While Google has previously announced that the Google Pixel and Pixel XL smartphones purchased from its store are bootloader unlocked, those exclusively sold by Verizon have been denied such feature. The carrier, however, has been beaten in that game as developers have successfully cracked its bootloader.
Two developers registered at XDA as beaups and jcase, who are also behind the SunShine bootloader unlock tool, claimed to have discovered a method to pry the bootloader in the Verizon Pixel phones open.
The method was in the form of the dePixel8 tool, which can work not just for Verizon Pixel phones but also for EE in the United Kingdom. Unlike previous unlock tools, which rely on scripts that can automatically unlock Android bootloader, the solution merely bypasses the security mechanisms that the carrier has embedded in it.
The bootloader unlocking process is straightforward. A user only needs to install fastboot and adb on a PC, which will then enable the user to issue three commands that forces the phone to unlock the bootloader.
During this process, another command has to be typed: "fastboot flashing unlock". Once this has been entered, an unlock bootloader option will be available. The entire affair is reportedly so easy that it is barely fun for beaups and jcase.
The good news is that the dePixel8 is available for free. The only potential drawback is that the developers will not provide any form of support or, at least not obligated to provide one. What this means is that Pixel users cannot expect help if something goes wrong. Here, it is also helpful to note a key disclaimer: it is not the developer's best work.
— beaups (@firewaterdevs) October 28, 2016
The SunShine workaround could embolden a group of Pixel owners to unlock their bootloaders because this process effectively opens a Pixel smartphone to a host of new functionalities. This is primarily demonstrated in the way a new custom ROM could be flashed into the device.
Those who are new to unlocking their phones' bootloader, however, are better served if they try to learn about Android SDK and commands. There are numerous sources available online that can help in this area.
If users encounter problems or, worse, have bricked their devices in the process, there is no need to worry. Google has just released the Pixel phones' factory images that will let them manually restore their handsets to their original state.
Verizon has not issued any statement regarding this issue. There is also no available information whether the carrier is working to address how dePixel8 bypasses its security mechanisms around the Pixel phones bootloader. Unlocked devices, however, will no longer receive the seamless updates feature in Android 7.0 Nougat.