Android: Open Source or Just an Open Mess?

Those of us who are familiar with the “with Google” stamp on the back of our respective Android phones what does this actually signify?  Is it part of a carrier deal that gives exclusivity to Google premium apps like Gmail and the Android Market, or part of a grander scheme to make ODM’s like Archos, Augen, Camangi, et al have inferior software so only the Google approved ones will survive like Verizon‘s Droid and Sprint’s Evo?  Or else, why would Google allow some manufacturers to deliver a less desirable UI experience and others an approved one?  Hear any joint Google/Archos pressers lately for the forthcoming 101?  It can’t be because of the hardware either.  Even the Archos 5 was put together much better than the first G1 and it was the first real “Google phone”.

Due to Google’s own stubbornness they have unknowingly created an underground modder community with supercharged ROM’s and themes that put all other manufacturer UI’s to shame.  But in doing so can put an inexperienced user in peril of destroying his or her device and making it all but a high-tech paper weight in the name of unlocking the device’s potential.  Oh I know what you’re thinking, this isn’t Google’s fault.  It’s the manufacturers like Motorola, Samsung, and HTC that have locked boot loaders, our beloved phones and soon-to-be tablets down.  But a true open source OS would not be restricted by a piece of hardware, Google should allow users to download production binaries that are executable on any phone for any carrier.  Have you tried downloading and using Ubuntu lately?  Now that’s a true open source OS that’s free like water and not like beer.  You don’t get these shenanigans with 99% of the Linux distros out there.  Don’t give me the excuse that the various screen resolutions, and yada-yada, will wreck the user experience and the very pretense makes Father Google sad.  And if it does look funny on my device, I’ll worry about it.  It’s none of Google’s business!  Imagine buying a PC and having it rendered useless just because you dared to change out or upgrade the pre-installed OS.  That’s exactly what we’re having to endure with our shiny new mobile devices whether they be Android or Apple.

The very thing that we have now is just like the regional Bells of old where they had the network and they leased phones at a few dollars a month for many years going forward.  Sad to say, my Verizon Droid X is in the same boat.  I pay a subsidized amount in exchange for a contract and while I could have paid for it outright, it still would not matter because I can not use that phone on any other network.  So the fear of a contract is negated since I HAVE to use it on Verizon.  I am land locked at every turn both in operating system and in the network.  Motorola seemed all to proud to announce that Droid X’s that received a non-approved update would not be eligible for the official update to FroYo when it became available.  This ought not to be.  This is akin to class warfare where experienced users are penalized for wanting their phones to do and be more than how they came originally.

But to my original point, by the way Google delivers Android to ODM’s and keeps it from users is definitely their blame to bear.  They have the wherewithal to make it available and useable but have chosen not to do so.  I understand that Google is a for profit entity and have no problem with them making as much money as they want but don’t market Android as peace, love, and open source when it is not.  It is at best a proprietary OS with an enthusiastic open source community responsible for development it but I will no longer refer to it as a true open source OS.  Android has often been compared to Microsoft Windows XP in that it has been fragmented on devices from netbooks to servers.  But say what you will about XP, it is a consistent UI between machines and manufacturers and if you don’t like the shipped version you can always uninstall it and re-install a fresh version.  Not so with Android unless you want to be responsible for your own updates and hardware incompatibility.  Not to mention, the bearing the wrath of your respective wireless carrier.

I believe, from Archos to Samsung, we should have the ability to use or purchase plain Android at the current version to any device we want.  If/when this happens, Google will have achieved its original goal of taking costs out of handsets and allowing anybody to run Android on “any” device.  Currently Android is being watered down and neutered by Motorola and Samsung UI’s and carrier chatzki.  We are at the carrier’s and manufacturer’s mercy and we will continue to be the loser until Google inserts their power.  And it may be too late in light of the recent failure of the Nexus One which was at least a back-handed effort to poke a sharp stick in the eyes of the carriers.

  • MS

    So have you reversed your stance and now agree with Nilay’s points? This article does sound like you’ve moved a bit towards his side of the argument…

    • Sam Herren

      I’m not sure if I reversed my stance or not. I haven’t published a response until now. But I guess I do side w/ Patel because Google is giving its consumers and fans alike of Android a very inconsistent UI and but it’s still the best game in town compared to Apple and Microsoft.

      • MS

        But is it really GOOGLE giving the inconsitent UI or the manufacturers by tinkering with it and placing custom skins on top? If each manufacturer put Vanilla Android on each device (or gave an option to run Stock Android vs Sense/TouchWiz/Blur similar to having the option of which home launcher to use), do you think we’d have the same issues we see today? Granted, there would still be some fragmentation due to the physical limitations of certain legacy devices (Apple isn’t immune to this either, which is why the original, 3G, 3GS and I4 can’t ALL run the exact same firmware). My biggest disappointment is the lack of devices which run stock. I went from the G1 directly to the N1 b/c I didn’t want any bloatware on my device and I wanted a ‘pure’ Android experience.

