March 29, 2015

Android On Lockdown: AT&T Removes Best Parts of Android from Backflip

Well folks, if you haven’t heard by now, AT&T’s first Android Handset, the Motorola Backflip, has been locked down and crippled.  In doing this, AT&T has not only removed Google search, but disabled Android’s ability to install non-market apk files outside of the official Android Market by removing the option for BACKFLIP users to install applications from unknown sources.

Why this was done is unknown, but users will no longer be able to install apps purchased on alternative markets.  For developers that utilize the BACKFLIP, this will will also prove troublesome as they will be unable to test apps on the device. The app experience has truly been IPhonified.  Quite frankly, I am disappointed, but not really surprised as AT&T has attempted to control phones and apps within their realm for quite some time.

We know that AT&T is trying very hard to be a gatekeeper. We also know they are not a fan of open standards. What are your thoughts?  Would you buy  this phone? How far do you think this will this go? Did Apple have a role in this?  I know what I think and that is that you should not purchase this phone.  Sorry.

Source: TechCrunch

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54 Comments

  1. @thefatrat
    Reply

    the form factor alone would keep me from buying this phone if I were on AT&T. I don't think it's particularly attractive.

  2. Galen20K
    Reply

    omfg this is unbelievable. I really feel bad for Att customers but then again no I don't because there are plenty of choices out there.

    • bmbleau
      Reply

      Sadly some of us do not have a choice when it comes to our providers… the only service that is available at my house is AT&T because Verizon decided to do something with their towers and we lost single to our property. I still did not pick this phone, but I have the Samsung Captivate and it has the same restrictions.

  3. MaddogUK
    Reply

    I guess that there will be very few dev's building for this. Fugly and crippled.

  4. Cybersedan
    Reply

    They wont know the difference, they are used to locked down, closed loop devices :-)

  5. Streets Of Boston
    Reply

    >"… but disabled Android's ability to install non-market apk files outside of the official Android Market by removing the option for BACKFLIP users to install applications from unknown sources …"<

    If this means that there is no other way to get an app on the phone than through the Android Market, then an app-developer can't hookup this phone to his/her computer to put an application on it using ADB (and it looks like that's indeed the case, unless some other mechanism allows for it). Developers would not be able to properly test their applications for this phone. And this means that developers won't support this phone…

    If this is indeed true, then AT&T made a STUPID decision.

    • Streets Of Boston
      Reply

      (continuation)

      If this is not the case (you don't need to check the 'download from unknown sources' for testing an app on the phone using ADB), then there is a way outside of the Android Market: ADB. It would be easy for someone to write a little program, that runs on a PC, that includes and uses ADB and makes it easy for people to install apps (APK files).

      • CBKBAMF
        Reply

        I don't really think that the average non-tech-savvy user is going to want to plug this into their machine just to install an app. They want it to just WORK.

        Having this device locked does more harm than good to Android, and really never should have been released this way.

        Way to go AT&T. You just screwed up your very first Android device. What an awesome way to set the standard.

  6. Sean B
    Reply

    Google might do well to exercise their trademark here. AT&T can make all the changes they want, but they can not market it as an Android (TM) phone without Google’s approval.

    • Dave Haynie
      Reply

      Actually, the way Google's been handling it so far, hardware or network providers can do anything they like with Android — that's kind of the essential point of making it free. Freedom includes the freedom to shoot yourself in the foot, after all. You get the Google lock-down (eg, no tampering from hardware or network companies) if you buy a Google Experience phone, like the Motorola Droid.

      This really needs to be a market-driven thing. An educated market will reject garbage like this. But awareness needs to be raised.

  7. yenoom
    Reply

    I fully understand why Google developed the idea of the Nexus One – the option to sell a phone as s solution to the functional requirements of end users with no 'lock down' by providers who do not respond to new markets (which, ironically, offer the providers opportunities for revenue growth).


  8. Reply

    So it advertises itself as running the “open” Android OS, but isn’t open at all. If Google has any sense, they’ll want to put a stop to this.

  9. webby
    Reply

    The uninformed still say that Verizon cripples phones, but none of the Verizon Android phones are crippled in the least.

