How to Safely enable OEM Unlock on Android
Do you want to unlock the bootloader of your Android device? So you need to enable the OEM unlock option first. In this post, we will talk about what OEM unlocking is and further guide you on how to enable it on your Android device.
Android is known for its open-source nature and for the possibilities to push it beyond the limits imposed by the OEM. Speaking of boundaries, device manufacturers often tend to limit the functionality of the operating system with a software switch, to not allow any external customizations.
This is encouraged to allow everyday users to preserve the integrity of their Android devices. But what if a user chooses to deliberately tinker with the pre-installed software? Well, as far as the word “official” is concerned, in most cases it is not supported.
This means that unlocking the bootloader of an Android device will directly lead to the destruction of the warranty. Just not in the case of OnePlus or perhaps Google itself.
Now, if you are really interested in customizing your Android phone with third-party software, you will need to unlock the bootloader first. But to do that, you will be prompted to enable the “OEM Unlock” option in the phone settings. We will cover everything below.
What is OEM unlocking?
OEM unlock on Android is an option in your device’s Developer Options settings that must be enabled to unlock the bootloader. It was first introduced by Google in Android 5.0 Lollipop and is sometimes also referred to as “OEM Unlock”.
Enabling this option sets the “unlock_ability” flag to “1”, thus giving the user the ability to execute the “fastboot flashing unlock” command to unlock the phone’s bootloader. Once enabled, this option remains persistent during reboots and factory data resets, until it is manually disabled.
The option itself is generally hidden to prevent any accidental access, just like “USB debugging”. It could also serve as a recovery process to revive your device if something goes wrong with the software.
Why should you enable OEM unlocking?
Before we even get to the instructions and enable OEM unlock on Android, let’s go through the complete understanding of the advantages and disadvantages of unlocking the bootloader. We will also add what “OEM unlocking” actually is and why it is needed.
The standard process of installing a custom ROM, kernel, or some famous mods like ViPER4Android, etc. requires your device to be rooted. Rooting itself relies on a custom recovery like TWRP in most cases.
Also, installing a custom recovery would require access to write device partitions. A locked bootloader prevents just that. It would not allow you to overwrite or modify existing partitions. Therefore, the first step towards rooting an Android device is to unlock the bootloader.
The following illustration will help you understand the process further, in case everything in the previous paragraph seems confusing.
So what is a bootloader? – It is a software program that runs from the moment the Android phone is turned on. It comes loaded with instructions to boot the operating system kernel and OEM provides the required permission for the user to modify or access the bootloader. An unlocked bootloader will also allow you to flash factory images in the case of Google Nexus/Pixel, Razer, and more.
An unlocked bootloader has its advantages, yes! But it also has some disadvantages. So, before moving on to the instructions to enable OEM unlock on Android, take a look at some common ones that have been listed as follows:
- The main drawback is that you would lose the official warranty or support in most cases. Except in the case of some OEMs like OnePlus.
- Secondly, your device will be wiped the instant you unlock the bootloader.
- It may prevent you from using DRM-protected features or apps like Netflix on your Android device.
How to enable OEM unlock on Android devices
At the point, we’re here for today. We have divided the instructions into three steps so that you can easily understand the whole procedure.
Step 1: Backup your Android device
It is highly recommended that you make a full backup of your device, including apps, messages, contacts, and internal storage. While enabling OEM to unlock itself, the data stored on the device will not be erased. It is likely that you will proceed further to unlock the bootloader, which will result in a complete wipe of the data.
Step 2: Enable Developer Options on Android
As mentioned earlier, the / switch itself is hidden by default in the “Developer Options” menu. To enable OEM unlocking, you must first reveal/enable Developer Options in your phone settings.
- Go to the app drawer and open “Settings”.
- Scroll down and find the “System” section. If you are using a device with Android Nougat or earlier, search directly for “About phone”.
- Tap the “About phone” section. You will then see device information such as Android version, security patch level, etc.
- Find “Build number”.
- Quickly tap “Build number” 7 times. If you have a PIN/password set, you will be prompted to enter it.
- Publish it, you will see a warning notification towards the bottom of the screen, saying: “You are now a developer!”.
- Go back to the “System” section. On Android Nougat and below, simply go back to the main settings.
- You will see a new section called “Developer Options”.
You can now follow the instructions below to enable OEM unlock on Android.
Step 3: Enable OEM unlocking (OEM unlocking) on Android
- Go to “Settings” and tap “System”.
- Select “Developer Options”.
- Scroll down the options and find “OEM Unlock”.
- Just tap on the switch next to it. Again, if you have set a password / PIN, you will be asked to enter it.
- You will be asked to confirm the process, so press “ENABLE”.
So there you have it, now you know what OEM unlocking is and how to enable it on your Android device. You can go ahead and unlock the bootloader using the fastboot command. Once unlocked, you can easily install TWRP custom recovery and root your phone via Magisk.