Friday, August 3, 2018

Regarding XDA’s stance on Huawei’s decision to stop bootloader unlocking

Install OpenSans and Roboto Fonts on Huawei or Honor

Back in April, Huawei's form to request a bootloader unlock code mysteriously disappeared. Late May, the form returned but with a warning that the service would no longer work after 60 days. As promised, Huawei's form is no longer available, meaning it's no longer possible to unlock the bootloader of Huawei or Honor devices. This has obviously been disappointing to many users on our forums, but it's been especially disappointing for us, the XDA Portal team. Some have wondered when we would be addressing the elephant in the room – that is, Honor's sponsorship agreements with XDA – in light of this recent news. Here's where we stand.

It's no secret that Honor, a sub-brand of Huawei, sponsors XDA for certain content. Anytime that happens, the content is submitted under the "A Word From Our Sponsors" which are handled entirely by the XDA Administrative staff – not the XDA Portal team. The XDA Portal team does not deal with sponsored content in any way. Every time the Portal covered news related to Huawei or Honor, it has always been because we chose to do so and not because Huawei or Honor asked us to do so.

With that in mind, many users in the comments section on the Portal, YouTube, our Discord group, and our Telegram group have asked us to stop giving coverage to any Huawei or Honor product because of their decision. We don't believe ceasing coverage of the (now #2) smartphone vendor in the world is a reasonable decision for a blog that focuses on Android software and hardware, but our readers' concerns have made us re-evaluate how we'll be covering their products moving forward.


Moving Forward – XDA Portal's Coverage of Huawei/Honor Devices

First, let's address the perception that XDA should completely stop covering their devices because of the bootloader unlocking decision. The reason boils down to this: What's the point of covering their products if they don't allow you to unlock the bootloader? This stems from the perception that XDA is a community only for rooting and installing custom ROMs, kernels, and modifications. That hasn't been true for years – we've provided forums for devices with little to no hope of receiving official bootloader unlock methods (such as American carrier variants of Samsung devices) and we've also covered plenty of "locked down" devices in the past. The one thing that binds the users of our forums together is the willingness to tinker and mod their devices in any way possible – with or without root. It's why we post tutorials and cover apps that both do and do not need root access. XDA is a community for Android enthusiasts of all stripes, even ones who want to run stock with a few ADB tweaks and not flash an AOSP ROM with a custom kernel, Magisk, and Xposed.

Therefore, there will still be a place for Huawei and Honor devices on XDA, just like there's a place for Snapdragon Samsung devices despite the difficulty in modding them. We realize their decision to stop providing bootloader unlocking codes will make them less popular among our readers, so we'll be adjusting our coverage accordingly. From here on, the XDA Portal team will cover new Huawei and Honor product launches with the disclaimer that the bootloader cannot be unlocked, and we will also continue coverage of their hardware and software if we get any exclusive information from leaks. We can't just pretend that the second largest Android smartphone vendor no longer exists, and given our large reader base there will still be plenty of people who don't feel let down by the bootloader unlock decision. That being said, here's how XDA feels about the bootloader unlock decision and why we've pushed behind-the-scenes to have it reversed.


How we feel about Huawei's Decision to End Bootloader Unlocking

We are 100% against the decision to no longer provide bootloader unlock codes. To summarize, here are the main benefits that we feel the community is missing out on by no longer having access to bootloader unlocking:

  • The ability to update your device past the end of official support. It's true that without OEM support, you won't receive some vital patches, but the alternative is receiving no patches at all. With custom ROMs like LineageOS, you'll still receive valuable kernel and Android framework patches.
  • The ability to customize the software on your device to your liking. It's your phone, you should be able to do with it as you want. With the widespread adoption of Project Treble support, Huawei and Honor phones were suddenly becoming great devices for those interested in rooting and installing custom ROMs. Team OpenKirin, a team of independent developers that provide AOSP-based custom ROMs like LineageOS, Carbon ROM, and Resurrection Remix on Huawei and Honor devices, went from supporting a handful of devices to over a dozen with great success.
  • The ability to re-brand your device without using closed source paid tools.

We're sure our readers can list dozens of other, more personal reasons why you're disappointed by the lack of bootloader unlocking. We're disappointed too because we've worked with Honor on the Honor View 10's open source program and also on seeding Honor 8 units to developers. The Honor View 10 and Honor 8 have both received ample development support thanks to these development programs. While our efforts in promoting development on these devices haven't always been successful (we tried, but were unable to convince HiSilicon to provide documented sources on their SoCs), we felt that our work with Honor was beginning to pay off especially when the Honor View 10's development program began.

These initiatives feel pointless now that the bootloader can no longer be unlocked. If you had asked me months ago to decide between the Honor View 10 and the OnePlus 5T, I would have a hard time giving you an answer because of the growing development community of the View 10. If you ask me now, my answer will be obvious: If you value bootloader unlocking, don't pick the Huawei or Honor phone. If EMUI doesn't bother you all that much and instead you mainly value their products for the hardware they deliver at the prices they offer, then the choice is up to you whether you want to buy a Huawei or Honor device.

It'll be a difficult decision to reverse, but that doesn't mean we have given up on having Huawei reverse their stance. We've been working with our contacts within the company to ease up on their restrictions and may have gotten them to start giving out bootloader unlock codes again. However, I don't know how many codes they're willing to distribute and for how long. I can't go into more details now, but we'll hopefully have an announcement soon on the forums.


Conclusion

I hope that our readers now understand where the XDA Portal team stands on the bootloader unlocking issue. Honor and Huawei products will still have a place on XDA, and we're pleased to continue working with Honor as a sponsor for as long as the company sees the value in promoting their brand in the largest English-language community of Android enthusiasts. We hope that the feedback in response to this decision will sway them. We'll continue to advocate our stance to Huawei on your behalf, as we want to see a Huawei and Honor device community successfully grow on the XDA forums.



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