Dear LG: Reinstalling the software on your Android phones shouldn't be this way

I just had to manually flash a KDZ file to my T-Mobile LG V10. Now I'm ready to turn it off and never touch it again, and it's all because of the silly method required to "fix" it when you need to fix it yourself.

I like the V10. I wish LG would take my privacy and security a little more seriously and send out security patches regularly (I mean, come on, even BlackBerry can do that), and the LG software makes me want to pull my hair out sometimes, but I like the way it's built, I love the camera it has and the HiFi audio hardware inside of it is really nice. I carry it with me as my point-and-shoot connected camera and music player.

Anyhoo, since I'm the only person here who uses the V10 regularly, I needed to write some words comparing it to the Galaxy S7 edge — people love those, and comparing the best of the best from LG and Samsung is something I've been looking forward to doing. But I didn't want to write anything without the Marshmallow update (that took entirely too long to arrive, but that's a whole 'nother story) and something on my unit was fouling that up. The OTA wouldn't run successfully, and LG Bridge couldn't verify the software version.

I understand that this can happen, though I also think that maybe someone sent me a special "one-off" version of the software with this particular phone — my "HiFi DAC" setting has always worked with every application, for example. In any case, after some troubleshooting with T-Mobile I was finally referred to LG. Rather than send my V10 somewhere and wait, I knew I could fix it myself. That's where things turned from being a bad experience to a complete headache.

LG V10

I use all different kinds of Android phones, but I don't "mess" with any that aren't a Nexus. I don't mind waiting for an OTA to get pushed, and I don't worry about bloatware that I can't uninstall. If it's too bad, I just won't use it. I like to think that's how most people (the ones who don't regularly visit Android blogs) use a phone. But, as I mentioned above, I needed this update to do a little work. Imagine how you folks would howl if I compared the V10 to the S7 edge while the former was still running Lollipop.

Because I don't normally care to mess with things like flashing factory images or rooting or changing software on phones that aren't Nexus branded, I had no idea what I was in for. I knew what to do — install the LGUP program on Windows and download the right KDZ file for my V10 — but I've never done it before.

I knew what to do, but had no idea what I was in for.

For starters, having to download and install (with administrator rights) software for Windows from some file-sharing site is something nobody should ever do. But LG doesn't make the LGUP tool available for everyone, so someone working at a place that can repair and restore LG phones had to snag a copy and share it. The same goes for the KDZ file (the factory image) — LG doesn't want you to have it, so you need to do some trickery via LG Bridge, find the right URL, then download it — or directly download a copy someone else has snagged from an LG server, and hope it's "legit." That's another thing nobody should ever do.

When you buy a computer that's not designed for your pocket — and Android phones are computers, too — you're provided with a copy of the shipping software, or a method to download it yourself so you have a backup. Most Windows computers store a full backup in a partition on the primary hard drive so you always have a copy, while Apple and the folks making Linux computers (and this includes your Chromebook) have a public link where you can download a copy. You paid for a license for all that software with the purchase of the computer, and it's pretty easy to put checks in place so you can't use it for unintended purposes. If something breaks, you always have a method to restore the software on your very expensive piece of property. And the tools to do it are provided without having to find someone on the inside who can leak out a copy.

Why can't the people making most Android phones do the same thing?

I'm not saying that flashing a Nexus phone is easy, but everything you need to do it is provided with full instructions about how to use it. The bootloader uses fastboot commands to flash images (which are provided all in one handy place direct from Google), and all the tools are available to do the work with any computer — you could flash the most current version of software on a Nexus S (even the Sprint model) using an ancient computer running Solaris (through QEMU built from source) if you wanted to do it. I certainly wish somebody from Google HQ would spend some time and build an easy front-end and Windows/OS X installer, but at least it's there. And you can use all of this without installing potentially harmful programs from possibly dodgy sources. Motorola offers similar tools and files for phones made since Google bought it (go figure), and I hope that doesn't change in 2016 now that Google is out of the picture and Lenovo has stepped in.

Things are different with other brands of Android phones. HTC comes close with some models (though someone needs to let them know that "your PC" is not a valid substitute for "your computer running Windows XP or later, or Vista with some wonky additional tools") but the other "big" players — namely Samsung and LG — act like you shouldn't have access to the backup of the shipping software, or the tools you need to install it.

Fastboot works well, and it's free, but it won't do much for most Android phones.

