Motorola Droid X

So the bootloader on the Droid X is locked. We know this. For many developers and hackers, it's a bit of a disappointment as the original Motorola Droid became a de facto dev phone because it ran stock Android 2.0 and had an unlocked bootloader. That allowed them (and us) to easily flash new ROMs onto the phone.

So what's the deal with the Droid X? Motorola's Lori Fraleigh explains in a recent blog post from way back in February: 

"We understand there is a community of developers interested in going beyond Android application development and experimenting with Android system development and re-flashing phones.  For these developers, we highly recommend obtaining either a Google ADP1 developer phone or a Nexus One, both of which are intended for these purposes.  At this time, Motorola Android-based handsets are intended for use by consumers and Android application developers, and we have currently chosen not to go into the business of providing fully unlocked developer phones.

"Securing the software on our handsets, thereby preventing a non-Motorola ROM image from being loaded, has been our common practice for many years. This practice is driven by a number of different business factors. When we do deviate from our normal practice, such as we did with the DROID, there is a specific business reason for doing so. We understand this can result in some confusion, and apologize for any frustration."

That's the way Moto wants it, and that's the way it will be. For the time being, it looks like the Nexus One will remain Google's official dev phone. It is also a sure bet that the Android hacker community will descend onto the X like a swarm once it is released, so have no fear.  And it also stands to reason the "unannounced" Droid 2 might be seeing the same "feature."

Our question to you: Is this a deal-breaker? Or can you still not wait to get your hands on Moto and Verizon's new hotness? [MotoDev via Android and Me]


Reader comments

Motorola: Droid X isn't a dev phone, buy the Nexus One if you want ROMs


It is beyond a deal breaker. I will never purchase Motorola products again, period. I will also encourage friends, family and co-workers to stay as far away from Motorola as possible and ask them, if they would, to inform their friends, family and co-workers to do the same. Motorola has snubbed those that helped make the Droid the success that it is. In doing so it is only right that we effect Motorola the only way they will understand and that is their bottom line. The more sales I can deny Motorola the better. They will only listen to the consumer when we vote with our wallets.

Wow, you sure are going to teach Motorola a lesson. They'll only lose the sales of hardcore nerds and their loved ones who believe their mouth-frothing rants.

lol, you said it man.

I want to say I like to modify phones, but if this beast is good as it comes i'll sure stay with stock.

Your comment doesn't make sense. The first droid was also locked but due to a vulnerability the community was able to gain access and put roms on it. Motorola's other phones are like this as well.... they simply fixed the vulnerability.

Now. I don't like this either and feel like its a slap to open source and android initiatives but if you are going to make an argument against not buying the product ... at least get it right.

The Droid didn't have a signed bootloader and didn't have a Tripwire to block custom roms.

It had a standard lock on the OS to prevent every day users from accidentally deleting their phone app, but it wasn't locked down like all their other devices. In the press release itself, Motorola said that the Droid was unique in how open it was because their business partners (verizon and google) forced it to be.

The Bootloader is nothing new. It's what they had on every version of the droid that wasn't on verizon (called the milestone). But the Efuse that bricks the phone if you try loading custom roms is new.


Based on the fact that Motorola is locking their phones now - this *could* be a dealbreaker for me.

But I have a question I can't seem to find an answer to ... that is - does your phone have to be rooted to develop apps for it using the SDK Google provides? Is root access required for that?

I read something about "sideloading" - how does that relate to the new Droid not allowing packages from unknown sources?

To quote Motorola's comment ...

"... At this time, Motorola Android-based handsets are intended for use by consumers and Android application developers, and we have currently chosen not to go into the business of providing fully unlocked developer phones. ..."

They specifically say intended for use by application developers.

Am I missing something here?

Thanks in advance for your help :)

To develop a program on an Android phone you just need the SDK - no need to hack the rom or develop on an unlocked phone.

I personally don't care too much about putting custom roms on the droid x so it doesn't bother me at all.

I think a better way to say it is that "you don't care too much NOW about putting custom roms on the droid x." Obviously this depends greatly how long you want to keep the phone, but if you keep it past the next major software update and Motorola isn't quick with a software release you may change your mind.

well i hope they realize how many customers they are going to loose to this stupid choice of theirs. we spend all this money on phones but can't control how WE want them to look? i mean common really? well if verizon WOULD come out with the N1 i would not think twice of purchasing one. good thing i got the Dinc, and my Droid. Motorola you really let us down this time BIG TIME. also guys that blog was for the milestone and not the droid x. but most likely it will be the same for the x

They'll hardly lose any customers over this. The people who populate forums like this are a tiny fraction of the people who buy smartphones, and only a small number of the people here really care about rooting.