        • Sam Herren

          I believe that if vanilla Android was loaded onto all phones w/ custom UI’s added as options then Android fragmentation could/would be greatly reduced.

          Google could then update two versions of Android, one CDMA the other GSM, and release it over the web and allow us to upgrade our own phones and let the carrier/ODM’s worry about their precious UI’s in the name of differentiation.

        • Anonymous

          So because you want the “pure” experience, we should force everyone the have it.
          Nah i don’t think so.

          • MS

            Its not so much ‘forcing’ everyone to have it, rather giving them a choice of running stock vs a manufacturer’s skin. I’d much rather have the option. That way if i like the device, but HATE Motoblur, I can still get it and not have to deal with an interface I can’t stand. You essentially get this option if you chose to root, but then we’re back at the same starting point if its not built into the OS to switch interfaces that easily.

        • Joe forgione

          The 3G 3GS and iPhone 4 all run ios 4.1 only 3 devices didn’t get the ios firmware update and it’s not because they can’t support they would just be horribly slow but they’re easily jailbroken and given ios4 features a jailbroken iPhone with cydia is better than any android and anyone who can root an android can easily jailbreak an iPhone we have apple and the community u have….google:( too bad for u 🙂

      • westy

        I agree with you to a point but Google is in a tough spot here. Lets say the left the OS open Fully and Carriers and Manufactures installed it on there phones. They would still be able to lock the phone downs anyways so we are right back where we left off. Lastly the Nexus series was something they developed for users to buy phones with plain Vanilla Android but guess what? Consumers failed to purchase the phone and make it a success. No one company is going to stick behind a product that doesnt do well. If the Nexus one was a extreme success we wouldnt be having this conversation, sure not everyone had 560 bucks to drop on a phone but Google gave us an outlet and as consumers we failed to respond. And while the Nexus One crashed and burned the rest of the carrier provided phones that are locked down flourished. If you were Google what would have been the smart business decision here? To carry one with a process that was failing and receiving negative publicity or to stick to a system that consumers embrace? Sure you can go and buy an EVO or a DROID X and root it but all the Manufactures and Carriers see is that you bought the phone. Then that gets them thinking well hey they bought it so they must like it. My point is that the only way to get this to go the way we want is to respond with our wallets. Its the only way to get big corporation to listen to us.

        Proud owner of a Nexus One

        • Sam Herren

          Hear, hear! I totally agree BUT Google only made the Nexus One available on ATT and TMO. I was ready to buy one when it was still on it way to Verizon then took a left turn to morph into the Droid Incredible.

          You’re right, the masses did not respond to Google but I still would have liked to see actual N1’s that were compatible on all carriers first before it was deemed a compete failure.

          My $560 is still sitting waiting for THAT phone.

          • So because it was only on AT&T and TMob, you bought an iPhone instead…?!

          • Sam Herren

            Nope, actually bought two Motorola Droid’s and a Droid X. My kids use the iPhone to play games on.

          • PeterE

            Google failed to market it appropriately. They should have had agreements in place with Best Buy and others so consumers could actually get their hands on the device before buying.

            Dell has similarly failed with the Streak. Yes, the Streak appears to be soon landing at Best Buy, but it’s now almost a hardware generation behind.

        • MS

          I think the one of the biggest mistakes with the sales of the N1 was requiring that Even-more plan on Tmo and not allowing ANY potential customer to purchase it on a contract (they essentially cut out ALL subsidized sales to people on Family plans like myself unless you were willing to change your plan for a few months then switch back once the ETA penalty was gone). I had to wait until I could comfortably afford to purchase it off-contract at full price (which was the ONLY option AT&T customers had). I know that Google was attempting to change the sales model, but in America, consumers like cheaper prices. Yes, many of us are smart enough to realize that buying at full-price is a cheaper option in the long-run than getting it subsidized, but for many of the masses, they either can’t afford or won’t purchase these devices at the off-contract price. I’m sure if phone companies provided thier contract vs non-contract handset sales, the numbers won’t even be close. Google should have allowed the N1 to be sold like the every other Android device sold by carriers once they realized thier model/experiment had failed. They lost a LOT of potential sales to family plan members who simply didn’t/couldn’t afford the $530 price tag just to keep thier plan. I don’t want to get too far off on a tangent from the original story though….

