OEM unlock means disabling the OEM lock, which is a security feature designed to prevent system modifications on the Android device such as installing the root (getting administrator rights), installing custom ROMs, unlocking the Bootloader, etc. As long as the OEM lock is enabled, it is impossible to modify the existing Android system. By unlocking OEM you will be able to perform system-level modifications on Android such as unlocking the Bootloader and install custom ROMs.
What Is OEM unlock?
OEM unlock means turning off the OEM security which prevents system modification on the Android OS. By unlocking OEM you will be able to perform many system modifications and tweaks on your Android that are not possible if OEM is locked such as:
- Unlocking the Bootloader
- Installing custom ROM’s
- Root your phone
- Installing a custom kernel
- Modifying system files and Partitions
- Customize your phone
Enabling OEM Unlock will turn Android’s “unlock_ability” option value to “1” and as its name suggests, it will give you the ability to unlock the Bootloader. If you want to install a custom ROM on your Android phone then it is necessary to unlock the OEM to get access to the commands that will allow you to unlock the Bootloader to perform root modifications on your phone.
The OEM unlock option is hidden by Google for security reasons in the “Developers options” menu. This means that you need to access the hidden “Developer options” menu in order to access the OEM unlock option. The OEM is by default is locked and hidden in the “developer options” to prevent non-initiated users from turning on the OEM unlock without having proper knowledge of its use and consequences as this will disable a security layer designed by Google to prevent your phone from being rooted and accessed if stolen.
OEM Unlock VS Bootloader Unlock, What’s the difference?
OEM unlock and bootloader unlock are not the same. When you enable OEM unlock, you disable an Android security layer that will then allow you to unlock the Bootloader. Tris means that OEM unlock is just a first step to get access to activate fastboot commands that will allow you to unlock the Bootloader.
By just unlocking the OEM you will not be able to perform serious customizations on your phone. For that, you need to also unlock the bootloader in order to have access to commands that will allow you to root your phone, install custom ROMs, etc.
Should You Unlock OEM?
While OEM lock has some security benefits, having a locked OEM comes with majors risks as completely bricking your phone in case of a failed firmware update. Many Android phone holders reported completely and permanently inaccessible phones after a failed system update. By having a locked OEM you will not be able to unlock the bootloader to install a custom ROM in case of major system failure leaving you with a completely unusable phone.
However, if you have already unlocked OEM, a failed update can easily be solved by unlocking the bootloader and flash your phone with an official firmware image that will then replace any damaged files caused by the failed update.
While having the OEM unlocked does not represent a big risk in itself, unlocking the bootloader exposes your phone to big danger. Phones come with a locked bootloader for a reason. If your phone gets stolen, the only way for a thief to access its data is by knowing it’s PIN code or password. A thief can use your phone but he has to either perform a factory reset (and then and then bypass the google account that was previously synced with your phone to use it) or install a custom ROM. For that, he needs to unlock the Bootloader which by default will wipe any data on the phone for security.
On the other hand, if you have an ALREADY unlocked bootloader (after OEM unlock), a thief can easily access your personal data on the phone by booting from the bootloader on a custom recovery environment, run into fastboot mode to view all your data such as pictures. a hacker can use adb commands to communicate with the phone and copy your files.
If you want to unlock OEM and Bootloader but want to protect your personal data from being accessed then you can activate Android’s encryption feature. This will encrypt your data in a certain form that it will not be accessible without knowing a secret “passphrase”. Please note that this protection is not perfect and there is always a risk for your data getting accessed by a determined and skilled hacker.
For all these reasons unlocking the bootloader immediately voids the warranty of your device. but not unlocking OEM.
How to Enable OEM Unlock On Android?
Follow the steps below to enable OEM unlock on Android devices.
- Open Settings.
- Tap on Developer Options
- Scroll down until you find OEM unlock option.
- Toggle on the OEM unlock option.
After unlocking the OEM you will be able to unlock the bootloader and root your phone.
Note: To enable OEM to unlock you need to first activate the Developer options by going to Settings > About Phone and tap on Build Number 7 times.
In this article, we saw what OEM unlocking means and what are the benefits of unlocking it. Although OEM unlocking allows you to unlock the bootloader to perform system modifications such as installing custom ROMs or root your phone. You have to be aware of the danger that unlocking the bootloader represents for your phone if it’s the purpose of unlocking the OEM.
Is OEM unlock safe?
While unlocking the OEM doesn’t represent a real danger, unlocking the bootloader puts your phone in high risks in case of theft.
Is OEM unlock same as Root?
No. OEM unlock allows you to unlock the bootloader which will then allow you to root your phone.
Does OEM unlock wipe data?
No. OEM unlock is just a switch that you can activate on the “Developers options”. This will not whipe your data, but unlock the bootloader afterward will wipe your device’s data.
Can you root without OEM unlock?
No. You can’t root your phone without unlocking the bootloader, and you cannot unlock the bootloader without unlocking the OEM.
Does Enabling OEM unlock voids the warranty of my device?
No. You can enable OEM unlock without voiding the warranty of your device. But if you go further and unlock the bootloader, that will immediately void your device warranty.