Oct 17 AT 3:06 PM Dustin Earley 53 Comments

Motorola wants to do stock Android, but carriers push for customizations


It’s no secret that part of the reason carriers were so quick to embrace Android in its infancy had a lot to do with how flexible the OS, and the manufacturers making devices, were. Devices like the Verizon Droid XXL Mega Battery 2 HD 4G LTE, which will never be updated, are a direct product of the kind of control carriers enforce on manufacturers. You have to wonder, do manufacturers just lie down and bend over to every demand carriers belt out? Or do they push back, wishing it didn’t have to be this way?

In a recent sit-down with reporters, Motorola Senior Vice President, Product, Rick Osterloh, shared his thoughts on stock Android, carrier customizations, and where Motorola fits into the equation:

Going forward, we’re going to try to be as close to the base as we can be, because we think that’s the right thing for users. We think users also want fast upgrades and upgrades for their phones over the long haul, so we’re going to be focus on that as well. It’s a little bit different than what a lot of OEMs are doing and certainly what Motorola did in the past, but going forward that’s going to be our strategy.Rick OsterlohMotorola

It would seem that, from here on out, Motorola would have no problem being a hardware company. And letting Google do all the software work. The new Motorola thinks stock Android is what’s best for users, a far cry from how they admittedly treated Android in the past.

This is great news. Consumers and enthusiasts alike have been clamoring for stock Android ever since Motorla abandoned it after the release of the original Droid (the only exception being the Xoom). Having their Senior Vice President of Product openly talk about embracing stock Android is a refreshing change. But this is only half the battle.

Osterloh’s exact words were, “We’re going to try to be as close to the base as we can be.” What exactly does that mean? When pressed on the matter, and asked if carriers were the ones pushing for custom devices, it was revealed that Motorola is, “Going to have to do some customization. Our partners sometimes want customizations. Our interest is to make it as close to Android as possible and generally we negotiate somewhere in the middle.”

To say that, if it was up to Motorola they’d be shipping all Nexus devices, but Verizon pushes them into customizing Android, may be over simplifying the situation. But that’s the gist of it. Manufacturers like Samsung and HTC genuinely believe their changes to Android are for the better. It’s what sets them apart from the crowd. Motorola is heading in the opposite direction, but like a dog on a chain, can only run so far.

Without the advertising and special treatment Verizon gives Droid phones, Motorola would be at a huge disadvantage. Things can always change though. We’ve yet to see how strong the firewall between Motorola and Google really is. It’s going to be another year until Google’s Motorola starts releasing devices. It takes a long time to develop phones, so any devices you see now or for the next couple quarters were most likely designed before CEO Dennis Woodside, formerly of Google, took the reigns.

As discouraging as Motorola’s comments on still customizing for carriers are, the fact that they’re changing at all is a good sign that Google is rubbing off on them. We’re certainly excited to see where Motorola is headed in the future.

Source: The Verge

Dustin Earley: Tech enthusiast; avid gamer; all around jolly guy.

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  • http://androidandme.com Taylor Wimberly

    solution = unlocked phone + pre-paid service

    • Adam

      That doesn’t work for everyone. Some people can’t do prepaid if they want good, fast connection.

      • http://androidandme.com Taylor Wimberly

        You are correct. Pre-paid is not for everyone. 4G HSPA+ 42 Mbps is still pretty darn fast though. Even if you can’t do prepaid, you should still consider an unlocked, non-carrier branded device.

        • thejuiceman236

          Taylor: I have done some research already but is their any indication that the upcoming LG Nexus will support HSPA+ 42 Mbps?

          Also, do you insure your unlocked devices? If so, how? THANK YOU!

          • http://www.jaxidian.org/update/ jaxidian

            I think all expectations are that it will support HSPA+ 42Mbps but given that we still can’t get an exact lock on the specs, nothing is guaranteed.

          • http://androidandme.com Taylor Wimberly

            Specs of the LG Nexus have not been announced, but I would be surprised if it did not support HSPA+ 42 Mbps. I do not buy insurance on my unlocked devices, but I have heard of retail stores like Best Buy still selling you their replacement plan if they carry the device.

          • thejuiceman236

            Thanks. I am a little wary of going without insurance even though i baby my phones.

          • http://www.focuszonedevelopment.com Homncruse

            Insurance on your mobile devices is a pretty big scam. Most of the readily available insurance policies don’t cover the incidents which are most likely to damage your phone to the point that you’ll need to file an insurance claim. Read the fine print before you sign up for any insurance policy for your mobile devices (unlocked or not).

            IF the insurance policy is good and thorough, then it actually makes more sense to insure an unlocked device purchased at full-retail because it was that much more money out of pocket and the carrier has no (and shouldn’t have) obligation to replace it.

