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CyanogenMod founder Steve Kondik confirms locked bootloader on AT&T's Galaxy S4

CyanogenMod founder Steve Kondik confirms locked bootloader on AT&T's Galaxy S4
Steve Kondik, of CyanogenMod founder fame, confirmed without any doubts that the bootloader of the AT&T Samsung Galaxy S4 comes locked. Unfortunately, that means it will take more time for developers to unleash the power of custom ROMs on the handset, but they always get there, so no sweat. 

Here are Steve's musings on the locked but not loaded matter, and bear in mind that he recently left Samsung being on the fence with precisely the S4, while just last week he had nice things to say about the HTC One.


Yep, it’s confirmed. The AT&T S4 authenticates the recovery and boot images before executing them.

I can’t see what AT&T has to possibly gain from this. GSM and LTE aren’t magical, tethering is controllable on the server side, and theft-of-services is not possible from the application processor side (or even from the modem side as far as I know). The same device is available on every carrier, so it’s not an exclusivity issue either. The modem processor has always been locked, and the casual user doesn’t want to mess with that part anyway. Samsung has always been developer-friendly, so I am guessing their hand was forced.

The only outcome I see here is stacks of bricked devices being sent back for warranty replacement due to the ease of causing a permanent boot failure, especially since the device is trivially rootable.

The arms race continues. News flash: MILLIONS of people run custom firmware (and I have the STATS to prove it). This is just a stupid move that will cost you customers and money.

I would not recommend buying this device on AT&T if you want to run CyanogenMod or another custom ROM, or if you are a developer and need to work with or debug the lower layers.

source: SteveKondik (G+)

28 Comments
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posted on 30 Apr 2013, 09:18 7

1. yowanvista (Posts: 318; Member since: 20 Sep 2011)


One more reason to buy the international version instead of the carrier crap bloated devices. Why can't the U.S use unlocked devices like everyone from the rest of the world?

posted on 30 Apr 2013, 09:29 1

3. MikeG77 (Posts: 373; Member since: 24 Nov 2008)


If At@t locked the BL that def means that Verizon did.

posted on 30 Apr 2013, 09:52 11

5. tedkord (Posts: 5302; Member since: 17 Jun 2009)


If AT&T didn't lock the bootloader, it still means Verizon did.

posted on 30 Apr 2013, 10:38 1

8. MikeG77 (Posts: 373; Member since: 24 Nov 2008)


LOL true.

posted on 30 Apr 2013, 12:20

14. sum182 (Posts: 229; Member since: 19 Nov 2011)


made my day lol

posted on 30 Apr 2013, 11:53 1

12. kozza3 (Posts: 575; Member since: 17 Oct 2012)


because people are still blinded by the bright light of carrier subsidies...

posted on 30 Apr 2013, 15:23 1

22. HDShatter (Posts: 1021; Member since: 17 Jan 2013)


Honestly your paying more for the phone going through subsidies. its like a loan, there giving you the phone cheap but in the end your paying $1000+ to them for it.

posted on 30 Apr 2013, 09:25 4

2. MikeG77 (Posts: 373; Member since: 24 Nov 2008)


I wish someone would just step up and sue all the carriers and the manufacturers. There is no need in my opinion to lock the bootloader down unless a customer buys a phone using a subsidy. Now if i buy a phone at retail i should have an unlocked bootloader, no carrier braning and no carrier software.

posted on 30 Apr 2013, 11:24

10. McLTE (Posts: 714; Member since: 18 Oct 2011)


LOL.. you just invalidated your own argument.

