Motorola installing "root checker" on Verizon ICS devices

Motorola installing
The timing of this story is unfortunate, given that we just showed how much value users can get from unlocked devices earlier today. Well on the same day as the original Motorola Droid saw a Jelly Bean ROM released for it, we find out that Motorola has installed a “root checker” on its Verizon devices that run Ice Cream Sandwich (Android 4.0), including the Droid RAZR, RAZR MAXX, and Droid 4. Apparently it will also be built in to the ICS OTA for the Droid Bionic once it rolls out.

What is a root checker? It manifests itself as a little scorecard visible when in recovery. Devices that have never been rooted show up as 0/0, while rooted devices score a 1/1. The kicker is that devices that have been rooted and then unrooted show up as 0/1 – in other words, anyone who boots into recovery can tell instantly if a device has been rooted, even if it was returned to stock. So if you break the glass on your DROID RAZR and try to return it, any Verizon employee can boot into recovery and see if you’ve rooted – which voids your warranty.

There’s no guaranty that they would do this, or that if they did they would necessarily void your warranty – it may be there for them to track whether there is any association with returns, or for them to detect repeat offenders. And it’s important to note that the contracts all users sign with Verizon do make it very clear that rooting or altering the software on your own, while legal, also relieves them of having to honor the warranty.

We aren’t going to get too worked up about this – anyone who is willing to put custom ROMs on their devices should understand the risk and be willing to accept it. At the same time, if a device has a mechanical failure unrelated to the changed software, we would hope that Verizon would still honor their warranty, as it’s just pettiness to screw over a paying customer if their aftermarket tweaking wasn’t responsible for breaking it.

Do you have a story about trying to return a root device to Verizon? We’d love to hear from you, either in the comments section below, or our tip line.

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40 Comments

1. md227a

Posts: 229; Member since: Mar 20, 2012

Man Moto is just driving away customers who like to root or tinker with their phones

4. 305Bucko

Posts: 506; Member since: Aug 07, 2011

You really think Moto is behind this?! Its obviously clear that since Moto is now providing a bootloader unlock solution, Verizon is the one requiring them to include this feature. Be mad at verizon for asking them to do this, not Motorola

10. 14545

Posts: 1835; Member since: Nov 22, 2011

Obviously VZW is behind it, but it doesn't change the fact that Moto is allowing VZW to bully them into this. So either A) Moto is, in fact, ok with this treatment of it's customers, or B) Moto doesn't want to "lose VZW's business(not that it would happen anyway)" so they do it in reaction to VZW wanting it done. Either way, Moto is the one driving their own customers away. Personally, I liked Moto phones, but with crap like this I won't buy one. Yes, I understand not everyone is like me, but the "me's" of the world are what the lesser informed smartphone buyers come to for advice, so ultimately, they are screwing themselves more than just losing the Dev community.

17. Jimstar

Posts: 259; Member since: Oct 24, 2011

What do you mean not that it would happen anyway? There's no reason it couldn't. Verizon is Moto's biggest customer and they can't or couldn't afford to chance that by not catering to them, that's how businesses work. And another thing, that's some twisted logic you've got as far as advice goes. You don't advise someone based on your needs, you advise them based on theirs. And for those who'll never root or flash a ROM, this is no reason to recommend against a Moto device. What you call giving advice risks being nothing more than pushing your own biases on people if that's the way you think.

21. cncrim

Posts: 1589; Member since: Aug 15, 2011

+1, I don't think Moto, HTC or any other manufacture understand or see it, without Dev community the phone is not fun and no fun it tend to drive away customer. For example, take Samsung and Iphone as example...... is very hard to brick their device, so so many developers chose iPhone and Samsung as their favorite choice. And look at how successful they are compare every other company. To HTC, Moto, LG, Sony, and all other manufacture: make your phone extremely unbrickable, fun to dev community ....... then you will be race with samsung and apple again. Without dev community, your phone is pretty much pre-2007.

33. Hunt3rj2

Posts: 396; Member since: Nov 11, 2011

I don't think you understand. HTC and Sony already unlock bootloaders unless the carrier is twisting their arm. So far for HTC, only AT&T and Verizon require that they lock bootloaders. Even Samsung had to lock their bootloaders for the Verizon Galaxy S3. Yes, Samsung SUCKS at coding bootloader protection, but what would you do if their locked bootloader was uncrackable.

34. Hunt3rj2

Posts: 396; Member since: Nov 11, 2011

You don't understand. Moto is not being "bullied" into it. It's as simple as this. Either Moto locks their bootloaders, or their phone never gets sold, and will never see an activation on the Verizon network. Don't even think they have a way out of it, because even Samsung, which is supposed to always have unlocked bootloaders and be dev friendly devices, had a locked bootloader on Verizon. Yes, it got unlocked. But what if Samsung's bootloader protection was forced to be strong enough to take a year after launch before it was cracked? Is it now Samsung's fault that they did what they had to in order to comply with the carrier's requirements?