          • masterpfa

            On a personal point of view and I realise this question was aimed at Taylor, but in the 20+ years of owning phones I have only ever lost 1 phone and any other defects have to an extent been covered by the manufacturers warranty which in the UK is 1 year.

            I personally do not insure my phone as my household contents insurance will cover loss or theft. If a phone has been damaged and would need to be replaced I pay for it out of the £2500+ I saved from not having separate phone insurance.

            I have for the past 2 years gone along the route of off contract phones especially after my provider refused to repair my phone which went faulty just after the years warranty expired, so I found myself having a contact but no phone.

            Enter stage left my Nexus One which was used for the remaining duration of my contract and on my SIM only contracts since replaced only by the GNEX.

            In the UK SIM only contracts offer you huge savings and are as fully featured with full Data, Talk and Text as other contracts with subsidised phones are (I have unlimited everything for £15.50 a month)

        • Richard Yarrell

          I agree here HSPA PLUS 42MPS NETWORK is more than enough for daily use. I use it on my Galaxy S3 and will be using it for my Galaxy Note 2.

          • DarkStar

            Same here. I went from a Note to a One X to a Gnex and in daily use I don’t notice the speed difference on ATT network. Of course on speed test I was pulling down 25-45mbps on the note and box compared to the 8-12mbps with the gnex. In real use though I see no difference.

          • Richard Yarrell

            NO ONE CARES!! watch how mad he gets, I posed a comment over @slashgear saying no matter where you go people still vote you down and I don’t know why. So he said who cares people at AndroidandMe are stupid anyway, So I voted him down I feel good now.

        • ..:(Nexus):..

          Yess ! I dont have to worry about that here in india , all phones are sold unlocked , and have freedom to choose carrier sim card (postpaid or prepaid) no stupid apps or customisations.. EPIC system , but very limited 4G ..

      • Max.Steel

        I’m on T-Mobile’s prepaid and I get a good, fast connection.

    • Jon Garrett

      Better solution, do what apple does and tell carriers “its my way or the highway”

      • thel0nerang3r

        Unfortunately for Android manufactures that is seldom an option. If you want IOS you get Apple, if you want Android you get LG, HTC, Samsung, Motorola, ZTE, Hawei. If Motorola were to say “no”, VZW and every carrier can go ask the other manufacturers. Also, during the Apple trial didn’t Samsung say that GNex sales were “insignificant”?

      • ChrisLH

        Pretty much what thel0nerang3r said. Apple is in a much different situation than Google is in with Android simply because there are other manufacturers out there and Verizon can just drop Motorola and find someone else willing to play ball.

  • skugern

    Providing a consistent customer experience across devices via stock Android is a smart move.

    • ChrisLH

      Smart for Google, not smart for the carriers or the manufacturers. The carriers want to develop brand loyalty for themselves, not for Google. Same with the manufacturers. A consistent experience means its easier for a user to switch to a different carrier or to a different phone manufacturer.

      • J. Mc

        Pretty easy solution there – MAKE BETTER HARDWARE THAN THE OTHER GUY.
        Since the G1, I’ve been a dyed-in-the-wool HTC *fanboy*, but no more, largely because of their stated intent of not doing vanilla Android.
        From here on out, it’s bone-stock on the best hardware that gets my money. And if a company wants to keep my loyalty, they best have the best hardware next time I’m in upgrade mode.

        As for the carriers? EFF the carriers. European-style dumb pipes are what we want, and off-contract, month-to-month, prepaid, etc…shop relentlessly for the best deal, always. I will ETF out of a 24 month contract one month in if they change policy, add a data cap, act poorly towards a customer, have tethering fees, or are politically active in causes I have an opposing opinion on. As consumers, our only power is our dollars, and as long as we keep shelling them out to VZW with their Big Red Replacement market and apps and bullshit, all we’re going to keep getting is the Big Red walled garden. So the equation is the same for the carriers, really – give me the best signal, widest throughput, and least intrusive experience possible and I’ll stay loyal right up to the microsecond someone beats you.

        So I guess in a way I agree with you – it does make it easier to switch, and it should. Corporations shouldn’t play BS games to lock in a customer base – just be better than the competition.

    • AndresGalvan98

      As much as I agree with you, I don’t. It’s a smart move in the sense that updates will be faster and your phone will be upgraded for longer. But if each manufacturer doesn’t have it’s own recognizable skin, there won’t be anything separating Android from Windows Phone. There wouldn’t be anything separating phones like the 1S, GS3, 1X, DRMAXX, etc. Also, I love stock Android on my N7, but I wouldn’t like it on my phone. I can’t live without HTC Sense. I’m sure many people feel the same way.

  • http://droidsamurai.blogspot.com DroidSamurai

    I wonder what he means by customization — if he’s referring to the bloatware that carriers insist to install onto a phone. I can live with that, as long as I can remove/hide them. Frankly, I have a hard time believing that carriers want to skin a phone further than that.

    • inviolable

      Why is it hard to believe?

