Have an old JioFi and Jio STB sitting around? Here’s how to unlock these devices to get more use out of them
Carrier-subsidized devices sound like a great deal on paper. If you’re planning to stick with the carrier anyway, it’s often a no-brainer to jump onto a new device that they offer. But one of the bigger inconveniences that power users have always faced with carrier-subsidized devices is that there is always some or the other restriction. These restrictions are often arbitrary and unrelated to the actual capabilities of the device, so there are a fair few people who are interested in removing the network lock and doing things like getting rid of the carrier-customized software altogether to utilize the full capabilities of the device. When it comes to India’s telecom sector, though, people mostly use smartphones off-contract, which is why we don’t really see any carrier-locking here. Having said that, the landscape is slowly changing because of Reliance Jio.
Being India’s leading telecom service provider, Jio offers a plethora of subsidized hardware solutions in order to persuade the users to dip their toes into the company’s ecosystem. However, as you can speculate, a majority of them are tied to Jio’s network. From the JioFi range of portable cellular hotspots to the Android-powered Jio set-top box (commonly referred to as the Jio STB) that you can get with its fiber-to-the-home broadband service, the carrier strictly follows a walled garden approach, as there’s no official way to unlock them and subsequently mod the firmware.
Luckily, thanks to the efforts of some XDA forum members, you can now break free from these barriers. If you already have hands on one of the aforementioned devices and want to use a different SIM on the JioFi or enable Android debugging access on the Jio set-top box for easier app sideloading, then you’ll be happy to know that the modding community has managed to circumvent the arbitrary limitations on select hardware variants. The details of the unlocking process can be found below:
How to unlock JioFi for all networks
Having your SIM locked on a mobile hotspot device really hinders the notion of mobility itself. In the case of JioFi, you can pop out the existing Jio SIM and insert a different data SIM from another carrier, but the stock firmware won’t let you connect to anything other than its parent carrier network. For those of you who are beholden to Jio, fear not as XDA Senior Member abhimortal6 managed to come up with a modded firmware to network-unlock the third generation JioFi devices so that you can use any SIM without restrictions.
Successfully reverse engineered @reliancejio’s JioFi 3(JMR540).
Unlocked SIM tested with Vi so far all network should work. Gained shell and adb access. Modified /rootfs for permanent changes. I’ve to say Foxconn designed a good device took whole day to modify the firmware pic.twitter.com/Nlp1mx5wDa
— Abhijeet Tripathi (@ab_hi_j) May 20, 2021
You can install the carrier unlocked firmware on your JioFi 3 (model number JMR 540 and JMR 541, originally made by Foxconn) using the method provided in detail in the forum post linked below. After a successful firmware flash, the web dashboard will allow you to change the APN settings and connect to a non-Jio network.
Notably, you can’t use the modded firmware package on newer generations of the JioFi. If you have a spare JioFi device that’s not supported by this method, you can get in touch with the modder through our forums and help him reverse engineer the recent models.
How to enable ADB access and sideload apps on the Jio STB
The Jio set top box ships with a highly customized version of Android 9 Pie that doesn’t even feature the Google Play Store. The carrier removed the regular package installer from the firmware and locked down Android debugging access by hiding the standard Android Settings app under the custom skin. We all know what Jio means by this – the company doesn’t want people to reuse the device as a standard Android TV box, which is an arbitrary restriction as the device is fairly capable.
XDA Member RealEngineer has discovered a nifty trick to modify the system partition of the Jio STB (model number C200 and D200) by exploiting the Amlogic SoC’s flashing protocol. After replacing the system partition with the ported Mi Box Android TV 9.0 firmware by XDA Senior Member aidanmacgregor, one can permanently enable ADB access and restore the stock firmware back. If successful, users would have an unshackled Android set-top box. If unsuccessful, people would end up with a dead STB. Luckily for us, the former scenario played out, and the result of this can be found in the following thread.
Keep in mind that once you unlock your device using this method, you have to block the official OTA client. Taking a new system update may possibly revert back all the changes, or even brick your device in the worst-case scenario. Also, note that Jio may break this method in the future by blocking the Amlogic flashing path, but we hope to see another exploit popping up then.
Are you excited about what these developments will bring? Let us know what you hope to do with an unlocked device in the comments below.