For a long time now, HTC has been pretending to cater to the developer crowd. For example, it started HTCdev.com a few years ago as a way to make it easier to unlock HTC phones; however, as most of us have come to realize, HTC’s definition of “unlocked” is much different than most of the rest of the Android world. (For a quick run down on the differences between unlocking your phone with HTCdev and gaining true S-OFF, check out Paul’s post from last year.) I personally experienced quite a headache with my own unlocked EVO 4G LTE: I learned that since I still had S-ON, after the official Jelly Bean update I could no longer make any root-level system changes on my device stick after a reboot, even though the bootloader was technically unlocked.
HTC has also gone out of its way to place roadblocks in front of developers by sending shutdown requests to websites that distribute HTC Sense-based ROMs and software. HTC then refused to directly answer simple questions about why. And at the same time, it makes people want to root their devices and phones, because official updates take forever and people don’t like being spied on.
That’s why I think that if HTC really wants to woo developers, it needs to follow in Sony’s footsteps. Recently, Sony demonstrated its commitment to open source software by releasing all of the source code for its most recent flagship device, the Sony Xperia Z Ultra. It’s available for download, and because it’s open source, it can be freely distributed and modified. Sony also makes it fairly easy to fully unlock a device’s bootloader, without jumping through the sometimes dangerous hoops that HTC requires in order to gain full S-OFF.
Quite frankly, HTC needs to stop the BS. It says that it supports developers, but then its actions tell another story. It’s no secret that HTC has struggled to keep its sales numbers up throughout the past year, so it can’t afford to alienate any segment of the population – especially phone enthusiasts, who often make the smartphone purchasing decisions for the rest of their friends and families.
While Sony lets developers do whatever they want on their phones, HTC’s bootloaders remain an unnecessary obstacle, and its camera drivers and radios remain closed source. Sony, on the other hand, has demonstrated that you don’t necessarily need a Nexus or a Google Play Experience device to truly unlock a phone’s potential. HTC apparently still has a lot to learn.