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Surprise: AT&T's First Android Isn't Open
Motorola Backflip launches, but AT&T's crippled the device...
by Karl Bode 08:55AM Tuesday Mar 09 2010
AT&T's first foray into the business of offering Android-based phones isn't going particularly well, and it's pretty clear the company's general dislike of Google for their positions on competition, network neutrality and open access is spilling over into AT&T handset decisions. Last week AT&T launched their first Android phone (the Motorola Backflip), but pulled Google search from the device in favor of Yahoo. That alone could be brushed aside as "all's fair in love and mobile war," but this week finds AT&T taking heat for trying to cripple the Android platform.

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Users complain that not only are they relegated to Yahoo search, but AT&T has loaded the Backflip with annoying AT&T applications that can't be removed. AT&T's also managed to cripple user choice in terms of adding new applications, preventing a full range of now-standard Android options including tethering. Notes a Backflip user:
There is NO option to install applications from untrusted sources. This means anything on your SD card, downloaded from the web or over your wifi at home WILL NOT WORK. Naturally, you also cannot use the "su" command in terminal. With the Kaiser's bloatware, they removed/hid apps from you so you wouldn't try to use them and replaced them with their crapware. Also on my first day of using it I got a number of "Force Close" messages including on the built-in applications (ie: Motorola's flavor of the desk clock).
As Engadget correctly notes, that kind of behavior on AT&T's part is exactly the sort of thing wireless CEO Ralph de la Vega said they wouldn't do when discussing Android last year:
...we like the Android as an operating system on its own, but we want to make sure that we have, and customers have the option, to put applications on that device that are not just Google applications, so when the G1 came out and T-Mobile launched it, it's primarily a Google phone. And we want to give customers the choice of other applications on that device, not just the same Google applications.
Apparently, by "choice," AT&T meant theirs -- not yours. Again, AT&T's behavior is rooted in fear of what happens as wireless networks evolve and carriers like AT&T lose the power to be gatekeepers and are relegated to the role of dumb pipe operators.

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Waterford, MI

3 recommendations

reply to sonicmerlin

Re: Stuff

said by sonicmerlin:

Also I really, really wish SBC had never merged with AT&T.
Let's be clear on something: SBC did not merge with AT&T. SBC bought AT&T lock, stock and barrel, and then changed their name to AT&T. The upshot being: The thing calling itself "AT&T" today is not, in reality, AT&T, but SBC re-branded.

And boy, does it ever show. I dealt with the real AT&T for, oh, about 20 years, before it was bought by SBC. It had its faults. It wasn't perfect. But it was a damn sight better than SBC in all respects, IMO.

AT&T, the real AT&T, is no more.