Shortly after Sony’s Xperia S hit the scene, we started hearing reports from users that the display on their handsets was experiencing some yellow discoloration during use. Sony itself confirmed the issue, caused by a manufacturing problem, and triggered when the phone reached high temperatures. It announced that it had resolved the issue, and would replace defective models free of charge; sounds good, right? We’re now hearing from users who had unlocked their bootloaders that Sony is refusing warranty service on this hardware issue due to those software modifications. Is Sony completely out of line here?
On first glance, Sony’s actions appear unreasonable; why should software factor in at all to repairing an admitted hardware issue? Thinking a bit more about it, though, we can begin to see why Sony might take the stance it has. For instance, a user could modify his phone to run overclocked, generating quite a bit more heat than a retail model. With an issue like this one that’s exacerbated by higher temperatures, Sony has no way of knowing if unlocked handsets were subject to excessive thermal stress.
That said, considering we’re talking about a publicly-disclosed hardware failure, it’s a bit odd for Sony to jump to the conclusion that the software modifications were at fault. Occam’s razor would suggest that even in an unlocked phone, such hardware issues are likely not the fault of the user, at least lacking any evidence to the contrary.
Sony could help itself a lot by clarifying its warranty and unlocking policies. For the moment, it gives the weakly-worded warning that “you may void the warranty of your phone and/or any warranty from your operator if you unlock the boot loader“. If unlocking voids the warranty under some situations and not others, Sony needs to spell those out. If it absolutely voids the warranty in all cases, that “may” there is misleading.