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AU Mobile Operator Optus Blocking Paid Android Apps 102

APC Magazine details how Optus, an Australian mobile phone operator, has for months been deliberately blocking access to Android paid apps. "Optus is the exclusive Australian mobile carrier for the HTC Dream and Samsung Galaxy Android phones, and yet people who signed a long-term contract for these phones have to date been blocked from buying paid Android apps and getting the full Android experience. ... APC found many angry and frustrated comments on the Whirlpool community forums by Optus & Virgin Mobile customers." The article speculates, reading between the lines of the opaque comments offered by both Optus and Google, that the carrier is "demanding a cut of the sales revenue from Android apps if it is to remove its restriction on accessing them."
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AU Mobile Operator Optus Blocking Paid Android Apps

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  • I can't find the answer easily in the articles but I wonder if it would be possible to mirror or proxy the app store. Presumably it uses an http url. Is there an http proxy setting in android?

  • I ask myself this:

    1) What fraction of Google's global Android paid-apps revenue could Optus/AU represent?
    2) What fraction of Google's global Android paid-apps revenue could be lost if a payoff precedent is set?
    3) What fraction of Android users will sit salivating in the window, deprived of the full benefit of their hardware, just to remain Optus customers, while their friends on other ISPs are not restrained?
    4) What right does an access provider have to block legal access by their customers. By what argumen

    • 3) Those who are bound by a contract?

    • by AuMatar ( 183847 )

      5)How many users actually buy android apps? Free apps are the vast vast majority of downloads.
      6)Why can't those users just turn off the non-marketplace firewall and install via download from the producer?

      • by mcvos ( 645701 )

        5)How many users actually buy android apps? Free apps are the vast vast majority of downloads.

        No doubt, but some quality apps are a bit too much work to give away for free. The ability to pay for apps provides an extra incentive for developers to make cool apps. Extra value for everybody.

        6)Why can't those users just turn off the non-marketplace firewall and install via download from the producer?

        They could download it directly as download from a website if the developer were to distribute his app that way, but that makes it very easy to copy and give all your friends a free copy. The entire point of having an app store is to make it much easier to get access to lots of apps, including making it easier to pa

    • What right does an access provider have to block legal access by their customers. By what argument are their customers *not* being deprived of they kind of access for which they are paying? This is as much a question of user perception as local legal technicalities, but it sounds like Optus has been thinking in terms of the latter.

      Seems like a good example of why net neutrality regulations need to extend to mobile developers. "Oh, you can download applications, but if you spend money on them we want a cut". Sorry buddy, I'm already paying you for service, deal with it.

    • I own my Dream/G1 outright and I asked myself this:
      Why can't I access paid apps if I own the phone outright and therefore cost them nothing in hardware?
      Why should I stay with a provider that sends me a $650 bill (!!!!!) because their network is so unreliable that it takes me 20+ attempts to download the same 45MB update?
      Why should I stay on the network that has the worst coverage and is oversubscribed?

      I changed to 3 and that has worked out great. For the same as the 69$ cap on Optus, I get the same calls

  • by jaxtherat ( 1165473 ) on Wednesday December 02, 2009 @03:54AM (#30294718) Homepage

    Seriously. I've ditched Optus around about 1998, and haven't looked back. Vodafone care a heck of a lot more about their customers; for example, they're just about the only telco I know of that allows tethering on the iPhone. Very handy!

    My point is, does anyone expect anything else from the likes of Floptus and Telescum?

    • I think google should just opt-out from selling the devices to Optus if this really is the case. There is no way that G should let itself to be blackmailed this way, hopefully the aussie company will understand it before they just miss out the whole android ride.

      The days where a mobile company could do whatever they want are over.

      • It doesn't really work that way.

        Google created open source mobile phone software. Electronics manufacturers use this software on the phones that they build, then sell those phones to mobile companies. Google doesn't really have a say in who gets what phones.

        • by mcvos ( 645701 )

          What Google could do, however, is indirectly fund a class action suit against Optus. Just pay a lawyer to volunteer to handle that lawsuit, and pay for some national media attention to reach more disgruntled customers.

        • by daid303 ( 843777 )


          But they cannot call it an andriod phone without Google giving permission.

          • It's not the operator's choice, though. The operator does not manufacture the phone, or decide which OS gets put on it.

            HTC might get told off by Google if they were disabling Android functions, but which data is allowed over the network's infrastructure is between the network and the customer.
          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by tlhIngan ( 30335 )

            But they cannot call it an andriod phone without Google giving permission.