          • westy

            Well you guys have to remember the Carriers have to agree to these plans. You cant just offer a subsidized phone with out the carriers backing. I am sure Google went through lengthy negotiations with the Carriers. TMO was the only company to budge, this the problem here thou carriers have too much control and they dont want to lose control.

        • Jonatan

          I’m also a nexus one owner, and i agree 100% with you westy. Nexus one was the perfect option to be free of the carriers and up to date in os versions.

    • Joe forgione

      You people all need to understand google is exactly like apple and your all fools for believing android is “open” lol jailboken iPhone? That open:) idroid anyone? Lol

      • SquareWheel

        The fact that you have to jailbreak proves that the platform isn’t open. It’s true that Android has rooting, but at the same time the developers have more control of the platform and the user can install an app from anywhere. That’s huge.

  • Darkseider

    Holy whining Batman! Quick! Call the Waaaaambulance! I have never read a worse piece of sensational bullshit in quite a while. Welcome to open source. This is what makes Android attractive to all of the hardware vendors. Free and customizable to their hearts content on the devices they choose to release to the public. If you want cookie cutter get an iPhone or a WP7 phone when it is released. Otherwise stop your bellyaching and enjoy what Google has done for the mobile community by allowing manufacturers and end users alike to customize their devices to their hearts content.

    Your point about re-installing XP if you don’t like what the Manufacturer has given you is also false. Assuming that the re-install is NOT the factory image provided by the manufacturer then according to the manufacturers terms and agreements you have also voided warranty. Surprise! So by doing that it is no different that throwing on an AOSP compiled ROM on your handset. Again more sensationalist crap. My suggestion is that you get an iPhone. Uncle Steve will take good care of you in his walled garden. After all we know that Uncle Steve knows best, doesn’t he?

    • Sam Herren

      “Welcome to open source. This is what makes Android attractive to all of the hardware vendors. Free and customizable to their hearts content on the devices they choose to release to the public.”

      Yeah right, how about making it customizable for users instead of hardware vendors.

      “Your point about re-installing XP if you don’t like what the Manufacturer has given you is also false. Assuming that the re-install is NOT the factory image provided by the manufacturer then according to the manufacturers terms and agreements you have also voided warranty.”

      Not worried about voiding the warranty, I just want the ability to put whatever version I want.

      “My suggestion is that you get an iPhone. Uncle Steve will take good care of you in his walled garden. After all we know that Uncle Steve knows best, doesn’t he?”

      I have an iPhone. Next comment?

      • Darkseider

        “Not worried about voiding the warranty, I just want the ability to put whatever version I want.”

        OK. So why did you bother writing this pointless article? Root the phone and install away to your hearts content.

        “I have an iPhone. Next comment?”

        That explains a lot. Rather, I should say it probably explains the basis of this rant/article.

        • Sam Herren

          “OK. So why did you bother writing this pointless article? Root the phone and install away to your hearts content.”

          It is and I did. But rooting should not even be an issue. Phones should ship with with root permissions enabled. No jumping or hoops required.

    • “…end users alike to customize their devices to their hearts content.”

      Why do I have to jump through hoops to update my Motorola Milestone to 2.2? Why can’t I just download an update directly from Google and install it to my phone with no hassles? Why is it that I have to wait for the update to go through Motorola and then my carrier to receive it hassle free? Which, by the way, is looking like I’ll get Froyo in 2011 while my Motorola Droid brothers have it today.

      • MS

        If you had an option of running stock Android OR Motorblur, then perhaps you WOULD get the option of downloading it right from Google to install vs waiting for Motorola to update it for thier skin. The lag issue in updates is mainly due to the UI’s placed on top of Android (although I’m not certain what the delay was in getting 2.2 on the Droid 1 since its running stock…space maybe?).

        • Sam Herren

          Understandably carriers are not software companies and vice versa and they have been roped into this whole mess through naivety and greed. Naivety in that they “thought” they could probably keep up with Android because it is/was open source and Greed in that they were losing market share to the iPhone and had to compete w/ something other than Blackberries and WinMO 6.x.

        • That’s exactly what I’m saying.

          I mean, right now I (apparently) have a stock 2.1 phone. Which is one of the major reasons I went with the Milestone here in Canada as I dislike many of the manufacturer’s UIs. But even still, I have to wait for the 2.2 update to go through Motorola and then my carrier to get a “worry-free” OTA update. Hell, I don’t even care if it’s OTA. Just give me the option of downloading the update myself and installing it to my device. It doesn’t even bother me if I had to “reformat” to install a fresh version of vanilla first in order to update to a later vanilla version.

          I’m just so irked about having to wait for these updates to go through these middle men in order to get it on the receiving end. And once it goes through the manufacturers and carriers the phone is so locked down you can’t even uninstall branded applications (I.e. MotoNav – The subscription based navigation service provided by Motorola that I will NEVER have a use for since Google Navigation came out and is free to use).