The typical buyer who walks into a Verizon store won't even know this controversy exists, and if you asked them about "rooting" they'd think it has something to do with gardening.

No, a good chunk of them will respond with "you mean like jailbreaking, right?"

A lot of customers with no personal interest in rooting won't like hearing this news because one of the reasons they were sold on android was how open it was.

And while the rooting community is nowhere close to the majority, it IS significant, especially on the moto droid (the only stock OS phone that verizon carries with android right now) because the thing was a de-facto dev phone. it won't destroy the company by doing this, but it will financially hit them, and the dev community is growing rather fast.

unless you have a Mytouch, or a G1, or a Hero, or any phone that doesnt have the capabilities of 2.1+, then there really is no point in rooting! thats my opinion, anyway! but of course, i have a Nexus One, so im eating my Froyo, and ready for a taste of Gingerbread! Funny thing is, i and the many N1 users, will probably have our Gingerbread about the time when most get Froyo! lol

There is plenty of reasons to root besides the OS features.

For one, I do not like a gray taskbar, I prefer black. I would like everything that is gray to be black, my overlay text to be white, highlighted items to be blue or red, ability to change my icons or colors of icons. Without root I am unable to do this. If they gave me the ability to customize the look of the OS more, I would care less about root.

This wasn't a "recent" post by Motorola. This is something they posted way back in February. They probably still feel this way, but this is way old and out of date news.

Yup, I remember some of the devs on twitter posting the link. Either way, I'm glad someone finally posted an article about it, hopefully HTC wont take the same approach.

Funny how the fringe gets wild about stuff like this. I'm pretty addicted to my Moto Droid but I'm still not going to root and I am just fine by not flashing ROMS. Just remember those of your pitching a fit about this account for about 1% of those buying smart phone.

Bugless beast, a SINGLE ROM for the motorola droid had well over 30k downloads in the first 24 hours of release. That is only one option from the over half a dozen major players for the moto droid.

While the rooting community isn't the majority by a long shot, but it's not the fringe either. Motorola will continue to sell a lot of phones, no doubt, but they will take a (financially) significant hit if they never release another dev phone.

Custom roms aren't too important to me... but I would like the option to remove any bloat that the phones come with. I would also like to be able to put whatever I want in my phone too.

To me it's more of the peace of mind knowing I can do something rather then not having the option at all.

If you're on Verizon, you don't really have a choice between the X or the N1. Verizon isn't going to release the N1! That's the problem. For CDMA users, it's becoming almost impossible to get a Android phone that actually runs stock Android. (Wow, an Android phone that actually just runs Android... what a concept.) I think Google really needs to make an N2, and this time they need to push as hard as possible to get it onto to every US carrier.

Are you kidding me, Verizon customers are in denial. Not being able to flash roms on your phone is a big dealbreaker, if you dont care about having your freedom locked down get an Iphone. Android is all about open source, look at the G1, I mean that phone is still relevant because of Custom roms, how would you feel after you just bought a new android device, and learn your manufacturer has just pulled the plug on future updates, while your locked into a two year deal. Come on guys,this is like cutting the life span of your phone in half.

ok being able to get custom roms and root your phone is kind of a droid staple by now. its the reason you wouldnt want an i phone. if you cant do these things why get a droid? Me personally i didnt root my droid or use custom roms and dont care to so i have no regrets about getting my x however this will still cause them to lose alot of customers.

Can't help but wonder if the people telling everyone that this is no big deal are the same ones who are constantly complaining about how long they have to wait for OS updates. Personally, I've been running 2.2 on my Moto Droid since a few days after it was first spotted on the Nexus One. The ability to do things like this - to truly own my device - is one of my main reasons for supporting the Android platform.

@Bloodthirsty - You're right about one thing - the modding community is relatively small at this point. The thing is that we are the most vocal and enthusiastic supporters of Android, because we recognize the real power of the platform. For Moto to flat-out tell us that we're not wanted, and that we should buy phones from the competition, is extremely short-sighted.

This is crazy alot of manufactures lock down bootloaders. But Motorola is different they have digitally signed the bootloader and on top of that put an efuse in their so if I were to try and load an unofficial non Motorola signed rom, kernel etc. My device is bricked for me, needing to be returned to Motorola for repair, but guess what my warranty is gone. No manufacturer has gone this far to block root or custom roms. No matter how good a product they produce I can't support it. So bye Motorola its been fun. But I will no longer buy your products

Well, that's one way to be absolutely certain there will be really good people trying really hard to hack your security.

