Is HTC purposefully handicapping its bootloader unlock tool on One Series devices?

Daniel Bader

May 2, 2012 2:31pm

The HTC One X is a powerhouse. It’s fast, beautiful and infinitely capable. At least it is on paper. According to some digging by XDA-Developers members, using HTC’s own bootloader unlocking tool renders it, and the sibling One S, partially damaged. While the extent is not fully known at the moment, it seems that unlike previous devices like the Sensation and Amaze 4G, once the bootloader is unlocked on a One X it is not able to flash recoveries and boot images, the essence to being able to install custom ROMs on the device.

Once unlocked, the One S Fastboot menu displays a huge ****TAMPERED**** sign right above where it indicates that the bootloader is unlocked. Though the Rogers One X doesn’t display this behaviour, its presence in general is new to current-generation HTC devices, and is likely used to indicate to the carrier that the device was manually unlocked and didn’t come like that from the factory.

RootzWiki, a site dedicated to tweaking and hacking Android phones, has written a great piece titled “Dear HTC, Can We Have Our Phones Back?” It details how, despite the company’s public displays of affection towards the developer community, ceding one of the first bootloader unlocking programs in the industry, they’ve taken steps in the One Series of devices to prevent users from getting at its innards once it is unlocked. As Steven Smith, the piece’s author says of his experience: “I am going to let everyone know now: do not plan on just stopping at rooting this and calling it a day, I tried to remove bloat with Root Explorer and came to a brick wall of denial. I found out you also cannot flash custom kernels in recovery mode.”

It turns out that even with an unlocked bootloader, you cannot flash anything in the boot partition, only to the tmp partition that, once rebooted, restores the original kernel to its rightful place. This prevents user from easily, and safely, using code that isn’t approved by HTC. Not to mention that the phone doesn’t have a removable battery in case it gets into trouble with a particular hacking exercise.

The gist of the piece is this: by unlocking the phone’s bootloader, users are forgoing their rights to warranty. This is understood. But HTC is further preventing users from enjoying their phone once it is us unlocked, potentially crippling what could be a fantastic custom ROM experience, and that’s not right.

There will no doubt be ways around this: Android developers are nothing if not resourceful. But it shouldn’t be this way, which is why RootzWiki wants users to spread the word and ask HTC to give us our phones back.

For regular users, however, the HTC One X is currently our favourite Android phone. You can also read our review.

Source: RootzWiki


  • robbie

    HTC…what were you thinking???

  • ASH

    Comeon gimme my ICS, and let me go home!

  • David

    Weird, this didn’t happen with my Rogers One X.

    I unlocked mine using the HTC dev site too, but my bootloader only says *** UNLOCKED ***, it doesn’t say *** TAMPERED ***

    • Lawlerballer

      Maybe it’s just an Amhurrican thing with HTC and the carriers there.

      Either way, screw HTC, they’ve gone down hill when it come to openness. Phone designs (especially the One series) are still pretty damn nice, too bad it comes with shoddy build quality like dust entering in the screen

    • Duw

      As is my Tegra One X.

    • David

      Honestly, I think they jumped the gun here. They ran into a wall on a single One S and are now claiming that HTC has crippled the entire One series. It’s only fair to keep investigating before jumping down HTC’s throat.

      Right now, devs seem well on their way to an unsecure boot on the One X LTE.

    • Tom


      If this is just something done to the AT&T variant (at the behest of AT&T) then I will quit being mad at HTC and resume my plan to get this phone.

  • Gab

    waiting for that one x review.

    • Nascar39

      Why are you waiting, the link to the review is at the end of the article, click “read our review” which is highlighted in blue lettering.

  • TouchMyBox

    Crap like this is why I only purchase Nexus-branded devices. Everything else is an unknown quanitity when it comes to hackability.

  • Deli

    I pushed for htc phones since the G1. But their locked bootloader policy has turned me off. Such a damn hassle to get it unlocked. And yes, im very proficient at rooting and softmodding, but it is such a hassle to work with htc phones these days.

  • Matthew

    I hope they arnt. It took me awhile to get my sensation rooted but way worth it, the snapdragon S3 is a terrible processor but its running really well at 1.84ghz on senseless ics

  • d3v14n7

    Devs on XDA are working hard to get around this, shouldn’t be too long now… And with a working root method apparently coming out tomorrow for ATT and Rogers One X devices, we’ll have a lot more devs working on them…

    Regardless, the HTX One X is a beautiful phone, and I wouldn’t trade mine for any other phone out there… You’ll have to pry it out of my cold, dead fingers!

  • JSLEnterprises

    The device will not say ***Tampered*** until a flash attempt is made… if you simply unlock it, it will just say **Unlocked**

    We Also now have a root method via superboot fastboot boot superboot.img for Rogers One X devices.

    AT&T’s bootloaders cannot be Unlocked via HTCDev at the moment… the MID’s seem to be ‘Blacklisted’

  • Craig

    The Rogers One X certainly does exhibit this behaviour, as I’ve witnessed on my own phone. I unlocked it at HTCDev, but “tampered” didn’t show up until I actually rooted the phone. The bootloader checks the system integrity, so I’m presuming it detects an altered CRC once the system has been altered, and that’s when “tampered” shows up.

    I’ve seen no hard evidence yet that unlocking the device invokes any additional restrictions, but there are lots of well-backed theories floating around.

  • umhhmm

    does anyone know if i can remove the tampered bannerflag from my htc one s (ville s4) i am bootloader unlocked root and s=off with stock 4.1.1 jellybean rom .