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For example are boot loaders unlockable only if the phone is branded and comes with a contract? If I bought a phone of would I likely be able to unlock the boot loader or is it really just luck of the draw?

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It depends entirely on what device it is. – Compro01 Dec 14 '12 at 1:27
Most probably if its a branded phone and it has been launched from a while then you can search it on Google to check out if the Bootloader is unlock-able or not? – avirk Dec 14 '12 at 2:54

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