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The AT&T Galaxy S4 has a locked bootloader

Yep, it's confirmed. The AT&T S4 authenticates the recovery and boot images before executing them.

I can't see what AT&T has to possibly gain from this. GSM and LTE aren't magical, tethering is controllable on the server side, and theft-of-services is not possible from the application processor side (or even from the modem side as far as I know). The same device is available on every carrier, so it's not an exclusivity issue either. The modem processor has always been locked, and the casual user doesn't want to mess with that part anyway. Samsung has always been developer-friendly, so I am guessing their hand was forced.

The only outcome I see here is stacks of bricked devices being sent back for warranty replacement due to the ease of causing a permanent boot failure, especially since the device is trivially rootable.

The arms race continues. News flash: MILLIONS of people run custom firmware (and I have the STATS to prove it). This is just a stupid move that will cost you customers and money.

I would not recommend buying this device on AT&T if you want to run CyanogenMod or another custom ROM, or if you are a developer and need to work with or debug the lower layers.
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178 comments
 
HTC ONE developer edition...Thats all I can say...Samsung has lost my respect
 
Reason why I stick with nexus devices.
 
Since the original GS2 i have been getting the unlocked versions of phones..never had a carrier phone and never will..I rather pay the large amount.
 
16gig is more than fine for me with cloud storage. 
 
+derek cason not everyone wants to use cloud storage all the time..Everyone is different..just like you, you don't want a non Nexus phone..other people do..
 
Hitler video says all..
 
Meh we'll see the same thing on Verizon.

I'll probably be switching to T-Mobile and just staying on Nexus devices. Have to vote with my wallet.
 
I didn't say other people didn't. Just glad I don't have to deal with bloated locked down devices.
 
And to me sense is uglier than any thing on a phone but the build quality of htc is amazing. I'm curious how the HTC one is running.
 
+Daniel Hillenbrand +F. Diaz For now, the AT&T HTC One can be unlocked through HTC Dev. It won't last though... The AT&T version is actually supposed to be locked.
 
+Saurabh Gupta don't bother. +F. Diaz is on an anti-Samsung rampage, with no regard to how unreasonable his accusations against the company are.

I just think this is going to suck if ATT keeps doing this on its phones. Then again, its GSM and I can buy the unlocked and carrier free model at any time to get around it.
 
So Android Spin was right? Steve make up your mind!
 
Fuck you At&t! You just lost a customer. Actually you just lost four customers.
 
+Burk Manson Oh we'll support the versions that don't have the ridiculous lockdown. And likely the locked versions when they are cracked, that's just a matter of time.
 
+F. Diaz Where I live both T- Mobile and Sprint are viable options. The Sprint S4 is not bootloader locked and the T- Mobile one probably won't be either.
 
+Steve Kondik with the note 2 and s3 (verizon) being really tough to crack as well as Dan Rosenbergs comments on the rare find of a Motorola exploit... Do you agree that we are at that point where security has made it where it's going to be near impossible or at least substantially harder to see said devices unlocked? Is the method in the s4 more robust than prior?

I'm asking strictly out of curiosity, I fully agree that one shouldn't buy any locked device in hopes that the community can bail them out and definitely shouldn't buy on perceived hackability if they otherwise aren't happy with a device as it comes out of the box. 
 
I have not used the new sense no. But HTC seems to be on their game recently.
 
+Steve Kondik That's what I figured I was just attempting a joke heh. I'm a proud owner of a d2vzw (and a not so proud owner of a Droid X) so I have faith that the community will get the S4 cracked eventually.
 
+Jonathan Franklin I don't know anything about the specific implementation, but yes there is definitely more hardware assistance involved in these kinds of locks now and it will keep getting harder. My only advice is to just not buy this crap, there are plenty of better alternatives.
 
I have been with AT&T since 2007 (left T-Mobile for the original iPhone.) I have been on the fence for the past few weeks about switching back to T-Mobile. This may have just pushed me over. I'm definitely going to stop by T-Mobile tomorrow to see what they have to offer.

