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Carriers, Manufacturers Are Strangling Android 306

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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  • by eyepeepackets ( 33477 ) on Saturday December 19, 2009 @06:00PM (#30500752)

    Here is the Ars article from time past on the subject of just why Google decided on the ASL instead of the GPL:

    http://arstechnica.com/old/content/2007/11/why-google-chose-the-apache-software-license-over-gplv2.ars [arstechnica.com]

  • Re:What a nightmare. (Score:5, Informative)

    by Stevecrox ( 962208 ) on Saturday December 19, 2009 @06:21PM (#30500836) Journal
    I'd like to big-up Nokia at this point, my Nokia 5800 has had 4 firmware updates since I bought it a year ago. Each one has added new features and speed certain things up (Nokia Maps 3.0 is massivily superior to Maps 1.0). In the same time things have gone from Nokia PC Suite, to Nokia Ovi and Nokia Music (Nokia Music was horrific) to now Nokia Ovi 2.0 and Nokia Ovi Player (Musics replacement is actually good).

    While carriers have slowed the progress of updates down (O2 took 4/5 months to role out the last one) Nokia has consistantly moved to keeping their phones updated and providing better integration with the PC side and mobile (even down to little things like icons).

    The one downside I can see is I used to go through a different Windows mobile every 12-18 months, I'm almost at the end of my current 12 month contract and I can't see the point of changing the phone. Unless I can get double/tripple the battery life, since the current GPS setup drains the battery something chronic (4/5 hours continious GPS Navigation use and the batteries toast).
  • by James Carnley ( 789899 ) on Saturday December 19, 2009 @06:32PM (#30500884) Homepage

    It may be different where you live, but here in the United States we sign two year contracts that come with subsidized phones. That means that the majority of churn on handsets is rated at two years per device.

    Two years is a long time. I would not want to be stuck on Android 1.5 for two years when a fairly simple upgrade to 2.1 would unlock a huge new increase in functionality of my existing hardware such as turn by turn navigation and Google Goggles.

    I much prefer the European model of unlocked phones, but changing the industry is a whole other topic in itself. I am hoping Google has the ability to change that, but we will see.

  • by trickyD1ck ( 1313117 ) on Saturday December 19, 2009 @07:20PM (#30501058)
    Where does this legend about the "European model of unlocked phones" come from? Here in Germany, most people I know get the same 2 year contracts with a phone bundled, like you do. There sure are prepaid phones, contracts without phones, and all kinds of phones without contract on the eBay. But last time I checked, the contract+phone bundle made the most economic sense. Guess it is the same in the USA. Anyways, a contract with or without a phone costs €20-€60, I don't think it is kind of money you should get upset about, much less running news on Slashdot daily about consumers being "raped" by the carriers.
  • Re:What a nightmare. (Score:3, Informative)

    by Firehed ( 942385 ) on Saturday December 19, 2009 @07:34PM (#30501122) Homepage

    Apple's solution to updates definitely isn't "buy a new phone". I'm happily using the original iPhone (y'know, the $600 one from 2007) and continue to get regular software updates.

    I'm sure Apple would prefer for me to buy a new phone, but by ensuring my continued happiness, they've massively increased the chance that I'll stick with them when I decide to upgrade.

  • Re:A naive question (Score:5, Informative)

    by david.given ( 6740 ) <dg AT cowlark DOT com> on Saturday December 19, 2009 @07:42PM (#30501162) 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? I want a cellular carrier that charges a fair price for service (per byte and per minute, or whatever), and then lets me use whatever device I want to use that service. If I can stick a radio into a TI-89 and make it speak CDMA, let me make phone calls with it.

    Because you're in America, the land of the fee.

    More seriously, CDMA is a large part of the problem. Most CDMA phones aren't designed to work with multiple carriers. The phone ID is hard-coded at build time and tied to a particular carrier. This means that it's really hard to change them to another carrier.

    GSM phones work differently. The network ID, the bit that is tied to a particular carrier, is actually housed on a smartcard that plugs into the phone. You can remove the smartcard and insert it into another phone, and presto, that phone adopts the smartcard's ID and logs on to the appropriate carrier.

