T-Mobile has released its official response to the G2 "rootkit" controversy with a very short press release.  It doesn't really say anything the development community hasn't already figured out -- the G2 was built in a way that provides a safety rollback in case the system gets corrupted.  The response does state that it's a software issue, and the buck was passed along to HTC.  You can read the mini-presser after the break, but one question I feel a need to ask -- if the "subset of highly technical users who may want to modify and re-engineer their devices at the code level" is so small, why spend the money to prevent them from owning the hardware they paid $499.99 plus taxes for? 

In the interest of being fair and balanced (and a little smarmy) I'll also present the response of one highly respected member of the Android development community:

Seriously, @HTC @TMobile your little G2 "omg no hackers" thing is a joke, we're very close. Just need kernel source, GPL ring a bell?

The G2 is a great phone.  In fact, I think it's the best Android phone I've ever used.  T-Mobile customer care went above and beyond to help me get everything switched over.   Don't make me regret buying it. [T-Mobile, @ChrisSoyars]

Code Level Modifications to the G2

Bellevue, Wash. — Oct. 7, 2010 As pioneers in Android-powered mobile devices, T-Mobile and HTC strive to support innovation. The T-Mobile G2 is a powerful and highly customizable Android-powered smartphone, which customers can personalize and make their own, from the look of their home screen to adding their favorite applications and more.

The HTC software implementation on the G2 stores some components in read-only memory as a security measure to prevent key operating system software from becoming corrupted and rendering the device inoperable. There is a small subset of highly technical users who may want to modify and re-engineer their devices at the code level, known as “rooting,” but a side effect of HTC’s security measure is that these modifications are temporary and cannot be saved to permanent memory. As a result the original code is restored.


There are 22 comments

Hacking is what makes android so awesome! I really hope this ain't the new trend

jeffy1988 says:

"...which customers can personalize and make their own, from the look of their home screen to adding their favorite applications and more."

So in other words, we can change the wallpaper, launcher, and install programs. Woohoo.

StuRoid says:

What are the chances that the Desire Z won't have this same issue? I mean the G2 comes with 4Gbs and some of that is locked up with this whole safety thing and the Desire Z only comes with 1.5/2Gbs (advertised amount anyway).....or do you think it is the exact same hardware and HTC are just keeping quiet saying it only has less and the the rest will not be accessible?

eyesparky says:

HTC should really bear in mind that the reason they have a really strong developer community is the previously relatively open access to their devices. Surly, having a vibrant developer community with an affinity for your product range is priceless in the competitive mobile phone arena.

eahinrichsen says:

I don't understand what HTC and T-Mo think they have to lose by allowing rooting. They are correct when they say that the subset of users who will want to root their phones is very small relative to the entire user base of HTC Android phones. The development community is a creative minority that is very vocal on the internet, and I'm sure that the free advertising that these companies got from the dev community singing Android's and HTC's praises in the past far outweighs the amount of money they stand to lose from the lack of carrier-specific apps and services.

icebike says:

Who instigated this? And why?

You might expect this if Verizon was involved, but TMobile?

This leaves me wondering if HTC has been eating a lot of warranty returns from hacked phones or something.

Jerry, in your rush to get this published you failed to mention exactly what is stored in protected memory and what effect it has on rooting the phone.

Spork1673 says:

just a matter of time before its cracked

hfm says:

T-Mobile is definitely correct about the market share of people who would bother modding and rooting. Hell I'm extremely technical and I could care less, I just don't have the time or energy to do it because it's possible. My guess is that this OS rebuild will actually end up being a benefit for a some of T-Mo's customers that don't even know what modding a phone is or why they would care.
G2 is a fantastic device, I'm loving it. On the other hand my wife's mytouch slide, that thing needs an overhaul on the software side. There's a worthwhile example of a phone that needed hacking. G2.. not so much (just my opinion as I could care less about tethering and I happen to really dig stock froyo).

Rest easy friends.. This will get worked around by the community. If I remember correctly, EVERY phone that has come along has had to wait for the few highly competent individuals to make it possible for the rest of the interested community to be able to hack their phone. This is absolutely no different than usual.

CrAZ#AC says:

Didn't really need to hear this on top of all of the laundry list of issues folks are reporting. VERY glad I didn't rush out to buy this phone.

hfm says:

The only other issue I've heard is people complaining about using the phone upside down (aka hinge issue). What's the rest of the list?

Smalls says:

Actually I think it was a smart idea, but be as it may there are good and bad sides to it.

The good side: It protects the consumer as the average consumer may accidentally ruin core operating system files. Basically, instead of sending it in to be repaired (or replaced more than likely if it was a software matter) it fixes it by itself.