          • Tsais

            The upgrading issue might not be in the interest of manufacturers to solve.

            Sony took how long to update their stuff from Android 1.6?

            Do you think they will actually do another one after 2.1 ?

            I think they will tell you to buy a new phone if you want to go any further than 2.1…


            well, I got nothing against making money, our problem is, that money has become the goal and the fulfillment.

            People are not the primary concern, money is. How conscious living beings can voluntarily become subservient to money is right up there on the list of unsolved quandaries.

            Google is one of very few companies that seems to have some secondary goals in addition to being a cash machine. And they smartly mimic everyone else to avoid getting noticed.

            I do wish Google had made a powerful standard API for manufacturers to build their customizations on… then they wouldn’t have to crap around everywhere in the code so much and make updates so difficult and costly for them. Uh yeah, I guess I’m dreaming…

      • Joe forgione

        Burrnnnnnnn lol u da man @ Jordan

    • stone_phalanges

      That may be, but at least with re-installing windows you don’t have to make certain that it’s the “correct” windows for your computer. Windows XP will install flawlessly on a Dell machine, on a Sony machine, on an HP machine. Whereas you can’t even use a rom from the Samsung Vibrant an a Samsung Captivate let alone install the vanilla android rom from a Nexus one.

      Bottom line it is WAY too easy to brick your phone when modding android. Honestly the only real difference from rooting your android phone and jailbreaking an iphone is that Apple is much more hostile towards it than the android manufactures.

  • CompactDistance

    At the moment no-one truly owns their phone, even if they buy it SIM-free.

  • Barry

    In what way are any of the custom ROMs “Supercharged”?

    The only Android ROM worth ANYTHING is CyanogenMod.

    ALL of the others are themes of the stock ROM that ships with the device, or it is a build of AOSP with little or NO modification to the original OS.

    If you want a REAL story to write about, write about how there are so called “developers” out there making fraudulent ROMs that offer little (or in fact nothing at all) over the existing stock ROM – except maybe some pretty graphics – and getting lauded for their innovation and creativity. BUGLESS BEAST ANYONE? What a sham.

    A real news story would expose all these hucksters and snake oil salesmen for what they are – no talent hacks who figured out how to build AOSP.

    CyanogenMod is the ONLY ROM that stands apart as worthy of any Android device.

    • Darkseider

      Cyanogen is an excellent ROM as is Sapphire and ShadowROM all of which are built from the AOSP. Bugless Beast is not so much a custom ROM as much as it is a stock replacement with some tweaks. Some users like the stock look and feel with a little extra but not going so far as to use an AOSP ROM. It’s choice and nothing else. Kinda like Debian and Ubuntu. I like Debian for my servers but will put Ubuntu on all of my end users’ desktops.

  • You didn’t really answer the first question.
    “Those of us who are familiar with the “with Google” stamp on the back of our respective Android phones what does this actually signify?”
    It means nothing by the way. Some phones have it, some don’t. All of the phones that have “with Google” have the Market and other Google apps, but not all Market phones have “with Google”

    “with Google” means nothing.

    I propose it should mean “You can put stock Android on it.”

    I don’t think Google should necessarily force all manufactures to put stock Android on every device. But for most phones, you should be able to download a stock Android rom from Google and run it on your phone. You can call it “recovery”, “Google Experience”, “vanilla Android”, whatever. It should happen.

    • Sam Herren


    • Tsais

      now that’s a great idea.

      Though “with Google” already has another use, even if a somewhat fuzzy one.

      I’d alter your idea to introduce a new label, like “Android S” or something to signify a standard Android installation is possible.

      Give Manufacturers the option to sell some of their phones that way, and we’ll see if Telco’s won’t flat out refuse them, and if not, how many vanilla customers want them. I hope lots…

      This wouldn’t prevent manufacturers from putting a skin and some apps on it, they just couldn’t shovel quite as hard when they make those.

      Personally, I like HTC’s sense interface, as long as the processor is fast enough to run it. But I dont’ like it enough to want to forgo any core OS upgrades at all…

  • Anonymous

    “But a true open source OS would…”

    I don’t like that argument.
    If it was a true open source OS i wouldn’t waste my time developing for it since it got no chance on the mass market.
    There is MeeGo for that.

    • Sam Herren

      Hmmm, maybe someone should mention that to Ubuntu….

