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Carriers, Manufacturers Are Strangling Android 306

Posted by kdawson
from the fate-of-cuckoo-chicks dept.
loconet writes "This article in Gizmodo claims that Android's fragmented model is harming it, but Google has the power to save it. The rumored Google Phone could be a ploy to upset the wireless industry, or it could be an expensive niche device. Either way, it would be a bid to take Android back from the companies that seem hell-bent on destroying it. '...once handset manufacturers (and carriers, through handset manufacturers) have built their own version of Android, they've effectively taken it out of the development stream. Updating it is their responsibility, which they have to choose to uphold. Or not! Who cares? The phones are already sold."
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Carriers, Manufacturers Are Strangling Android

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  • What a nightmare. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday December 19, 2009 @04:52PM (#30500724)
    You have to hand it to Apple, at least they handle updates pretty well.
  • by SuperKendall (25149) on Saturday December 19, 2009 @04:58PM (#30500744)

    I don't think it's reasonable to complain about the spread of updates yet, I think over time they will tend to smooth out.

    Plus, I don't think it matters. Look at all the people will ing to jailbreak iPhones, or to apply custom firmware to Windows Mobile devices. If the carriers don't update, most users will if it's possible - and I think for the most part users will be able to upgrade phones since Android is open. It will just be a more quirky process than the iPhone offers, but in the end people can make a choice they feel comfortable with.

  • by Z00L00K (682162) on Saturday December 19, 2009 @05:00PM (#30500750) Homepage

    Since phones are frequently replaced for various reasons the software upgrade issue seems to be less interesting anyway.

    A new model replacing the old with better hardware comes at least every year. And people do drop their phones and a lot of other things happens too.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday December 19, 2009 @05:08PM (#30500772)

    Cell phone carriers are, at least in america, holding back cell phone software. The subsidized-phone business model gives them the oppourtunity to control everything about customer's phone software. Most basic carrier-sold phones are a nightmare to use, filled with ugly, confusing branded interfaces and annoying "stores" that sell overpriced useless games and ringtones. Apple did something right by cutting a tough deal with specific carriers in order to prevent them from branding the phone. Google's "all comers" strategy has opened them to the megalomania of the carriers.

  • by syntap (242090) on Saturday December 19, 2009 @05:10PM (#30500780)

    Windows Mobile, which unlike Android has always ranged from okay to sorry, must be updated by the phone manufacturers unless you luck out and your model gets attention from ROM cookers. Yet it has lived for over ten years... why would the expectation for Android be any different? Perhaps I am being cynical, but this smells like fear-mongering from parties that still think WinMo has a future.

  • Really? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by FlyingBishop (1293238) on Saturday December 19, 2009 @05:19PM (#30500824)

    I'm not entirely sure what this article is trying to prove. Android has been out for a year. It takes most software companies 6 months to ready a new release, test it, and put it out to market. If anyone (carriers or manufacturers) are interested in keeping their hardware on dated software, that won't be clear until at least June.

    And his supposition that handset manufacturers have no incentive to make their already-sold handsets operate well is just stupid. If you get a reputation for not updating your software, people won't want your hardware. And the carriers have even more interest in keeping software up to date.

  • by migla (1099771) on Saturday December 19, 2009 @05:20PM (#30500830)

    Honest question: How subsidized are "subsidized" phones in the US, really?

    Here in Sweden you can get phones locked to an operator too and you can get them with a commitment to stay the course of one year, for example, but looking at the increased monthly cost and/or cost/minutes, it seems they're not subsidized, but it's more like an instalment (hire-purchase) plan.

  • by Darkness404 (1287218) on Saturday December 19, 2009 @05:21PM (#30500838)

    Look at all the people will ing to jailbreak iPhones

    The main reason why people jailbreak is to get decent apps that will never be approved (such as emulators) on their phone. With a lack of a central authority forbidding such things, most people are less likely to root their Android device unless they are geeks.