It would be nice if review sites and ROM sites would include past behavior of carriers and OEMs in phone reviews. Kind of like a corporate "credit score" but based on how the users have been treated. The slate is too often wiped clean with no accountability. 
 
+Maxx Daymon I'm pretty sure if EA would quit doing stuff to get themselves atop the worst company list polls, it would open that slot right up for Verizon and AT&T to slide in
 
And this is why I choose to spend my money on a Nexus 4 instead. Locked carrier and/or bootloader = no money from me.
 
That's why I went to tmobile and left Verizon....I was willing to pay the etf fee...tired of these carriers of locking down bootloader.
 
AT&T, Since the 50s-60s, the vilest, monopolizing consumer-screwing evil corporation Template for uncompetitiveness - yep, they suck harder than the ugliest porn-actresses..
 
First world problems. Haaayzz.... why not just buy the phone? Why get tied up with a 2yr contract then complain the phones they "give" you is locked? 
 
I love my Samsung G3,   I'll not be changing phones any time soon.
Cyanogenmod for the win.


If it indeed is a locked bootloader, that cannot be bypassed,   I'll look elsewhere when It's necessary to upgrade, but honestly,  I don't think I"ll need to for a few years.

My year old asus Transformer TF300 does everything I need it to,  and is fast as stink.  (Cyanogenmod for the win here also)

Unless there's another 'sea change' in what we use our android devices for,  I have no need to upgrade for a long while.
 
How does this differ than any other Android phone with a locked bootloader? Seems the community figures out ways to unlock them anyways, right?
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+Corey Vallejo yes, the community will figure out how to unlock it. The problem is what Steve already stated: "bricked devices being sent back for warranty replacement due to the ease of causing a permanent boot failure" due to the fact that the AT&T S4 "authenticates the recovery and boot images before executing them".

TL;DR: try to flash ClockworkMod or TWRP and you may not be able to recover (at least, not right now).
 
Let me ask you all a question then. If OEM & carriers are locking their devices, will they offer a Developer Edition? Is this where we are heading to? You either buy from carrier or developer version... 
 
You don't realize mr +Steve Kondik is running CM 10.2 on his revamped Evo 4G LTE 0ne. You are a sucker if you buy locked.
 
+Ryan R I'm not sure I understand what the big deal is... didn't the Galaxy S3 have a locked bootloader at first as well? Now look at it...
 
Anyone with a Samsung s3 forsale been wanting a fairly new one....let me know if you are please thanks
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Att has some problems. I was finally liking att until this... and dont ask me about att one x locked bootloader. They just need to stop all this bs its only hurting their image. 
 
I think this is all a big over-reaction. Once the dev community figures out how to unlock the Galaxy S4, it'll get just as ROM-happy as the Galaxy S3 before it.
 
"Samsung has always been developer-friendly" really?
 
I hate to see this happen. All vendors (Sprint, T Mobile, Verizon and etc.) will likely follow suite, as well as other phones and phone vendors.
 
+Kevin Shaw This phone is not the first to have a locked bootloader. Won't be the last either. Maybe I'm missing the big picture here, but I don't see this is a huge dealbreaker. It'll get unlocked eventually, someone will figure it out.
 
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Beats out of my mind why Americans with the wage income that they got decide to buy a locked device... still don't get all this years...

This is perfectely reasonable in my country, the average wage is about €800 to €1000, but in USA?!? Come on...
 
Hopefully an unlocked aboot will leak
 
Why are people still buying carrier locked devices. It's best to just buy the phone and then use a sim only service so you are not locked into a contract.
 
And I just ordered mine on Amazon (for 165!). This is too bad, but to be honest, I only wanted to root it to delete all the AT&T garbage. 
 
Something fishy is going on! I have read and read loads of stories knocking the Samsung Galaxy S4 but not a single bad story about the HTC One. It's like people are picking and want the S4 to fail for some reason
 
This is so unbelievably frustating. I want expandable memory and a removable battery, but this makes the S4 so undesireable. Why AT&T?
 
+Martin Newland I went with HTC over Samsung this time because I just liked the feel of the phone over Samsung. And every Samsung I've had, hasn't lasted through more than a year of use.