The bad side: How many users would actually go and ruin the OS? The least the could do is rooting it; whereas, the worst they could do is flash it with another ROM. Again... I wouldn't expect an average consumer to do that. The average consumer just wants to text, browse the web, make phone calls, Facebook, Twitter, etc.

Android_user says:

These devices are simply a computer with a phone.

Some questions to anyone from HTC (computer manufacturer) or T-Mobile (ISP, really.. that's all you are any more) that may be watching...

Would you buy a Computer that forced a single version of an OS (lets say XP) on you and could only be "upgraded" to a new OS by your ISP at their convenience?

How many features did you leave off of these excelent devices that could have been funded and delivered with the budget WASTED on locks that will be picked and should never be there in the first place?

HTC isn't having to replace bricked phones because of bad rooters... they are replacing bricked phones because they make it difficult to root. When's the last time you bricked your PC and had the manufacturer send you a brand new one?

Up till now I was only mildly bothered by the hoops we had to jump through to get control over our LEGALY PURCHASED small computers, but the more effort you put in to forcing your control over MY hardware/software the less likely I am to buy from you next time.

I may or may not ever root my next phone, but it is MY OPTION not yours.

Menno says:

The problem is that unlike a computer, we're getting the phone at a subsidized price. That's why you can't compare it to the computer industry. Also, a computer doesn't have to worry about memory constraints for an OS, a phone does. Windows comes preloaded with generic drivers so pretty much everything works out of the box. Android can't afford this luxury, so the software has to be custom built for each device (even WITHOUT carrier bloatware or custom skins)

And HTC phones are INSANELY easy to root besides. They're replacing bricked phones because people who should not be rooting are attempting it. One click roots are dangerous for the community because people are rooting without having the slightest idea about what that means, or what it does to their device. THAT is why companies are trying to make rooting harder. They know they can't block it entirely, but if it is difficult, fewer people will attempt it without reading up on it first.

Android_user says:

So are you saying the bloatware loaded pc you buy is not subsidized by the companies providing the bloatware?

The big difference is, if I buy a bloatware loaded PC I own it and I can reload the OS with a clean version or a different one all together. I don't have to hope the benevolent ruling ISP will decide to grant me a better one.

To say its the fault of "people who should not be rooting" is simply arrogant. You completely miss the point. If HTC didn't put these crappy locks on the phones we paid for, it wouldn't be an issue. Design the phone to give people the option. Put the DRM budget towards making better products. Stop thinking you can control what I do with MY hardware.

Menno says:

But your HARDWARE is not subsidized in return for you using their network or interface for x amount of years. Once you buy the device, it's yours and Dell has no other interaction with it. When you get a phone from Tmobile they have you paying them for 2 years that means that that device needs to work for 2 years.

If you decide to load Linux on your dell and you bork it it's all on you. If someone decides to do something to their phone and they bork it They go and bitch to the carriers because they "are under contract so they (the carriers) NEED to fix their problems."

That's the difference. If people who effed up their systems because they decided to play hacker and didn't know the first thing about rooting owned up to their mistakes and either made an insurance claim or BOUGHT another device, this wouldn't be an issue. Instead, they go and clog tech support lines and demand new free hardware because they were stupid enough to void their warranty.

What HTC should do is like what they did on the N1. YOu unlock the phone AT ALL they will not honor warranty. Simple, and then it can be kept open for all time. But they CANT do that because of idiot consumers who refuse to accept responsibility for what they do.

I have a fully rooted, overclocked, and customized OG Droid so I'm NOT fighting against rooting. But I also work retail, so I know that if they made rooting easy they would waste MILLIONS every year replacing phones that people who had no right rooting the phone tried to do it.

I'm not trying to control what you do with your hardware, I'm saying that if you decide to root it, it's in your hands period. Under current US contract law and from a business standpoint, this is NOT the case, so they can't make rooting easy out of the box because USERS can't accept responsibility for the hardware THEY OWN.

It's a VERY simple distinction. Consumers should be able to do whatever they want with their devices so long as they don't harm others with it and they accept responsibility for what happens. Customers arn't currently accepting responsibility so they don't get toys that are easy to break.

Android_user says:

I am not under contract. I buy my phones at the full price.

Besides that if you go compare the 2yr rate vs the no contract rate you'll see they charge a higher monthly rate on the 2yr plan to pay for the phones. The do not try to hide that fact. It's why they offer the no contract plan in the first place. The rep in the store will tell you the same thing, they are proud they offer the option.

Over those 2 years the extra monthly fee actually costs you more than buying the phone on no contract.

Stop drinking the cool aid. There is no difference, the phones are no more or less subsidized than a cheep pc.

They need to stop wasting resources trying to lock down our paid for hardware and enforce the "rooting voids the warranty" threat.

