

    I wanted to draw your attention to this important petition that I recently signed:

    “Verizon Samsung Galaxy S3 Bootloader Petition [Sign here]”

    I really think this is an important cause, and I’d like to encourage you to add your signature, too. It’s free and takes just a few seconds of your time.


  • A buddy of mine has a GSM RAZR Maxx, it came with a locked bootloader as well. Don’t blame the carriers.