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Samsung disables the cameras on its new $1,800 Galaxy Z Fold 3 smartphone if you unlock the bootloader: Digital Photography Review


Samsung’s Galaxy Z Fold 3.

It’s been discovered Samsung’s new Galaxy Z Fold 3 smartphone will automatically disable the cameras on the device if you unlock the bootloader in an attempt to root the device.

For those unfamiliar with the terms, a bootloader is a security checkpoint of sorts that runs upon turning the mobile device on and tells is where to load the operating system from on the device and checks to ensure the Android version its loading is authentic. All Android phones ship with a locked bootloader as a security measure, but for those who want to install a custom ROM to get extra features or access to various components of the device will need to unlock it first.

Samsung’s Galaxy Z Fold 3.

It’s not uncommon to see device manufacturers limit certain features or even the warranty when a device has detected its bootloader has been unlocked and a Custom ROM has been installed. But preventing hardware, such as the onboard cameras, from working at all is a rather extreme measure.

The discovery was first pointed out by XDA Senior Member 白い熊, who said in a XDA forum thread that his Galaxy Z Fold 3 brought up a dialog box in the process of unlocking the bootloader that said ‘[unlocking it] will cause the camera to be disabled.’

This was confirmed by another XDA Senior Member, ianmacd, who said his Galaxy Z Fold 3 (global version F926B) also locked him out of using the cameras on the device after unlocking the bootloader on his device. As he points out in his post, ‘this means that facial recognition also fails [as well as] anything that uses any of the cameras.’ He even attempted to install and use third-party camera apps, to no avail.

Samsung’s Galaxy Z Fold 3.

According to ianmacd, the cameras will work again if you relock the bootloader before installing a custom ROM. This suggests, as XDA Developers notes, that the lock is likely a ‘software-level obstacle,’ which could likely be addressed in the future. But, as ianmacd says in his post, it’s also possible the cameras could be ‘disabled in other ways, too,’ even if a software workaround is found.

‘It’s really obnoxious of Samsung to do this, and I am in two minds now about keeping the device and working on a fix for the issue, or simply returning the unit in disgust,’ says ianmacd. ‘This is the kind of practice I expect from Apple, and I always tell Apple users to vote with their wallet when confronted with such anti-consumer practices.’

It’s worth noting Samsung isn’t the first to have attempted this. Sony was the first to disable cameras when unlocking the bootloaders with some of its Xperia lineup, but it eventually reversed its decision.



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