Took about 15 minutes to unlock my AT&T HTC from their developer website.
 
+Martin Newland After the huge success of the S3, people had very high expectations for the S4. Now people are just disappointed that it's just more of the same. Besides, this post is knocking the US carriers, not Samsung.

I doubt the S4 will fail though. When people are knocking the S4 they are basically saying "it's just more of the same", and that's referring to the most successful Android phone ever.
 
+Jason Anderson I heard that the HTC Dev unlock for the AT&T One was going to be shut down, soon. Is that the case?
 
People seem to forget that carriers are businesses that are trying to sell secure devices to other businesses.  The Dev community makes up less than 1% (full disclosure: statistic made up on the spot, most of them are anyway).  That is nothing compared to selling a few thousand devices to a large business for distribution to that business' employees for use on the secure email system.  Guaranteed data security is what AT&T gets from locking down the bootloader.  This is a world of BYOD and if your IT department tells you that you can only use your device on their system if you have a locked bootloader (presented to the employee in an approved device list), then your choices are limited to Motorola, SGS4, BlackBerry, WP8 (?), and other phones with secure bootloaders.

Some Motorola devices probably came off of approved device lists recently when it was found that you could unlock the bootloader.

You should never buy a phone with the intention of throwing on a custom ROM.  Buy the phone that meets your needs out of the box.  Just because it has a locked bootloader, doesn't mean that you can't root it.  It just means that you are stuck with the manufacturer's update schedule, for the time being.
 
+Aru Sahni I have no idea. Haven't heard anything about it. But nothing having to do with AT&T that's bad would surprise me.
 
I currently have a note 2 it isn't rooted. I would prefer a nexus device but I really wanted a large screen and the nexus devices don't offer that. That being said I don't know what my upgrade path will be now that the note 3 has an even bigger screen. I think the note 2 screen size is the upper limit of usability. 
 
+Björn Lundén it only looks the same and if people are only going by looks then that says it all really. How much different do you want a phone to be? Samsung are not going change things too much as it don't need to be. Apple have not really changed there phone in years because they know they are onto a winner, just like Samsung
 
thank god I'm not on at&t hopefully the tmo versions won't be locked. we'll see.
 
+F. Diaz you sound like an apple fanboy with your silly buy a HTC crap. Can't you comment without trying to make out you are somehow superior to everyone else. This is what at&t has done not samsung. All this samsung bashing is getting a little stale, next year you will be bashing HTC just like you did 2 years ago. 
 
At&t lost me a couple of years ago and just another reason not to look back.
 
+Steve Kondik So if there is a method to unlock the bootloader you will then support the S4 on AT&T? I need to know, my return time is ticking down XD
 
I still have unlimited on AT&T so I probably won't leave them unless I lose that.
 
They like forcing everyone to use outdated software?

Locked bootloaders can be unlocked in some cases, just give XDA a few months and they may have a fix. They unlocked the Optimus G bootloader. 
 
+Steve Kondik A few Canadians have the I337M in their possession. What should I tell them to do/look for to see if the bootloader is locked as well? I won't have mine in hand for a few days still.
 
+Adam Overmiller It may be the latest version when it ships, but it will not be in a couple of months and then you'll have to wait for At&t.
 
Adam Overmiller. I would rather run an outdated version of vanilla Andriod than to run the current Stock version. 
 
Any idea as of yet if it will be a locked bootloader on sprint as well?
 
+Michael Lass The only way to have your updates as soon as they are available is to get them from Google on a Nexus device.  Even Cyanogen takes a few months before a stable release is finished.  All of the major manufacturers take a few months before they can get the updates completed.  The US carriers then take their time to test and request changes.  If we moved away from buying subsidized devices, we wouldn't have this issue in the US, but not everyone has $600 to buy a new device.
 
