Flashing, Jailbreaking, Unlocking: CellBotics Explains It All

Apple_IOS8We believe an informed client is an empowered client. That’s why we’ve partnered with CellBotics to bring you the latest news and developments in the repair industry.

Have You Got the Lingo Down?

Chris, a new trainer at CellBotics, gives us the basics on some buzz words that are thrown around often – flashing, unlocking, rooting and jailbreaking. Here’s what he has to say about each one:

“These words are colloquial. They’re often thrown around interchangeably, and (based on commonly accepted use) improperly. If you’re familiar with the phone modding scene, the rest of this post might seem pretty rudimentary. If not, let’s cover the basics and get you up to speed.

Flashing – This word is actually a homonym. There are two different uses you’ll encounter when talking about phones – carrier flashing and firmware flashing.

Carrier flashing – Also referred to as CDMA flashing. When a CDMA phone is programmed to work on another carrier’s network, it’s referred to flashing. CDMA phones don’t rely on sim cards for talk, text or 3G data, so the settings that enable these features can be reprogrammed using computer software (DFS CDMA Tool, CDMA Workshop, QPST and QXDM are popular programs for this).

Firmware flashing – With Android phones, installing firmware is also referred to as flashing (i.e. flashing firmware). This can be a full firmware package from the manufacturer, a custom rom (aftermarket firmware), or any firmware component (kernel, recovery mode, baseband/modem, etc.).

So, to program a Sprint phone to work with Boost Mobile is to flash it. But to flash a phone to Boost, you might need to flash firmware to it first. Thus to flash you might need to flash… it can be confusing for a new comer.

Unlocking – This word is also a homonym. Commonly when someone speaks of unlocking a phone, they mean to unlock the sim card slot, so that a sim card from another network can be used. In the Android modification scene, people will also talk about unlocking bootloaders. Let’s cover both of these in more depth.

Carrier unlocking – Also referred to as GSM unlocking. Similar to how CDMA phones can be “flashed” to work on another carrier, GSM phones can be “unlocked”. GSM phones store network settings on the sim card, so that a sim card can be used on another phone. But carriers often lock their sim card slots – inserting a sim card from another carrier brings up a prompt that asks for an unlock code. This code can be obtained from the phone’s original carrier (provided the phone’s contract is paid off) or from a third party service. Entering the code “unlocks” the phone.

Bootloader unlocking – Android phones have a small operating system called the “bootloader” – its only job is to boot the regular Android system. Some carriers “lock” their bootloaders – the bootloader checks the firmware before booting, and will only boot the official factory firmware. This can be a hurdle to hobbyists who wish to flash custom roms. Some carriers (HTC for example) offer an official method to unlock the bootloader through their website.

Rooting – “Rooting” is fairly straight forward – one use and one meaning. To “root” an Android phone means to obtain administrator privileges/access. Think of it as using the Administrator account on a Windows computer. The normal Android user is restricted in what they can do (one can’t remove system apps for example). The administrator account on an Android phone is referred to as the “root” account (the “root” account is present on many operating systems). “Rooting” enables access to this account. The average user probably couldn’t do much with this on their own, but for app developers it provides a key to things that wouldn’t otherwise be possible. Average users can leverage this power through the apps these developers create.

Jailbreaking – “Jailbreaking” is essentially the rooting of an Apple device. Its referred to as jailbreaking because of the perceived “jail” that iPhone users may find themselves in – Apple devices can only run apps from the official App store, and the bar for getting an app approved for sale in the store is relatively high. Jailbreaking is thus a procedure that roots an Apple device and removes these restrictions. Users of jailbroken devices usually install Cydia – an unoffical app store featuring apps that can take advantage of root access.

This post really only brushes the surface of these concepts, but it should provide a good foundation. Average customers might think they want their phone jailbroken, but really they want it unlocked for use on another carrier. Smile, nod and understand what they really mean.”

Words of wisdom, indeed. And it’s no wonder: CellBotics stays on top of every industry trend.


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So don’t cut corners and try to learn repair online. Do it right and sign up with CellBotics. Their courses are affordable and cutting-edge. You won’t regret taking them – in fact, you’ll be ready to profit from one of the most lucrative industries in the nation.

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Nima Jacob Nojoumi

Teen Entrepreneur. Former adviser @GoDaddy. Founder at House of Genius AZ @HofGAZ. Co-Founder & CEO @GetSourcely. Teamwork makes the dream work.