    While you still get subsidised phones with GSM that are locked to one particular carrier, and will refuse to work with a different SIM, the fact that this is possible and easy has encouraged a whole industry of unlocked phones and SIMs. You can go into any supermarket and buy a SIM in a box [tesco.com] (that one is $7 and contains $15 worth of credit). If you need a phone you can either buy a cheap SIM-less phone [tesco.com] (that one costs $10!), but they'll work in any unlocked GSM phone. The end result is that I, living in the UK, can spend about $30 a year on mobile phone service. That includes data.

    (If you hunt around you can actually find SIM-only options for GSM phones in America, but of course this requires you to live in a GSM area; plus, the terms are usually terrible with unpleasant features like evaporating credit if you don't use it.)

    There is apparently a standard for a similar CDMA smartcard system, but it's now too late and nobody cares.

  • by lamapper ( 1343009 ) on Saturday December 19, 2009 @08:02PM (#30501266) Homepage Journal

    1) (Practically)Free VOIP when in WIFI zones instead of using minutes.
    2) Internet Browser in WIFI zones.
    3) No commitment plan, but maybe minutes bought on a trak phone style buying.
    4) Ability to write my own custom aps on the phone.

    If you do not want to bite the bullet and purchase the N900 (around $599) you can get a N800, first came out in 2006 for around $200. Remember even with the price of the Nokia N900, if you ditch your $50 per month cellular plan, you will recoup your costs in 1 year. If your cellular plan is more than $50 per month, you will recoup the cost of the phone faster.

    The ONLY thing the N800 does NOT have when compared to the N900 is cellular. Based on your list, no cellular, you can do everything you want to do with the Nokia N800. The N800 still has the FM chip like the N900 also. A plus with the Nokia N800 is it has a reversible webcam, you simply rotate it to change from taking a picture of you to a picture of something/someone in front of you.

    Most important, ONLY with the Nokia Nxxx (which you have root access to) can you install any Linux app you want. Expect to do some tweaking. But the reality is you have a shot at it. Remember the first Nokia Nxxx, the N770 came out in 2005. At one point there were over 450 apps for the Nokia N800. While I was NOT surprised that the website for apps for the N900 did not list them all, I would be surprised if you could not get them to work on the Nokia N900.

    Ideally you want an application to just install on your phone, even Linux apps. Thanks to apt-get and yum, most Linux software applications can be configured to work on pretty much any Linux distro. All it takes is your patience and time. However if you do NOT have root access, you will be limited with what you can configure. You always want access to root with any Linux distro, or do not use it as you will end up frustrated in a blind alley one day. Just not worth wasting your precious time that way. (I use su and sudo, but I must have access to root, just in case, period, end of discussion)

    Next years Androids are suppose to come (with the ability to root day 1, or so the rumor goes) from Google. If they follow through with that hope, then those phones will be equivalent (and possibly better than) the Nokia Nxxx. Currently the Android can be rooted, however Google has sent Cease and Desist orders to people who not only root the phone, but include other Google apps on it. In other words, Google does not officially sanction rooting at this time. They tolerate it as long as you do not include other apps, but that is it.

  • by Darkness404 ( 1287218 ) on Saturday December 19, 2009 @09:00PM (#30501492)
    Ok, there is a big difference between a C64 "emulator" that lets you run 5 games, disables BASIC and such. And an emulator that lets you run any ROM, patches, mods, and homebrew.

    At this point there are very few classes of desirable apps that aren't able to be on the app store.

    There are a lot of apps though that are rejected for little to no reason. Such apps would be good for jailbroken phones. Things that "were too similar to iTunes", had "objectionable content" or used "undocumented APIs".

  • by Qubit ( 100461 ) on Saturday December 19, 2009 @10:35PM (#30501830) Homepage Journal

    Currently the Android can be rooted, however Google has sent Cease and Desist orders to people who not only root the phone, but include other Google apps on it. In other words, Google does not officially sanction rooting at this time. They tolerate it as long as you do not include other apps, but that is it.

