The carriers are ruining Android

Techcrunch author MG Siegler picked the wrong fight accusing Android of ‘not being open’. His rant rant is all about how the fact that Android is open source allows the carriers like Verizon and T-mobile to fill it up with crapware and basically crippling the user experience. The nuts of his argument though are in this paragraph:

The thought of a truly open mobile operating system is very appealing. The problem is that in practice, that’s just simply not the reality of the situation. Maybe if Google had their way, the system would be truly open. But they don’t. Sadly, they have to deal with a very big roadblock: the carriers.

Carriers have been crippling phones everywhere and independently from the OS. I think of my Nokia E71, for example. It came branded (not locked) by TIM (Italian operator), installed with a custom firmware containing software that wouldn’t even start. So bad was the situation that I had to change its serial number and lead Nokia to believe that it was an unbranded phone so that I could install the normal firmware and get regular updates.

I learned my lesson then: never ever buy branded/locked phones. But aren’t they more expensive that way? Yes! Unlocked phones cost a ton of money, and you know what? They should! When you go buy a laptop do you expect to pay less than $300? So why do you expect a Droid  phone to cost only $199? Don’t you expect that such low means strings attached? And the strings are crippleware, like the idiotic Navigator-thing that AT&T tried to make me pay for on the Palm Pre.

Come on, American friends, you should know that there is no such thing as a free lunch. Android is (almost) free software but that doesn’t have anything to do with the stupid manoeuvres of the carriers. These are lame attempts to squeeze some pennies out of you while they wait for their friends in Washington to destroy net neutrality (with Google’s help).

Screw them, buy unlocked phones and refuse data+voice plans that tie to them for two years. Freedom comes at a very small price, all things considered.




  1. I think most people realize that the subsidized headsets come at the price. The calculation I make is that since I know I’m going to stay with Verizon since they have the best network, I might as well take advantage of the two year plan. I won’t however let then sell me handicapped or significantly modified Android.

    This is all going to change once the price of smart phones comes down. By the end of the year, we’re supposed to see the Huawei IDEOS for around $150. It’s screen is smaller and the processor not as powerful, but it can probably do the job, and I might get one unlocked for my son.

    • If so many people understand that the subsidized phones come with strings attached, why so many people rant and point fingers at Android instead of shooting at the real culprit?
      I made the mistake of buying a subsidized phone in Italy when this was still legal (antitrust law blocks carriers from tying customers to 2 years contracts) and I found out that the drawbacks were just too high.