Motorola "Milestone" the smart-phone with a clear limitation!
The main purpose of this article is to discuss certain details and inconsistencies with the European Motorola flagship product - the Motorola Milestone.
Lately Motorola has started to advertise the Milestone aggressively and comprehensively. "Unlimited Possibilities" and "Smart-phone with no limits" are listed as the main features of this device.
Granted, using this device really gives the feeling of a milestone, when it comes to design and finish. The overall quality is very good.
The phone itself is also a milestone in other aspects: Android enjoys a growing community of fans, main points being the many possibilities to customize the Open source OS. The main highlights of this scene are Custom ROMs, which can change every possible aspect of the phone, from the UI appearance to adding new kernel modules and new drivers. The custom ROMs also add a possibility of a superuser acount by default. Features and functions can be taken from one phone and added to another one. It has also been noticed that the Custom-ROMs run much faster and much more stable than the standard ROMs of the phone. However, changing the ROM results in a loss of the manufacturer provided warranty. This is not a problem for most members of this scene -- also known as "modders" -- since most of them are driven by the wish to be in control of the smart-phone and have total control over the software.
With most Android mobile-phones it is possible to flash a custom ROM, even with the sister model of the Milestone, which was released in the USA under the name "Motorola Droid". Both of the models are identified by the same hardware codename "Sholes", possibly the internal name for the device.
Now for the downside of the Milestone: Motorola restricted large parts of the modification freedom. They have ensured that this model can only load signed ROMs. The signature can only be checked by a special key, hard-coded into the hardware. Because of this we cannot start custom ROMs on the German and possibly on every other Milestone. None of the European customers expected that - and why? It was known that the same device was successfully modified in the USA, the only difference is the radio-module. Of course the internet communities are not happy with this. There have been many discussions in the Motorola Customer Center, Developer Forum and Facebook page about this.
At this point, we'd like to point out that Motorola possibly has some custom software on there, and possibly wants to defend this. Of cource this is just an assumption, since Motorola hasn't released a clear statement towards this, therefore we'll leave this point open. Technically it shouldn't be hard for them to give us an update which frees the boot-loader. We are ready to give our IMEI and the device's serial number to Motorola, to forfeit the warranty and delete the licensed software and in the future refer to their device as a developer phone. The same is possible with the Google's/HTC's "Nexus One". You just have to enter an special command to unlock the boot-loader, then you get a message on the phone, which states that you are forfeiting your warranty, if you continue with the process.
The Official responses from Motorola are saying nothing more to us than: It's not our responsibility to discuss why the American model has an open boot-loader and the European one doesn't have one. To make matters worse, Motorola is saying that they are not going to implement and/or release this "developer function". This raises the question: Is the Droid a Motorola device or not? Since it _has_ this function! Given the difficult situation of Motorola's mobile phone division, to treat American and European customers so differently is beyond our understanding.
Thanks to lengthy trials, the scene has managed to modify some parts of the software, but the elementary parts are still locked for us. Contrary to previous experiences, replacing and modifying the kernel is not possible on the "Milestone". This fact decreases our chances to fix problems, after Motorola stops supporting the Milestone (which is a fairly common practice, when bringing a new device to the market, with the same hardware specs, to push the sales). The Community is more likely to purchase the successor of the Milestone, if they would honor our requests.
What would also have been acceptable for the Community, would be if this fact had been known from the beginning. If this were the case, some of us would not have bought this device, instead they would have chosen one from the competition (This is actually something that Motorola suggests as an alternative).
The customers outside the USA feel handicapped, for a reason.
Motodev Blog response: Custom ROMs and Motorola's Android Handsets
Custom ROMs and Motorola's Android Handsets - MOTODEV Discussion Boards ( Custom ROMs and Motorola's Android Handsets - MOTODEV Discussion Boards )
Motorola Press Release related to MWC 2010
Motorola Owners' Forum
Nexus One Root/Unlock - Video
Video: How to unlock and root a Nexus One – Android and Me ( Video: How to unlock and root a Nexus One – Android and Me )
In this video we can clearly see how easy it is, and how the modder is notified of loss of warranty
by: Michael Brandt, Jan-Philipp Trommershäuser for the Milestone Community