Last week, we learned that Verizon’s Galaxy S III, unlike all the other carriers’ GS3s, and unlike other Samsung Androids on Verizon, was arriving with a locked bootloader, stymieing the efforts of the developer community. Of course, that’s one resourceful group of smartphone fans, and over the weekend we learned that a method to root the handset had already been worked-out. While that was good news, it doesn’t address the elephant in the room: why is Verizon doing this in the first place? The carrier has since responded to requests for comment, but what it has to say doesn’t really make a lot of sense.
In a statement to The Verge, Verizon explains its desire to maintain “a standard of excellence in customer experience” with its phones. It continues, explaining, “depending on the device, an open boot loader could prevent Verizon Wireless from providing the same level of customer experience and support because it would allow users to change the phone or otherwise modify the software and, potentially, negatively impact how the phone connects with the network.”
Everything Verizon says there is true. Just because there’s truth in something, doesn’t mean it makes sense, though. Verizon’s point about support should apply equally to every smartphone under the sun; there’s nothing special about the Galaxy S III that makes it especially prone to malfunction when flashed with custom software.
Also, none of this position the carrier takes is new; we know that Verizon likes to lock bootloaders, based on what we’ve seen with other manufacturers, but the statement doesn’t explain why all of a sudden Samsung is joining that camp. The question isn’t “why lock?”, but “why now for Samsung, and why the GS3?”.
And just because it bears repeating: carriers, you were never under any obligation to provide support for phones your users knowingly modify to the point that they break them. Trying to prevent them from doing so across the board, just to avoid that unlikely, awkward phone call where a rep has to point this out to some clueless fool who bricked his phone by his own hand, is little more than throwing the baby out with the bath water.
Update: Of course, the left hand doesn’t know what the right hand’s doing; Verizon’s Twitter presence has been placing the blame for the locked bootloader squarely on Samsung.