            Funny enough, I don't see Android phones for sale. I see phones called HTC Dream, HTC Hero, Motorola Droid, etc. So it looks like it's never been a problem - at best, these phones may say "HTC Dream with Google", but other than maybe the Android logo (#1/#2 usage, which isn't covered under the Google branding), that's it.

            Sure it runs the Android OS, but they don't advertise that fact. Just like you don't see phones advertised as Windo

    • The Marketplace works on Telstra. Although rumor has it that Telstra are blocking Android because it competes with their online services (and doesn't have the strong brand recognition of the iPhone).
    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by jnnnnn ( 1079877 )

      Agreed. Their internet sucks too - we switched to ADSL with iinet recently (no Internode available here) and haven't looked back. Optus' upload speed is about 22kbyte/s even with 1Mbyte/s download speeds.

      Optus is a good example of how not to treat your customers.

    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by BrokenHalo ( 565198 )
      Vodafone care a heck of a lot more about their customers...

      Yeah. Pity their coverage sucks, though. And they're expensive. I'm on Vodafone currently (I had a couple of years with 3, and it was with relief that I dropped that to go back to Voda) but I'm going to have to go to Telstra to get the coverage I need when I move to Tasmania...
      • by maxume ( 22995 )

        The worst phone company is always either the one that someone just had, or the one that they currently have. I don't think there are any that are particularly good (these statements are generally more true in places with poor regulation of the industry).

  • by Anonymous Coward

    google can very easily crush Optus by blocking all access from Australia to all google services and just post a "here's why!" link.

    Optus is lucky google doesnt play the evil card.

    • by TheLink ( 130905 )

      Blocking would be "stupid evil"

      There are so many deviously evil ways to get back at Optus that Google can do, with a low chance of getting caught.

      Even if it's actually someone else pulling the trigger...

      e.g. []

      You think Google can't figure out who is and isn't likely to pull a particular trigger?

      Oh and there are plenty more ways that even I can think of :).

      p.s. if anyone thinks Google is good they should remember the motto is "Don't be evil", not "Be Go

  • by pydev ( 1683904 )

    Who would have known? You can be more evil than US cell phone carriers.

  • I won't be getting my Android phone from Optus then
  • If the summary is indeed correct about optus being a "mobile carrier" (yeah, big IF, i know), then couldn't you just install/download the apps via wifi?

    I know it's more convenient to do it via 3g, but it's not like they are not able to install them at all.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by unfunk ( 804468 )
      No. You need a valid SIM in your phone to access the market, and as far as I can tell (with my HTC Magic on Virgin), you can only download apps over 3G. You can queue them up over WiFi, but I've never seen an app start downloading until I've disconnected from WiFi.
      • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

        by yahwotqa ( 817672 )

        Huh, I only download apps via wifi on my HTC Hero. Just as well, as I only have a 10MB/month data plan.

      • by PhilHibbs ( 4537 )

        That's just bizarre. The iPhone will only download or update large apps over wifi, it simply refuses anything over 10MB over 3G or GPRS. I think most people use iTunes on their PC or Mac to download apps.

      • if that's true, then it's another provider-specific hack. i download apps over wifi all the time. considering i don't have 3g access in my dungeon / house, i'd be pretty upset if that was the case.
      • Nope. Until my Dream stopped doing wifi due to some unknown bug, I was downloading apps over wifi exclusively. I would use APNDroid to completely disable 3G and it would download apps. You might want to complain to Virgin about that.
  • by sarhjinian ( 94086 ) on Wednesday December 02, 2009 @04:22AM (#30294820)

    So this is different from how you can't get paid apps from the Android Market in Canada, Sweden and such? Or are the restrictions in those markets the result of malice, too, instead of incompetence or laziness?

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by mjwx ( 966435 )

      So this is different from how you can't get paid apps from the Android Market in Canada,

      Ask to your telco, of the three networks in Australia (Telstra, Optus and VHA) only Optus users have this problem. People who bought an Android phone outright or from Vodafone and Three (Vodafone/Hutchinson Australia or VHA) and do not use the Optus network can access paid applications. The Optus network includes some MNVO's and their subsidiary Virgin.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by jrumney ( 197329 )
      That was my first thought (from Malaysia, I can't even get access to free apps on the Android Marketplace - which I consider downright EVIL of Google), but Australia is listed [] as one of the few countries where paid apps are available.
    • by Azarael ( 896715 )

      I think that Rogers just had HTC remove the paid app functionality from the phone, and surprise surprise, Rogers has their own paid market instead (which is useless). I'm considering reinstalling the OS to turn my Dream into a regular Google phone.

