We try to be fair to every handset, but the are some we just can’t help but make fun of. Everyone thought Verizon was going to cripple Android, but they became friends with Google and offered the full Android experience.
AT&T is in bed with Apple and has gone to extreme measures to make sure their first Android phone, the Motorola Backflip, was under-powered and locked down. We already knew about the lack of Google search and today another limitation has surfaced.
The Backflip has no option to install applications from unknown sources (aka non-Market applications). This is important to note because every Android phone (that I know of) has included this as a default option of the Android OS.
Maybe it was done to “protect” the users, but this blocks the install of apps purchased on alternative markets and beta apps like Swype. Developers will also be unable to easily load and test their apps on the device before they release them.
Basically, AT&T is offering the same locked-in market experience that iPhone users get to enjoy put up with.
To add insult to injury, customers are also not allowed to remove the dozen or so AT&T apps that come preloaded with the device (bloatware). Android phones already struggle with limited storage space and having the carrier dictate which ones are installed on a user’s phone is a disappointment.
So to recap the AT&T Backflip:
- Outdated Android 1.5 with Motoblur
- No Google search (replaced by Yahoo)
- Unable to remove AT&T bloatware apps
- Cannot install non-market apps
Let us hope that AT&T offers a more open experience on their future devices, because this is not the Android that we know and love.
Updated: Added some quotes of Ralph de la Vega, CEO of AT&T Mobility from Engadget’s 2009 interview. Classic!
“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. And we want to give customers the choice of other applications on that device, not just the same Google applications.”Ralph de la VegaCEO of AT&T Mobility
Update 2: Someone over at xda-developers already posted the hack to get around the non-market apps block. It’s is actually not a hack. Users just need to download the Android SDK and run a few console commands. Tether away.