    To be fair, I think that Google has only gone after people who break the rules in a pretty clear and unambiguous fashion:

    - Root your phone? Sure, no problem. Take your hardware + the Apache-licensed Android software on top and go to town. You can even distribute the software, as it's under a FOSS license that allows redistribution.

    - Put the Google apps on top of that self-made hardware + software stack? AFAIK, that's okay too, as long as you do it yourself.

    - Distribute a one-click installer for all of the above? Nope, not allowed to do that if you include Google's proprietary software products.

    All in all, it seems like it's pretty obvious what's allowed and what's forbidden. Heck, it seems like you can even ask them if something is legit or not and they'll give you an honest, helpful answer instead of biting your head off like some other companies.

  • by mdwh2 ( 535323 ) on Saturday December 19, 2009 @10:52PM (#30501878) Journal

    You really believe that? Let's see the link.

    Even this pro-Iphone article [guardian.co.uk] shows Apple at 0.9% for a few months ago.

  • Re:A naive question (Score:1, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday December 19, 2009 @11:20PM (#30501970)

    (If you hunt around you can actually find SIM-only options for GSM phones in America, but of course this requires you to live in a GSM area; plus, the terms are usually terrible with unpleasant features like evaporating credit if you don't use it.)

    I'm confused by this comment; maybe I'm reading it wrong. AT&T and T-Mobile USA have GSM coverage over pretty much the entirety of the United States. This constitutes a fairly large percentage of US cell phone usage.

    Today, the worst part about US GSM is that the two GSM carriers, AT&T and T-Mobile USA, use different frequencies for 3G. I noticed that T-Mobile USA's web ordering system now allows you to sign up for service and have them simply mail you a SIM, and the pricing is better than AT&T. I'd like to be able to switch, and pop my SIM into my unlocked AT&T device, but AT&T does 3G at 850MHz/1900MHz and T-Mobile requires 1700MHz/2100MHz. If I switch to T-Mobile, the best I can get is EDGE of GPRS.

  • by iroll ( 717924 ) on Saturday December 19, 2009 @11:59PM (#30502076) Homepage

    What are you smoking? Your own article says 10.7% share for Q4 2008, with quarterly growth of 116%.

  • by VValdo ( 10446 ) on Sunday December 20, 2009 @12:02AM (#30502086)

    nobody is stuck on 1.5, after rooting the g1 that enabled every phone to be on 2.0 if they desire, merely some root exploration is required.

    Exactly. Community distro CyanogenMod [wikipedia.org] is already bringing tons of 2.1 features to the first Android handset, the G1.


  • Re:One More Time (Score:3, Informative)

    by wintermute000 ( 928348 ) <bender AT planetexpress DOT com DOT au> on Sunday December 20, 2009 @12:35AM (#30502170)

    It matters because of the google sauce.

    On a serious note, the integration of google services is second to none, and a lot of people live pretty much on google platforms (reader, mail, etc.) . The theory is that down the track there will be lots more apps eventually than symbian or winmo. But they're not doing too well on that front by all accounts as the iphone app store is steamrollering the competition and drawing all the developer efforts.

    The new turn by turn (Free) on Android 2.0 is pretty slick too, though they can pry my trusted Nokia Maps out of my cold dead hands (even if I am paying for the privilege I do like to have the maps stored locally).

    And as for hackable, its not actually that open if you check it out, I'm not a dev but the linux devs I know all shun android as 'faux open source', you'll have to goog the details yourself (no pun intended).
    The new Nokia Maemo is the truly linux hacker friendly OS, now that is an exciting prospect (god damn you nokia release a 850Mhz 3G model pls)

  • by sznupi ( 719324 ) on Sunday December 20, 2009 @01:08AM (#30502274) Homepage

    That doesn't really look like that in the real world...

    First, you have Creative Zii, some Archos devices, etc. Essentially an Android iPod Touch-style thing.

    Secondly, I don't see Android competing with Symbian devices that much; the latter are, most often, sturdy candybars at least two times less expensive (without contract!) than cheapest Android phones, which are all large touchscreen devices - not really cheap, but definitely on the cheap, a bit.