That's ridiculous. It's not like anyone who would be able to rip apart the software images can't already "steal" any software right off the phone itself. LG knows this. All the people who make our phones know this, because they're really smart people who are easily able to yank any file from any running device themselves. LG isn't protecting any of its IP by not making everything you need available to you. All it's worried about is that you need to take (or mail) your phone to someone it approves of if something goes wrong.

All this is stupid. I'll imagine half of the people who visit Android Central regularly could use LGUP without much of a problem if it were easy to get and easy to install. (And we have forums full of brilliant people if you need some help.) Instead, you need to find the DLL file, the application installer, and a random common folder and do everything in the right order to make it work — and that's after you located the right KDZ or TOT image for your phone — and downloaded it from the source who appears the most trustworthy, because LG doesn't want you to have it.

The kicker? Fastboot exists. You can use fastboot to OEM unlock the V10. You can use fastboot to fully flash a Moto X that's unlocked. Google provides the fastboot utility for free, and anyone can build a phone that uses it the way it's intended to be used. Instead companies like LG (and plenty of others) limit its functionality so they can use something else and control who can fix the phone that you paid for. If LG is worried that you'll break things then try to get your phone replaced, a big disclaimer that you have to agree to when you download or use the software is pretty easy and would take about a thousand less words than this to write. The small (and I think it's very small) number of people who would use these tools wouldn't have much affect on the bottom line anyway.

Using LGUP isn't hard — but finding it and installing it takes some risks

Not everyone wants to buy or use a Nexus phone. But if you are in the position where things are really broken, you can always fix problems because Google's not trying to make it impossible for you to fix them. And it's not just Google. Microsoft gives users the Phone Image Designer{.nofollow} tool. Apple has iTunes to fix anything and everything, so while they treat "mobile" a little differently, they make it easy when you have a need to repair broken software. Don't tell me Microsoft and Apple care less about their IP and warranty claims than LG or Samsung does. I'm left thinking that it's all about control over hardware that money from your wallet paid for, and if that's the case, it's a bullshit reason. I want better. Not just for myself — I'm happy using a Nexus, and don't have to worry about the silliness — but for everyone. I'll continue to vote with my wallet, but I know many other people can't or won't, and you deserve better, too.

Jerry Hildenbrand
Senior Editor — Google Ecosystem

Jerry is an amateur woodworker and struggling shade tree mechanic. There's nothing he can't take apart, but many things he can't reassemble. You'll find him writing and speaking his loud opinion on Android Central and occasionally on Twitter.

