Samsung is the largest producer of Android smartphones in the world, has many flagship devices like the Galaxy S8 / S8 + and Galaxy Note 8. While the company has a lot of controversy, the device is still less attractive to users because of its great hardware and design. However, it looks like Samsung is taking steps that may have adverse effects on the company.
We've seen before that smartphone companies can only support devices for a certain period of time. This is a developer community that really supports the device by creating firmware and ROM specific to the device. Unfortunately, Samsung is launching a new bootloader update that will prevent the installation of the aftermarket firmware.
As reported by XDA-Developers, Samsung held a new update for the Galaxy Note 8 which comes with a January security update. While bringing some patches to specter and meltdown vulnerabilities, new updates also come with a new bootloader. The new bootloader means users can not downgrade their device after this update. Furthermore, it also uses the use of 3rd party Odin clients.
For the unconscious, Odin is a Samsung custom tool used for flashing firmware designed by the company. Unlike other Android devices out there, Samsung has removed certain features like fastboot from the bootloader and has replaced it with Odin. Samsung uses the Odin tool to check the model number, location of the region, and other related firmware parameters to authenticate flashing the new firmware. While the modeled Odin app has been able to bypass this authentication action, the newly updated bootloader will block the use of all third party Odin software.
What this means is that users can no longer install custom firmware because it is not officially signed by Samsung. Furthermore, you also can not install firmware from other regions because it will trigger a mismatch in Odin. Lastly, if you try to move the carrier unlocked firmware on the phone operator, it will brick your phone loudly. Currently, there is no way to restore from the hard bricks in Odin from the new bootloader.
While the new Android Oreo beta containing the January patch has been released for other devices, like the Galaxy S8, it still does not contain a new bootloader. Thus, the modded Odin software still works for them. However, once the device gets a new BLV3 revision, the changes will be permanent, and there will be no way to downgrade or update to a custom firmware.
As someone who is really busy with the Android development scene and loves to try ROM and new special features, this news comes as a big blow. Apart from the problems, I have always admired Samsung's design language, and the use of industry-leading hardware. While the above news should not affect the general users who prefer to keep using stock firmware and upgrade their devices in less than a few years, this is certainly an alarming news for the Android developer community. It seems as if Samsung is lining up to be the safest Android OEM out there, and the new bootloader update is sure to be a step in the same direction.