    One chart is worth thousands words: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Smartphone_2009.svg [wikipedia.org]

    Most importantly, you forget that vast majority of phones sold today are not smartphones, but simple feature phones. This is the area in which smartphone OS can grow, bigtime. But manufacturers don't really target their Android offerings there (if it even can be done - can Android run properly on the slower spectrum of ARM CPUs, with small amounts of RAM, and small non-touchscreen?) OTOH Symbian phones are nearing $100 mark...

  • Re:What a nightmare. (Score:5, Informative)

    by CTachyon ( 412849 ) <(ten.noyhcat-sonorhc) (ta) (sonorhc)> on Sunday December 20, 2009 @07:44AM (#30503200) Homepage

    [...] As for the GPS. That’s not the worst problem. The worst problem is, that without a data connection, GPS is not working and useless. It just tries to find satellites. According to Nokia, it takes up to 40 minutes to get the first fix, then it’s fast. 40 minutes?? A TomTom does it in under two seconds! Like pretty much every GPS device (including phones) out there. [...]

    That is either physically impossible or sheer dumb luck, depending on your device.

    Some explanation of GPS is in order. For a GPS receiver to work, the GPS network [wikipedia.org] must send it three pieces of data: the almanac data, the ephemeris data, and the current time (to atomic accuracy). Some receivers cheat and can get by without the almanac, at the cost of slow satellite locks and inaccurate position fixes until the almanac is available.

    Among other things, the almanac tells the receiver a general, fuzzy idea of where all the satellites are located, and also gives the receiver a chance to measure the amount of ionospheric distortion (the single biggest cause of GPS position errors). The fuzzy satellite positions are valid for about 6 months, but the network only transmits one full copy per 12.5 minutes. You physically can't download it faster than that via the GPS network: GPS transmits in a repeating loop at a mere 50 bits per second, slower than an ancient 300-baud modem. Worse, the ~4KB almanac is only part of the GPS data, so the download rate is even slower than that. Oh, and to add insult to injury, GPS has no error correction, so if a section is corrupted you have to wait another 12.5 minutes for a retransmit.

    With the almanac in hand, the receiver next needs the ephemeris data, which provides satellite orbital parameters in detail far beyond what the almanac specifies. This is absolutely mandatory for obtaining a fix. Once downloaded, it's good for about 4 hours, but the data is specific to each individual satellite. One satellite's ephemeris takes 12 seconds to transmit from start to end, but they can be downloaded in parallel. (As with the almanac, there is no error correction. If the receiver misses part or all of an ephemeris, it has to wait 30 seconds for the next retransmission.)

    The clock data is similar to the ephemeris, except that it takes only 6 seconds to transmit. It's on the same 30-second retransmit loop as the ephemeris.

    With all three pieces of background information at hand, a 60-bit signal every 6 seconds keeps the clock data up-to-date. This is what the receiver is paying attention to once it has a "lock" on a satellite. 3 locked satellites gives a latitude, longitude fix by making some educated guesses. 4 locked satellites gives a far better latitude, longitude fix and adds altitude as well.

    In summary, if your TomTom truly has zero almanac data and zero ephemeris data (i.e. it's a fair "first fix" fight), the time to first fix must necessarily lie in the range from 12 seconds to 30 seconds... if the TomTom can download ungarbled and pristine ephemerides from 3 or more satellites simultaneously, without a single bit error among any of them. This also assumes that the TomTom is cheating by foregoing the almanac, trying to get a fix from ephemeris only and not correcting for the ionosphere.

    The only possible way you can get the claimed 2-second fix is if the TomTom (a) already has a current almanac (or is deliberately foregoing one), (b) already has current ephemerides for multiple still-visible satellites, (c) already has very fresh clock data for those same satellites, and (d) gets lucky and catches 3 or more of those still-visible satellites with known data that all just happen to be transmitting their respective 60-bit subframe headers (1.2 seconds minimum, 6 seconds maximum) within the same 2-second window. As I recall, the TomTom backs up the almanac, ephemerides, and clock data to fl

Adding features does not necessarily increase functionality -- it just makes the manuals thicker.