+Adam Overmiller I fully agree to your statement. I think if next nexus phone is also as cheap as Nexus 4, many people will switch. Paying 350 for contract free phone is much better then paying 200 dollars and 2 year contract. 
 
i refuse to be the client of a company that looks at something I buy as their own property , and i can name a few that are not being considered (bell canada , rogers canada , htc ) for renewals / upgrades , 
 
Fail. I feel sorry for you guys in the states being stuck with such crappy carriers.
 
The network is their property.  Their argument has always been that they are protecting their network.  Technically, unless you are paying full price for the phone, 2/3rds of the phone is theirs.

I don't actually agree with any of these policies.  I am just playing Devil's Advocate.
 
The government recently ruled that it is LEGAL to root your own phone. So it makes sense that ATT had to rely on locking it instead. Stupid, I know, but ATT has always been evil (and stupid). 
 
I feel worse for the users in Europe.  Imagine having to have an InterState roaming plan if you wanted to travel farther than your local area.
 
+Kevin Shaw the thing they don't understand is that they will never have the finance to hire enough geeks to lock their handsets against a community , specialy when talking about the open source community, this is one battle that only their arrogance tells them they can win , IT is based on binary , a finite numbering system even in the worst case ituation their locks can be brute forced 
 
+Corey Vallejo Bootloader locks are getting more and more difficult to crack as time goes on.  Every time the community has success with an unlock, the manufacturers learn from their mistakes.

The Verizon S3 started out with a critical flaw that is NOT present here - the bootloader only checked the recovery partition when flashing, not when booting.  Steve has confirmed that recovery is checked on boot (just like it was in the VZW Note2).  The final GS3 unlock depended on a leak from a disgruntled employee.

The Note2 unlock was significantly more difficult - all of the vulnerabilities abused on the S3 were closed.  We got lucky in that Samsung still made a critical mistake - they used the same hardware root key in all Exynos 4412 devices, and left some security flaws in the bootloader itself.

See Dan Rosenberg's post about the fact that the last round of Motorola unlocks is likely to be the last - with every iteration, the locks get more difficult.

Samsung is (fortunately for us) inexperienced with bootloader locking, but after an alpha test (GS3) and a beta test (VZW Note2), they've learned a lot from their failures.

+Adam Overmiller The problem with your argument is, as Steve indicated, the part of the phone that communicates with the network is the baseband processor, which has always been locked down and not something we care about.  Despite their claims, there's nothing you can do on the applications processor side to interfere significantly with the network.  About the worst you can do is use excessive data - but this is metered and AT&T makes money off of it!  Actually, knowing AT&T's history, they want users to have their devices using excessive background data due to badly written apps that eat it.  (See the initial release of the SGH-I777 - the AP Mobile widget would eat hundreds of megabytes per day for some people unless you rooted and nuked it from orbit.)

Your subsidy argument falls apart too - since even unsubsidized phones purchased at full price are equally locked.
 
+Adam Overmiller And you can offer a device with a bootloader that can be unlocked but have it locked by default.  Oh yeah...we have those already.  They're called Nexus devices.

Saying the carriers are trying to offer secure devices is a cop out.  Hand out an iPhone as a "secure device" and it can be jailbroken in a few minutes just like any Android device can be rooted.  Hand them any HTC device with S-ON that is supported by revolutionary and poof S-OFF.  HTCdev.com allows quite a few unlocked bootloaders.  Samsung is generally unlocked or has been unlocked relatively easily.  None of them are any more secure than a Nexus in the grand scheme.

People that want to unlock the bootloader should be able to without having to buy some stupid developer edition because it is THEIR device.  Not the carriers.  If I'm given an Android device for work I'm not unlocking it.  That's not my device.  I certainly won't root a work device and throw a custom ROM on it.  Anybody that does needs to lose their job.

So please let's not throw some bull like "security" around a reason to deal with this from from AT&T, Verizon Wireless, or any carrier.
 
+Stephen Bishop Don't do that. Just buy the HTC One. The way I look at it, you can't polish a turd. The design of the S4 is exactly that. One isn't locked atm, which is a wicked surprise coming from the One XL.
 
+Jason Tschohl In fact, decisions like this can be BAD for security.  If there is an official way for users that wish to unlock their device to do so, then there won't be a search for "unofficial" ways.