    Yet it is AT&T who is really crippling phones — Steve Yobs seems to be pulling the strings at AT&T

  10. Rhettigan
    Reply

    I won't develop for it unless AT&T releases an emulator for it, and even then, if it takes hours and hours to set it up, I won't bother unless the Backflip outsells everything else (unlikely).

  11. Zero
    Reply

    i bought a G1 and unlocked it due to the shit ATT does. now im just guna w8 for some cash to get an unlocked N1

  12. Dave Haynie
    Reply

    Verizon did cripple phones, worse than anyone, in the past. But they certainly did right with their Android offerings — I think they got the "open" religion as a plausable defense against the iPhone. And it's ongoing… official Skype support coming soon!

    AT&T needs to fail with this approach. Removing Google as the search engine will have a profound negative effect on any Android phone, because search is so tightly integrated. For example, voice recognition, which on my Droid at least is the best I've ever used, is done via the Google search engine, not on the phone itself. And that single-box search can launch any number of Android apps, depending on how it's parsed. Changing to a different search engine will break all of this.

    Of course, if people don't completely avoid these phones, there will be custom ROMs showing up, but that's not the best solution.

  13. Peter Hollard
    Reply

    A crippled phone on a crippled network.. not for me thanks… there are so many other options anyway that the market will ensure that this is not a success. A pity really because the hardware looks interesting.

  14. Zack
    Reply

    Did Apple have a hand in this? I don't think so, but it's an interesting thought. Bottomline, though – this is an outrage! But not the only bad decision ATT has made.

  15. Chris
    Reply

    EPIC FAIL. This is another reason I'll just stay away from AT&T. Not because this phone is going to suck, but because of the mentality of an AT&T who would neuter the phone in the first place.

  16. thief
    Reply

    so you jsut find a story and post it and call it an article and then at the end say ‘hey, leave us your opinion on the story.’ ?

    do you guys have an opinion or are you so americanly politically correct that you are not allowed to have an opinion?

    are you android guys, or news reporter / repost guys?

    i like your site and widget and podcast, but come on…..

    • cperg
      Reply

      Actually the base quality of a journalist is that they offer no opinions, only facts. Of course today with journalism mostly dead in the American media most younger Americans have no idea what good journalism actually is and means.

  17. meanmcclean
    Reply

    Why would AT&T even waste their time releasing this FAIL of a phone. It would have been better off if they just said NO to Android all together. I hope they sell not 1 device. Sucks for Moto though, for what its worth, it is the first of it's kind as far as smartphone form factor goes, it could have made a bit of noise. Lesson to the manufacturers, SCREW AT&T.

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  18. Pablo
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    I could install an unknown source program using ADB

    C:Documents and Settings#$#%$%nMy DocumentsDownloads>adb install flashrec.a
    pk
    644 KB/s (4168837 bytes in 6.312s)
    pkg: /data/local/tmp/flashrec.apk
    Success

  19. Mark T
    Reply

    Take a look at the AT&T page (http://www.wireless.att.com/cell-phone-service/ce… It states "Access to hundreds of apps and thousands of widgets on Android Market". Looks like one side of the carrier does not know what the other side is doing to their customers. With the crippling of the Backflip this looks like a crock of lies…

  20. xxl
    Reply

    can Google search be installed from the Market? If yes than I don't see any major problem. Why would anyone install apps that are not in the Market? I simply don't trust those apps.

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  27. Paul
    Reply

    Everyone!

    Don't you listen to anyone! Backflip is awesome!

    1. Outdated Android 1.5 with Motoblur? – update to 2.1 is under evaluation
    https://supportforums.motorola.com/community/mana
    2. No Google search (replaced by Yahoo)? – so? Open browser and use google!!!
    3. Unable to remove AT&T bloatware apps? – not that many of them, simply don't use them, remove shortcuts… In fact some of them are useful!!
    4. Cannot install non-market apps? – Yes, you can!!!
    Follow this http://www.allfreesource.com/phone/installing-non

    JUST DON"T LISTEN TO IDIOTS!!!

  28. Nick
    Reply

    can also install unknown applications through droid explorer. The worst part of the phone is that you cannot uninstall or even hide the AT&T crap

  29. farhad
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    i believe that app-developer can't hookup this phone to his/her computer to put an application on it using ADB

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