Well, I might have recommended a Droid X for big-phone-lovin’ fandroids out there… but now that I’ve read about Motorola’s insane eFuse tampering-countermeasure system, I’m going to have to give this one a big fat DON’T BUY on principle. I won’t restate all my reasons for supporting the modding, hacking, jailbreaking, and so on of your legally-owned products here — if you’re interested in a user’s manifesto, read this — but suffice it to say that deliberately bricking a phone if the user fiddles with it does not fall under the “reasonable” category of precautions taken by manufacturers.
Really. If you want to make it difficult to hack, that’s fine. You think your software should be enough, that’s fine. But once I pay money for the item, it’s mine, and disabling my device because you don’t like what I’m doing with it falls under the category of sabotage.
Here’s what eFuse does. This information is a couple days old but it’s worth reading if you’re interested in Android, development, or open standards in general. Besides, I just found out about it, so you have to read my words whether you like it or not. or you could just stop reading. Either way. Anyway:
If the eFuse failes to verify this information then the eFuse receives a command to “blow the fuse” or “trip the fuse”. This results in the booting process becoming corrupted and resulting in a permanent bricking of the Phone. This FailSafe is activated anytime the bootloader is tampered with or any of the above three parts of the phone has been tampered with.
It requires a hardware fix, apparently, only available through Motorola, of course. This is the equivalent of a MacBook detonating some core component if you try to install an OS to dual boot.
Will many users run into this problem? Probably not, but Android is a platform that not only was founded on the idea of openness, but thrives because of it. The grey market of sideloaded apps and custom ROMs will only get more popular and more easily accessed as people realize that their phones are tiny computers waiting to be customized. That idea is anathema to Motorola and clearly they will continue to stoop to unreasonable means to “protect” their hardware — which you bought and paid for.
So here’s my official recommendation: don’t buy a Droid phone and don’t recommend them to your friends. There are too many good options out there that aren’t locked down by nefarious means. Look up a Galaxy phone or wait for the next awesome thing to come along. Vote with your wallet and tell Motorola “open or GTFO.”
Update: Woke up to 200 comments — hi Reddit and Slashdot and others! Come in. Stay a while. Also, two things. First, I don’t know where people got the idea this was a pro-Apple or pro-iPhone post. It’s not even related to Apple except perhaps tangentially. Second, it is true that this security feature or a similar one is implemented in some way in other Droid-branded phones, and has yet to be bypassed. It may or may not be implemented in the way the guy I quoted above describes, but the system is in place. I’d say don’t give up, but honestly, I’m going to go with please don’t waste your time unless you view it as a challenge to be overcome. There are a ton of amazing handsets out there worth using and hacking, and I’d rather we just threw Motorola out the window.
Update 2: Engadget asked Motorola and Motorola says:
In reference specifically to eFuse, the technology is not loaded with the purpose of preventing a consumer device from functioning, but rather ensuring for the user that the device only runs on updated and tested versions of software. If a device attempts to boot with unapproved software, it will go into recovery mode, and can re-boot once approved software is re-installed. Checking for a valid software configuration is a common practice within the industry to protect the user against potential malicious software threats.
Whether there’s a meaningful difference between bricking and being locked into recovery mode, I leave to people more experienced in hacking than myself to discuss. Obviously you don’t lose your data, but if you still have to have it restored by an authorized source, it amounts to almost the same thing.