Samsung is taking pre-orders for its latest generation of foldables, and it says sales are through the roof — well, compared with the last-gen foldables at least. If you’re considering dropping up to $1,800 on a Samsung Galaxy Z Fold3, you’ll probably want to forego any fiddling with the bootloader. According to XDA, unlocking the bootloader on that phone will completely disable the camera. Yes, really.
Every retail Android phone comes with a locked bootloader, which is a completely reasonable security measure. Some phones support bootloader unlocking through an official process, and others can be unlocked with community tools. Doing so allows you to root a phone and make changes to the core software. Naturally, most device makers discourage this behavior, but Samsung’s setup on the Fold3 is downright hostile to modders.
When unlocking the phone, there’s a warning typical of unlocking procedures. However, buried in the wall of text is this gem: “Doing so will cause the camera to stop working…” That’s clear enough, but the warning really should be larger because Samsung is not kidding. After unlocking the bootloader, the stock camera app fails to load, and third-party apps that attempt to access the camera hardware will simply throw errors. This applies to all of the cameras, of which there are five on the phone. The back has a triple 12MP camera array, plus there’s a selfie camera on the cover screen and another on the foldable screen. That last one is also an under-display sensor, the first one ever on a foldable.
This is not the first time we’ve seen bootloader status affect a phone’s camera. Some Sony phones take substantially worse images with an unlocked bootloader because the process would clear DRM security keys attached to Sony’s proprietary image processing tech. We cannot say if the reasoning for Samsung’s camera roadblock is similar, but it very well could be.
The good news is that re-locking the bootloader restores the cameras to full functionality. Since this is a software block, it should be possible to detect the flag that kills the camera and alter it — that’s the magic of an unlocked bootloader. However, current tools like Magisk don’t appear to do any good. With some time, the community should be able to find a workaround. However, you’re on your own if something breaks. Samsung says unlocking “may” void the warranty, but what it means is “definitely.”
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