Samsung is seemingly on a roll in making some rather controversial design decisions, ranging from the eyebrow-raising to the blood-curdling. Now it seems that the manufacturer has effectively found a way to discourage the few brave souls from tinkering with the newly released Galaxy Note 3.
The latest S Pen phablet is already beset by bad publicity despite the otherwise impressive hardware and software tandem, which you can read about in our review here. Aside from the highly controversial region locking, Samsung has apparently designed the Galaxy Note 3 in such a way that its flash counter can no longer be reset when flashed with a different ROM, thereby permanently marking the device as “damaged”, even if its still working, and voiding all warranty.
Here’s how it all works. Normally, everytime an Android device is flashed with another ROM, its flash counter is incremented to show many times it has undergone flashing. This gives service centers an indicator if the device has been tampered with. In the past, however, it has been possible to reset this counter to 0 which, along with flashing the original manufacturer ROM, would make it eligible again for warranty. This time, however, thanks to Samsung’s new KNOX security system, that is no longer the case. KNOX uses eFuse, a technology that enables read-only memory (ROM) to be reprogrammed, despite the read-only property of the chip. This, processor, however, is inaccessible to users. What happens now, then, is that, when the Galaxy Note 3 is flashed, KNOX gets rewritten and the flash counter is incremented permanently.
Developer Chainfire, who wrote the TriangleAway tool that resets the flash counter, says that while it may be possible to find a way to reset the counter, it will be difficult to do so and the probability of success is quite low. This, unfortunately, leaves Galaxy Note 3 owners hanging with no way out of a flashed device.