  • This issue doesn't affect the average joe who bought a V10 from a carrier and doesn't want to bother delving deeper into things like fastboot or flashing a KDZ to update. If anything, they'll just bring it back and ask for it to be repaired, exchanged with a refurb/new V10 or get a different phone to replace it. I do agree that LG and Samsung are horrible with the fact that they don't want you to have a copy of their official firmware should things go wonky with the phone's OS. Posted on an LG V10
  • He made it clear that this wasn't for them. Posted via the Android Central App
  • Marshmellow bricked my V10, and I was required to do a factory reset. It certainly didn't help solidify my decision about future LG purchases, since I had also been waiting to use the fingerprint reader with a case installed since I purchased. This is a case of great hardware being marred by bad software experiences for me.
  • Zbombz , if your device was bricked, you would not be able to factory reset it. It would be a paper weight. I call BS Posted via the Android Central App
  • Bricked = not usable. Call whatever you want, but it happened exactly as written.
  • Bricked=not recoverable. Semantics, yes, but there is a difference. Posted via the Android Central App
  • Actually, you're both right. And a bit wrong. A hard brick is a paperweight, a soft brick is unusable but recoverable. Basically if your phone won't boot into android, it's bricked. If you can get to the recovery or fastboot, it's only soft bricked and you're probably gonna be OK. It's best to assume I'm being sarcastic. if I'm ever serious I'll type "/s" to make it clear.
  • ^ This Posted via the Android Central App
  • Yes. Galaxy s7 edge
  • Does it really matter if you call something bricked vs. non-functional? The point is that the update made my V10 a paperweight until I did a factory reset. That is NOT acceptable.
  • No, you must certainly can Posted via the Android Central App
  • I feel you are unfairly singling out LG here when in fact Samsung (and possibly HTC, though not sure) do the same thing.
    Yes, you do mention Samsung later in the article, but it's far too easy to miss. Another thing that drives me up a wall is Samsung Knox. They really need a way that someone can restore a Samsung phone to stock and actually have everything work properly afterwards. Sure, disable Samsung Pay and Knox when using a modified rom or kernel (or root), but if I use Odin to flash a stock rom for my phone, I should have access to Samsung Pay and such again! The "deep sleep bug" that plagued the Note 5 and Galaxy S6 phones once Knox was tripped is a good example to illustrate my point (once you've tripped Knox, the phone won't go into deep sleep after flashing back a stock rom with no modifications). That kind of thing simply should never happen! Posted via the Android Central App
  • So does Sony. They all have proprietary container files for their firmware. It's bullshit and needs to be stopped immediately. Google really needs to address the update fragmentation. And I'm not talking about schedules...just HOW manual updates are done.
  • This! 1000x this^ Opinion expressed from a Moto X Pure
  • I'd like to see Samsung offer a version of their phones without Knox (or an opt-in way to disable it OTA) for people who don't want it.
  • That'll never happen. It's pretty much free money for them (Samsung/Carriers). If tripped, warranty voided, regardless of why or how.
  • I too think Samsung should offer a totally KNOX free device. As a consumer I should be able to decide if I want KNOX or not. I haven't bought a Samsung device since my S III (which still is KNOX free) due to their insistence to use KNOX and no option to not have it on my device. For the BYOD and enterprise user I can see where KNOX is an advantage. That said, if I know I'll never use my device for work or just don't need the secure KNOX partition, I should have the option to remove it. Permanently and without hardware damage to my device. *"powerful you have become, the dark side I sense in you"*
  • You didn't read the article since he called them all out but stated that he's talking about his experience with the V10. Posted via the Android Central App
  • Thank you!!! I had to go through the same annoying process for my international G4. Posted via the Android Central App
  • "I'm not saying that flashing a Nexus phone is easy" I'll say it. Flashing a Nexus phone is easy. Maybe not easy the first time, but once you have done it one time, it's a walk in the park compared to every other OEM.
  • I didn't get that statement either it only takes like 5 commands. Posted from my Nexus 6/Nexus 7 2013/Surface Pro 3
  • It's not that it's difficult at all, but anything related to the command line is super intimidating to most people these days. Posted via the Android Central App
  • I find that sad, but you're right. Most people don't realize all command line terminals do is make a process more granular.
  • Well why type a load of arcane text commands that are used infrequently, when you can click two icons instead? Is this your phone? Click Yes Do you wish to flash to latest build? Click Yes Done.
  • Most users don't even know what a command line is, which is the point. "Not easy" might be the wrong phrase. "Not intuitive, or direct" might be more appropriate.
  • Whatever Posted via the Android Central App
  • I would say for 99% of users old fashioned, unnecessary and lazy on the developers part for not putting a modern UI on the utility.
  • You have a v10 Posted via the Android Central App
  • Once you finally get the USB drivers working ... Unless you have a Mac. Posted via the Android Central App
  • "Compared to every other OEM." That's actually the point, for an average not very technical end-user it might be relatively easy, but that's different than it being easy. It's best to assume I'm being sarcastic. if I'm ever serious I'll type "/s" to make it clear.
