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ASUS addresses locked bootloader, ICS and GPS issues

Facebook statement acknowledges GPS troubles, promises unlock tool and sets the date for an Ice Cream Sandwich update

ASUS has been under plenty of fire recently due to problems that popped up with their Transformer Prime tablet and users have been awaiting an official response. The device, which is the first Tegra 3 tablet to hit the market, first encountered difficulty in acquiring a GPS lock without Wi-Fi and developers then discovered that the bootloader was encrypted and rooting was not possible. Though it’s taken some time, ASUS has finally responded to the issues, and the results are a mixed bag of delight and disappointment.

In a statement on their Facebook page, the company addressed the locked bootloader and said that it was necessary due to the tablet’s use of Google video rental and DRM, along with the increased risk of damage due to rooting. However, the company is compromising and has released an unlock tool that removes the bootloader encryption but disables Google Video and voids the ASUS warranty in return.  Of course, voided warranties have never been enough to deter Android developers, and the device has already been rooted as evidenced by the YouTube video below. The devs won’t be releasing the hack to the public till the Transformer Prime receives its Ice Cream Sandwich update, but that shouldn’t be too long with ASUS announcing that an OTA Android 4.0 update will be coming on January 12th.

While the preceding announcement about the bootloader was welcomed by many, the same can’t be said about the Prime’s GPS issues. In their statement, ASUS acknowledged the GPS issue and blamed the tablet’s metallic unibody for the troubles. According to ASUS, the Transformer Prime “is not a professional GPS device” and “signal performance can be easily influenced by factors including, but not limited to: weather, buildings, and surrounding environments”.  The company also admitted that they have removed GPS from the list of specifications, but that probably doesn’t do much for users that already purchased the device.

Though ASUS’s response to the GPS problems may not be what people were holding out for, it appears to be the truth according to an in depth review by Anandtech. In the review, the publication stripped down the Transformer and came to the conclusion that the aluminum body severely limits GPS reception and is not helped due to the lack of speaker grill or plastic covering like in Apple's iPad.

Though ASUS won’t be doing anything about the GPS, their prompt response to the locked bootloader and their promise of an ICS update is commendable. And while the device probably isn’t suited as a primary GPS, it’s hard to ignore its other stellar features and it remains one of the best Android tablets out there.


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Omar Qudsi, 2012-01- 7 (Update: 2021-05-18)