Xiaomi tries to explain why it’s locking bootloaders, but users are having none of it

By | 20th January 2016

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Xiaomi made a controversial move this week. The Chinese company has decided to start locking bootloaders on many of their devices, claiming that it is necessary to comply with Google’s guidelines. This is disappointing news to many advanced users, but what makes matters worse is that Xiaomi applied these changes with an over-the-air update that left a large number of devices bricked. Fans of Xiaomi’s historically dev-friendly handsets are not taking the company’s explanations and justifications kindly.

Xiaomi is telling its usership not to worry, and that they’ve provided a method for unlocking bootloaders. This is all well and good, but the unlocking process is ridiculously convoluted and involves a long wait time. First you have to download a zip file and run it through the Updater app on MIUI. This is already a roadblock for users who are stuck in bootloop, but the migraine is really only beginning. After running the zip file, you need to log into your Mi account with unlock permissions on the handset, then log into the same Mi account on a computer, download and run a Chinese-language-only PC tool, and finally connect the two while navigating the Unlocking Tool.

Xiaomi Mi 5 Black 840pxSee also: (Update: available one week after launch) Xiaomi Mi 5 arriving in February with Snapdragon 82077

You might be wondering how you get unlock permissions for your Mi account (which, if you don’t have one, you’ll need to create one before even starting this process). This is where things go from puzzlingly complex to downright infuriating for many users. You have to formally apply for unlock permissions. On a site that is in Chinese. You have to provide a reason to Xiaomi justifying why you need unlock permissions, and Xiaomi will consider granting them on a case-by-case basis. Once you’re approved, the developers will send you an unlock code via SMS.

The approval process currently takes 3-21 days. In an effort, it seems, to pour water on this grease fire, Xiaomi has essentially created a caste system by announcing that applications will be handled with Diamond-tier forum members getting priority over the lower plebs. This has prompted some users to start spamming the forums in an effort to grind up their ranking.

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To put it succinctly, people aren’t happy. Xiaomi has attempted to spin locked bootloaders as a shiny security feature on their devices, but the usually-cheery forum members are calling BS. Many are claiming this is the last straw for them, with many comments beginning “That’s it, I’m done,” or “Goodbye Xiaomi.”

What are your thoughts regarding Xiaomi’s decision to lock bootloaders? It does seem like locked bootloaders are the best way to go, just for the security of more casual users who haven’t even thought the word “bootloader” in their lives. However, giving devs and power users a simple and clear method of unlocking their bootloaders if they want to doesn’t seem like an unreasonable request. Was there a better way to navigate this transition? Also if you’re one of those affected by the lockdown update, let us know in the comments below!

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