      • Ubuntu is a niche OS though! Most major companies don’t bother developing for it (Can’t do any of Adobe Creative Suite) since normal people just don’t use it. I can’t think of anything open source that’s more popular worldwide than a proprietary alternative

  • kyle

    I understand what eric said about google not forcing carriers to carry vanilla android but to let them lock it down and force you to use their stuff verizon im talking to you and your bing bulls***
    and att goes against open source and its boggles my mind on why google let’s that happen their contradicting theirselfs

    • As opposed to all the others, who “Force” you to use Google? What’s the difference? You can still download Google search bar from the market if it matters to you

  • kyle

    Yes we should have the option to switch from stock and the blur sense touch wiz and vice versa and the ability to delete crapware without having to hack

  • kyle

    And of course theirs the efu chip on the x and droid 2

  • kyle

    Yes but the carriers control is what violates open source

    • MS


      Hit the “reply” link under the person you’re replying to so we can follow the discussion…

  • Fu Man Chooooooooooo – Here is the Android Source code. Android is open source. Please stop projecting your problems with the OS and Manufacturers onto the open source label. Fragmentation, carrier customizations is a completely different subject.

    Even with Windows XP, Microsoft isn’t the entity that makes XP work with all possible configurations of hardware. It’s the hardware manufacturers that make their hardware work by writing something called drivers. What Microsoft and most other operating systems do is make it easy for hardware manufacturers to write drivers that run on their platform. On Android, it works the same way, the hardware manufacturers are the ones responsible for making their device able to run Android. If someone makes a piece of hardware that doesn’t run Android, is it really Android’s fault?

    In short, I have no idea what this notion of a “true open source OS” is and how it differs from Android. The problems you have stated above are real problems, however, to say that they invalidate Android’s status as open source is simply absurd.

  • kyle

    Im on my phone and that option is not their but i put my 2 cents in so im good

    • MS


  • kyle

    Actually its not absurd google letting the carriers and hardware makers closing stuff off and forcing you to use their crapware putting bing on and blocking google search in market att blocking side loading is a violation of open source

    • sam

      Where do you get the idea that Google actually has the power to stop them from doing so??

      Android is released under the apache license which basically means that Google DOES NOT have the right to say what users can or cannot do wrt modifying android and installing their own proprietary apps, manufacturers included!

      Nobody is forcing anyone to do anything because nobody is forcing users to buy phones with crapware on it. Part of the apache license is that if you distribute a modified version of the software, you must inform end users what they are getting. Users who wish to avoid crapware should probably do some research as to what comes installed on the phone. Manufacturers are required to tell you if they are adding somethign extra like HTC Sense UI or MOTOBLUR. They tell you beforehand. If you’re not paying attention, that is YOUR FAULT. Its not Google’s fault for not telling the manufacturers to not do that stuff. That is just absurd.

      • Sam Herren

        Google is indirectly part of the problem by making deals w/ the carrier devils but you are right. The carriers and device makers are just as much to blame for locking us in and by the way, I don’t mind all of the customizable UI’s. Just that we don’t have the choice NOT to use them. Kinda like buying a car and having the driver seat preset by the manufacturer unless you rip out the whole interior just to adjust it.

        • sam

          Maybe we should try to make it known to manufacturers that they will be better off giving users a choice between using their customized UI or the stock android UI rather than forcing us to choose between g1 and hero or nexus one and droid incredible.

    • stone_phalanges

      doesn’t open source just mean that anyone can download and modify the code? Check. Being able to modify the code is what makes it open source isn’t it. If Google forced manufactures to load the vanilla rom or stopped them from making modifications (good or bad) wouldn’t THAT violate the spirit of open source.

  • sam

    When you buy an android phone, android has an open source software license but the drivers are still proprietary. Get the manufacturers to open source their drivers and this discussion is over. Problem is, they don’t want to do that because that would make it really easy to hack the phone and people hacking their phones will cost them money with returns and whatnot from people screwing up and bricking their phones. Currently there are only a few drivers that are actually part of the android project.

    The thing with Google not including their apps to just anyone is not much of a mystery if you think about it. If you look at the packages in the android git there is no mention of the market app because it is not part of android. Yes, it is free but still it is an application that you need permission from Google to use. I think the situation is the same with maps and gmail. Maybe Google will only offer their apps to those companies who offer something in return?

  • Great post, Sam.

    • Sam Herren

      Thanks Mr. Falzone. That’s been rattling around in my head for a while and I was inspired to post it after this past weeks AGTN podcast. FTW! O_o

  • ersouza

    Why does this get classified as both “News” and “Opinion and Editorial”, AndroidGuys? I would hope if it were going to be classified as news, it would at least have a modicum of basic fact-checking but the very first paragraph demonstrates the author isn’t the least bit interested in that. Speculate away, and don’t bother to do any research whatsoever for your opinion, but please don’t label it as “news”.

    • Sam Herren

      You are exactly right. I “fat fingered” while typing and checked the News box. My sincerest apologies.

