Samsung returns control of the shortcut dock, but why all of a sudden?

Great news, Samsung phone owners: control of the dock is back, as an update to this year’s flagship — the Galaxy S5 — returns ownership of the shortcut dock squarely to the consumer, but why now when it’s been locked for so long?

For Australian owners of the Galaxy S5, there’s an update arriving that will make many smile, and others question why a change was necessary in the first place.

It doesn’t have much of a name, but the Maintenance Release 2 for the Galaxy S5 will fix some NFC bugs, patch up other issues, and deal with one of the biggest complaints Samsung has had for years: a locked shortcut dock.

For Samsung, this has been a topic the company didn’t officially talk about with journalists or consumers since it decided to lock the dock in a firmware release made available in the middle of the Galaxy S3’s lifecycle. Ever since then, the shortcut dock has been locked, so if you wanted to remove a few icons you didn’t actually use — say contacts or the stock web browser — and replace them with apps that you did — say Facebook or Chrome — you couldn’t.

Until now, that is, as Samsung’s latest update now makes that possible, with a test on our Galaxy S5 showing it to be real.

But the question from our point of view is why even lock it at all, only to unlock it a couple of years later? What was the point behind these actions?

Oh sure, Samsung, don’t get us wrong: we’re delighted that one of the biggest smartphone manufacturers in the world (they even make big boats!) decided to come to its senses and not lock down its customers, but we’re curious as to why even do it in the first place?

We’ve sent off that query and a few others to Samsung to see what happens, though we suspect it will be lost in transmission like previous efforts, as noted in one of our recent stories detailing how firmware revisions like the locked dock one can ruin an otherwise great product.

We’re not expecting an official answer on this, mind you, as Samsung has kept pretty quiet any time someone has asked about the locked dock being different in Australia compared to the rest of the world.

While Samsung hasn’t ever officially confirmed it, the long-running rumour as to why Aussies received the lock dock and not other parts of the world centred around Samsung’s lawsuits with Apple, and in places where the company hadn’t fared all that well, making sure there wasn’t any extra ammunition for the other company.

Our shortcut dock, it seemed, was one part of that, even though that no other handset maker locked its dock down in this particular way (though no other manufacturer is engaged in such a heavy barrage of smartphone lawsuit fire as Apple and Samsung).

In any case, Galaxy S5 owners should see the change in software shortly, just make sure you head to the settings area and look for updates to your phone under “About phone.”

As for whether Samsung will unlock its dock on its other phones, that is anyone’s guess.We’re checking on a few of our other Samsung products right now, and so far, the answer isn’t a good one, but that was one of the other questions we’re asking of the company, so when its local people get back to us, we’ll let you know.