24. md227a

Posts: 229; Member since: Mar 20, 2012

The Atrix HD on AT&T has a locked boot loader as well. I'm not with Big Red and still can not use a moto device

27. AppleIsGod

Posts: 56; Member since: Aug 27, 2012

Just buy an iphone, no bloatwares, can easily jailbreak if necessary..Before you say its hardware sucks, if you have ever used an iphone, you will know it runs really smooth on dual core processor...Can play any games I want...with stunning graphics quality Apple Is God and Apple wins :)

29. mas11

Posts: 1034; Member since: Mar 30, 2012

Yeah gotta love that speedy 4G Lte... wait a moment

38. Mxyzptlk unregistered

Which is funny since they are owned by Google. I knew in the end the customer would still get the short end of the stick even though Motorola promised to unlock the bootloader for their phones at the end of last year.

2. ObjectivismFTW

Posts: 211; Member since: Jul 03, 2012

I wonder how this will affect Razr HD sales. I bet there will be a work-around to this no time, however.

25. bigdawg23

Posts: 467; Member since: May 25, 2011

Not much. Anyone with a brain can get around this. Just go to Best Buy and purchase the phone with Black Tie Protection. Then if you really need the phone replaced accidentally drop it in water to kill it. They can not access recovery to check on the rooting since there is no deductible. Also I know of many people with Android phones that have not or have no interest in rooting phones. Most people I talked to except a few have no idea what rooting is or does.

5. serious9010

Posts: 254; Member since: Jul 20, 2012

It's perfectly fair. Why should they honour the warranty if the user messed with the OS? Root or not to root should be a choice with pros and cons, and for all android users to make.

11. 14545

Posts: 1835; Member since: Nov 22, 2011

If you have a hardware failure(IE blown speakers, etc) then they should honor it. As the software, more likely than not, had ABSOLUTELY nothing to do with it. So why should I be screwed on a 600 dollar device when the manufacturer just wants to be a d**k about it? It wasn't caused by me, so why should I pay? If you brick it, or something software related does actually do something bad to your phone, then yes, you would have a point at that time.

35. Hunt3rj2

Posts: 396; Member since: Nov 11, 2011

You can easily blow speakers by forcing the hardware to go beyond stock volume levels. Now, if the SoC burned out, or there was obvious evidence of heat damage, warranty should be voided because it is far too suspicious when stock phones are made to run cool, and be able to work in very hot conditions.

6. Normil

Posts: 17; Member since: May 02, 2011

Being rooted with a Bionic, I dont like this one bit... Im an avid Moto user, but if they keep stuff like this up, Im saying hello Samsung gsIII!

12. 14545

Posts: 1835; Member since: Nov 22, 2011

The Bionics non existent development is what ran me off. It was a solid hardware phone. But if I can't get rid of blur(no matter how slimmed down it is), then I don't want the phone.

7. kcombs

Posts: 275; Member since: Dec 15, 2010

Samsung does this with the newer phones. My Note has one on it.

8. infernal88

Posts: 113; Member since: Jun 08, 2012

im sure they will find away to clear that ...just like the " triangle away " app for samsung devices

9. xoutrageousx

Posts: 70; Member since: Dec 22, 2011

Android what started open source for everyone....it's becoming closed source for everyone.

13. Beholder88

Posts: 86; Member since: Mar 30, 2012

I had a rooted RAZR and there was a black spot that showed up on my camera, not caused by damage or anything, and was able to return it with no problem. Now, I did a complete flash with RSD lite, so I'm not sure if that had any effect on it. When booting into recovery on my RAZR (rooted) now, there is little yellow text in the left middle of the screen that says "qe 1/1". I'm wondering if I do a flash if this would change in any way. I will take a picture of this screen and send it in if Phonearena would like a visual.

23. johnnohome

Posts: 1; Member since: Aug 27, 2012

i would like to see if flashing again would do that, please let us know.

14. torr310

Posts: 1679; Member since: Oct 27, 2011

Era for the unlocked phones is coming! Get rid of all the restrictions!

15. TheRetroReplay

Posts: 256; Member since: Mar 20, 2012

In all out honestly, I can see where they're coming from. Imagining having customers who root and screw up their phone because they screwed it up. That customer keeps rooting, screwing up and sending it back in, that costs the carrier time and money to fix a bricked device. And if they can't repair it to send it out as a refurb, their out of more money. Also this is common procedure for companies, if you do something with a device that wasn't meant for it's original purpose, it voids the warranty, that's everywhere. Just because you CAN do something, doesn't mean you SHOULD. This is akin to a parent punishing a child for doing something that they shouldn't of been doing and breaking something and then the parent refuses to replace what the child broke in order to teach them a lesson.

16. 14545

Posts: 1835; Member since: Nov 22, 2011

Not really the same thing. That would be like ASUS/HP/Dell voiding my warranty because of I put linux on it. What does it matter? It's just a smaller version of what I described above.

18. downphoenix

Posts: 3165; Member since: Jun 19, 2010

The solution is, wait a year until the warranty is up.

19. downbeat4

Posts: 94; Member since: Dec 03, 2010

If they don't allow a warranty replacement, Motorola most definitely will. You would just lose the of a quick turn around time.

20. SprintPower

Posts: 74; Member since: Dec 29, 2008

So what. There are tools for resetting the flash counter to zero. Plus, anyone who owns a high end device should have the insurance. They will just run over it with their car or soak it in the fishbowl overnight. All this does is encourage fraudulent insurance claims.

22. tedkord

Posts: 17417; Member since: Jun 17, 2009

Breaking your glass isn't covered by warranty anyway, only insurance. Insurance doesn't care if you rooted.

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