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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 CrazyJim1 ( 809850 ) * on Saturday December 19, 2009 @06:19PM (#30500822) 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.

    This is my dream phone because I can use it as a home phone and never have to pay for it. Everything past that is bonus.
  • A naive question (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Entropius ( 188861 ) on Saturday December 19, 2009 @06:26PM (#30500864)

    I will admit that I don't understand the standards behind the cell phone industry, but why are cell phones so strongly coupled to the service providers and, well, not open?

    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.

    If I want internet service, I can go buy Ye Olde Acme Cable Modem, plug it into my wall, call up my local ISP, and poof! I have internet.

    If I'm out of disk space, I can go get a hard drive from Seagate and stick it into any machine I want to.

    In so many other engineering situations, interoperability between one component and another is restricted only as far as it is required to be based on the manufacturer's engineering decisions. (I can't mount a Nikon lens on a Canon camera because they have two different ways of doing autofocus, for instance.)

    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.

  • Such as what again? (Score:2, Interesting)

    by SuperKendall ( 25149 ) on Saturday December 19, 2009 @06:43PM (#30500928)

    The main reason why people jailbreak is to get decent apps that will never be approved (such as emulators) on their phone.

    You were saying? [toucharcade.com]

    I think people jailbreak for either (a) more customization, (b) pirating, (c) free tethering. At this point there are very few classes of desirable apps that aren't able to be on the app store.

    With a lack of a central authority forbidding such things, most people are less likely to root their Android device unless they are geeks.

    Unless they need to do so to install software updates so they can get recent applications.

  • Re:What a nightmare. (Score:2, Interesting)

    by BitZtream ( 692029 ) on Saturday December 19, 2009 @06:47PM (#30500940)

    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.

  • Re:A naive question (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday December 19, 2009 @06:52PM (#30500964)

    It's not that people are idiots, its that each carrier more or less has their own vertical technology that only works with certain processors and towers. When Sprint bought Nextel they had a very difficult time merging their Nextel phones and towers with their sprint network and phones. Phones that operate on both networks have to work with both types of signal. What we have here is a failure to standardize on one signal, and one type of signal processor.

    The Google phone is unlikely to be able to jump that hurdle without producing a phone that has 3 signal processors, one for Sprint, one for AT&T/T-Mobile, and one for Verizon. It will then have to turn only one on at a time in order to avoid draining battery life 3 times as fast. I have no idea how big the device would have to be to accomodate all 3 networks, but I'm imagining that it would need 3 chips to go where 1 chip does presently.

  • by mdwh2 ( 535323 ) on Saturday December 19, 2009 @07:51PM (#30501210) Journal

    Except Apple have a few per cent market share - so actually, by your logic, people prefer more open solutions.

    Believe it or not, there's more (far more) to the mobile phone market than Apple and Google. Nokia, Samsung, LG, Motorola, RIM. But you wouldn't know it from reading Slashdot.

  • Re:What a nightmare. (Score:4, Interesting)

    by lorenlal ( 164133 ) on Saturday December 19, 2009 @08:00PM (#30501250)

    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.

  • by Renderer of Evil ( 604742 ) on Saturday December 19, 2009 @08:02PM (#30501268) Homepage

    Wouldn't you rather YOU were in control of your own phone?
    That's what the Nexus One is intended to bring about, it seems.

    I personally wouldn't because I don't have the time nor the energy to waste on customizing or hacking the phone to work as I see fit. There are actual professionals who do these kinds of things and I'd like to defer the user-experience part to them.

    On a list of things in my life I'd like to control, mobile phone is probably the last thing.

    It's always a plus when you're using an app or a game on your iPhone and if someone asks you can tell them to go and download it from iTunes. I don't have to worry about prefacing my suggestions with "Check compatibility with OS version x or suggested device list on developer website." Everyone is on the same page.

    No one knows what's the true purpose of Nexus One at this given moment.

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

    by Hurricane78 ( 562437 ) <deleted&slashdot,org> on Saturday December 19, 2009 @08:12PM (#30501308)

    I have the same phone (developing for it too), and it doesn’t matter if you have a branded carrier-updated model.

    Changing the internal ID that controls, which update mod it’s going to pull, is ridiculously easy. There is a small tool, and a huge list of all IDs of all Nokia phones for all carriers!
    You change the ID, run Nokia’s own updater, and you’re done! (Just to into the themes menu and back out, for the theme to initialize properly.)

    So everybody can have the very latest updates.