    • Sam Herren

      Update. Taken out of the News category.

  • You suggest that Ubuntu can be installed on any PC as a measure of how open it is. Have you tried installing Ubuntu on a consumer cell phone?

    • Sam Herren

      Yep, Ubuntu worked great on my T-Mobile HTC HD2.

      • sam

        OK, but this requires you to have a custom built kernel that works with qualcomm qsd8xxxx that comes with the HD2. This is not part of ubuntu’s normal distribution packages. If the people behind the linux for htc project that you linked to, did not port that kernel to work with HD2 you would not have been able to install it and have it working. This is what we are talking about when we say android needs drivers to work.

    • Eggcarton Ethan

      Ubuntu isn’t open source, it won’t install on my toaster.

  • CompactDistance

    A great idea would be Google saying to the phone manufacturers you can’t have Market/Gmail/other Google proprietary apps unless you open things up.

  • Mark Brown

    Not sure if I agree. It will forever stay fragmented unless the Google provides a standard minimum. Problem with that is when a newer version and product comes out everyone will want it. This guy had a similar article:

  • zeo

    Both Sam and Nilay’s arguments are a bit misguided. The analogy you’re both drawing is with a PC and Linux. This is a false analogy. I’m not saying there isn’t value with the analogy I’m am saying it’s not quite parallel and there are technical reasons for this, albeit minor.

    You can connect a PC to the Internet and you get data. This is true. However, you need a third party and this is your ISP. Your ISP can cut you off just a like the carriers, just think filesharing and torrenting. How many ISP’s can you get? Alot. Why is that? Common carrier regulation that covers wired communications.

    A smartphone lives in a slightly different market, but those differences define the market and the devices. In order for a smartphone to get data you also need a data provider. In this case it’s the carrier. Now how many choices do you get nationally? 4. Even then you don’t always get service. Why? Because the wireless market needs allocated spectrum in order to make sure the devices function properly. But what is the difference? No common carrier regulations on wireless communication. Once a company owns the spectrum they get to run it like their own fiefdom. Hence, the restrictions on devices and what not.

    To my thinking, an analogy you could draw would be to the wireless market in Europe. They seem to have a version of common carrier regulation there that covers wireless communications. It’s not as broad as the common carrier here, but it doesn’t need to be. It basically states that your phone will use the strongest phone signal available regardless of carrier. So if you’re on T-Mobile and get weak signal at home, but if the Verizon signal is strong your phone will switch to Verizon. Who pays for that? T-Mobile does. T-Mobile pays Verizon for all the minutes that you use at home. I think that’s T-Mobile’s incentive to improve their network. It hits them every month on their bottom line. If we switch to tiered data, like the carriers want to, then it’ll be worse for the weak network folks. In theory this could reduce churn. The way the carriers reduce churn right now is they lock in you in to contracts and discount the phones. So this could reduce the phone discounts. But that might be good too, now consumers will actually see that the iPhones are at least $100 more than any comparable Android smartphone so that becomes more transparent.

    This isn’t a cure all, it could hit the smaller, regional carriers hard. However, it cuts both ways. If you’re on national carrier and need to switch to a regional carrier then they benefit. But I think it might be a general improvement.

  • david

    This is the BEST review I have seen…Using Samsung as an example (it does apply to all)…they state over 2 million Galaxy S phones sold…if they charged an extra $50 for a stock version with 1/2 going to carrier and 1/2 to themselves I do think many folks would jump on it…

    Then the smart carrier and Samsung would have the best of both worlds,,,,customers added and happier than those with “locked” devices…

    As most folks know, once you ‘win’ a customer they tend to stay unless you ‘drop -the-ball’ and it cost more to get and get back once a customer is lost….

    The reason I got one is that it would work on Android 3.0 and I had to add a line so my new 3G went to the family member and the now newer Vibrant to myself. If XDA was not around to “fix” the phone I would have returned it and never got any Samsung phone as they released both a defective phone and a sloppy re-working of Android.

    I now have a phone that runs great thanks to the XDA community and will see if Samsung lives up to their CEO’s promise by end of Sept to have everything fixed….

    s three carries I heard of have booted their CEO out, I do hope Samsung will do the same if the Sept deadline is missed. Stock holders will put pressure only when the bottom line is effected…

  • Newspeak

    If you want a phone with stock android buy a nexus one or g2…if you want to hack your phone do the research and pick up a phone thats hack friendly…when you buy anything there are things that are priorities that cause you to buy one thing over the other…i can’t get a car that gets 50mpg …with a top speed of 200mph and costs under 20,000….

  • Steve

    Couldn’t agree more with you. It is not open, never has been. It is just a conceit to believe that.

