Following the strong demand expressed by a petition, HTC earlier this year announced that it will remove bootloader protection in future products and gradually release new firmware revisions for existing products, that remove protections originally put in place. Now the company shared more details on these plans on their Facebook page.
HTC explains that while they’d like to make the change in an instant, it’s a process that will take some time to be completed. First and foremost the newer models will get updates to remove bootloader protection. Namely this will be the global HTC Sensation, followed by HTC Sensation 4G (T-Mobile USA) and HTC EVO 3D (Sprint). HTC currently conducts tests of the updated software and expects to release it in September. Later on, updates for further phones shall follow.
Bootloader protection has been used to prevent users from installing custom bootroms. Some of these have been very popular with owners of smartphones that are still waiting to be upgraded to the latest version of Android. Apart from new features, these updates often include security updates, that become more important in todays battled security environment. For manufacturers like HTC keeping old products updated is always some sort of tradeoff. While the new software updates don’t directly contribute to revenue, it might improve customer satisfaction leading to future purchases from the same company.
With the bootloader protection removed, the company enables people to keep their phones updated themselves. Custom ROMs are generally available more quickly, since they often omit vendor customizations. Additionally, the testing effort is done by the users themselves, while it consumes quite a lot of development time for companies who work under more tight conditions.
For example the HTC Desire is still waiting for an Android 2.3.4 update, that is currently under development. Due to limitation of the installed flash memory, HTC has to bundle it with a downgraded variant of their Sense UI. Still for HTC the integration of the Sense UI is important, since it’s their key market differentiator. Recently HTC claimed that the Gingerbread-update shall be ready by the end of July.