  • by CuteSteveJobs ( 1343851 ) on Wednesday December 02, 2009 @04:26AM (#30294838)

    It was created by a knave of a Federal Government who thought they could introduce competition into the Australian Telecommunications market (then controlled by Telstra aka Telecom) by regulating to introduce just *one* competitor: Optus. The idea was that Telstra and Optus would fight each other with lower prices and better service. Instead both just sat on their hands and a monopoly became a cozy duopoly. Even though the market was opened up, these two fat, lazy and arrogant companies still dominate the market.

    Optus has been a terrible teleco ever since inception. Its broadband packages are amongst the worst in the country. It's offerings are overpriced and plagued with poor service. They're arrogant to boot: Whenever they do screw up their PR is terrible. They're unethical too (which is to say they're criminal, but being a big company with good lawyers mean you can break the law with a slap on the wrist at worst case).

    Like this one: Incredible, but Optus conspired to have phone sex calls made by aussies to International Numbers *diverted to their own phone sex partner!* That's right, when you saw Hot Monica advertizing at 2AM on Channel 10 and called, your call was diverted from the advertizer and ended up fattening Optus's profits. Sounds as illegal as hell. Yes: This is Australia's #2 Teleco:

    "In an earlier case, Justice Robert McDougall was much harsher with Bragg, saying he had no regard for the truth, except for when it suited him. In this case Optus was forced to pay millions to Gilsan after it was found to have skimmed money from Gilsan by under-reporting the number of minutes porn clients were on the phone so Optus could take home a larger share of the profits." [] [] []

    Google for "optus sucks" and equally "telsta sucks" and you will see many links.

    • "[Optus] offerings are overpriced and plagued with poor service."

      They are more or less the same as Telstra on price, but yes cheaper deals can be had. However my experience with the Optus internet service over the last decade has been exemplory. The rare connectivity problems I have had have been sorted quickly and cheerfully, their frontline helpdesk operators understand such terms as ping and ipconfig. Since I often work from home, that level of service is important enough to me to keep paying the ~$20
    • Back when optus was new I had one of their mobile phones and I diverted my telstra landline to the optus phone when I was out. My bill just told me how many 25 cent units I had used but I wanted to know if turning the diversion on and off cost me money so I called telstra and asked them. They came back after about five minutes and said we can't answer that question because you have selcted optus for long distance calls. In other words. STFU.

  • So I'm not saying that what Optus is doing is right, but can't ppl get paid apps if they use wifi instead of the gprs or 3g or edge or what ever they have in Australia?

    I got a Motorola cliq from T-mobile and wasn't able to add a data plan to my phone right away but was able to use WiFi to install anything I wanted from the Market. Do those phones not have WiFi? Once again I'm not saying that it is right what the phone company is doing, but maybe there hasn't been a huge negative reaction because it is pre

    • I can't find the reason in the article but I suppose the phone is hard coded to go to one host for the apps. With wifi you could intercept traffic for that host to your server but I suppose a certificate could be used to make life difficult for hackers.

  • 30% fee on apps (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Rasperin ( 1034758 )
    Wait one freaking minute! That 30% google is so kindly taking off each one of my sales was supposed to go back to the telecommunication company anyways to "pay for the bandwidth required to supply my app".
    • by Will47 ( 1068152 )
      Why the hell should Google pay for traffic already paid by the customer downloading your app?????
    • by SJ ( 13711 )

      Umm... the customer already PAID for the bandwidth required to receive your app. They pay for that every month!

      Google uses that 30% to pay for the bandwidth required to get the bits TO Optus.

  • Wifi with an Optus SIM won't give you access to the paid market? That sucks. Glad I'm with vodafone.
  • Is that legal? (Score:1, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward

    I can only assume that to block access to paid apps requires blocking part of the internet, which would put them in violation of trade description act. It might also impute denial of them being a common carrier, with loss of the protections that that confers.
    -- newall

  • by w0mprat ( 1317953 ) on Wednesday December 02, 2009 @04:59AM (#30294966)
    I have Android phone in NZ and the paid apps were unavailable for months on the Vodafone network, even with after market firmware which should have enabled paid apps. For a long while Vodafone could not provide any information when asked about this. This was/has also been occuring in China South Africa, Ireland, Brazil, Israel, Switzerland, and a few other countries. However the reasons vary and one should not attribute to malice what could be attributed to red tape (um.. same thing?).
    • Ignorance, malice, red tape, whatever the excuse it's incompetence. Unfortunately they are large enough that incompetence is inevitable, inefficiencies of beauraucracy dominate any efficiency of scale past a certain point.

      I fully expect them to ignore this situation and suffer loss of customers without batting an eyelid, and take 50x the money it would cost to enable what people want on their phone and spend it on a snazzy marketing campaign to try and woo customers back.