    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. And they don’t want to admit that it’s a serious bug too. Which puts a big dent in the otherwise huge respect that I have for Nokia, because of their strong support for QT, Linux, and open source in general.
    On my phone, even 40 minutes do not help. I can be in a place with nothing at all around me. No trees, no buildings, nothing. And yet, after two hours, I don’t get a fix. Unless I enable A-GPS. Then’s working as expected.

    I really recommend installing Maps Booster. It’s a software similar to the iPhone’s “fake” GPS, which uses wifi hotspots with a database of ID/location mappings, which even works inside rooms, and adds to the overall quality. The only problem is, that for that you also need a data connection. Because it pulls the IDs from a constantly updated online database. (The same that the iPhone uses, btw.)

    All in all, I guess you can’t do without a data flatrate nowadays. Which costs around 20€ here. Too much for the average user.

  • by Sycraft-fu ( 314770 ) on Saturday December 19, 2009 @08:50PM (#30501466)

    Last I checked, Symbian was the largest OS on smartphones. After that was Windows Mobile, and then BlackBerry OS. None of them are very locked down. Carriers may be able to lock down their phones, I'm not sure, all the ones I've owned were open in that you could load any app on them you wished from any source.

    Of course most phones aren't smartphones. Many non-smartphones have capabilities that kind of blur the lines, but still the majority of the market is "regular" cellular phones as in small bar or flip phones, not little mini-computers.

    So you are completely correct, the iPhone is not a majority player, and probably never will be. It just gets lots of hype because people love to gush over it. I think another reason people get so worked up about the iPhone is because for a non-trivial amount of them it is their first smartphone. They got one not because they wanted a smartphone, but because Apple made a cool gadget and they wanted it. They then discovered that smartphones are pretty cool, however they think the iPhone is unique in that and thus they crow on about it.

    I remember when I got at work got one and he kept talking about all the neat things he could do and all I could think was "Yes, and so can my phone." Nothing he talked about was unique to the iPhone, it was all just smartphone stuff. He'd just never had one before.

    Geeks really do need to step back and get some perspective though. 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. Most people just don't want smartphones. I've heard lots of reasons such as they are too expensive, too large, I don't need that, it is too complicated, and so on. Regardless of the reason, most people get regular mobile phones, and that trend doesn't seem to be changing.

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

    by Unoti ( 731964 ) on Saturday December 19, 2009 @09:05PM (#30501514) Journal

    "Improved user experience" is a multi syllable way of saying "making stuff better." But yes, it's either a feature upgrade or a bug fix. Just because someone releases a new version of software doesn't mean that the prior release was irresponsibly broken, or intentionally crippled.

    But perhaps we're just coming at this from different perspectives. My perspective is that I write software for a living, and my team and I work really hard to make things as delightful as we can for our customers. We do regular releases as part of that process, making things better and better each time. Your perspective just seems to be that "the computer industry" is out to screw people over, and the fact that software gets periodically released as clear evidence of the evil of "the computer industry." There's some evil out there in the world, but the fact that software gets released and patched is not by itself evidence of evil.

  • by dirkdodgers ( 1642627 ) on Saturday December 19, 2009 @09:11PM (#30501536)

    I don't think the article appreciates where most consumers are at. Most consumers have simply cell phones and will continue to have simply cell phones. Most cell phones today are for all practical purposes, smart phones. What most consumers do not have, have rejected for the past 15 years, and will continue to reject, is a device that is a big rectangular brick that happens to also let you make calls, what used to be a PDA, and is now a mobile internet device (MID).

    Android is an OS that is first and foremost is for smart phones. The iPhone is not a smart phone at all. The iPhone is a MID that happens to have phone functions. See: iPod Touch.

    With Android, Google isn't focusing on the iPhone market. Google is focused on the Symbian market where Apple does not even compete today.

    Apple is going to need to decide very quickly whether they want to remain only a player in the niche mobile internet device market, or whether they want to enter the smart phone market proper, where most consumers are and will continue to be.

    With any luck, Apple will enter this market with something like an iPhone nano. I really like their interface, but like most consumers I don't want a mobile computer, I want a phone, one that flips open and follows the contours of my head, and in this day and age gives me email, gps, search, and music in a phone, not in a pocket computer.

  • Re:What a nightmare. (Score:4, Interesting)

    by moosesocks ( 264553 ) on Saturday December 19, 2009 @09:42PM (#30501660) Homepage

    My firmware update story:

    My LG enV2 with Verizon has had 6 or 7 firmware updates since I got it, all of which correct serious bugs with the original firmware (including a particularly pesky one in which the keyguard can randomly deactivate itself).

