Pixel Watch bootloader can be unlocked with modded cable

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Fans of Android modding rejoice, it’s been discovered that the Pixel Watch bootloader can be unlocked, but you’ll need a special cable or very steady hands.

One tradition of the Google Pixel series is that you’ve always been able to unlock the bootloader, which makes it easily possible to install your own custom Android ROM. This has made the Pixel series a fan favorite among the modding community, and many were hoping to see that tradition continue with the Pixel Watch.

On that front, there’s been good news and bad news. In a statement given to XDA-Developers, Google confirmed that while it is possible to unlock the bootloader, doing so requires a specialty cable that “Fitbit currently does not provide.”

As spotted by a few Pixel Watch reviewers and early adopters, there are four pogo pins on the upper side of the watch, inside the watch band connector. Presumably, Fitbit’s special cable would either connect magnetically or perhaps slot into place just like a normal Pixel Watch band would.

However, without that official option available, resourceful developers/hackers have taken matters into their own hands. On Twitter, developer Shiny Quagsire has shared his own efforts at modding the Pixel Watch, beginning with how to unlock the bootloader.

To do so, the first step was to figure out exactly how those pogo pins are used, then cut up and modify one end of a USB cable into individual wires. Three of the four cables are then carefully spaced to match the pogo pins and taped together. With that complete, it takes a bit of gentle maneuvering to hold the makeshift “connector” against the pins of the Pixel Watch.

Shiny Quagsire’s efforts were rewarded, getting a full ADB/Fastboot connection to the Pixel Watch via the modified USB cable, which, while sketchy, is workable for simple experiments but not for flashing a new ROM. Once connected, the process of unlocking the bootloader was just as simple as it is on every Pixel phone.

Just like Pixel series phones, when the Pixel Watch bootloader is unlocked, you’re warned about it every time it restarts. This is an important safety measure to ensure that anyone running modified/altered software on their watch or phone is well aware of it.

With this first foray into cracking open the Pixel Watch, it’s clear we’re at the beginning of a new era of modding Wear OS smartwatches. In time, the techniques will hopefully improve — whether Fitbit releases the debugging cable themselves or the community creates one of their own — and more interesting possibilities will arise. For now, though, it’s just fun to see the lengths to which some will go in order to modify a device like the Pixel Watch.

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