Buy a Google Pixel or Pixel XL smartphone from the Google Store and all you need to do to unlock the bootloader is allow OEM unlocking in the Developer Options settings, connect to a computer with a USB cable, and run a command… or use a toolkit that automates some of the steps.
But if you buy your phone from Verizon? Then you get a model with an unlockable bootloader. And when I say unlockable, I mean that the simplest method for unlocking the bootloader is disabled. But where there’s a will there’s a way. And hackers have already found a way.
Unlocking the bootloader makes it possible to load custom firmware on a phone, including a custom recovery or custom ROMs.
Developer beaups (@firewaterdevs) has a found a way to unlock a Verizon Pixel smartphone, with a little help from @jcase (who also wrote in to let me know that most of the credit should go to beaups, whereas an earlier version of this post shared the credit between @jcase and @TheRootNinja).
They haven’t publicly released their method for doing that yet, and they’re not promising that they’ll ever do so.
But in a few follow-up posts on Twitter and at the xda-developers forum, jcase provides a few more details:
- The Verizon model appears not to be the only version of the Pixel with an unlockable bootloader.
- Unlocking the bootloader may make it possible to change the firmware on the Verizon Pixel so it more closely matches what you get if you buy the phone from Google.
- If you have a Verizon Pixel and want to make sure you’ll be able to unlock the bootloader, you may want to disable automatic software updates for now, since Google/Verizon could push one that disables the exploit used to unlock the bootloaders.
Keep in mind that if you do disable updates from your phone’s Developer Options settings, you can always re-enable them later if this particular unlock method is never released. And if you end up unlocking your bootloader and that somehow causes you to be unable to install over-the-air updates in the future, it’s likely that members of the developer community will provide flashable ZIPs if Google does not.
Still, the best way to make sure you can unlock your phone? Buy it from Google: since the company is providing financing options, there’s really not much benefit to buying it from Verizon instead of getting it from Google and using Verizon’s bring-your-own-phone service.