    Although the device theoretically supports pulling down firmware updates over the air, Verizon don't appear to use this feature. Frustrated by the phone's various quirks, I brought it to a Verizon store a few weeks ago to have it reflashed. The clerk there told me that she could do it, but that she'd probably brick my phone in the process, but that for just $100, they'd be able to guarantee me that it wouldn't be bricked (ie. they'd replace the handset with a new one). My contacts would also be lost in either case -- this particularly reeked of BS, given that Verizon offer a backup/transfer service at no charge.

    I looked the poor girl straight in the eye, and said "Are you serious? You're going to break my phone and charge me for it?" To which she replied "Pretty much." I told her my contract was due to be up, that I was almost certainly switching to another carrier, and that I wanted my phone back. She clung onto it, and told me she might be able to convince her manager to sell me a new phone for $75 instead. It took several minutes (and finally some rather loud profanity) to get her to finally give me my phone back. (I should add that I'm a *very* mild-mannered individual, and that I've never raised my voice to a retail clerk prior to or since this incident)

    My contract is up in January, and most certainly will not be renewed thanks to this, and many other similar incidents.

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

    by Jurily ( 900488 ) <<moc.liamg> <ta> <yliruj>> on Saturday December 19, 2009 @09:43PM (#30501668)

    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.

    90% now is more than 100% never.

  • by vakuona ( 788200 ) on Saturday December 19, 2009 @09:48PM (#30501678)
    That's one way of looking at it. The other is to say Apple has the most successful single smartphone out right now. Nokia may sell more, but Apple is selling 3 variations of one phone which look and work exactly the same. (OK, maybe two if you count the 3G as different from the 3GS) For that reason alone, its return on investment is stellar. They design one phone, and sell 20 million of them at premium prices, and everything just works. Getting 15% of the market with exactly one product is the stuff companies sweat over, and Apple seems to be able to do without breaking a sweat. Blackberry has at least 10 models out there, and Nokia is in the same boat. These are Apple's two largest competitors in the smartphone space. Everyone else barely registers. Apple has a very smart strategy!
  • Re:A naive question (Score:3, Interesting)

    by tepples ( 727027 ) <tepples.gmail@com> on Saturday December 19, 2009 @09:48PM (#30501682) Homepage Journal

    stick a radio into a TI-89

    You know most phones have a calculator app built in already, right?

    Four-function calculator != programmable algebra calculator. Apple would never let TI or anyone else make an iPhone app with the functionality of the TI-89 or even the TI-83 for the same reason that the C64 emulator got pulled: BASIC.

  • by Rich0 ( 548339 ) on Saturday December 19, 2009 @11:28PM (#30501986) Homepage

    Yup, that would be the other thing that I would legislate (besides separating the billing items for phone subsidies and plan fees) - the advertised cost of the plan is what consumers have to pay, and not a penny more. For that matter, unless a consumer agrees there can be no incremental costs beyond the advertised plan cost. Carriers may not offer a discount on the plan if you agree to pay extra for texts/etc, either. The whole surprise-$500-SMS-bill thing has to go away.

    Add-ons should be add-ons, and if a consumer says that they're not interested in the add-ons then the carrier cannot charge for them, period. By all means they can block SMS or MMS or whatever if the customer hasn't paid for them, but they can't charge for them if they get used if the consumer didn't request this.

  • by pydev ( 1683904 ) on Saturday December 19, 2009 @11:36PM (#30502006)

    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.

    Whoa, stop right there. I've owned both, and let me tell you: I prefer any Android phone to an iPhone.

    You wouldn't get email on your phone with out an extra $10/month charge from AT&T if it was in their control

    That's because the US phone market isn't competitive. Apple has nothing to do with it; in fact, Apple has made carrier lock-in worse, rather than better. Bad Apple.

    If there's hope for the US phone market, it comes from Google, not from Apple.

  • One More Time (Score:3, Interesting)

    by fm6 ( 162816 ) on Saturday December 19, 2009 @11:45PM (#30502036) Homepage Journal

    Somebody please explain to me why Android matters. What does it have that all the other phone OSs don't? Better APIs? Nicer SDK? I imagine a lot of geeks like the idea of owning a hackable phone, but that's not enough by itself.

    Whenever I ask this question, I get answers that only address issues with the iPhone, like the fact that nobody tells you what software you can run on it. Please recall that there are a lot of phone OSs out there.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Category:Mobile_phone_operating_systems [wikipedia.org]

  • by mjwx ( 966435 ) on Sunday December 20, 2009 @02:06AM (#30502404)

    With a lack of a central authority forbidding such things, most people are less likely to root their Android device unless they are geeks.