99.99999% of the users DO purchase phones using subsidies.

posted on 30 Apr 2013, 12:51 1

15. MikeG77 (Posts: 373; Member since: 24 Nov 2008)


actually i didnt...look at my statement i was saying that if you buy a phone at retail that a phone should not have any carrier branding, bloatware or a locked bootloader. Yes there is a high # of people who buy subsidized phones but its not 99.99%. The cell phone carriers job is to provide service for OUR devices not force us to use there crappy over priced services that no one wants.

posted on 30 Apr 2013, 15:25

23. HDShatter (Posts: 1021; Member since: 17 Jan 2013)


A majority buy subsidies, the smart ones pay full price up front and end up paying less.

posted on 30 Apr 2013, 09:50 1

4. bucky (Posts: 1576; Member since: 30 Sep 2009)


Locked boot loader = locked wallet.

posted on 30 Apr 2013, 10:33 3

6. Mxyzptlk (Posts: 4171; Member since: 21 Apr 2012)


Like only 5% or less will care about the bootloader being locked.

posted on 30 Apr 2013, 10:38 7

7. MikeG77 (Posts: 373; Member since: 24 Nov 2008)


That may be true but that doesn't make it any less important.

posted on 30 Apr 2013, 11:23 2

9. Mxyzptlk (Posts: 4171; Member since: 21 Apr 2012)


it's not important

posted on 30 Apr 2013, 11:25 2

11. McLTE (Posts: 714; Member since: 18 Oct 2011)


less than 5% of the population buy's high end performance cars.. should we quit making those too?

posted on 30 Apr 2013, 12:52 1

16. MikeG77 (Posts: 373; Member since: 24 Nov 2008)


Mxyzptik what kind of phone do you use and are you in the US or overseas? If its not important why would Apple offer an unlocked iPhone if its only 5% of there user base???

posted on 30 Apr 2013, 13:04

17. Mxyzptlk (Posts: 4171; Member since: 21 Apr 2012)


Those are two different meanings of unlocked and I am a proud US Citizen.

posted on 30 Apr 2013, 13:42 1

18. MikeG77 (Posts: 373; Member since: 24 Nov 2008)


actually no its not. An unlocked phone is an unlocked phone assuming were talking GSM bands. Now im assuming that you use an iPhone and thats fine but i guarentee that if Apple did something like this that affected you i doubt you would be satisfied with the answer you gave earlier.

posted on 30 Apr 2013, 14:35 1

20. tedkord (Posts: 5302; Member since: 17 Jun 2009)


They're taking about the bootloader, not the carrier frequencies. The bootloader on every iPhone is locked.

posted on 30 Apr 2013, 15:16

21. MikeG77 (Posts: 373; Member since: 24 Nov 2008)


carrier frequencies are not locked down and thats my point. If you bought an UNLOCKED phone but it was locked to a certain carrier people would be pissed.

posted on 30 Apr 2013, 18:56 1

27. EclipseGSX (Posts: 1655; Member since: 18 Oct 2011)


The only thing that's not important is YOU

posted on 30 Apr 2013, 11:54

13. kozza3 (Posts: 575; Member since: 17 Oct 2012)


i would like to see the actual numbers

posted on 30 Apr 2013, 14:14 3

19. scsa852k (Posts: 303; Member since: 16 Oct 2012)


There are millions who root their phones and run custom ROMs on their Android devices, but there are more casual users who have no idea how to root their phones and just use the way phones come out carrier locked.

But AT&T certainly got a little cocky here to pull a Verizon move here with one of the most popular android phones here.

posted on 30 Apr 2013, 15:27 1

24. HDShatter (Posts: 1021; Member since: 17 Jan 2013)


A majority of people that run custom roms would have the International version.

posted on 30 Apr 2013, 16:35 1

25. richguypoor (Posts: 3; Member since: 14 Jan 2013)


Doesn't the international version lack LTE ability? I'm hoping to get my hands on a 64gb LTE version that will work with At&t and have LTE, but the buttheads making those decisions aren't making it easy for me.

posted on 30 Apr 2013, 18:51 1

26. james1 (Posts: 97; Member since: 16 Mar 2013)


I hope T-Mobile version is unlocked bootloader!!!

posted on 03 May 2013, 16:01

28. brd8951 (Posts: 23; Member since: 23 Nov 2011)


I saw his lips moving, but all I heard was, "...blah, blah, blah, blah...". Didn't understand a word he said. LOL.

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