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Samsung gets serious at blocking modding with the Galaxy Z Fold 3

Samsung has taken an unusual and dramatic step to put buyers off modding their brand new Galaxy Z Fold 3 smartphones. 

As spotted by XDA Developers’ users, if you attempt to unlock the bootloader – the first step towards modifying the phone’s OS – you’ll be greeted with a warning that your cameras will no longer work. 

“Doing so [unlocking the bootloader] will cause the camera to be disabled and may cause your phone or apps to stop working correctly,” the warning reads, before explaining that all data will also be erased if you decide to go ahead.

That’s quite an escalation from Samsung. In the past, rooting the company’s devices has disabled the Knox security software and prevented Samsung Pay from working, but these are arguably compromises that most users could live with. Preventing photography is not.

It turns out that this isn’t just an idle threat from Samsung, either. Two XDA users bravely ignored the warning and unlocked the bootloader, and sure enough the stock camera app would no longer load. Not only that, but third-party camera apps either give errors, time out or remain dark, and the phone will no longer unlock via facial recognition, suggesting the front-facing camera is also disabled.

The good news is that neither owner was left with a £1599 brick on their hands: locking the bootloader again re-enabled the camera, which gives some hope that modders may be able to find a workaround in future. 

It’s likely that the Samsung Galaxy Z Flip 3 has similar protections in place, given both arrived at the same time, but so far nobody has been able to confirm this.

Samsung isn’t the first company to try and deter people from modding, using camera functionality as a deterrent. With the Sony Xperia Z3, unlocking the bootloader impacted low-light photography in a distinctly negative way, though this is something that quietly went away with the Android Pie update.  

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