Unlocked Bootloaders

Mobile phone technology has advanced enormously in the past few years as users demand more and more capabilities. Not all emerging functionality is of universal interest though; some is of interest to only a few users who are willing to pay for it and who are unwilling to wait until it becomes a standard feature.

Specialized functionality can be added once the phone has left the manufacturer, but it requires access to the phone’s OS in order to modify or replace subsystems, such as the bootloader, to run applications not normally accessible to a user, and to add the new functionality. Fortunately, some manufacturers such as Samsung and HTC have begun to see the light. Case in point, the Galaxy S has an unlocked bootloader, and HTC has published instructions for unlocking their phones’ bootloaders.

Such openness sometimes minimizes the need for rooting, making it much easier for Vensi to add functionality such as our Near Field Communications features. It’s a useful add-on because it extends the phone’s capability in so many directions and it’s growing more popular by the day. Having access to the bootloader also gives us the flexibility to adapt our own operating system-level software and fully integrate Vensi functionality.

Sometimes though, we’re tasked to add functionality to a phone that does not have a bootloader that can be unlocked.  In that case, we gather the information we need by rooting or by an analogous process called jailbreaking that’s been vetted and approved by the U.S. Copyright Office. Our success adding medical monitor functionality to the iPad is an excellent example.

It goes beyond software functionality though. As shown with our iPad success, a client may require functionality with third party hardware such as a credit card scanner or a USB so they can use memory sticks with their phones. That makes the phone choice clearer since hardware integration is so much easier when working with an OS that has an unlocked bootloader.

Obviously though it’s a lot easier to work with mobiles that use unlocked bootloaders. One of our favorites is the Galaxy because Google rolls out new OS versions for it before it releases OS versions for other phones, and because Samsung supports NFC. On the Apple side, the iPhone gets our nod because of its user interface. But, it’s always the client’s choice. Sometimes they select a phone, sometimes they ask us for a recommendation. When they do, we base our recommendation on our past experience, the capability they’re looking for, and the features they want. Our personal preferences are not usually key considerations.

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