EDIT: I don't think this is a support and warranty issue either. They could easily provide as is devices without support and warranty services should someone request a developer version of the hardware. They even have this Motodev channel they could use to do it.

From the post, it seems pretty obvious - they don't want our business. No sweat...I like my Droid, but there are a lot of other manufacturers out there. I'm sure that one or more of them will see the potential of the market that Moto is sending away.

The problem is that short of the Droid, there are no other options for stock android on Verizon right now. The closest is the freaking LG Ally (which has it's own skin, and who knows if it will EVER get 2.2)

So for people wanting stock android on verizon, they're SOL right now. The Droid2 looks to have moto's custom skin on it as well, and since rooting is a no-go, changing that isn't an option.

I own the Motorola Droid and its well built phone, survives pretty tough abuse, some of which iphone users would have a heart attack over if it happened to their precious, and i never root my phone because after the 2.1 update I'm happy with what i have, I would like 2.2 but I don't need it.

Those are my 2 cents.

in reality, all i truely want that isn't stock is my wifi tether app. everything else i do on my droid now is basically just a bonus. having the chance to really play with the phone, it's really snappy and fast so im more than satisfied with the speed of it. i've always felt my droid to be a bit sluggish [and yes it's overclocked to 800mhz and running bugless beast fr0.4]. so yeah, if i can get root access to just install specific apps, i'd be more than happy. that phone is waaaaaay too sexy to pass up

Then if they have no way to turn it off your not getting it Plain and simple. I know alot of developmers will continue to support Motorola devices but for how long. With the rapid pace of android phone releases 3-6 months is along time to sit back and wait to get a device's bootloader unlocked. And when that eventually happens its going to be old news. With new and better devices out. That's a big hit to me I really like bring able to flash cm bb and any other rom I choose and not being tied down to factory look and feel.

Does the HTC Droid Incredible not have a signed bootloader? Why did it take so long for the Droid Incredible to get rooted?

And is there hope that the Droid X could get rooted at some point and that the signed bootloader could get cracked? In other words is there any probability that customs ROMs on the Droid X could happen?

The HTC Incredible DOES NOT have a signed bootloader. You can root the phone as well as install custom ROMs. The Droid X not only has a signed bootloader but also an Efuse. If someone attempts to load a custom ROM image the Efuse will brick the phone. What Motorola has done with this is basically telling the consumer that the money they spent is a "right to use" the phone as opposed to a "right to own". This is unacceptable in every way, shape and form.

Thanks for the clarification. I did root my Droid Incredible by the way. Took me 4 hours last night. LOL Can't wait until a complete Froyo build is done! Right now the CM6 build lacks camera support.

I think I will stick with my Incredible. I was seriously considering the X but it is out of question if you can't install ROMs on it. I don't like the idea to depend on a manufacturer for OS updates.

Will they be able to block pda net in the android market for the x? if so, did verizon want motorola to do this so they can charge for tethering?

Welcome Droid owners to the same BS Milestone owners lived with. My Milestone was so buggy that I couldn't use it. I dropped calls often, had the music bug and others. The problem was I couldn't even load up a custom ROM. These problems started for me in March with the 2.1 update and guess what? They still haven't patched the damn thing. I got off the Moto boat and bought an N1.

Worse though is that I would now hesitate to buy any Android phone that isn't a direct from Google. I want my Android to work and I don't feel like gambling with contracts or the cost of an unsubsidized phone. I will pass on any non-Google Android phone regardless of review score or manufacturer. I just don't trust that their Android will work right.

I do believe Verizon has a hand in this seeing that so many people tether for free. Although rooting may still allow it, they may see locking it down as a way to deter some. Think about it, it's $20 a month per account AND it's capped so they stand to not only lose subscription fees but over-use fees as well.

Personally since Froyo is right around the corner and my biggest reason for loading a different rom is mostly for Flash and performance, I'm not that worried because Froyo will have flash and the X is very quick as is. Sure I'd love to tether for free, but I have no doubt root is coming and will allow that anyway. But even if it doesn't come, I can definitely live without it.

They made an exception to their rule with the Motorola Droid, the Verizon version of the Milestone (the milestone was locked). They said that they didn't sign the loader of the Droid because of business agreements. That agreement was with Verizon (unless Google strongarmed them both, which I doubt)

Locking phone's down is Motorola's standard operating procedure. the only thing verizon "did" in this case was let them continue with it instead of actively block it.

And if the rooting community is a "fringe" like so many people point out, then the lost revenues from tethering wouldn't be that great.

Verizon does some pretty bone-headed things sometimes, but I think this one was all Motorola's doing.