  • by Nerdfest (867930) on Saturday December 19, 2009 @05:23PM (#30500844)
    Phone companies have no interest in supplying phones that allow you to use information (over their pipes) as efficiently as possible. The more you are online, the more it costs them in infrastructure. They have have to appear minimally better than their competition.
  • Android won't die (Score:4, Insightful)

    by rovolo (1695142) on Saturday December 19, 2009 @05:25PM (#30500854)

    The manufactures aren't trying to destroy Android, but the negligence is sure to stunt its growth. As long as Android is free and provides a good tech demo companies will continue to use it to sell the newest version of their phone.

    Without a more cohesive foundation it will probably stagnate though. The same thing happened with Linux; 'the year of the linux desktop'. Linux has survived not because of market viability but because technical people liked it. It still doesn't have more than a couple percent of marketshare (in the consumer market.) Android has an advantage in that smartphones are more integrated platforms than desktops, and people expect less expandability, but each smartphone will be a part of the manufacturers brand, rather than the Android brand. On a fragmented market it's much more difficult to deliver expanded functionality in the form of applications to consumers. It will be more like the crappy java games that you'd see on old phones than the market for desktop software.

    It's a new concept for phone companies though, and they'll probably start updating the OS once they get used to it. If they don't though, Android will probably see a limited success.

  • by migla (1099771) on Saturday December 19, 2009 @05:26PM (#30500860)

    It's as if you're fishing for the answer "N900"...

  • by Rich0 (548339) on Saturday December 19, 2009 @05:37PM (#30500898) Homepage

    In the US they're also like an installment plan, but you pay the installments whether or not you get a free phone out of the deal. It is a BIG ripoff, and it is the reason why I have a collection of perfectly fine old phones lying around - if I pay the same to keep the old phone or get a new one, why wouldn't I want the new one?

  • by Scrameustache (459504) on Saturday December 19, 2009 @05:46PM (#30500938) Homepage Journal

    Why the hell can't cell phones be this way, instead of the current quagmire where they're hopelessly entangled with what the carrier wants?

    Because that's how the carriers [wikipedia.org] like it.

  • Hard to believe (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Renderer of Evil (604742) on Saturday December 19, 2009 @05:52PM (#30500966) Homepage

    It's hard to believe that Google chose to go with what essentially is the open-source version of the broken WinMo model in a post-iPhone world. They got this thing all backwards.

    Perhaps they should have came out with Nexus One from the outset and then set up some kind of a reference design for all other manufacturers, instead of letting various handset manufacturers to cook up their own custom distributions. That way you could have one unified experience for the developers to follow. It's starting to look like Linux on the desktop -- something that sounds amazing on paper but doesn't quite work in the real world when you put it in front of non-geeks.

  • by BitZtream (692029) on Saturday December 19, 2009 @05:57PM (#30500986)

    Apple maintains total control over it, sticks to their guns, and the product isn't bad.

    Google gives the carriers complete control, and it turns to shit.

    This isn't a new pattern, this is the way its been all along and is one of the reasons the iPhone is doing well.

    You wouldn't get email on your phone with out an extra $10/month charge from AT&T if it was in their control. Maps would be the same way. Data would be $0.10/kb or packet, whichever amounts to the largest possible bill.

    Apple and the iPhone didn't sell so well just because of the hardware or software specifically. Apple's total control over the system is actually a blessing, contrary to what most seem to think.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday December 19, 2009 @06:10PM (#30501032)

    How about:

    Journalists, Bloggers Use Overwrought, Hysterical Headlines

    From the stop-taking-yourselves-so-fracking-seriously dept.

    The linked article basically talks about how different phones are using different versions of the Android OS.

    OH NOES. You mean they aren't all running identical versions?! It's being strangled! It's strangulation, I say! Woe unto those who have slightly different versions of software on their phone, for truly they shall be cursed from on high!

    Seriously people. Take a deep breath and calm down.

