Will LG experience a backlash for locking the G-Slate bootloader?

Taylor Martin
 from  Concord, NC
| August 17, 2011

Oh, LG, I want to love you but I can't. Just when we think you may make it in the smartphone world, you go and do this. You make good phones, not great phones; you raise the bar, but only so much; and now you're locking bootloaders? Let's do the math: that's two tiny steps forward and a mile jog in the opposite direction of other Android OEMs.

When it comes to smartphones – or mobile tablets – specifications are only half the story. A dual-core processor, 1GB RAM, awesome camera and high resolution display only account for a portion of a customers' love for their Android phone. Without development support, a lot of tinkering users may be left mostly unsatisfied down the road. The initial excitement can quickly run out after several bugs – likely due to an OEM's custom software, which can easily be solved with a custom ROM – surface.

This has proven to be the case with some of the most popular HTC and Motorola Android devices. Take the ThunderBolt for instance. I loved the phone when I bought it. Sure, it was a little bulky and battery life was a joke, but it was blazing fast on Verizon's LTE network and features like the camera and Dolby Surround speaker were definitely lovable.

After a month or so of running stock software on the TBolt, my nerves began to wear thin. Text messages would randomly disappear, I would receive false notifications for text messages and emails and sometimes cross-carrier text messages would repeatedly fail to send. Battery life was still laughable after switching LTE off and intermittent lag ultimately led me to root the phone and load third-party software. After making the trek over to a popular Android development forum, I found that third-party development was rather sparse as the ThunderBolt was one of the most locked down phones to date and because it used an entirely different radio configuration than any of its predecessors. Long story short, I dealt with this nonsense for three more long months before jumping ship to the iPhone.

Large amounts of negative feedback has forced HTC to give in to the masses and they recently released a bootloader unlocking tool, currently only for the Sensation.

Motorola, too, has been notorious for making development especially hard on their devices. The DROID X is essentially the poster boy for locked-down Android phones as it was one of the first to ship with a secured bootloader. Tampering with the bootloader would effectively put the phone into a boot loop until the stock loader software was flashed back. Fortunately, there are some pretty smart third-party developers out there who found a workaround and likely salvaged the device's reputation. I can honestly say the DROID X was one of my favorite phones, design-wise. But Motorola's software, which was dubbed MOTOBLUR at the time, was atrocious. Even with the workaround, development was limited and loading custom ROMs became more of a chore, rather than the hobby it should be. Luckily, Google has just purchased Motorola Mobility. We will likely see Moto hardware with more development support as Google openly encourages it and now has the final word.

Until last night, all of LG's devices have been fairly easy to mod. I bought a G2x and had it rooted and ROM'd literally within a few minutes. But the T-Mobile G-Slate, a LG-made 8.9-inch, Honeycomb tablet, was issued an update early this morning that leaves users with an unwanted little surprise: a locked bootloader. Before this update, the G-Slate was one of the more developer-friendly tablets around. This update, however, makes modding the tablet near impossible, for the time being.

This honestly baffles me though. Has LG not been paying attention to their direct competition enough to know that they are all moving away from locked bootloaders? They can't possibly believe this is going to yield positive feedback. In fact, I'm confident in saying G-Slate owners who care the slightest bit about development and modding will likely be furious, especially if they accidentally proceeded with the update without reading about it first. It's one thing to lock a bootloader before releasing a device. Sending out an update and secretly locking it down is just poor planning and a low blow to faithful customers.

This doesn't say much for about whether devices like the G2x or Revolution will be locked in the future, but I will surely be avoiding any official updates from LG for a while – maybe even their products, too. Wake up, LG. Locked bootloaders are so 2010.

Anywho, how do you guys and gals feel about LG's decision to encrypt bootloaders after all of their counterparts are heading in the other direction? Will LG see a huge backlash for their actions? Spill it in the comments below.

Image via Engadget