Unofficial ways mean abusing exploits instead of using security architectures that have actually had thinking put into them (such as Sony's unlock approaches).  Often, these exploits CAN be used for nefarious purposes too.  Removing official methods for users to run custom firmwares or obtain root starts the search for unofficial methods - and the discovery of those unofficial methods can sometimes have severe security consequences.
 
+Andrew Dodd I didn't say that the carriers reasons were accurate, just that they use that argument all the time.  Verizon uses this argument all of the time.  I have never understood how a phone running custom software could take down a network, but I am neither a software engineer, nor am I a cellular network engineer.

As far as the subsidy argument, I only said that they partially own your phone, not that unsubsidized phones come with unlockable bootloaders.  You have to buy dev versions to get that, which I imagine will be announced shortly after this story hits all of the tech blogs.

Read my comments, don't read into them.
 
The real problem is with companies like AT&T and all the other big name service providers sticking right up the fucking ass of Americans.
 Why we tolerate the giant pile of bullshit from the companies we buy phone, cable and internet services from is beyond me.
 
+Jason Anderson Calm down.  I'm just playing Devils' Advocate.  I didn't say it makes sense.  My first comment in this post is definitely how some IT departments view this sort of thing.

I own a Nexus device and guess what, it can't be added to my company's email system because it is not an approved device.
 
Ten million minus one.

AT&T:  "Did you feel something?"
Samsung:  "Nope."
AT&T:  "Neither did I."
 
guys , dont buy handsets from local carriers , when i was looking to replace the nexus i busted , all the local carriers told me "it's the manufacturer that locks the devices" , funny because i got a completely unlocked S3 in hong-kong , and i paid it much much cheaper then i would have here (and it's the international quad core one too) the best way to get them to understand that this is a mistake is by hitting their margin , canadian telcos do around 300% margin (900$ here VS 340$ equiv in HK) thats 600$ per idiot they sell a handset to , 2000 handsets not sold is 10^6$ NOT in their pockets 
 
Had a friend return his s4 after one day on AtnT. Hated the camera so bad!!
 
+Steve Kondik I have posted an article based on your comment on +RootzWiki - I hope you find this to be an accurate representation of what you're saying http://rootzwiki.com/news/_/articles/kernels/att-locks-down-its-galaxy-s-iv-bootloader-r1606.

I agree with almost everything you said, but I don't see how even millions of customers who use custom firmware would really hurt AT&T and Verizon, even if they one and all left those carriers. The two anti-development carriers combine for over 200 million customers, so I fail to see them suffering any significant financial impact from their bootloader locks.
 
+Adam Overmiller
That is true.  But the Galaxy Nexus is the first ever nexus phone that Verizon carried, and they have publicly stated that the Nexus line is incompatible with their business strategy.  I don't think we will ever see another Verizon unlocked boot loader until they start losing customers to T-Mobile.  I have a Verizon Galaxy Nexus.  As soon as the contract is up on my wife's iPhone 5, I'm jumping ship to someone else.
 
+Ray Johnson I have a brand new red S3 for sale. I had insurance replace it for one I dropped. I bought a Nexus 4 in the mean time and really like it.
 
+F. Diaz "HTC ONE developer edition...Thats all I can say...Samsung has lost my respect"  It's not Samsung, it's AT&T, so if anyone's respect was lost it would be AT&T.  Samsung only complied with AT&T's request to lock it.
Rudy M
 
+Eric Soulliage The only problem with this is the subsidy costs.  Are you suggesting that in addition to purchasing your phone you should also switch to T-mobile?  Otherwise, what's the point?  I would buy my phone at full price and pay a high monthly bill anyway?  Part of the reason why I buy my subsidized phone from a carrier is so that I can justify the $100 a month price tag for service.
 
