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Asus announces Transformer Prime ICS date, addresses GPS and bootloader issues

The ICS update for the Transformer Prime is announced and Asus answers GPS and bootloader issues.

Asus The Transformer Prime will play games.
Eric Franklin/CNET

When Asus unveiled its Honeycomb-powered Transformer Prime tablet last November, it stated that Ice Cream Sandwich would be on the tablet by year's end. As owners of the tablet can tell you, that didn't pan out. However, according to its Facebook page, the company will begin pushing the update to Prime owners worldwide, starting January 12.

That's the boring part though, since Asus made no secret of the fact that ICS was coming. More intriguing however, are the other parts of Asus's Facebook post.

Since the release of the Transformer Prime, two potential issues have come to light for the tablet: GPS performance and a locked bootloader.

Apparently, the GPS radio in the Prime has been so susceptible to interference, not just from weather and walls, but from the Prime's own body, that Asus has decided to completely remove GPS from the tablet's spec sheet. According to Asus, material used in the Prime's metallic unibody design, "may affect the performance of the GPS when receiving signals from satellites."

In its new firmware update, Asus addresses the GPS performance issue by automatically enabling satellite information to be downloaded via Wi-Fi.

We didn't experience any GPS performance issues in our testing however, and Asus says that your GPS performance will depend on many factors, not limited to weather and walls.

The bootloader news possibly provides slightly more solace, though, for less-than-satisfied Prime owners. If you're into the tablet modding scene at all, then you're probably aware that a locked bootloader prevents ROMs from being loaded onto a device or software from being customized.

Ealier this week a user on the XDA-Developers forum posted that Asus was using "unhackable" 128-bit encryption on the Prime. For many people, this is a non-issue; however, plenty of Android users purchase their devices with "hackability" at the forefront of their requirements.

Asus stated that the reasoning for the encryption was "due to content providers' requirement for DRM client devices to be as secure as possible," but it announced today that it's developing an unlock tool for the modding community.

However, it added "Please do note that if you choose to unlock your device, the Asus warranty will be void, and Google video rental will also be unavailable because the device will be no longer be protected by security mechanism."

Asus didn't announce when the tool would be made available to interested users.