Recently, there has been quite a bit of drama and user outcry over the fact that Verizon decided to ship its version of Samsung’s Galaxy SIII with a locked bootloader. So much so, in fact, that Samsung decided to make and ship a version of the Verizon SIII branded as a developer edition and with an unlocked bootloader. Naturally, with all this going on there was quite an uproar when some chats with sales representatives and a PR email made it sound like Verizon was actually going to push an update to the SIII which would unlock the bootloader, making user’s concerns and Samsung’s developer device moot.
As great as it would be if Verizon had reversed their policy on locked bootloaders, that is not the case. Instead, the episode boils down to some confusion about the meaning of “unlocked.” What the Verizon representatives in the email and chat were referring to is not an update that will unlock the bootloader, but instead an update that will unlock the global GSM roaming capability built into the Galaxy SIII. With unlocked GSM roaming, users will be able to put a SIM card into the Verizon SIII and use it on most GSM carriers worldwide. It certainly isn’t the same as an unlocked bootloader, but it isn’t a bad update either.
Although it may disappoint those who were looking for an unlocked bootloader, unlocked GSM roaming is a nice feature to have, especially on a CDMA Verizon smartphone. Of course, it will be of little consolation to those with the SIII who wanted an unlocked bootloader, but it is a nice feature for those looking at the device. Going back to the communication error, this incident shows that rumors may not always be true, even when supposedly confirmed by employees or leaked documents. It also highlights the confusion over what “unlocked” actually means with regards to smartphones, but that is another topic entirely.