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In a world where new phones are released and others slip into oblivion almost every week, or so it seems, choosing your next phone is no joking matter. A lot of time and effort is spent researching our next move and weighing a handful of prospective phones against one another. As the market and Android itself evolves, so do the aspects in which we use to justify buying one phone over the other.

When I bought my first Android phone, the CDMA HTC Hero, the last thing on my mind was the specifications. I wanted Android, not a 4.3-inch screen or a 1.5GHz quad-core processor. And even less relevant than specs was the potential for development (hacks and mods) for the phone.

As of late though, people just seem to be looking for the most souped-up phone; the one with the fastest processor, largest screen, most memory, best camera, etc. But with Android, these specifications are only part of the story as manufacturers love to equip their phones with custom skins.

Coming from the Nexus One, which had an unbelievable amount of development support – mainly because it was a developer's phone – each phone thereafter has been a bit lackluster with very few custom ROMs or different tweaks. Take, for instance, the ThunderBolt. In all honesty, it's probably my favorite phone to date. But by golly, I am in dire need for Vanilla Android to save me from Sense UI. Don't get me wrong, I like Sense, but I can only take it in doses.

My waning love for the ThunderBolt can be attributed to HTC making it one of the most locked down phones to date (even though it was short-lived) and creating a few roadblocks for developers – which lie in the RIL, or Radio Interface Layer. Unfortunately, this seems like its only the beginning as evidence of a signed bootloader was spotted on the system dump of the pending Sensation. If you were planning on buying a Sensation – or any Android phone for that matter – and have plans of running a third-party ROM on it, beware, manufacturers are cracking down.

The phone that truly made me pay more attention to phones being locked down was the Droid X. It came with a signed bootloader that would put the phone in a boot loop if you tampered with it. Luckily, some smart developers made a workaround. That said, it was a lot of work and Motorola made it difficult to truly enjoy modding your phone. It became more of a chore or task than a hobby.

Knowing whether a phone will have custom ROM support isn't exactly easy, but if you've been in the game long enough, you can guess at which devices might have more support than others. But when a manufacturer signs a bootloader and locks the device down like Fort Knox, it's impossible to tell what the future of that device will hold on the development front.

It's safe to say that if you don't care to fool with locked down bootloaders and all of this nonsense, your best bet is to stick with a Nexus device. On a positive note, developers nearly always find a way around things. Workarounds and developers are your best friends if you're no fan of the Nexus.

So tell me, readers, do potential for custom ROMs and development support play a role in the decision making process for your next device? Does the Sensation having a signed bootloader make you want it any less? Or do you simply hope that developers will find a way around it?

Image via CNET


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