+Rudy M , what i'm saying is go to your carrier and tell them you want a no phone contract , i.e bit transport only , at first they tell you they cant do that , when you come in for renewal and tell them you are moving to another one that will suddently every thing is possible 
Rudy M
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+Eric Soulliage I don't think that AT&T here in the states would give me a "no contract" discount.   I would need to switch to prepaid service or T-mobile which only recently started offering "no-phone contracts".  This is part of the problem with our carriers here in the states.  You pay $100 a month for service whether you bring your own phone or not.  T-mobile wants to change this.  I hope they are successful because this is how it should be.  Let me buy my own compatible phone to use on your network.  No contracts and no high monthly service fees to cover the subsidy cost of my new smartphone.
 
Unfortunately for those of us on Verizon we really don't have the luxury of buying unlocked nexus (or other) phones
 
The sad part about this is carriers and devices that were previously unlocked are now moving to locked. It's incredibly shortsighted and idiotic to whomever is making the decision, as it is lose-lose. The average consumer won't ever touch the bootloader or even root their device. Carriers don't even need to worry about this majority demographic. When they lock the bootloader, they are simply alienating another smaller, albeit sizable demographic, which are the power users. This demographic grows year to year I'm sure since word of mouth travels fast. Now you're missing out on sales to a growing group of people who make their decision to spend money solely based on if they are allowed to do what they please with a product they own. I'm typing this on a CM10.1 powered GS2 and custom development is the only reason I'm still satisfied with the the device. Stock roms are a aesthetic train wreck and the manufacturers should be ashamed. 
Sean S.
 
Not cool, not cool at all
 
For all those folks saying that "AT&T forced Samsung to do this so be mad at them", that's unrealistic.  Samsung makes the most popular Android phone in history.  You really think AT&T told them that if Samsung doesn't lock the bootloader, AT&T won't carry the S4?  No, Samsung did this with AT&T.  Possibly for corporate sales.  Possibly for media partnerships.  Either way, no one's hand was forced.
 
Samsung didn't seem so developer friendly when they wouldn't release sources for the Exynos 4...
 
+Bobby Quach Just left verizon, paid $200 etf and joined tmobile for the same reason.
 
I'll stick with my s3 ive only had it for about 3 weeks and I absolutely love it I was an iphone user for years and loved it till my friend got me into the s3 and now I'll never touch an iphone again
 
+Rudy M  well then it's even easier , go to AT&T and tell them " jeez t-mo will do it for me , doyou really want to loose my patronage , hold on let me tweet this ...." and look at their face go to panic 
 
Yep I'm done with carrier locked phones. I'm going to go with TMobile when my coal with Verizon is up
 
My prediction for how this war finally ends 

Microsoft in attempt to gain traction and further their Scroogle and don't fight choose us, not Samsung or Apple campaign start shipping all their devices unlockable ... for 3 weeks M$ windows 8 devices sales soar as we all buy them to port android on them .. and for 6 months we are forced to going back to use Nokias ... after that OEM's balls up and we finaly put carrier's back in their place , and convince law makers of the so very obvious  *These are computers, not phones , but computers and no different than our laptops and desktops , and OEM's can not lock us into using their software*  

hay a man can dream can't he?

BTW this is the reason CM 8 Never happened.. it was saved for this moment this will be CM 8 :-)

+Steve Kondik you may confirm or deny but i will take your silence as a confirmation of my seer like abilities 
 
What do we know about T-Mobile's s4?
 
So much for all that Android=freedom mythology... :)
 
+Rudy M you do realize over the course of a contract your paying for the phone anyway right? They base their rates on that fact.
 
^ ya other than that has not ever happened thus far 
 
+Matthew Henry You have the freedom to chose a device that fits your usage. If that includes an unlockable bootloader then get one that has that. There are several. Also, this is a US-specific issue affecting two carriers. I think you are blowing it out of proportion more than somewhat.
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+Babak Rezai Yes, that is exactly the point that I was trying to make.  So in essence carriers force you to upgrade every two years, and they force you to sign a new 2 year contract.  Because if you don't, then after two years you will continue to pay their high rates for nothing in return.  :-)
 
+Todd G. Um, it's been pretty clearly stated why CM8 didn't happen - Google never released platform sources for Honeycomb for a variety of reasons, and once ICS came around, working on a Honeycomb CM variant was kind of pointless.
 
