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Xiaomi makes bootloader unlocking unnecessarily difficult, angers users

Xiaomi is locking down its bootloader with a new firmware update and offending everyone with lengthy delays, a convoluted process and inconsistent treatment of its users.

Published onJanuary 18, 2016

Xiaomi Redmi Note 3 Pro top

Unlocking the bootloader easily on a device you own is considered one of the many rights you should hold after plonking down your cold hard cash. Not every OEM sees things that way though. The latest among these is Xiaomi, which has begun locking down the bootloader with a new firmware update and offending everyone with the process users need to go through to unlock it.

Long story short, Xiaomi is claiming the decision to lock the bootloader was made to limit the possibility of sketchy third-party retailers loading malware onto Xiaomi devices before selling them on to you, the unwitting consumer. While this is a perfectly valid reason for locking the bootloader – and practically all OEMs do this – the problem arises with how Xiaomi is handling unlock requests.

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Rather than provide a simple, speedy and democratic method for unlocking the bootloader, Xiaomi is requiring users to  verify their hardware with the company first, which could take up to three weeks, and then giving special VIP status to active members on its MIUI forum. Everyone else has to provide a reason for wishing to unlock their device and then play the waiting game. Not surprisingly, this is causing waves with pretty much every other Xiaomi owner.

Xiaomi Redmi Note 3 Pro front

But even if you’re lucky enough to be one of the chosen few that doesn’t have to wait weeks for the unlock permission, the process is not exactly ideal. You’ll need to flash a zip file through the Updater app (which wipes everything in the process), log back into your Mi account on both your phone and navigate a Chinese language-only desktop program you also need to download.

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Once you get through all that and unlock your device, you still might face a bricked device or suffer bootloop problems, as some users have reported. While a handy guide to the process in English has been created by a MIUI user and Xiaomi is apparently working on a English version, this is a pretty good example to all other OEMs of exactly how not to handle the bootloader unlock process.

Lengthy delays, a convoluted process, priority treatment for a select few and uncertain results once completed does not exactly scream confidence and the fans are right to be upset. On the other hand, Xiaomi is right to lock the bootloader for security reasons, but this is absolutely not the way to go about it.

Have you got an unlocked bootloader? How easy do you think the process should be?

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