The Android Community Means Nothing Apparently

IMAGE CREDIT: Android Community

To T-Mobile and Samsung that is.  Before I launch into my textual rant that has loving become known as “Ray-ging” (thanks to @technogasms), I need to put a disclaimer that this is an opinion piece, and my opinions may not reflect the opinions of Android Guys as a whole.  (as a matter of fact, I know at least one AG who disagrees with me).  Also, I want to state up front that I know that T-mo and Samsung are companies, with the goal of making money for their investors and such.  I know that when it boils down to the bottom line, words like “community” and “user base” don’t mean a thing.

That being said, let’s get into this current debacle that surrounds the T-Mobile/Samsung Vibrant.  A galaxy S phone, a phone that has sold over 9 million units worldwide in different forms.  One of the best selling Android phones out there, and one of the reasons that Samsung, for the time being, has surpassed HTC as the largest seller of Android based hardware in the US.

Yesterday, news leaked about T-Mo launching the so called Vibrant Plus, a Vibrant handset running Android 2.2, front facing cam and has the ability to access the HSPA+ that T-Mo is touting as their 4g network.

As a Vibrant owner, one that bought the unit on launch day, trumpeted Samsung and applauded T-Mo for launching such a sweet device.  When critics blasted Samsung over their track record of OTA updates for their devices, I stuck up for Sammy and T-Mo. I predicted the fact that it would one of their best selling devices, and the device that Samsung would use to restore their credibility with the user base as far as updates.  I think my quote was, “There is no WAY they will not update this phone to Froyo quickly.  This is their flagship phone!”.

Boy, was I wrong.  Was I wrong in every single way.  Go read this article over at Android Spin, then come back and find out why I am spitting mad, what we call on AGTN “Nilay mad”. They are reporting that Samsung and T-Mo were in cahoots to keep the 2.2 OTA update back on purpose, forcing Vibrant owners and others to upgrade their handsets to get the next flavor of Android.Now, usually, on a good day, on a day where I do not feel like I have been blindsided with a baseball bat, I would tell you that article is far fetched.  That is has basis in only rumor and has no legs.  I would tell you to take with a grain of salt, to wait and see, to watch how things unfold.

I am telling you none of those things today, because while the post from Android Spin is rumor, there are somethings that have happened which make me wonder if this rumor does not have some teeth.

In fact, if you are considering T-mobile or Samsung, I am tell you to go look elsewhere for satisfaction, because you will not find it with those two companies.  At least on the Android front.  If you don’t care about what flavor of Android you run, or really aren’t concerned with updates, odds are you are not reading this anyhow.  For the rest of us, it matters.

Why I am saying this to you?  Why have I switched my course and support so dramatically?  Heh, you know I am going to tell you.

Reason #1 – The Fleecing of the Customer Base with the “Vibrant Plus”.

If the Vibrant Plus comes to light, and I am pretty sure it will since we have heard whisperings for a while, then it is what the Vibrant should have been at launch.  The Epic launched on Sprint with a front facing cam, with access to their 4G network albeit without Froyo. When the Vibrant launched without these things, we were puzzled, we were all wondering why in the world would they take out the front facing cam and other goodies that the Euro version has.  We all just assumed that Sprint paid a good price to have that functionality exclusive to their handset.  We never really got a good answer to this question, but perhaps we have one now.  They did not launch the unit with these bells and whistles because they wanted to create a value added device to get repeat sales, and to force us to upgrade to get the latest flavor of Android.

It feels this way because it looks like Sammy and T-mo decided to capitalize on a very successful handset by using the same sales theory that has made the pokemon trading card game so successful.  Release the same exact product, just put a shiny foil glowy covering on it, change it’s name a little bit and give it better specs so that you can “do more” with it. Voila!  You have a new product to sell to the masses, but this one is even better than before (not really it just looks good on paper because really the majority of our customers don’t live in an HSPA+ area) so you really need to get it.  This would not bother me so much if they were not using Android itself as one of the “upgrades” to the unit to make it more attractive.  The Vibrant Plus having Froyo as it’s stock OS makes me feel like I did when I watched Bambi’s mom get killed.  The whole movie gave me fuzzy warm feelings, only to dash them away.