  • It's more the setup than the process. Manually installing Windows drivers, finding a good repo for correct JDK (or installing yourself from Oracle) on Linux and the like can confuse people. Google needs to automate the setup process. The actual flashing part is just running a script
  • I'll agree with that. I've pulled hair out many times trying to get the proper java goodies on my debian machine.
  • In the process of building a new Desktop here, and going to try OpenJDK. I heard it mostly works, even if you get a warning to use Sun/Oracle Java. Should be easier to maintain than trying to keep track of versions from Oracle, then building Slackpackages to get them to install/upgrade.
  • That's what I've been using for a little bit now. It's like a nice Sunday drive in an old 50s Caddy convertible compared to standard JDK
  • LG has bigger fish to fry jerry, but I do agree with you here LG needs to up their software game. Posted from my Nexus 6/Nexus 7 2013/Surface Pro 3
  • It really is a disgrace the OEMs are so protective of their images that doing something as simple as reinstalling the factory image requires this much work.
  • This article is spot on. We pay enough for these little computers; we should have back-ups available in case something goes wrong.
  • Ugh the v10 was the absolute bane of my existence when it came to getting that thing romed and rooted. Especially from a Mac user. I wish there was a much easier way, even though I am comfortable using the basics for fastboot and adb commands, it's not for the faint of heart. Posted via what ever tickles me at the time.
  • Don't even get me started on doing anything with LG phones on a Mac. You have to install some sort of "driver" — which should never be needed on Unix, and once installed it blocks AFT access. To top it all off, the LG consumer tools for OS X are completely broken and work less than 50% of the time if you've upgraded past Mavericks.
  • Yup. It was no fun. Took a ton of extra reading and searching for extra crap I needed. Posted via what ever tickles me at the time.
  • The ones for windows are broken... Posted via the Android Central App
  • I had to use LGUP to flash the G3's Marshmallow stock ROM to it because it didn't receive the OTA. Had to get whatever I needed from XDA-Devs. I technically shouldn't have to do this, but since that phone isn't receiving the OTA for whatever reason, I didn't have much of a choice. It was either stay on bug-ridden Lollipop 5.0 or just go to Marshmallow 6.0 using stuff from XDA. I imagine I have to do the same thing I did if anything breaks on the G3 in terms of its underlying software and needed a reflash..... And it's not just LG that's doing this to their software, apart from a few like the Nexus line. *sigh* I guess we have to live with that unless something changes.
  • D13.....g3 got MM Ota! Posted via the Android Central App
  • The one I have didn't get it for some reason. It was a D855 unlocked unit. (I live by 3 words. fastboot flashing unlock)
  • Amen Jerry! All Androids should be as easy as a Nexus to "mess" with, IMO. Posted via the Android Central App
  • I wont go that far (even though I personally agree). There's value in locking the software for enterprise use, or even just a security-minded person. But not giving people the tools to repair the shipping software is total crap. I will go a step further and say that every phone needs to come with a either a disc or a website that has every model-specific piece of software available, including drivers and PC management tools. Just don't be Verizon and have it on the phone so it tries to auto-mount an ISO image when you plug it in lol.
  • Jerry, why do you think OEMs are doing this? Just want your personal thoughts on this, especially ones not mentioned in the article. (I live by 3 words. fastboot flashing unlock)
  • Money. I'm a cynic, and the type of person who thinks money drives every single corporate decision, but in this case it fits. It's much cheaper to only offer "repair services" like installing software via specific outlets who have a single-purpose computer to do nothing but flash software than it is to make something that works for everyone. This is the same reason why Mac tools suck, nobody even makes tools for Linux, and Windows tools are woefully out of date and often require old versions of run times and C++ redistributable files. The companies in question only care about getting you to spend money on a new product, and only give the bare minimum support for existing ones. They sell hardware, not software, so the way they do business is the opposite of the way Google, Apple and Microsoft does it. This becomes a real problem when they take software provided by another company, change it until it's barely recognizable, then not push changes upstream so that the parent can choose to support it. And as long as we keep throwing our money at them, they have no reason to change.
  • I kind of agree with you, and then I don't.
    I'm new to Android, and have done many fresh installs on windows machines. It is always better to totally format the hard drive first and then do the fresh install. I can argue points on that, but I'll let that go.
    Fundentally I would like the ability to do a fresh install on Android. Basically rewriting the bootloader. And then do the software installation.
    Let the owner of the phone install the security measures. Posted via the Android Central App
  • Preach on. Flashing the LG G2 requires you go into device manager and change the serial port to #53 or something crazy like that. I mean, why do they want to intentionally block people from fixing their phones? It's crap and I'm going Nexus. Posted via the Android Central App
