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Sony Ericsson to allow Xperia bootloader unlocks, with strings attached

Sony Ericsson will be allowing users of all four of its upcoming Xperia phones — Arc, Neo, Play and Pro — to access the bootloader (the software which loads an operating system into memory) for the purpose of unlocks. The news comes straight from the source, in a posting on the company’s Sony Ericsson Developer Blog. Before you start hailing this new renaissance in open-source mobile development however, there are a few things you ought to know.

First, and perhaps least importantly in the minds of prospective unlockers, Sony Ericsson only recommends that “advanced developers” take advantage of the feature, which you’ll need the Android SDK’s (that’s “software development kit”) Fastboot feature to access. What’s more, SIM lock protected phones are out of bounds. So you’re not going to able to just unlock your new phone if it is, for example, freshly purchased from the Verizon store.

There are other factors as well, “depending on your market and the original configuration of your phone,” but details are not provided. Sony Ericsson suggests that would-be boot loader unlockers test the functionality using Fastboot; if the phone can connect, the unlock can be performed. Also note that this feature is only supported on the upcoming Xperia phones; the newly released X10 is out of bounds due to “technical and legal reasons.”

The usual “you may void your warranty” warning is issued. A repair tech won’t tell you that unlocking is not allowed, but any phone running modded software is not going to be compliant with the usual battery of Sony-authorized test and repair procedures. If warranty repairs do need to be affected, Sony Ericsson reserves the right to levy a handling fee. This is actually quite a rational way of handling things. The post also (rather hilariously) warns of potential physical dangers that can result from running custom firmware on one’s mobile device, due to the risk of overheating.

The warnings seem largely geared toward discouraging amateur developers from potentially bricking their phones. While Sony Ericsson repeatedly pegs this functionality as something that only advanced developers should take advantage of, the whole idea of open-source development is to produce freely available content for public use.

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