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.