+Andrew Dodd i think your the only person that read that and didnt realize it was a joke ... 
 
+F. Diaz Im a HTC Fan but this was not something Samsung had power over, ATT most likely forced their hand.
 
I was just thinking on the way to work about subsidized rates. I pay $140 for AT&T with 2 phones with a 25% corporate discount. T mobile has an equivalent plan at $100. That's a $480 a year difference. I can buy a Nexus phone a year. Time to say goodbye to AT&T. 
 
+Brent Biggs yep. same conclusion i came up with... even paying the etf to Verizon I still come out ahead by the end of the year by switching to tmobile.
 
To the geniuses asking why Americans are still buying carrier locked phones. Has the business model changed? Are these companies going to charge you less if you buy a carrier unlocked phone? The answer is no, so why are Americans still buying half a phone? Because it saves them nothing.
 
I voted with my feet once leaving Verizon (paying eft on 2 phones) over the grandfather unlimited not allowing subsidy.  I went to ATT and got two non bootloader locked note II phones. When my contract is up, If I can't move in to another new unlocked phone, I'll go someplace I can, or someplace that makes it cheap enough that I don't care. 
 
IIRC all ATT tiered plans include tethering, I know my 10G shared does.
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+Brent Biggs Bingo.  You figured out what I imagine hundreds of thousands will figure out soon enough.  If enough of us switch to T-mobile, the other big players will need to do the same thing regarding the "un-carrier" model.  I honestly feel that the days of $100 monthly service are numbered.  For those of you that like paying 99 cents for a new subsidized smartphone every year...I say just put the cost of a new unlocked phone on your credit card.  Trust me, you will still come out way ahead.  A subsidized phone from AT&T or Verizon costs you at least $1200 in higher rates over two years and if you don't upgrade after two years, the cost will keep climbing for the same phone that you already own.  It really makes no sense at all.  
Rudy M
 
Another way to look at it:  If you pay $50 a month for smartphone service, you could buy yourself a new premium unlocked $600 smartphone every single year.  Now doesn't that make more sense?  :-D
 
+F. Diaz I was a Thunderbolt owner....No HTC device will ever enter my realm again. I don't care how "good" it is, they've proved to fail long term support on too many devices, Thuderbolt, Rezound, Evo3D just to name a few. And sense is one of the biggest piles of "bloat" on any phone (not that touchwiz is much better but still).
 
+Rudy M I did the math, I analyzed my data usage and based on that I'd have to get Verizon's 6 GB smartphone package to keep up with my averages however even then I's still be looking at about 400$ a year in data overages. So given that I figured I could buy two brand new each year and still come out ahead with 274.82 in my pocket after two years.
Rudy M
 
+Joshua Farmer Isn't that amazing?  I really hope T-mobile's plan catches on.  It could only spell good things for us consumers.  I, for one, would love to be able to buy my own unlocked premium $600 smartphone every 12 months for what I'm already paying with AT&T.  Enough with the "being held hostage to the same phone and the same carrier for two years" bullshit.  I have 18 months left on my AT&T contract and I can't wait to switch.  I may do what others have done and swallow the ETF.  I bet if I did the math, I would still be ahead.  And I think that my AT&T GS3 will work with T-mobile (rooted with a ROM).  Hmmmm...
 
+Rudy M I still have my Verizon contract but it is up on May 22nd as it was cheaper to just pay my bill until then but I cannot wait to tell Verizon where to shove it on that day. Between the constant poor signal, congested slow 4G and unusable 3G data speeds I have quite a bit to say to them about how shitty the past two years have been. 
 
+Rudy M You can get a $50 pay as you go SIM card to play. I had a hell of a time getting my Nexus 4 up on AT&T. Cheap check first then call to have your number ported. Even if it is hspa+, it'll be faster than what I experience with AT&T lte.
 
