Fairphone 4 bricked by locking bootloader

This is completely unacceptable, even if at this point, it’s the sort of behaviour that I’m starting to expect from Fairphone. That warning is not on the official page explaining offline Fairphone OS installation. In fact, that page actually discusses what you did, installing the Android 12 update while in a region that did not receive a notification, and says only that they do not recommend manual installation because you’ll need to downgrade to receive future updates:

The period February-March '23 is transitional between Android 11 and Android 12. Users on certain networks in France and Switzerland do not receive the notification to update to Android 12. If you are one of those users, we do not recommend a manual installation of Android 12. If you install it against this recommendation, you will be stuck outside the regular update path and you must downgrade back to Android 11 (which will wipe data) in order to receive future over-the-air updates.

It certainly does not say that it will brick your device.

The warning they refer to is only on this page. It seems heavily implied that it is referring to 3rd party OSs. That Fairphone would release an Android 11 update with a higher security patch level than their Android 12 update seems extremely problematic, given their poor implementation of anti-rollback protections. I can see their desire to have security updates for users in Android 11 regions, but given the way this problem is obscured for this specific upgrade on their support pages, it seems obvious that they’ll end up in this situation. For them to then refuse to take responsibility for their mistake, especially when fixing it is not a significant cost for them, is extremely disappointing.

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Those dates where not mentioned on the bootloader lock pages. These dates where mentioned first in the e-mail I received from Fairphone support. I was not aware of any security update date on Android 11, and how that would be a problem when installing a new whole new rom. Or at least was assuming that Android 12 would have a higher security level than Android 11. That looks obvious to me.

@const Yes that exactly how I’m felling right now. I was following the instructions and took care of their advice:

To protect your data in case of theft or loss of your Fairphone, we advise you to keep the bootloader of your Fairphone locked.

To lock the bootloader of your Fairphone again, follow the instructions below:

This warning:

If you've installed an OS with an older security update, Android's roll-back protection might brick your device when locking the bootloader! 

concerns others OS’s going back to Stock, or newer stock going to older versions of stock. That is how I understand this. 12 seems newer to me that 11.

Agree. I would expect that the version counter would be reset to zero for each major OS version, since a Android 11 patch won’t work on Android 12 anyway (I assume). So we should see A11.xxx and A12.xxx patches, and those should not compete.

Patches for different OS versions shouldn’t compete or be compared, so using dates is plain stupid when two different OSes are managed concurrently. IMHO.

Maybe stupid and nothing Fairphone invented. Android security patches are “refelcted” by a date.

Edit to add I was just referring the fact that Android security patches are using dates, the rest really seem odd as explained below by Hirnsushi

I’m still not sure if this is intendended behavior or a bug, because …

… I would read that as you should be starting from a clean slate and that doesn’t happen, but …

… I’ve given up hope that someone at Fairphone will clear up this issue at some point and explain why this doesn’t work as expected :man_shrugging:

In my opinion, if they don’t talk to us, they should be fixing the phones free of charge!


Sorry, I didn’t mention Fairphone, I was ranting generally, because many people I work with do it too, and it’s a pain in my back, creating unnecessary additional work. Version numbers have been invented for a reason, for crying out loud…

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After almost three weeks Fairphone support replies that they can fix this bricked phone by sending it to support in France. BUT, I have to pay for the expenses a € 34,50, because i could have read the release notes before doing the update that was advices to me by Fairphone support.

This was the original message:

I am sorry to hear you are not able to get new upgrades since last November!
To exclude the possibility of a corrupted third-party software, I recommend rebooting your Fairphone 4 in Safe mode. This option can allow you to find the cause of your issue without performing a Factory reset which erases all data.
Does the issue persist even when your phone is in Safe mode?
 If that does not work, you could try to manually install the latest version of Fairphone OS on your Fairphone 4 yourself. Back up your data before proceeding.
 If you have a different operating system, it will be replaced by Fairphone OS and your data will be lost.
To do so follow the support article: Install Fairphone OS on your Fairphone 4 using a computer.
 If you should encounter an error while following the procedure, please:
     Let us know if you are using Windows 10, macOS, or Linux;
    Take a screenshot(s) of the error message and send it to us.
Thank you for your time and cooperation.

I’m very disappointed in Fairphone support! This was not what I would have expected from a company that call’s itself Fair. Fair for others, but not for its own customers. I was just following the advise in the update and lock bootloaders instructions and would never have guessed that Android 12 could have a lower security level then Android 11.
This € 34,50 is financial not a very big issue for me, but I find this decision wrong in principle!
So be advised to not do an offline upgrade! And especially not to lock your bootloader again.
Fairphone does not take responsibility for its own support advise!

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Then ask that the ticket is escalated, I would not accept to pay for their incorrect advice.


I eventually have Fairphone let repair my phone and I took the costs of 45 euro’s.
I’m still not happy with this lack of ‘service’, and lack of sense of responsibility at their support department.
In my opinion it was much to easy to say that I “should have known that this stock Android 12 rom has a lower security patch level then the stock Android 11 rom”. If I would have made a legal case of this I certainly would have won this.
I did not want to invoke my liability insurance for this 45 euro’s.


Are you sure Fairphone said that, you put it in quotes??

They may have informed you it did but I doubt they said you ‘should’ have known.

It seems reasonable that if a user wants to modify the OS then they are totally responsible for the outcome.

This is what I received from Fairphone support:

Unfortunately, it seems you missed an important warning in the
instructions for locking the bootloader namely:

If you install an OS with an older security patch level than your previous OS,
Android's roll-back protection might brick your device when locking the bootloader!
Wait until you get a software update with the same or newer security patch level
before locking the bootloader.

The Android 11 software's security patch level is 05.01.23.
The Android 12 software's security patch level is 05.12.22.

The good news is that we can fix this in our repair centre in France. We
have access to special tools which allow us to install new software even on
a locked device.

How stupid I am for not expecting that Android 12 could have a lower security level! :crazy_face:


Not stupid at all, just a poor assumption as I’m sure many will make.

The problem is with liability.
If you paid for a service then yes you would have a case that the upgrade bricked the phone.

However you were not under pressure to upgrade and even if you were given free advice that does not make the adviser liable, as there was no contract.

Sadly many people want to change OSes manually and some will have problems and in coming across them maybe learn something, and importantly here hopefully other users can see possible holes in following other peoples paths.

Anyway, as you said €45 was the way to go.

Thanks for the detail and text.

All the best

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