Will the Carriers be Android’s Downfall?

While reading Google’s latest manifesto of what it means to be open, I am concerned that while Google is proclaiming that “Open systems Win,” that is not necessarily a money making proposition or  a differentiator for wireless carriers. Many of you who follow Android are also keenly aware of the Linux market and its storied fragmentation of literally thousands of different distros, could this be possible for Android?

With the recent introduction of Android 2.0 and Verizon‘s exclusivity, this has become a major issue for consumers, especially while several of Sprint’s and T-Mobile‘s handsets languish on 1.5 and 1.6 respectfully.  To say the least, we are tired of waiting.  Yes, I left TMO for VZ to get the Moto Droid but even early adopters like me can afford to do this every few years, if at all, with the ETF and upfront costs it takes to get the new phones.  And the carriers are not at total fault here, but with their partnerships with HTC, Motorola, and Samsung ,they have virtually locked up Android for disparate hardware certifications, various proprietary drivers, and klugey UI’s.

Another main unintentional consequence is what it is doing to the Android Market and our beloved apps (it’s still the software Stupid).  Applications are suffering in quality and updates because developers are having to decide which version of Android they want to maintain and support – and based on the comments above, along with that goes a carrier vote, as well.

No, I believe that Google is and has been patiently waiting on the sidelines to see what critical mass Android will hit and it is now near the tipping point of going mainstream.  The Nexus One photos and information leakage is not a coincidence based on the context of Android users making it known they want a carrier agnostic, pure Android phone with updates managed by Google, and a consistent UI.  Whether the N1 actually turns out to be that phone remains to be seen, but I believe it is the first of many steps in the right direction.

  • Well, this is a US problem, obviously. Where I live, I can get about any Android phone from anywhere and insert my SIM card and off I go. If I don’t want to pay up front for the phone, I can sign up for a contract or take a loan or…
    I don’t see the connection between carriers and Android OS versions.
    I also suspect a majority of phone owners don’t give a damn – as long as their phone works as advertised they do’t even know if it’s 1.5, 1.6. Those who care, have long sice rooted their phones, and are using whatever Android version ported for their device.

    • Although I agree that phone owners do not care, I think the industry will start to see the carriers wanting their fair share of the pie. Android gives developers sooo much room to work that they are cutting carriers out of their streams of revenue, and the carriers will not have that. Regardless of OS/phone manufacturer those still have to go across a network and if that network is not getting paid what it 'thinks' it should, they will put a strangle hold on the phones/OS.

  • johnkzin

    I'd love to see a GSM/UMTS Android phone that has a 5 row keyboard, 800×480 4.3" screen, 2GB internal/Flash-ROM storage (like an N900), 3.5mm headset, microSDHC card, mini-USB for charge/sync, is sold unlocked by Google (so it has the full Google experience, and the vanilla Android UI), and can work on both AT&T and T-Mobile's 3G networks (in addition to Europe and Asia). An interesting bonus would be Dual SIM cards, but I wont hold my breath for that. It'd also be nice to have a dpad instead of a trackball, but I seem to be a minority on that.

    As you can see, though, even without the Dual SIM cards, the Nexus One falls short of what I want in a phone. The G1 is, IMO, better than the Nexus One, for the simple fact that it has an actual keyboard. Maybe the Nexus Two will have the right features, but I wont hold my breath for that, either.

  • man when my plan comes due with altell im getting a google phone for sure

  • Carriers will most certainly want a piece of the revenue that the Droid OS is going to cut them out on. The "all-you-can-eat" data plans that you sign up for will change in the coming future and if the user community does not respond well, it will kill the Android OS. Always follow the money, if the carriers are not getting their "fair" share, then they will do whatever it takes to get it.

  • When it comes to this, Android has some alternatives just to make their business working and they want to reach their achievement.

  • It is interesting to learn about this apprehension regarding the carrier becoming androids downfall. But, I don’t see any such prospects around as androids have their solutions.

  • I’m really curious about this development.  As a wise consumer, I’d like to welcome competition.  We always prefer the better one.

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