Thanks for this post, it became my turning point after reading it.  I'll have been with AT&T for a year at the end of May, and it's likely the last month I'll be with them.  Their service has been nothing but atrocious for me at my office (0-1 bar, 4G or nothing, crap speeds, reconnects, dropped connectivity, absolute trash) and I have to pay for a crap load of minutes I'll never use just to get a lousy 3GB data plan that charges you overages.  On top of that, texts aren't included, so that's $0.20 per text INCOMING or outgoing which is absurd.

After reading this (combined with a worse-than-normal week of crap signal at work) I decided to try out T-Mobile.  I stopped there after work and bought a SIM for their $30 data plan (5GB 4G/Unlimited 2G/Unlimited text/100 mins) and came home and got AT&T to give me an unlock code for my Galaxy Note i717 (running CM10.1 of course).  Popped that SIM in and it's working great for me.  The real test comes tomorrow at the office, but from what the T-Mobile rep told me they had much better coverage in the area.  If all goes well, I'll be ditching AT&T, reluctantly paying the ETF to pay off my phone, and never going to them ever again.  They're worthless as a provider, and enforcing nonsense restrictions like this will keep driving customers away.  T-Mobile (no, I'm not a T-Mo salesperson, just a disgruntled AT&T user looking for salvation) is doing it right.  I'll gladly put down $700 on the table to get a Galaxy Note 3 upon release, but only if it's unlocked and ready to go flash ROMs on.  I would've went with Sprint last year when I signed up but 1) they didn't have the GNote and 2) CDMA is an abomination of restrictions I don't want to deal with.
 
The S4 (except the ATT carrier locked one) can be unlocked using a Motorola unlock method. Google it.
 
+Adam Honse Samsung has the worst antennas. That may have something to do with it. I have two brothers and they both have Sprint. (only 3G) They live across the street from each other In an area where Sprint has very poor service. (more so than usual) One has a GSII and he has no service at his house at all. The other has a Motorola Photon and it has full bars. I always have good service at my house from Verizon. When my friend comes over with his Galaxy SIII he gets 1xRTT only.

The network deserves plenty of blame, don't get me wrong, but antenna quality is an important spec and is mostly ignored, and from what I've seen, Samsung fails miserably. 
 
Lets rent on At&t's fb & twitter page may be if we get loud enough we can change their mind and get it unlocked. So ppl should just go to their fb page and threaten them to leave service unless they unlock boot-loader for s4!
here is link to ATT FB Page you will see ppl already started complaining.
https://www.facebook.com/ATT?fref=ts
 
Sad. To whoever is to blame: This goes against what Android was created for.  Open-source.  If not are not going to allow open-source; then do NOT use Android.  Karma
 
My smartphone purchasing history:

1. Captivate
2. Skyrocket
3. S III
4. Sony Xperia Z

I'm switching carriers, too. Good jorb, Samsung and AT&T.
 
AT&T is following a path of self destruction. i am happy about it. I can always buy a phone which is unlocked and use other network.
 
This post is no longer valid. The bootloader has been unlocked.
 
Besides, Google now sells this phone in play store unlocked
 
#1) IT'S 16,32 & 64gig , REALLY DOESN'T MATTER. THERE IS A 64FB MICRO SDHC SLOT , FOR MORE THAN ENOUGH STORAGE.
#2) THE " NO BOOTLOADER"/ CUSTOM ROMS , WILL ONLY BE TRUE, FOR A VERY LTD. TIME, TRUST ME !
 
For $65.00 , YOU CAN UNLOCK ANY AT&T, T MOBILE...SIM BASED PHONE...@ SAY : www.Appcessories.Co ,,, not com at the BRAINTREE PLAZA, AND MANY MORE.
 
Hmmm, what's the fuss about? The gs3 was so cool, my friends and family bought the S4 and we love it. Don't need root or unlock - Android does infinitely more by default than iPhone, so why do you all moan about further unlocks and hacks? 99.99% of the buying public will use the phone as it shipped.
 
That's 99.9%, The rest of us , WILL W8 N SEE =)
 
+F. Diaz Presumably someone in Samsung USA has received a significant sum of money to get them boot-locked. After all all those kind of decisions come down to one man putting his signature down and agreeing to the conditions, well aware of the outcome it will bring.
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