  • ARR22

    Why cant the manufactures just partition a sector of the internal memory with a recovery image of the stock rom/out of box state. That would pretty much alleviate the problem wouldnt it?

    • Sam Herren

      Great idea!

  • Jonathan

    I think android is open source. Once it hits the manufacturers dirty hands, It either continue to be open or they add there bloat wear and “lock” the phone.

  • jazzmanmonty

    my biggest itch with all of this is that, though most of you have provided great points, everyone seems to fail to mention why he dislike the skinned android phones with sense or blur. its proven that they slow down the phone and decrease performance. i mean even looking at how sense slows down the hd2 which if was stock winmo would prolly run faster with less glitches. yes the skins at a little more visual appeal to the device. but they are simply asthetic to a point. so why slow do carriers do this?!

    an analogy i like to compare this to is the airlines. why are american airlines planes silver? because they don’t use paint. by doing so the planes run smoother, faster, and use less fuel which costs the airlines more. airlines that paint their planes must stop to repaint now and then and waste money by doing so. same goes for the phone business. motorola cliq which is a newer phone compared to a g1 hasn’t seen 2.1 or 2.2 that was promised. motoblur was skinned on top and now delayed any form of update. even in the developers community there’s no good working rom to flash over because of the blur and motorola curse. luckily with my g1 which was rooted but with no sense or blur, i’ve been running 2.2 for a while now smoothly. The bitch about it is that every one of these phones can handle 2.2 if my g1 can, and they can prolly handle it much better with them being new devices. So the problem is this. Why are manufacturers spending millions to develop a skin that only slows down performance, uses memory, delays updates, and makes the device obsolete within a year? i can only think of one reason. nothing to do with uniqueness. its about sales.

    the average carrier wants you to hold on to ur phone for 2 years. but the big phone manufacturers don’t like this. they hook us. we all want the next best thing. if they don’t release an update but release an entire new phone, we will go out and buy it over priced 4 months into our contract just to have the next best phone. its all about a marketing scheme. well i say we need to petition to end it. and we also have to thank/ help/ donate the developers that hack what we and for us so our phones last us longer. witout them my g1 would still be at 1.6 and i’d be pissed. now that i have 2.2 on it and it runs fine, makes me have no eason to even wat to upgrade.

    so lets see what happens in the next year. will the skins disappear? will google listen to what ppl want and just release 3.o gingerbread with everything we want on it so we dont cr that our phone isnt rooted nor getting ota upgrades and whatnot. tl this happens i fing gmail to be a bit kkkkkkkkkkkk

    • jazzmanmonty

      oops.. if this happenes i find google phone will be a bit more rewarded with less user complaints, and manufacturers wont find a need to skin their android phones because there will be nothing left to tweak. its about making the customer happy and letting them use their $500 plus devices to their fullest potential.

      in conclusion skinning needs to stop if manufacturers cant provide the update as they are released. there should be a clause in their right to use it that when an update is released, they have 30 days to supply all phones an update.

  • Pervish

    Off topic :p

    Nexus One is THE phone.

    But… Google and HTC please put next time multi-touch instead dual-touch :/

  • paxmos

    Android is not a mess.

  • asf

    What a load of tripe. You want a phone running stock android? Then buy an N1.

    I have an HTC Desire running stock 2.2 and it’s great. I quite like Sense and have no need to root as I already have tethering etc.

    Buy a decent phone instead of a Motorolla next time and spare us all the complaining. Nobody is forcing you to go with Verizon or buy a phone with a manufacturer’s ui.


    Wow, I thought the article was bad, until I read all the comments.

    DO YOU PEOPLE KNOW WHAT “OPEN SOURCE” MEANS??? It means that the source code is open, anyone can see it, modify it, and use it. It doesn’t mean that the OS has no security. It doesn’t mean that any user has permission to do anything they want and destroy the OS.

    Any locked bootloaders or disabled functions in the OS are the doing of the manufacturer, usually at the carrier’s request. If Google started making demands for manufacturers/carriers to implement in their products, they would be no better than Apple.

    Google stands for choice and freedom. If you don’t like what a manufacturer did with their device, don’t buy it and go buy a different one.

    Terrible, terrible article….

    • GPLv3 forbids locked bootloaders.  It’s called “TiVoization” after the first company to start doing it _en masse_, and no, it’s absolutely not consistent with the ideals of software libre.  Unfortunately, a combination of copyright-owner fragmentation, Linus’s hegemony, and a bunch of crusty 40-year-olds who like to “affirm the consequent”, means that the Linux kernel in Android is still GPLv2, and can be used with locked bootloaders.  Most of Android is not GPL at all, and the copyright is owned by Google so they do not have to follow their own license, and lately they’ve been taking this option.  but there is a lot of software in Ubuntu which would actually be illegal to load onto these locked-bootloader phones because of the GPLv3.

