An angry rant at the "paid firmware" business model

OK, this isn't to say that I have anything against those who maintain "GSM" repair sites and such, nor am I going to be too sour at them either. It's that if there's anything that truly grinds my gears when it comes to smart device servicing, it's the practise of locking down most if not all firmware RAR/ZIP files with a password, and charging people a fee to have that particular SP Flash Tool package unlocked.

Let's say you, or your client, has an obscure Xperia clone bought off some flea market stall or on DHGate (assuming you managed to troll the Customs bureau or DHL). You, or that client of yours, forgot to back up the stock firmware, and out of haste managed to mess it up royally and ended up with a non-functional device. In the case of a name-brand, legitimate handset, it's only the matter of googling for "Lenovo A369i stock ROM" or something like that. Some lesser-known phones or tabs would understandably be harder to find firmware-wise, but are still manageable. But clone phones have a mother lode of variants and getting the right ROM is no easy task. The rather unpredictable nature of counterfeiters issuing hardware revision after hardware revision, not to mention that there's more than one ripoff artist somewhere cashing in on the latest flagship certainly complicates things. Sure, the solution would be "But just buy the real thing!", but there are some who already have it and don't have the means to get the real deal, or who bought one on purpose and would like to mess with such things for science's sake.

You see, the problem with the password-protected firmware business model is that it ultimately is a self-defeating business model in my opinion, inconveniencing technicians and DIY folk alike who would like to unbrick or customise their devices. Almost all of the posts for ROMs intended for Galaxy clones, or perhaps even legit ones like the Lenovo tab I upgraded to Lollipop, are littered with pleas from fellow technicians asking for "password plz" or "Would you kindly give me the password for this?" or something else of that sort. It pains that you wasted 20 or so minutes of your bandwidth and/or patience downloading a stock firmware scatter package, only to end up knowing it's locked. RAR password unlockers work, but you'd also waste time and CPU cycles just to brute-force your way through it.

My solution would be rather than to lock the firmware outright, I'd ask for donations or set up a service like Patreon for users who are willing to pay for premium support or the like. Call me whiny or unaware of the inner workings of the cellphone repair industry, but it just ain't fair for clients to wait eons for their devices to be fixed just because the only known ROMs for his or her unit are under a paywall.


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