You could be right although I don't see Verizon being in favor of any kind of hacking, it's just not in their best interest.

With the original droid, I think it was.

Think about it. one of the catchphrases for the Droid launch was "compromise deactivated." They built the thing to be head and shoulders over any current offering and positioned it directly against the "closed" ecosystem of apple.

By launching it untouched, they got a ton of people interested in the platform since Verizon has/had the reputation of locking down their devices and "crippling" the software. This device had no compromises in software or hardware. Heck, it barely had bloatware.

Because of this a LOT of developers (including app developers) started working on stuff for the Motorola Droid in particular (think about how many apps only worked with the droid/N1 initially, and this wasn't an OS requirement so much as screen resolution and NDK) The Droid skyrocketed their smartphone sales, and at least part of that was because the device was totally untouched.

Well let's see what unfolds in the coming weeks. I don't foresee too much of a backlash as the Droid X is very appealing. But if there is in fact a backlash, then maybe Verizon and Moto will sit down and rethink things. Either way, I'm getting my X tomorrow (hopefully). :)

I'm one of those oddballs that's on the fence for this.

I'm an owner of a nexus and have rooted/loaded a custom rom. Given what Froyo provides, I'm seeing less of a need for a custom rom, so its quite possible that I won't need to have a custom rom on the Droid X

With that said, it bothers me that I don't have the option toe make that decision myself.

Will I get the DX? Maybe - its a 50-50 chance right now.

The biggest problem I see is if you don't want to upgrade phones every 2 years. In this case, forget that updates will be slow during the first two years of life, all providers will stop doing any updates to older phones to both manage support costs and drive sales of new devices. But I think the fervor with rooting and romming will slow down once the features level off some. For example, when almost all high end phones have two cams, a good video call UI, and 4G bandwidth, and a ridiculous number of apps that don't require rooting, things may calm down. But for now, I want the capability of adding real function to my device, and not waiting on the providers to do so, as they are slow. I don't mind paying for a new device every 2 years IF there is something compelling, but I have found myself waiting on the right phone/features. Because I'm on AT&T, and a cheap bastard (I want my subsidized price), I'm still sporting a nearly 4 year old Treo680. I don't want to be, but there is ALWAYS a faster/neater device, I want what I want, Desire/Nexus size and function, on AT&T, subsidized, and it isn't there yet. Once it is, I can get more real function added over time with Android-can't do that with the Treo, or very well with other OS's, or locked bootloader, so no moto fo me!

The issue of tethering cant you just load PDAnet, i know its not the best option but from my experience its the easiest to do, I have never had an issue with it, and using Google Chrome browser with it on my computer I dont have to deal with the secure sites being blocked

It means it is an official Google phone. The only 2 phones like that out currently are the G1 and the Nexus One.

It's a "with google" device, but it's not one that Google had a hand in developing directly (at least officially). Dev phones are the phones handed out to google's programming teams and to application developers. They are designed to be easy to root/unlock because it helps further the platform.

The Motorola Droid is the Closest thing a CDMA carrier has gotten to a Dev phone.

It's interesting how evenly split 3 ways the vote is on this so far.
Obviously the peeps who regularily visit AC will be more likely than everyday consumers to want custom ROMs etc. Anyways, they stance from Motorola is that not locking down the bootloader like with the Droid is a deviation from what they normally do. Does anyone know their official stance on why they did on the Droid that is different from the phones they are putting out now?

You didn't put up the most important voting option: "I don't care about the bootloader since it's going to be hacked and I'll be able to put on whatever rom I want."

Because this option is VERY unlikely to happen.

It's not just a boot loader that's the issue. It's that the phone has a trip wire that will break the Second you try loading a non-motorola signed rom onto it. This will automatically brick the phone. I highly doubt devs will waste their time with this phone, or with motorola if they continue doing this.

If this thing does get custom roms, it could be well over a year from now, meaning it will not longer matter since devs will be messing with 4g VOIP handsets.

Is custom rom overrated? I tried putting a couple in my hero the other day, and it has alot of issues. I ended up doing a nandroid backup.

I'm sure no one cares, but it has cost them at least 1 customer for sure. I decided to keep my Evo instead of trading it in for the X over this. It made my decision easy really.

I don't have a problem with the locked boot loader. Makes me think if the old saying,"if you make something idiot proof, someone will make a better idiot." Just my 2 cents though.

It will not stop me, but I am disappointed. It is very poor business practice to give your customers something, then take it away in the subsequent product. I wanted my first Android to be HTC, but the inability to produce Incredibles has forced my hand.

