Asus releases botched up kernel sources for Zenfone Max M2 family on launch day

Proper kernel sources along with an unlockable bootloader are few of the key points to build a great developer community around a specific device. As Android’s kernel is derived from the open source Linux kernel, OEMs must release the kernel sources to mandate GNU General Public License but that’s a rare occasion in real life.

Some of the OEMs are notorious for not publishing or excessively delaying the sources, but Asus is usually committed to the licensing scheme and releases sources pretty quickly. A sudden turn of events now: Asus (accidentally?) has pushed half-baked unusable kernel sources of the newly released Zenfone Max M2 and Max Pro M2.

Zenfone Max Pro M2

Inside Android community, there is a long-standing battle between AOSP alike (also referred as ‘stockish’ or ‘close to stock’) interface and OEM skins. OEMs like Asus offers own skin dubbed as ZenUI, but last year they switched the strategy and released Zenfone Max Pro M1 with almost stock Android 8.1.

An official bootloader unlock method (unofficial too) along with quickly released sources drew the phone in limelight among modding communities, giving strong competition to the phones like Xiaomi Redmi Note 5 Pro AKA ‘whyred’ and Mi A1 AKA ’tissot’ in the price segment.

Max Pro M1 eventually got warm welcome from the community, even official support of LineageOS. Though there were some initial hiccups regarding public availability of the sources, those were resolved after a while.

M1’s successor, Zenfone Max Pro M2 debuted in the Indian market yesterday accompanied by smaller sibling Zenfone Max M2. Asus is as fast as OnePlus in this case – they released the kernel sources and official bootloader unlock utilities (Max M2 / Max Pro M2) on the same day, with a catch!

Eagle-eyed developer krasCGQ/KudDroid spotted the discrepancies inside the released sources. Instead of plain human readable texts, most of the sources are somehow encrypted and in its current form, not at all usable.

He also noted that the sources of Max Pro M1 and M2 are now unified which makes sense as SoCs are quite similar (SD636 inside Max Pro M1 is pin and software compatible with SD660 inside Max Pro M2), though Asus (or HUAQIN, the ODM) opts for separate defconfigs for each device.

KudDroid also pointed that the latest release for Max Pro M1 contains similar flaws. We at PiunikaWeb took a look at Zenfone Max M2’s kernel sources, and unsurprisingly those are botched up as well.

Zenfone Max M2

Perhaps the after-effect of weekend’s party inside Asus headquarter? Who knows 😛

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Kingshuk De

I came from a mixed background of Statistics and Computer Science. My research domains included embedded computer systems, mobile computing and delay tolerant networks in post-disaster scenarios. Apart from tinkering with gadgets or building hackintosh, I like to hop on various subreddits and forums like MyDigitalLife and XDA.