The bootloader often displays information like the phone model, version of fastboot, whether or not it is boot-unlocked or not.
For Google Nexus devices, you can now connect your phone to a computer (Windows, MacOS, Linux) running the Android SDK tools, allowing some commands to be sent.
The Android SDK fastboot command supports unlocking the bootloader, flashing factory images to Nexus phones, flashing a new recovery partition. Check the Android SDK documentation for further details, or type fastboot -h at the command line.
Flashing a phone can often wipe out all user data and settings. Fastboot flashing unlock (formerly fastboot oem unlock) on Nexus phones will erase all user data as a security precaution. Offload any information or media that you want to keep before unlocking a phone's bootloader.
Some manufacturers may supply custom code based on your phone's IMEI (unique serial number) which is required to unlock.
Flashing an Android phone with compatible ROMs (operating firmware and software) is part of the fun of tinkering with Android Phones. With the phone in the bootloader state, this is where you can change your phone's software suite. For example, Google provides complete "factory images" to return the Nexus models to a new, "out of the box" state.
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