A year after launching its first device, HMD is yet to release kernel sources for any of its smartphones
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HMD released its first device about a year ago. The company, an offshoot of sorts of the now defunct Nokia mobile division, has been portrayed as one that caters to end users. In spite of that image, the Finnish OEM has failed to do one of the few things a number of its competitors do: release kernel sources for its devices.
Android, an open-source OS, makes use of the Linux kernel which shares the GPLv2 license. All OEMs releasing devices with the Android OS are obligated to release kernel sources for their devices, as it's a clause that comes with the rights to the license. Going against that is, for all intents and purposes, a case of copyright violation.
HMD isn't the only OEM to adopt this policy. Xiaomi, for example, has a well-documented history of releasing kernel sources for its devices up to a year after launch. OEMs like Huawei, OnePlus, and Samsung, however, have a more consumer-friendly stance on the matter. The OnePlus 5T even had its kernel sources released hours after launch, for some perspective.
Kernel sources aren't exactly useful to the average user but they allow developers create custom ROMs and the likes, with fewer chances of having bugs and missing features. Of course, to use anything like that—custom ROMs, a number of mods—the device has to have its bootloader unlocked. HMD also hasn't allowed that for any of its devices so far, so it does look like the company is trying to shoo off community support. Company CTO Mikko Jaakkola claimed that bootloader unlocks would roll out to HMD's offering over time, but that was back in September and nothing has been done about. Another enquiry last month received confirmation from HMD CPO Juho Sarvikas that the company has no plans to allow bootloader unlocks at all.
HMD has adhered to an impressive policy on software updates, and that is commendable, especially in a world where OEMs try as much as possible to leave users with the short end of the stick. The company's stance on community/enthusiast support is lackluster at best, however, and has to be chided.
A change.org petition right about now would be nice.