    As a rooted Android phone owner, this is definitely the case. Without "Apple like" application control there is no reason for most people to attempt to gain elevated privileges. I can install a tethering or OBEX (bluetooth OBject EXchange) application without root permissions. There are a few applications that require root but as Android develops more and more as a platform developers are finding ways to perform functions (like tethering or OBEX) without requiring root access.

    You also don't need root access to install a new ROM from the standard boot loader but the ROM has to be signed, this means Google and the Manufacturers can do an end run around the carriers if need be.

    The only reason carriers aren't trying to control the Iphone is because Apple has already restricted the device beyond even a telco's imaginings.

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

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday December 20, 2009 @02:31AM (#30502470)

    Wrong. I can activate any CDMA phone on any carrier if they let me. People activate phones across carriers all the time using the carrier's web tools where you just type in your phone's ESN and 5 minutes later you can use your US Cellular phone on Verizon.

    What you can't do is walk into a Verizon store with your Sprint phone and say "activate this for me" because it's the carrier's policy that they do no activate other network's phones on their network. It's nothing to do with the technology and all to do with the carrier's policies.

    (yes, activation standards are a problem, since Sprint uses IOTA and Verizon uses OTASP, but often phones support both)

    It's possible for GSM carriers to blacklist certain IMEIs (the GSM equivalent of a CDMA ESN/MEID) or to refuse to activate a T-Mobile phone on AT&T. It's all up to the carrier. Not the technology.

    The CDMA SIM is called RUIM and it's used extensively in Korea where CDMA is also very popular.

  • by poetmatt ( 793785 ) on Sunday December 20, 2009 @03:40AM (#30502666) Journal

    have you ever looked at XDA or considered you know what you're talking about? Hero is on 2.0 and mytouch runs the same stuff as g1, 100%. There are 2.05 android (flan) mytouch builds [xda-developers.com]with no feature loss.

    When will people stop being idiotic and realize that any phone that can run android = any rom of android can be flashed onto it = everyone can run cyanogenmod and not be lacking features. [xda-developers.com] Do you know how often I read this fear of rooting, and fear of the "mystery" of the rooting of the phone? Constantly. Your post is not the first or the last.

    you'd not lose bluetooth, the camera, calling, or anything else - it's pure ignorance if people think you'd lose that stuff. There are lots of issues with the first flash of rooting, but after that nothing. The community which supports android is the entire howardforums and xda crew. That insures that the phones have a lot of seriously talented people rooting and adding features.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday December 20, 2009 @04:10AM (#30502726)

    This completely depends on model. Some makers of phones have a dedicated team working to not just provide a means of rooting, but to have a complete custom recovery image. The G1 is an example of this, where there are excellent mods for this.

    However, some phones like the Samsung Behold 2 have barely been given a persistant root, and have yet to have a recovery image. If one starts dinking in the wrong directory, there is a high chance of bricking this phone.

    Some phones are still yet not rooted. The Motorola Cliq has had little progress in a successful root, much less a recovery image.

    In general, the best phone development/modding community will be HTC's (xda-developer), so phone choices will make a big difference.

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

    by Taxman415a ( 863020 ) on Sunday December 20, 2009 @11:25AM (#30504060) Homepage Journal
    I won't claim the iPhone is the most perfect faultless device in existence because I'm not delusional, but if you don't realize that Apple changed the game and the rest of the industry has been playing catchup since, you're equally deluding yourself.

    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.

    No, the smartphone really was almost entirely a business device before the iPhone and there was a sudden jump in market share [gartner.com] for Apple in the smartphone market. Look at the market share graphs and they tell the story of very fast growth. I suppose you could call that not sudden, but it would be semantics. Nokia still does sell more smartphone according to Gartner's report, but their share is falling, while Apple's is rapidly growing. That's evidence Apple is changing the game, along with most of the other manufacturers copying much of what Apple is doing.

    Oh please - "apps" were around long before Apple. Applications and stores already existed. Decent games already existed. Updates existed. "Twoo usability" is a no true scotsman fallacy.

    Maybe, app stores existed before but I'd never heard of them, and neither did pretty much anybody else. I don't know if you could buy over the air and run it straight on your phone or not, but the fact that few have heard of them is evidence that they weren't really used and the usability probably wasn't very good. There probably weren't very many apps either. You poo poo the usability change, but the proof is that the web browsers on previous internet enabled phones pretty much didn't get used because they were horrible. Enter the iPhone and there was a huge spike in data usage per device. Since then there have been massive improvements in browsers from other devices such as Palm's and Android's.

I was playing poker the other night... with Tarot cards. I got a full house and 4 people died. -- Steven Wright