  • by forand (530402) on Saturday December 19, 2009 @06:27PM (#30501084) Homepage
    The 10 years when WinMo was a major player was characterized by NO consumer choice after the original purchase. Blackberry and Palm were the same way. Now the consumer is beginning to understand the benefits of having an open platform untied to their carrier. So if Android phones get locked down to the same level that WinMo, Palm, and Blackberries where for years then it will have to compete on crutches with the iPhone. Sure there are unlocked phones available but not enough to justify a vibrant marketplace al la iTunes.
  • by jonwil (467024) on Saturday December 19, 2009 @06:33PM (#30501112)

    One of the best things Apple did with the iPhone is to ensure that Apple is responsible for distribution of update and that the carriers have no say in when updates are released.

  • by Midnight Thunder (17205) on Saturday December 19, 2009 @06:38PM (#30501140) Homepage Journal


    Phone companies have no interest in supplying phones that allow you to use information (over their pipes) as efficiently as possible. The more you are online, the more it costs them in infrastructure. They have have to appear minimally better than their competition.

    Traditionally this has been the case, but for carries that don't offer "unlimited" data, there is an interest to encourage you to make the most of data usage. Data is the new voice.

  • by Unoti (731964) on Saturday December 19, 2009 @06:44PM (#30501170) Journal

    Having lots of updates is not in any way impressive, it means they didn't do things right the first damn time and rushed it to market.

    Releasing updates is not always an admission of failure. It's delivering an improved user experience.

    Taking your argument to the absurd helps illustrate the fault in your logic: if your statement were always true, and all companies always did the right thing, then no software would be released to the world yet, at all, because we have not yet written and perfected every feature that everyone wants. A ludicrous idea, of course. The idea I'm trying to illustrate is that it is desirable to periodically release software when it is good, and release it again later when it's even better or does even more.

  • by kdart (574) <keith,dart&gmail,com> on Saturday December 19, 2009 @06:45PM (#30501178) Homepage

    Google does get it. But Google does not want to play by the existing rules. They want to change the rules.

  • by mdwh2 (535323) on Saturday December 19, 2009 @07:47PM (#30501448) Journal

    Well my Nokia 5800 works with a mobile network just like an Internet network. As does my mobile 3G USB dongle, come to that. No contracts, no strings, with either of them. So your excuse for Apple's locked down phone doesn't really work, and I don't see any problem with Google doing things the way that the vast majority of the mobile market already does things. I'd much rather the mobile networks be like the Internet works in general, and not to end up as being Apple's locked down vision.

  • Re:Hard to believe (Score:3, Insightful)

    by mdwh2 (535323) on Saturday December 19, 2009 @07:55PM (#30501480) Journal

    iPhone introduction put the smartphone front and center into the mainstream and turned a business device into a consumer one. Prior to the iPhone's introduction smartphones were used by enterprise and a tiny group of geeks.

    Nonsense - Internet enabled phones that could run apps were around, and used by consumers, years before the Iphone appeared. The Iphone had, and still has relatively, small market share - there was no sudden jump. Even in the high end, people are buying far more from companies like Nokia than from Apple.

    Indeed the complete opposite is true - it's only on "geek" places like this that people think the Iphone is the only phone around.

    Nokia, RIM, Palm, Microsoft, Google - all of them followed up with their own responses to capitalize on the trend.

    Oh please - "apps" were around long before Apple.

    For better or worse, iPhone completely changed the mobile industry.

    How?

    Applications and stores already existed. Decent games already existed. Updates existed. "Twoo usability" is a no true scotsman fallacy.

  • by KonoWatakushi (910213) on Saturday December 19, 2009 @08:20PM (#30501568)

    Just because you have control over your phone, does not mean you are not obligated to customize or hack it in any way. You are concerned about compatibility, but Apple's lock-in model is actually the antithesis of compatibility.

    To put it in car terms, you want an Apple-controlled car, that can only drive on Apple-approved roads. Since Apple knows best, and obviously has your interests in mind, you would willingly subject yourself to such control.

    Well, if you really want to be a tool, that is your choice, but I think you should give it more thought. Your freedom of choice need not be mutually exclusive with a good user experience. If google offers you both, you would be a fool not to jump on it.

