Why Mediatek don’t share source code, and why they should!


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Mediatek are in the headlines again for keeping the source code for the Omate Truesmart watch to themselves, but the problems run deeper than that.

As we all know, any manufacturer which produces an Android smartphone/device should release the kernel source code as part of the GPL agreements. Generally there are companies which do this quickly, those who stall and eventually release, and those who keep their money grabbing hands locked tightly together.

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Mediatek are the money grabbing type and to date have not released source code for their current chipsets which include the quad-core MT6582, MT6589(T), octacore MT6592 etc. What is worrying is that these are the processors found in many of the Chinese phones we report on on a daily basis!

Why do we need Mediatek Source Code?

As Adam Outler describes over on XDA, one of the major reasons we need Source Code for Mediatek phones is to fix the problems which Mediatek have ignored. Security issues, problems with Bluetooth, and GPS (as we have all learned) could be easily fixed by a community of developers! Patches can then be created and distributed to everyone so we an all enjoy a secure, up to date Mediatek experience, not to mention possible 3rd party roms like OMNI ROM, Cyanogenmod and others could be ported.

Why don’t Mediatek release Source Code?

Mediatek will happily release the source code for their processors but at a price (which is against the GPL policies Android is distributed under). You can contact Mediatek now and pay for a license for your chip, but how many thousands of $ would they ask we don’t know, and the fact is it should be free.

jiayu g4 specification

Mediatek don’t want to offer source code as it forces customers to upgrade their phones to the next version with the latest processor. For example if we take a look at a quad-core MT6589T phone with 2GB RAM we can see it is most likely running Android 4.2, the phone is more than capable of 4.4 (and higher) but the chances of an official update are slim! Customers wanting the latest Android OS are forced to buy a newer phone!

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Why don’t manufacturers do something?

Mediatek processors power the majority of Chinese phones plus a few European and Indian phones. Larger companies could (in theory) buy licences for each of the phones and supply customers so that development can be carried out. The problem here though is that prices of the phone will rise considerably and this is not what buyers want.

omate truesmart colours

Smaller manufacturers in China, such as Omate, have a different problem. They don’t have an official deal with Mediatek but instead buy their chips in smaller quantities from a 3rd party source. This means no direct line with Mediatek and could mean additional fees will be required.

Why should Mediatek release the source code?

Releasing source code would;

  • Improve Mediatek’s public image.
  • Open up Mediatek products to a larger market share.
  • Save Mediatek money in development costs.
  • Ensure Mediatek phones have up to date firmware.
  • Ensure prompt security and bug fixes.
  • Allow 3rd party ROMs to be supported.
  • ETC

Mediatek will surely eventually change their minds about their source code policies, we just need to keep putting pressure on the company and the manufacturers which use their processors. Let’s all hope a change is sooner rather than later!

What do you think about this current Mediatek crisis? Let us know in the comments below.

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