Amazon Quietly Bricked Jailbroken Kindle Devices Last Year

from the taking-money;-building-walls dept

It appears that Amazon is very serious about walling off its garden. Late last year, it pushed out a firmware update for its Amazon Fire TV devices that not only made rooted devices unusable, but prevented Fire TV owners from rolling back firmware to previous, more root-friendly versions. Apparently, Kindle users were also included in this lockdown.

A recent post at Good Reader notes that the latest firmware for Kindles is pretty much identical to its Fire TV firmware, right down to the destruction of functionality.
The new firmware was pushed out to all modern Kindle devices in late November of last year. Anything after version 5.60 will not allow you to hack the firmware and do interesting things like change the screensaver system or install custom apps.
And, like its firmware for the Fire TV, rollback to less hack-resistant firmware is nearly impossible. You can force it back, provided you have a soldering iron (and the willingness to apply it to your device) or you can follow a few not-so-simple steps to take your root access back from Amazon. But once again, it's the company removing functionality for the sole purpose of making devices perform the way Amazon wants them to, rather than leaving these sorts of decisions to those who have purchased the devices.

And it's not as though Kindle owners are receiving any heads up from Amazon about the firmware's plans for their jailbroken devices. No mention of it is made in the firmware's specifications, which only tells you about the (supposedly) good things the update will bring: vague "bug fixes and improvements." Softpedia's hosting page for the latest version (5.6.1) goes into a little more detail, but it only contains a list of slightly-upgraded Amazon features, rather than the limitations the firmware will impose on paying customers.

If you like Amazon's walled garden, the company is more than happy to ensure you never find the gate. If you don't, Amazon is more than happy to step in and brick over any openings. The latter does a huge disservice to paying customers who are looking to get the most out of something they purchased and own, but seems to still somehow "belong" to Amazon.

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  1. icon
    JP Jones (profile), 25 Mar 2015 @ 12:31pm

    Re: Re: Brick?

    "Bricking" refers to a software issue that removes all functionality from a device, making it essentially a "brick."[1] Normally this applies to complete functionality removal, in other words, the device no longer works at all for any purpose.

    That being said, the "jailbroken" Kindle is being bricked by this update. After the update, the Kindle can no longer be rooted, which means that the core functionality gained by rooting is lost. If, for example, I had a smart phone that I expected to be able to surf the internet, but an update removed that functionality and only let me make calls, I would consider that a bricked phone; the partial functionality removes key uses for which I purchased the device.

    So if I bought a Kindle Fire expecting an inexpensive Android tablet with good reading capability and suddenly the "tablet" part of the equation was removed I'd be pretty upset, especially since the Fire is not really any cheaper than other equivalent Android tablets. They advertise it as a tablet, and while they mention their proprietary OS, it is "built on Android with enhancements." What if I want some of those enhancements, but not everything? What if I want stuff other than their 100,000 apps in their appstore? Their is nothing in their hardware that prevents me from doing so; it's purely a software lock.

    Therefore, if I bought the device knowing I had these options, and then the company removes those options, that device has lost its core functionality due to a software issue, not a hardware one. Which is the definition of "bricking."

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