      Somewhere in a lonely office buildin

    • This really needs to be illegal. The possibilities of blackmailing software providers and harming users is pretty much endless when the carrier gets to decide the firewall settings.

      That said, luckily they can't pull this shit with my N900. Anyone could make a new copy of the software repository, use proxy or simply go through WiFi if the 3g is blocked.

  • by jonwil ( 467024 ) on Wednesday December 02, 2009 @05:04AM (#30295002)

    I have already blacklisted Optus for other reasons (including their crappy ads and the fact that at the time I was looking, they didnt include data in their caps but Vodafone did) and this block is even more reason not to purchase anything through these idiots (their fixed line and internet services arent any better either)

    • by rwa2 ( 4391 ) *

      Are they legitimate?

      I've started getting international charges to my US credit card from Optus, despite never having done any business with them. I've disputed the fraudulent charges (pretty much my first in years) with my CC company, and while they say that they'll refund the money to me, I still haven't seen it in my statement. The first was for $50AUS back in August and recently another charge for $200AUS last month.

      I looked at the Optus website, but I was kinda afraid of contacting them about it for f

  • Aren't people already paying for the data plan through Optus? Sounds like a case of double dipping to me. While not illegal in this case, sure is shady.
  • Customer buys paid apps. Customer uses more data through paid apps. Customer pays for data use. More customers start buying data plans to be able to buy and use paid apps.

    Telco bans paid apps. Customers can't get paid apps. Data use significantly reduced. Less paying for data use. Less customers buy data plans.

    • by maxume ( 22995 )

      They don't think of people as customers, they think of them as monthly revenue that hassles them for services.

  • by Rennt ( 582550 ) on Wednesday December 02, 2009 @07:11AM (#30295578)
    Market Enabler [] allows you to fake your network to the Market (root access required).
    I've been buying payed apps in Australia since Cupcake, using Markets in the US and EU.
  • IMO, the iPhone app store is probably the single biggest innovation of the iPhone...and it's not even a technological innovation so much as an assertion that things should be done the right way for a change. Here in the states as well as abroad, Apple used its power to strong arm their cellular partners into acting the way they should act - as an INFRASTRUCTURE provider.

    Cellular companies have always been very short sighted about their role with respect to applications at the end point. They would pu
  • Isn't the whole point of Android is that it is "Open"?

    How could your mobile operator prevent you from accessing any sites? They may block the site through their 3G network, but what prevents you from using Wifi, proxy, or thousands other way to work around it?

    Why aren't there simple programs available for Optus customers to auto bypass it?

    Are you saying it is easier to jail-break a closed iPhone than it is to work around simple blocks on the open Android?

    • by mcvos ( 645701 )

      Isn't the whole point of Android is that it is "Open"?

      How could your mobile operator prevent you from accessing any sites?

      Exactly because it's open. Optus can modify Android to not give access to the paid market, and put that modified version on the phones they sell.

      Of course you can simply respond by installing Cyanogen, but not everybody is tech savvy enough to do that.

      Are you saying it is easier to jail-break a closed iPhone than it is to work around simple blocks on the open Android?

      No, jailbreaking is harder. But that's also not something that the average user is going to do.

  • Fuck Optus (Score:3, Insightful)

    by shplorb ( 24647 ) on Wednesday December 02, 2009 @08:51AM (#30296130) Homepage Journal

    Optus turned to shit when earlier this year they unilaterally decided to start charging $2.20 to mail their bills under the guise of "being green".

    Not even the banks I have accounts with are crooked enough to charge for mailing statements.

  • Screw them... (Score:2, Informative)

    by dsouza42 ( 1151071 )
    Just install market-enabler [] and you can use any paid apps you want
  • Optus (Score:1, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward

    They are the same scummy people that charge you $10 a month to be able to tether and use up the bandwidth you have already paid for. So they'll sell you internet, but you need to pay $10 a month to use it as you see fit.

    Then there is the problem with the quality of their service. It happens on a weekly basis that I cannot get 3G or any internet connection on my iPhone in the middle of Brisbane CBD. Then the amount of dropped calls when I am at home in one of the Eastern Suburbs, not more than 10Km from the

  • I've got an HTC Hero which is connected through Optus. The phone wasn't available in Australia when I bought it so I imported it. I think it was originally intended for Malaysia. It doesn't have Android Market installed on it and as far as I can tell, Google won't provide access to it.

    Optus is may be trying to direct app sales to their own marketplace by not selling phones with Android Marketplace installed but the real problem seems to lie with Google for coming up with the "Google Experience" concept and

  • by Anonymous Coward
    It's probably something to do with the fact that they're running their own App Store.

    See []

God helps them that themselves. -- Benjamin Franklin, "Poor Richard's Almanac"