Essential Phone Will have an Unlockable Bootloader
There is a lot of hype surrounding Andy Rubin’s Essential Phone. The Essential Phone is priced among the upper echelon of smartphones. It’s in the same tier as the Samsung Galaxy S8/S8+, Xiaomi Mi 6, or the Xperia XZ Premium. The Snapdragon 835 SoC or its 128 GBs of internal storage aren’t what make this phone unique — its modularity does.
The Essential Phone is one of a few devices that can be enhanced with modules. In fact, the pre-order version will ship with a 360° camera (if you want to pay an $50 extra, of course).
While we have a lot of information about the device’s hardware, we don’t learn all that much about its software. Essential’s founder, Andy Rubin, is one of the original minds behind the Android OS. He was one of the co-founders of the small company working on Android before it was acquired by Google almost a decade ago. Android started as a completely open-source project that has since evolved into the most popular mobile OS in the world. Would Rubin’s return to Android be marked by the openness that the first Google smartphones were known for?
A few days ago, the Essential team answered a question asked by an inquiring user about the status of the phone’s bootloader.
Hey there Ruvort, the Essential Phone will have an unlockable bootloader.
— Essential (@essential) June 1, 2017
The Essential Phone will have an unlockable bootloader. Whether or not the phone will be unlockable like Nexus/Pixel/OnePlus devices through a single fastboot command, or unlockable through an online tool, has yet to be seen. Having an unlocked bootloader is the first step to building a healthy developer community. It opens a whole new way of customization by giving users a chance to flash custom ROMs, kernels, recoveries etc.
However, an unlocked bootloader isn’t enough to ensure adequate custom software support. We also need the kernel source to be released in a timely manner as well as support for any proprietary hardware components to function properly.
What can Essential do to bolster development? They can follow Sony’s approach and release the Apache-licensed sources to foster developer relations. They could also follow the lead of OnePlus and just release the binary blobs for some proprietary components, just as OnePlus did for Dash Charge to work on custom ROMs.
We can’t wait to finally get our hands on the Essential Phone. Although some users are skeptical of the phone’s front-facing camera placement and the lack of a headphone jack, the phone seems to be a great start for a start-up.