If you want to root your phone, it's a huge plus. If you want to install a custom ROM like LineageOS, it's an absolute must-have. Custom kernels like ElementalX, custom recoveries like TWRP — none of this happens unless you buy a phone with an unlockable bootloader.
While we were researching the best phones for rooting, the first thing we checked was whether or not each device's bootloader could be unlocked. This gave us a nice list of modder-friendly phones, so we figured we'd share our findings.
The phones in this list are limited to current-generation models, but we'll continuously update this page to add new models going forward. We've also limited the selection to phones that can be purchased and used in the United States, so there may be a few international variants that aren't listed here. That said, the following list is a great place to start if you're planning on rooting your next device.
The following phones can be unlocked using a simple fastboot command. Doing so will not void the device's warranty, as the manufacturer has intentionally included this functionality.
- Essential PH-1
- Google Pixel, Pixel 2, Pixel 3 (non-Verizon models)
- Google Pixel XL, Pixel 2 XL, Pixel 3 XL (non-Verizon models)
- Nokia 6
- OnePlus 5, 5T, 6, 6T
This next set of phones can have their bootloaders unlocked, however, you'll need to get an unlock code from the manufacturer first. This is a fairly simple process, but it registers your account and serial number with the OEM, which means they'll know that you've unlocked your bootloader. In most cases, the phone's warranty will be completely void.
- HTC U Ultra (carrier-unlocked model)
- HTC U11 (carrier-unlocked model)
- Huawei Honor 8
- Huawei Mate 9
- Huawei Mate 9 Pro
- Huawei P10
- Huawei P10 Plus
- LG V20 (US996 carrier-unlocked model)
- LG G6 (US997 carrier-unlocked model)
- Moto Z Force (2nd Generation)
- Moto Z Play (2nd Generation)
- Moto X4
- Moto G5
- Moto G5 Plus
- Sony Xperia XZ Premium (no OEM code required, but camera binaries wiped)
If you were hoping to unlock the bootloader on a flagship Samsung device, you're unfortunately out of luck. All US models of the Galaxy S8, S8+, and Note 8 have locked bootloaders. You could purchase one of the international Exynos-powered Galaxy variants, which do have unlockable bootloaders, but you'd have issues connecting to some North American cell towers.
Any carrier-branded phone sold by Verizon or AT&T will not have an unlockable bootloader. If you'd prefer to buy on contract from a service provider and root is one of your must-haves, we recommend purchasing through Sprint or T-Mobile. However, some phones sold by the latter two carriers still have bootloaders that can't be unlocked, so the only sure-fire way is to buy direct from the manufacturer.
Finally, there are a handful of phones that can have their bootloaders unlocked using a hack or an exploit. We chose to leave these phones off of this list, because such exploits are generally risky and are often blocked by firmware updates.
Like I said, we'll update this page as we find more phones with unlockable bootloaders. Do you know of any that we missed? Let us know in the comment section below.