  • by trapnest (1608791) <janusofzeal@gmail.com> on Saturday December 19, 2009 @08:32PM (#30501606)

    "a GSM area" covers most of the United States.
    http://www.wireless.att.com/coverageviewer/ [att.com]
    http://www.t-mobile.com/coverage/pcc.aspx [t-mobile.com]

  • by ShakaUVM (157947) on Saturday December 19, 2009 @08:35PM (#30501616) Homepage Journal

    >>Last I checked, Symbian was the largest OS on smartphones. After that was Windows Mobile, and then BlackBerry OS.

    You're about 3 years out of date.

    http://www.tuaw.com/2009/10/28/apple-iphone-closing-in-on-blackberry-market-share/ [tuaw.com]

    >>The iPhone is still a smaller player in the smartphone market and even if it became the entire smartphone market, it'd still be a small player in the total market.

    Again, about three years out of date.

  • by fast turtle (1118037) on Saturday December 19, 2009 @08:36PM (#30501622) Journal

    The reason U.S. Telcos are able to screw, blue and tattoo their customers is very simple. There is no interop between carriers. Put simply, You have AT&T's network, Verizon's Network and Sprint/Nextel's network and only ONE national competitor, called T-Mobile. Any other competitor is going to be local/regional at the most, which means you can't use your phone anywhere but in your home region unless you purchase service through one of the national carriers and they simply refuse to sell or even unlock phones once your contract is completed plus they each use a different system (3G here in the states is a joke because it doesn't interop between Verizon and AT&T/T-Mobile). The services are that different even though both are valid 3G networks.

    Since the National carriers have us basically over a barrel due to size of United States (how many countries in the EU?) that's the size of each of the Big 3 National Networks. Do you think they have any incentive to interop beyond 911 or the minimum the law requires? Hell No, and there's no competition between them since their markets are captive. Why change a good thing? We can Rape you all we want and you don't have any option except bend over and take it up the ass when we decide to do so. That's how the Carriers work in the United States because they Own Congress and the Laws that are written. /rant

  • by ducomputergeek (595742) on Saturday December 19, 2009 @09:31PM (#30501822)

    We've been working on native mobile apps for our systems the past 6 months. iPhone has been pretty good to work with. You build your software, if it works on one iPhone (or iPod Touch even), it will work on the next in the same exact way. Now there may be differences in OS (2, 3, 3.1, 3.2), but at least the hardware is the same and operates the same way. Same pretty much with Blackberry as well as they have the classic Blackberry style and then the Storm. There are some hardware differences between models, but basically you have to make sure it works on your normal blackberry and then the Storm series phones.

    Windows Mobile is a nightmare. You can write the software, but it runs on so many different hardware platforms, each with their own difference (some have a stock UI, others a manufactures UI, others a carrier UI), that it takes a lot of time an expense to debug it. And even then we still get complaints that things don't work on XYZ model phone that we had never even heard of before. Our app maybe perfectly usable on one phone, completely unusable on the next because of screen size or one has a touch screen, one only has a keyboard interface, etc..

    Unfortunately for Android, they're going down the same road as Windows Mobile. As it stands right now, we have to test against 3 different OS versions (1.5, 1.6, 2.0) AND test usability against different configuration. How does it look on AB size screen vs. CD sized screen. How well does it interface with touch screen? How well does it interface with keyboard? Does it run well on processor version X vs. Y, etc.. That adds a lot of cost to develop for in testing and QA.

    We'll give Android another year and see. But if some of these problems don't look to be righted by Google, then in the future we're likely to support iPhone and Blackberry native and then develop a web-based interface for everything else to keep down costs.

  • by Bri3D (584578) on Saturday December 19, 2009 @09:39PM (#30501836) Journal

    If I want a landline, I can go buy any old phone I want, and as long as it speaks the right protocols (which are pretty simple for analog landlines) I can plug it into my wall, and it works.

    It took the US government to end enforced landline phone rentals and open up the analog telephone network in 13 F.C.C.2d 420.

    With today's moves towards "deregulation" I don't think we'll see the cell industry being forced to do anything similar in the near future.

  • by mdwh2 (535323) on Saturday December 19, 2009 @10:04PM (#30501916) Journal

    And where on earth are Nokia on that chart?