      Terrible, terrible comment!

      If you want to point out there are extreme differences between FOSS licenses, and that these differences have serious impact on developers and users, do it, preferably more eloquently than the original article.  But “rageragerage” because your prejudicial assumption about what the article would say based on its headline wasn’t 100% correct. If you expect/demand this, why read anything?  Just read headlines and daydream about the world you think you’re living in.  You’ll be so much happier.

      Your disappointment led you to an all-caps appeal-to-the-dictionary arguing style (except, here, the authoritative dictionary does not exist).  It’s something I could have generated with an angrier version of the Elizabot.  Every ADHD compulsive /. reloader posts something like this, as if chopping down the author of the article will set you above him.  It won’t: you have to actually produce something yourself.

      Also, how right does THE_DROID feel eleven months later, now that Honeycomb is closed-source?  And now that Google is pushing 2.3.6 OTA’s to AT&T Nexus S that disable tethering, even while Google’s page points people at which is down, so AFAICT Google has not thrown 2.3.6 source over the wall before pushing the matching binaries to their own flagship unlocked-bootloader no-contract Developer Phone?  Fanbois just can’t win in this world!

      It is not enough just to see the source.  Seeing the source is FSF’s Freedom #1, but you must (0) be allowed to run the program (no patents!  This requirement is also aided by GPLv3!), (2) to redistribute the source and the program (which is only partially true of Android since it’s aggregated with proprietary Linux kernel modules, without which the phones will hardly boot.  To do an AOSP develoment cycle on Google’s own Nexus One developer phone, you have to load stock firmware into your phone (you got a license to do this when you bought it), and then extract the proprietary modules using a debugger so you can combine them with AOSP.), (3) to distribute copies of modified versions (something Google tries to block with their proprietary “Google Experience” apps).  This is what creates a free software community, and it’s severely curtailed with all versions of Android in practice.

      But with Honeycomb, and even with the latest OTA’s on supposedly free-software Gingerbread branch, we do not even have Freedom #1: I can’t study how my tablet works because I’m not one of the “partner” hardware companies to whom Google has given Honeycomb source (presumably in exchange for influence over the product), and I can’t study how the tether-crippling in my AT&T NS works because Google released binaries without releasing source.  (That’s an actual GPL violation, unless there are no kernel changes in 2.3.6.  “But is down” does not excuse you from complying with the license, nor should it IMHO excuse you from obligations to your community to provide source before you push OTA’s to their developer phones, not after.)

      We can complain less about both things after Google resolves them, if they do, but PR promises to resolve or touchy-feely expressions of “intent” or fanboi belief in their goodness isn’t a worthy response to people who correctly point out Android’s not unambiguously free software.  There are lots of gotchya’s, which I think you would find quite annoying if you actually did core platform development on Android (I sure do), rather than just rice out your phone with “mods” or write apps.

      …though ricers and app developers are certainly starting to complain, too, thanks to some of the side-effects the lack of software freedom has on the community around Android.

  • Someone

    Fuck You nerds to hell !!!

  • The Man

    @THE_DROID 100% agree, if you want want a vanilla OS then go get the Source and compile your own to work on what ever device you want to use.

    one thing I like about Android is the fact you don’t need to do anything to the OS to use a different SMS app, keyboard, SMS tones (like one I could mention) and many more.

    this just seems like an Apple fanboy having a rant at Google.

  • Android was built to break up the mobile phone OS market. It was especially intended to wrack Nokia. As Android was born 2006/2007 Nokia ruled the smartphone market and the IPhone was a rumour. The carriers was depended on Nokias will.

    But the iPhone came earlier than android on the market, because Apple did work on it since 2001 or even earlier. So it was the IPhone which crashed Nokias might. Android cames second, it will rule the market but it will never rival IOS in it’s perfect design.

    So its openess may it exist or not is not relevant because the only thing that counts is its ability to be brought via a broad range of sales channel into the markets.

    The openess is only for people that want to believe in it. The real war is about who rule the markets in the future. If you choose to line up for this war, you should know that you will get nothing for your sacrifices.

    So it is the better choice to stay at the sideline and watch the war with an IOS device.

  • Jared

    You’d think carriers and manufacturers would be happy to see how us devs have increased the functionality of our phones and might encourage people to switch to that carrier or manufacturer because of how cool it looks or what it can do. But maybe they just want us to pay out of the butts for new devices. :/

  • Selling iPhone apps is becoming a used business fad that people make fun of. It’s adopting a role of clown that an commercial based model of free web services has held for some time.