Menno says:

You're buying a phone unsubsidized that the carrier PAID to subsidize. Tmobiles being nice enough to give you a discount on your monthly bill for doing that, but that is beside the point. They're the only ones to do it. The fact of the matter is that Tmobile ordered the phone with the intention of selling it on contract. Yes, they offer full retail, but the number of people who take advantage of this with smartphones is minimal.

you save 10 a month, over two years, this works out to be 240. The two year discount is $300. So no, it's not less, but you could argue it's small enough not to matter once you consider other benefits.

Your computer is not discounted $240 because of wild tangent games and quicken on the phone. I can't believe you even suggested that.

They CANNOT enforce that threat as long as contracts exist. That's what I'm saying. Work in ANY form of retail for a year and you'll see this. it doesnt matter what official policy is, customers assume they are exempt from it and they can argue out of paying. CUSTOMERS need to stop being assholes and stop trying to play the system because they don't want to accept what they do with their device (but they'll be the first to argue that it's there device)

I agree that the nandlocks and the efuses are stupid and they shouldn't exist. But arguing that if the phones were easier to root it would cost the company money is laughable.

Android_user says:

I see it all so clearly now thanks to the mass accumulation of "working in retail" experience provided.

Ok... you are correct. T-mobile pays at least 99% of the cost of my phone out of the goodness of their hearts. Because of that they deserve to control what I do with my... um their phone (not a computer, but a phone.)

I now see that if they didn't subsidize the phone like this, then they would still sell them to everyone at $10,000 per unit because they can.

I feel sooo much safer in the knowledge that the all knowing manufacturers and cell carriers would never give us bad things and they know what's best for us.

Now that I'm comfortable in the knowledge that they will always keep me safe I shall now venture forth and purchase the very definition of "they know what's best" and buy an iphone...... (I will be sure to ask about the correct way to hold it.)

Wait.... what's this.... the latest indications are that HTC/Tmob actually released the phone with a bug... not write protection.... and they only claimed it was protection to CYA. (May or may not turn out to be true, but that's the latest news.)

Now I don't know what to do, maybe I'll go down the the mall and ask the retail agent there for help...

(Really I'm just messing around with all of the above so please don't take offense.)

However... any subsidies provided (and I never said there were none) are there purely for the fact that if the phone costs too much, they wont sell any, not because t-mob is kind, generous and just wants me to have better stuff. So the price is what it is.

It is still MY hardware. I can buy it at full price and never buy service if I chose. T-mob's failure to enforce their own warranty limits for any reason is their own fault. It does not justify them trying to control my hardware.

You can try and say they are justified in the locks and I can hold my breath and pout and say they aren't. But as it is, there really isn't much competition in the market so we are stuck with these lame attempts at locking the phones.

However, the first carrier to release a next gen Nexus 2 type phone with a simple root, will get my business.

Nirvana328 says:

What if instead of hampering the developer community, HTC and other manufactures tried to help them.

For instance, instead of locking down their hardware and preventing rooting, and wasting the resources to do so, they made it easy to reverse or revert back to stock or nonrooted settings. Don't computers all come with system restore cds, or system files backed up on a partition of the hard drive?

Honestly I don't even think the whole returning or sending back a bricked phone is a huge deal. I've read numerous posts on the AC forums of people who have sent back their suddenly "malfunctioning" phones after botched attempts at rooting and tweaking, and usually the manufacture sends them a new one without any questions, and in some cases, even the carrier tech support staff can restore the phone in the store.

How about that HTC? How about you help out the people who are advertising and supporting you instead of putting them down? I wonder how much positive word of mouth and rabid customer loyalty costs?

CrAZ#AC says:

They should continue this press release by saying "BTW we have taken the liberty of including this read-only memory in the phone's storage spec. Hope you don't mind that only 1/2 is user-accessible".

mobilityguy says:

Folks sure do have short memories. It wasn't that long ago that a company offered to sell us a phone with completely unmodified Android, with no restrictions on the hardware and software, no carrier modifications and a simple one line command to unlock the bootloader. It was called the Nexus One, the company was Google, and we all know how that experiment turned out.

It's not in the carriers' interest to sell us phones that let us get around their revenue-generating software and usage restrictions. Google wasn't interested in that, but since we don't pay a monthly bill to Google they had to charge more for the phone. Not enough people thought an unrestricted phone was worth the premium, so we're back to one way to buy phones.

Google offered to let us do what we wanted with the phone. The carriers offered us cheaper up-front costs, if we allowed them to lock the phone down and charge extra for stuff we could have gotten for free.

We chose the carriers' deal. Now we have to live with it.

Terry K says:

In the case of Sprint, I had to root my Evo to get rid of resource intensive bloatware (eg, Amazon, crooks I'll never do business with, the Nascar and Football apps I could care less about), etc..