    Any survey that uses a definition of "smartphone" that includes Apple, but ignores the biggest smartphone maker in the world, is simply nonsense.

  • Re:Hard to believe (Score:3, Insightful)

    by onefriedrice (1171917) on Sunday December 20, 2009 @01:26AM (#30502446)

    How?

    By doing what Apple does best. They weren't the first, but that doesn't mean that they didn't completely change the mobile industry. They saw something that sucked and people hated (your typical mobile phone), and they set out to make one that didn't suck and that people would actually want to use. It is abundantly clear, regardless of how big or small its market share, the iPhone definitely shook things up. Whether or not "apps" or "app stores" existed, Apple did make an impact on the mobile industry whether you will admit it or not.

  • by ppanon (16583) on Sunday December 20, 2009 @01:45AM (#30502510) Homepage Journal

    "Le mieux est l'ennemi du bien" - Voltaire

    Best is the enemy of good. If you wait for the best, then you can wind up waiting forever. Often people will be better off having something good now that they can use rather than spend more months or years waiting for perfection. On the other hand, just because you have something good enough now doesn't mean you should get complacent and stop striving for perfection.

  • by wall0159 (881759) on Sunday December 20, 2009 @02:39AM (#30502660)

    "Finished is better than perfect"

    Damn good saying, that.

  • by 4phun (822581) on Sunday December 20, 2009 @03:07AM (#30502724)

    The other thing you've done is probably continued to pay them in the form of apps or possibly music. In fact, Apple is very interested in keeping you happy since they have alternate revenue streams (in addition to buying a new phone).

    Mobile carriers are only interested in getting you to pay them as much per month as possible... Hence disabling most functionality of the phone unless you pay extra "service fees" to access those functions. My own case: Verizon only allows applications in a token way... If I get a new phone, I have to buy the apps that I want all over again if I get them out of their store.

    Most other device makers are more interested in getting you to buy the newest toy. Which is why they aren't too keen on keeping them updated, or even working after you've paid for it.

    Why do so few see that is why the Apple iPhone is hands down a far better experience for the user? They do not care if you buy the latest toy. They keep improving the iPhone you have already bought with free software updates. You are not captive to any one carrier rolling out an approved update for the iPhone as updates are instantly available through iTunes when the iPhone is connected. iTunes even remembers to periodically double check for you to make sure everything is updated and you didn't miss anything. iTunes even updates 1 to hundreds of apps a day automatically when you sync. Look at the pain everyone else experiences trying to keep everything updated if it is even possible on their phone. If several people spot a fixable iPhone problem with your current hardware, Apple fixes it fairly quickly and rolls out an instant update sometimes many times during the year. There is no long wait as seen with the other vendors and manufacturers. If you buy and new model iPhone ir iPod all your purchases are transferred to the new device at no charge. If you kept the old one too, Apple doesn't care, you can use the software on both purchases at no extra charge. Everything about Apple is in reality a better experience for the majority of the population compared to the alternatives.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday December 20, 2009 @04:10AM (#30502886)

    "The biggest is that there's always a reason. You may not agree with the reason, but there's always a reason."

    This is a ludicrous argument. Yes, 'because I say so' is technically a reason, but it isn't a justification in any meaningful sense.

  • by vakuona (788200) on Sunday December 20, 2009 @06:59AM (#30503238)
    Chasing market share is not the only route to success. Apple is chasing profits, which they are making hand over fist right now. Apple doesn't want to sell 100m phone. To pull that off, they would have to sell some not-so-smart phones, which is not really their cup of tea. Apple is making bigger profits that Nokia in its handset division, with a much smaller market share in phones overall. Apple does this is most markets it competes in, with the exception of mp3 players, where it is pretty dominant. Making computers? 10% market share in the US (although they have about 30%+ in revenue share). All their competitors envy them. Every single one of them. Same in the phone space. Small market share overall, much larger revenue share. You have to remember, Apple is not interested in a pure volume business. Apple can't, and won't try to match Nokia in that regard.

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