For smartphone owners over at XDA-Developers, a new flagship smartphone is as good as useless without root. Just ask the thousands of AT&T and Verizon Galaxy S5 owners in their 7th week of waiting. So far it looks like Samsung, AT&T or Verizon won’t offer a way to unlock the device for rooting and in the meantime the community has put up a bounty for the first developer to find a way to root the Galaxy S5 from Verizon and AT&T. That bounty is currently nearing $18,000 in value.
With a root, an Android-powered smartphone owner can access all sorts of powerful apps and software that can, among many other functions, control battery usage, allow automated backup and remotely monitor the device if stolen. However, rooting requires a device with an unlocked bootloader or some sort of exploit that allows a developer to access software at the core of the Android Operating System. AT&T and Verizon have so-far locked the bootloader within the new Galaxy S5, meaning root functionality is not possible without an exploit.
With a root, an Android-powered smartphone owner can access all sorts of powerful apps and software.
To help fund the search for such an exploit, the XDA-Developers community has started a bounty, where users can pitch in money that will be rewarded if a way to root the Verizon and AT&T Galaxy S5 is found. So far that bounty is up to an impressive $17,600 across both devices, with nearly $10,000 for the Verizon Galaxy S5 alone. If someone can find a way to root both devices with a single exploit, they’re entitled to the whole fortune. The bounty is on an honor system, and the winner would have to contact all of the community members to arrange collecting it if successful. This is different compared to sites like Kickstarter, which hold the money in escrow until a project is completed or fully funded.
Not all devices have this problem with bootloaders and rooting. While carriers can lock the bootloader, the manufacturer ultimately has the power to override those locks with their own internal software. Some manufacturers, like HTC, extend this functionality to the end-user. Even if you own a device with a locked bootloader, such as the One M8, HTC has a website where you can sign up and unlock your device’s bootloader after agreeing to a waiver. Even if AT&T and Verizon lock the bootloader, any user with a PC and a little patience can unlock it in an hour. This makes HTC devices developer-friendly despite what restrictions carriers may set on the device.
We reached out to Samsung to ask why they choose not to offer a similar program like HTC. A Samsung representative told us to talk to the carriers about the bootloader-locking policy as a whole and would not comment on anything else. We’re currently waiting to hear back from AT&T and Verizon about their own feelings about locked bootloaders.
Hopefully AT&T and Verizon Galaxy S5 owners won’t have to wait much longer for a way to root their devices and use them to their full potential. If a developer does find a way to attain root on the S5 with a new exploit, they’re in for one huge reward. Maybe Samsung needs to reconsider its own bootloader policies with carriers, otherwise it might start encouraging developers to jump ship to HTC.