If Motorola wants to do something original, support the hackers and developers. Test their work, sign it and offer it throught Motorola.

That being said, I have faith in the US hackers. I have learned if you don't join them, they'll beat you. They will eventually crack the boot loader.

Is it safe to say the next Google dev phone will be on tmobile? If so, I'm switching. Their $79.99 unlimited everything plan is $15 more than I pay on VZ as a $10 addon to the family plan

I'll tell you how I feel about it after having had it for a few weeks. We get a month to play with it, so it all depends on how well it plays with me.

I'm hoping the stock experience is solid. I have a rooted Droid and use the Bugless Beast rom, mostly for performance. I don't think I will need the performance boost with this new beast though, so I might be content just with normal root.

Just remember that it took dev's a long time to get even root access on the Milestone. Depending on what Moto's done since it may take even longer.

I was honestly thinking about getting this phone, I even had people on Craigslist, probably about 5 people in one day contact me about buying my Droid Inc. I put it up there as $350 and people were willing to pay that much for it. I didn't expect to get that many replies so fast.

Guess I will be going to the Galaxy S since that phone is already rooted and pretty comparable to this phone less a few features I don't really care about.

Any way you slice it this is a short sighted decision and really brings into question if Moto has really turned a corner. The Droid's success, at least part of it, has been the fact that it is so easily customized with Roms and has been embraced by the developer community. The X isnt exactly a ground breaking phone by any stretch so why Moto felt the need to change a philosophy that worked so well with the Droid is makes little sense. What is the downside to not locking the bootloader? Plus, to say that if you want a phone that can be flashed to get a nexus one is arrogant to say the least. Im sure everyone here is aware that the Nexus one is not available on Verizon while the X is. That statement is offensive and it basically says, "Hey, if you dont like it, go #$#% yourself".

I want to do three things that are not "stock".
1) overclock when needed
2) Wifi tethering on occasion w/o Verizon's $30/mo rip-off charge
3) Use the HDMI output for whatever I want - including live phone screen display.

Is it possible that those can be achieved by rooting the phone, and not custom ROMS? I believe it is.

I can get custom looks from various launchers. So custom ROMS's aren't that important to me (and yes, I know they can provide more than a different look) as long as Motorola keeps the OS updated for at least two years.

That's good to know - I'll be pickng one up Thursday. The one thing about the bootloader blocking that will probably piss me off later this year is the wait for Android 3.0. The Nexus one and old tyme Moto Droid will have it way before the X does. Probably months before.

I tried full stock, rooted stock ROMS, and custom roms. The custom source built roms are almost a totally different experience from stock. It runs smoother, faster(even on stock cpu settings), less buggy, and you can theme it if you want. One of the reasons I tell people to get the Droid s the fact you can put roms on it. Come on Verizon, Android source code is open, and can be downloaded from google. why would you lock up a phone like this?

Whose idea was it to even call it rooting? Everyone would know what we were talking about if you said 'jailbreaking'.

"Rooting" has always been the term to describe the activity in the Linux world.

The iTards call it "jailbreaking". People have been rooting Linux a lot longer than people have been jailbreaking iPhone.

I had to just sign up because of your comment.


Get droid, instantly in the Linux world.

Yeah I googled gentoo, that makes me a 1337 linux all knower right now, correct?

Droid is the yeast infection of the Linux world. Please, for the OS community, don't ever refer to droid as the linux world. Android is the bastard child of a wanna be open source linux, yet it's not. Yeah it's a part of us, not one that is wanted.

Here I made this for you, too:

Will someone please explain the difference between rooting a phone and un-locking a boot loader so we dont get all these crap comments?

Rooting is like getting admin access to your phone, allowing you to change/remove things that come on the phone like verizon apps. It also gives you the ability to use certain apps that require you to have superuser (root) access like wifi tether, root explorer, over clocking, setcpu.

Unlocking a boatloader allows you to flash different ROMS, which are iterations of the OS, but they can be customized with features from other phones, other OS, and can pretty much take your phone from solid, to AWESOME. I would never buy a phone that didn't allow neither to happen. Moto is a HUGE FAIL!!!!

Read this man's post. Phones with locked boot-loaders can still be rooted. This will be more than enough to satisfy 80%+ of Droid X users.

For those ROM addicts, this is a huge setback. Fortunately, hackers are the type that will "do" when they are told "don't". This will be seen as a challenge, and in time, overcome. Our wonderful ROM developers love to prove people wrong when they say, "You are not allowed to do this. You cannot do this."

Those of you spouting off about how you won't be able to do anything with this phone, make sure you really understand what it is they are restricting you from doing.