One of my buddies, whom I talked out of an iPhone and into a Vibrant said to me yesterday, “It seems like if I want an upgrade in the Android OS, I have to buy a new phone all the time.  Not sure I am down with that.”  I have to agree.  Especially in my buddies case.  He started with Android on the G1, then went to the Cliq, and suffered long and hard waiting for an OS update.  He was more hopeful with the Vibrant, especially after I talked it up.  He actually had an iPhone 4 in hand that he returned to get the Vibrant.

Dangling 2.2 out there as a carrot is an evil thing to do, especially in a unit that is not different enough to be called the “Vibrant 2”.  If this unit was a sequel, then you would not hear word one from me, since it most liukely would have been a year or so after the launch of the Vibrant.  This is nothing more than a money grab on Sammy and T-Mo’s part.  That is my opinion.  When I asked one of Samsung’s spokespeople on Twitter where the Froyo update is for the Vibrant, I got a  “We are working on it”.  Yeah.  We know.  It’s called the Vibrant Plus.

Reason #2 – The Leaked Info That Sammy has Not Allowed T-Mo to Push the Froyo OTA to It’s Customers.

Here is a quote from the Android Spin article, they got this info from a tipster, so this needs to be taken with a grain of salt, but it sure makes things make a whole lot more sense:

Quote from our Tipster:

Some disturbing things have happened the last week or so concerning our “Vibrant”. Samsung has NOT allowed us to push the update OTA for 2.2 because they feel it will decrease the value of the upcoming Vibrant4G +. While from a marketing aspect i totally understand, as the Vibrant 4G is what the original Vibrant should have been in the 1st place. But to shun off and bold face lie to customers is NOT what T-Mobile is about.

…Being that, Vibrant 4G and Vibrant have exactly same stats, added FFC and a new movie and the 4G. But i will tell you this, the original vibrant CAN utilize 4G FULLY. Yes FULLY. not what they are telling you.

If this is true, if this tipster is indeed being truthful, it is downright wrong.  Yes, it makes excellent business and marketing sense.  A Vibrant with Froyo on it would look really close to the Vibrant Plus, and it would be the cheaper option for buyers and people with upgrades.

This disgusts me.  It makes sense business ways as far as dollars and cents, but it does not make sense people wise.  Do you really want to galvanize the user base like this?  Is the user base big enough to really cause them to take notice?  I don’t know, but what I am sure of is the fact that as soon as I can I am switching my family to Sprint.  Not only do I acutally get signal with their phones in my home, but it seems like they may get the customer service side a little better than T-Mo.

What you should do if you have a Vibrant, if you haven’t already.

Root, root, root and more rooting.  Go get your phone rooted, find someone to root your device if you don’t know how to.  Get yourself a Froyo ROM that is floating around out there, test them out, have fun and have your Froyo too.  Don’t wait on T-Mo to give it to you, don’t wait on Sammy to say it’s ok to push out.  Go get it yourself, that is the beauty of having an Android device.

Now, you need to know, that rooting will void your warranty, is not officially supported and the whole nine.  But it really is not a difficult process to undertake.

The Bottom Line.

We as the Android user base need to understand that this is a game of money.  Scott Brown always would preach that to me when we did AGTN together.  Giving us an OTA update for the new flavor of Android does not make the carriers or manufacturers any money.  It costs them to do so.  I understand this and don’t fault them for it. What I find fault in the continued dangling of the “We are working on it” answer when asked about the Froyo update to the current Vibrant. What I find fault in is using Android as a carrot to get people to shell out more money on a unit they already bought.  It is called predatory marketing, with us Android users as the prey.

You may think I am whacko, or uninformed or ranting.  You may be right in all three areas.  But before you pass judgment, follow the money and ask yourself if I am not a tiny bit right.

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