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Droid X sells out as Motorola defends lock-down chip

Jul 16, 2010 — by Eric Brown — from the LinuxDevices Archive — views

The Motorola Droid X sold out in its first day, and won't be available at Verizon Wireless until July 23, says eWEEK. Meanwhile, Motorola responded to complaints over the Droid X's eFuse ROM lock-down chip, reassuring potential buyers that it won't destroy the phone if ROM modifications are made.

As we reported yesterday, the much anticipated Motorola Droid X (pictured at right) went on sale yesterday, with Verizon's assurances that the phone would not suffer from the same sort of shortages that are plaguing other high-end Android phones these days. Yet on the very first day, yesterday, the Droid X sold out in most locations, and now the carrier is saying new phones won't arrive until July 23, says a story in our sister publication, eWEEK.

Verizon and Motorola should have expected high demand for the Droid X, considering the popularity of the previous Motorola Droid phone (pictured at left), as well as a number of glowing reviews of the new device. Perhaps they did not, however, fathom the effects caused by display shortages limiting the availability of other high-end phones like the HTC Evo 4G, or the impact of the iPhone's antenna woes. Verizon's HTC Droid Incredible, for example, is out of stock until Aug. 9, says eWEEK.

The Droid X is sold out online, as well as at most Verizon retail stores and Best Buy, according to the story. A Verizon spokesperson confirmed the delay for eWEEK, today, stating, "Customers have been enthusiastic about the launch of the Droid X by Motorola, and inventory is either out or very low in some parts of the country. Customers may continue to order their phones, and our expectation is the phones will ship on or before July 23. We have weekly shipments scheduled."

There was no indication that the rapid sell-out was caused by the same display shortages hindering the smartphone industry this summer. The shortages appear to be especially severe with OLED and/or large-format displays.

Motorola "clarifies" eFuse lockdown

In our story on the Droid X launch yesterday, we reported on complaints from the modder community about a lock-down mechanism installed on the phone by Motorola that prohibits tinkering with the ROM. As noted yesterday, according to a MyDroidWorld post by "P3droid," the IBM-manufactured eFuse chip that causes the lockdown will "brick" the phone if a user tries to modify or replace the ROM. This might be done, for example, to eliminate or replace the phone's MotoBlur UI layer, or switch to Android 2.2 ahead of schedule.

Well, maybe, maybe not; it all depends on how one defines "brick," Motorola's response appears to suggest.

After asking Motorola for a clarification, Engadget posted a response by the company, stating, in part:

"The Droid X and a majority of Android consumer devices on the market today have a secured bootloader. In reference specifically to eFuse, the technology is not loaded with the purpose of preventing a consumer device from functioning, but rather ensuring for the user that the device only runs on updated and tested versions of software. If a device attempts to boot with unapproved software, it will go into recovery mode, and can re-boot once approved software is re-installed. Checking for a valid software configuration is a common practice within the industry to protect the user against potential malicious software threats."

In other words, concludes Engadget, Motorola is assuring the public that the phone is not permanently destroyed. Still, despite the unfortunate use of the somewhat-ambiguous term "brick," this did not appear to be what P3droid was suggesting. The story noted, as have others, that users could take the phone to Motorola to have them restore the original ROM.

While both the Motorola response and the Engadget interpretation were both somewhat ambiguous, it appears that the eFuse chip will disable the Droid X if a user attempts to modify the ROM, and Motorola can fix it.

What's not clear is whether such a fix can be done over-the-air (not likely), or whether it requires only a trip to the nearest Verizon store or a mail-back to Motorola. Also unclear is whether showing up with such a disabled phone might violate one's licensing agreement, although neither Motorola or Verizon appear to be suggesting it would.

Meanwhile, although Motorola's claim is likely true that most Android phones have a secured bootloader, most of them, it would seem, have been conquered by Android modders by now. According to several reports, however, no one has successfully overcome the eFuse chip that Motorola installed it on the Droid-like Milestone phone last fall.


The eWEEK story on the Droid X sell-out may be found here. The Engadget story on Motorola's response to the Droid X lock-down issue may be found here.

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