PSA: Don’t root your Galaxy Z Fold 3

If you’re a developer and you’re intrigued by Samsung’s new $1,799 Galaxy Z Fold 3 and you want to play around with its software to see if you can tweak it and customize it however you want, here’s an idea: don’t.

Well, do whatever you want, but you’ll have to be okay with disabling your cameras.

XDA-Developers has done what it does best and tried to unlock the bootloader of a new smartphone. This time, it was the Galaxy Z Fold 3 in the hot seat as a user tried to free the bootloader in order to root the device and begin tweaking the software. However, after unlocking the bootloader (a process that’s perfectly functional on the device), they were met with a message across all apps that use the device’s cameras. In essence, it was this GIF:

It’s important to note that not only is the message displayed when you try to use apps like Camera, but you’re also warned before unlocking your bootloader that “doing so will cause the camera to be disabled.”

You also get messages like this, apparently:

ianmacd (XDA)

If you want to re-enable your cameras, you’ll have to relock your bootloader. It’s after that, users report, all of your cameras become functional again.

Why does this happen? It’s likely a cheap move by Samsung to discourage third-party operating system installation on the Z Fold 3. Over the years, Android device manufacturers have tried to block and eliminate different methods that let you hack into their phones in hopes of maintaining high levels of security and stability. Of course, this effort has gone largely unnoticed since the worst things OEMs typically do involve adding extra hoops devs have to jump through to achieve things like root access.

However, I’m not sure I’ve ever seen a manufacturer disable the cameras when you simply unlock your bootloader. I’ve unlocked the bootloader of many phones before, and all I’ve ever gotten was a scary message saying my device was no longer as secure as it once was. That, I suppose, wasn’t enough to convince enough people to knock it off, so Samsung said “screw it, we’re not letting you take pictures.”

Obviously, we’re talking about Android developers here. They’re some of the most crafty and well-versed on the entire internet, so there will likely be some workaround for the issue in the future once enough people get their hands on the device.


By the way, if this is what happens when you unlock the bootloader, I wonder what happens when you achieve full-on root access on the Z Fold 3. If you root a modern Samsung phone, you’ll permanently lose access to all of the company’s Knox security features, which means things like Samsung Pay won’t be functional any longer. Whether things get worse with Samsung’s $1,800 foldable is unclear, but I assume we’ll find out soon enough.

All in all, it feels weird that on one of Samsung’s most expensive phones ever, you can’t unlock the bootloader without losing your cameras. I suppose the “most expensive” part of that sentence is the reason they’re doing it, but it still feels dirty.

Right now, it’s unclear if Samsung’s Galaxy Z Flip 3 will suffer from the same issue.