  • My LG V10 is on Verizon and after I got marshmallow my phone battery is absolutely better, which is weird considering they said it should have got much better. My screen takes a ton of battery as well as when the phone is on standby and also by the android os. Already did a reset and everything. Any ideas to help it? Posted via the Android Central App
  • So, "absolutely better" is not as good as "much better"? Posted via the Android Central App
  • Lol. I was thinking the same. The OP is confused
  • Marshmallow has been hit and miss (mostly miss) on the G4. So far I have avoided updating my G4 to Marshmallow for this reason.
  • Pick a vendor, any vendor.... My ASUS tablet has a hamstrung recovery that can't seem to do anything but do an OTA, my son's Alcatel OneTouch phone is similarly impacted, and my wife and daughter have ZTE Zmax phones with the same problem. Not a one of these vendors has rom images or tools publicly available. And Motorola is only good if you have a pure or developer edition. Got a Moto G/G2/G3? You're SOL. At least for the G series I can install Cyanogenmod if all else fails. Once I replace the recovery... People don't think of recovery options until they desperately need them, and by then it's too late.
  • Never had an issue with my LG phones...N4,N5... ;) Posted via Serenity
  • Guess that is one of the things Microsoft/Nokia got right with Windows Phones, the ability to run the recovery tool they make available. Similar to iOS being able to simply plug it in, open a program and within moments you are reinstalling a new factory update with the latest software available on the server.
  • I can agree with the article about making the software available for download.
    But out of the three manufacturers (Samsung, LG and HTC) you say HTC provides some files and it's easyer to restore.
    I work in a mobile repair shop in europe and let me say that HTC phones are an absolute nightmare to flash even if you find some files.
    I can restore a Samsung phone in 15 minutes where I would need at least 2 hours for an HTC. Even LG-s are easyer to flash.
    Getting the firmware files for an HTC here in europe is a nightmare. Samsung and LG are both miles better in that regard. Posted via the Android Central App
  • I couldn't agree with you more Jerry. I have an s7 edge and a Nexus 5x, I LOVE my s7 but find myself gravitating towards my 5x most days.
  • PREACH JERRY! I just had to return my V10 because the screen started having burn in issues and the experience was HELL ON EARTH. I had the T-Mobile v10 and couldn't find the kdz file anywhere while the tot file was corrupted. FRIGGIN HELL. Posted via the Android Central App
  • Burn in on a LCD?
  • When I use G2, I'm super happy. Especially the battery life. Flashing ROM is also a piece of cake. Moving to G3, I got a little disappointment here and there, but nothing big. No ROM tinkering since G3. And now my G4 is still in service ( board replacement), just because I flash it back to Lollipop, because Marshmallow super suck on my G4. For the mean time, I'll stay away from LG. Also G5 is ugly. Posted via the Android Central App
  • Ive owned a couple LG phones over the years and most were easy to manipulate. Not as easy as a nexus. You can unlock the bootloader...flash root and twrp in about 5 mins on a nexus. It takes longer to download the firmware from Google's website than it does to flash it. Also theres the wugfresh nexus toolkit to make it easy even for beginners. +1 on the lg flash tool being b.s. All my tablets are nexus/google devices . i think from this point forward ill be going with nexus devices only. Fast updates. Easy to root/twrp etc. Extensive third party rom support . apps works better as nexus devices are commonly used with developers. The likes of lg and samsung can get with the program or suck it. The reason i believe they lock their devices down is because they know we are gonna tinker with it and )my opinion) i say they are just waiting for us to hardbrick so they can sell us a new device or make money off of "repairs" The fact some oem's keep their software tightly sealed hurts the evolution of the operating system (which in turns hurts the oems themselves in the long run) I only hope Google follows through and starts pushing oem's to put their ui in the play store as launcher form so google can get updates out to more people faster. Instead it takes half a year or better For guys at Samsung to figure out how to update their devices with their God awful touchwiz train wreck
  • I ditched my v10 for an s7 Edge, and couldn't be happier. LG is too slow to update, and their software is just plain painful for me now. As for the meat of your article: I couldn't agree more. I'd have gone back to Nexus had it been offered through T-Mo, but my JUMP program (the original one) is just too good not to use. Who knows? Maybe Sammy will wake up and make their tools available to those of us that feel comfortable using them (like myself).
  • Read this yesterday and was feeling the same way Jerry. Finally was able to get LG Bridge to recognize my phone. Once that happened the update was easy. I just don't understand these month long OTA roll outs. Also LG needs to step up their security patch game. T-Mobile as well for letting this phone suffer an fingerprint scanner issue for so long. So far 6.0 seems to be running good. Posted via the Android Central App
  • THis is why I have a OnePlus One with Cyanogen 13 , it gives me the freedom to change all aspects of my phone with no need to wait on device manufactures or carriers to get OTA update.
  • KDZ stuff is the absolutely best way to brick one's phone around. Be warned. Stay away. I still use an LG P500 dinosaur. Running 4.4.4 omni-based ROM but still stuck with old baseband for this reason. Works fine.