    • Richard Yarrell

      Verizon is the main culprit here. Motorola catering to Verizon and it’s dreaded bloatware filled suit of applications. It’s a shame that carriers can control these situations. Verizon followed by At&t are the WORST EVER in this arena of bloatware filled devices.

      • DroidRocka

        Richard please go somewhere…Verizon can be the “main culprit” but don’t forget how much press Moto received when they pushed out their Droid line. Bloatware is always there no matter what, you can deal with it or let it go

      • squiddy20

        “Motorola catering to Verizon and it’s dreaded bloatware filled suit of applications”… which can be disabled in ANY Android 4.0+ device. Besides, what do you call all the crap that comes with Touchwiz? Certainly not *gasp* bloatware!?

  • http://www.jaxidian.org/update/ jaxidian

    I’m hesitant to believe him. I’ve heard a VP from Motorola say that they would offer to unlock all phones released in 2012. I’ve yet to see it. I’m not drinking the kool-aid until I know it’s good.

    • Hom0ncruse

      final nail in the coffin for Motorola

  • Ardrid

    And this is why Google needs to put its foot down. A Nexus based Motorola device would be fantastic. One more reason to leave the carriers behind…

  • Gill Android

    Seems like a small step but in the right direction. Hope other manufactureres follow suite

  • Dr.Carpy

    Sell through the play store. Offer sanctuary to anyone who wants to escape the bloat. At this point carriers have unbelievable amounts of power, all to the detriment of the user experience. I buy an unlocked phone and ride it out. Any good online phone provider will offer you a warranty of some sort. I have my Nexus 1, and I had the Galaxy Note. Keep an old phone around if you need to send the new phone for repair. Carriers only can have the power customers give. My advice buy unlocked , and live free!

    • ChrisLH

      I’ve never bought direct from Google; however I know several people who have and the experience hasn’t been good. Google does not understand how to provide customer support, and when you sell hardware, you have to provide customer support because there will be issues.

      As a developer, I can tell you that dealing with Google in any sort of customer service related capacity is a pain in the ass. They simply don’t devote personnel to customer service, so problems/issues are addressed through forums/faqs and response times are inadequate.

  • Joel


    Android is google’s OS…
    Google owns Motorola…

    Carriers are the middleman here…they should be lucky they even have a say in the first place. Dont abuse it, they should shut their mouths and stop getting on consumers’ bad side.

  • http://droidsamurai.blogspot.com DroidSamurai

    I just think of something funny — what if next time Google updates Android and let Motorola show it to the carriers and says it’s the latest and greatest Blur. Touting how much more it offers over the stock Android (the last published version). I wonder if the carrier executives will just cluelessly nod their head, and say “Great customization, let’s do it.”

    If you’ve ever gone to a meeting with people who ban an idea just for the sake of “BANNING IDEAS”, you know what I mean.

  • SGB101

    if this is true, why arnt they doing a nexus device? if they done a razor max style phone, quad tegra, with the 3000ma battery and stock JB (or above) and 32gb , it would fly off the shelves

    then they could leverage off the success of the ‘nexux Max’ to drop blur all together.

    o and i think i just christened it the Nexus Max

  • randyw

    The problem is that the typical cell phone buyer does not know a thing about stock android. They buy a phone, or any device because it looks good and does what they want it to do. They like Sense,Motoblur, Touchwiz ect. Folks like us are a small percentage of device buyers. So the Carriers give them what they want. But I do think that each OEM should offer the stock android experience to those who want it. Heck sell them all in the Play Store. But then you can Root and Rom any phone to run Stock Android.

  • VN

    I am not sure I understand why are the careers so scared of stock android? I understand they might want to add a few apps specific to their network. Do they inssist for UI customizations as well?

    • ChrisLH

      They want to develop brand loyalty for themselves, not for Google/Android.

    • killrgummibear

      i think it’s cuz stock doesn’t sell well to average users. like someone mentioned before ppl like us that know most everything about a phone and how to customize it ourselves are a small percentage. they wanna sell to the masses who have absolutely no idea what the phone in their hand is really capable of. so they add their bloatware to sell music, games, ringtones and wallpapers thru them knowing that the average user doesn’t know what apps to use n how to add these things on their own. also the UIs that come preloaded have those fancy cookie cutter widgets n features that are easier to sell to them. if not they’d be there all day with a customer explaining what to download to get a specific look on their device. so part of the non stock blame falls on consumers for wanting everything handed to them right out the box working how they want it without doing the work themselves and just customizing it. it’s all sad but true.

  • Jehu

    It would be nice if Motorola put out devices for T-Mobile. It’s bee too long. The Droid series is on Verizon, and that’s cool, but I’ve been dying for a phone with stock Android, the great radios Motorola is known for, a huge battery without giving up too much thinness. the very open TI OMAP architecture on a good GSM network with great speeds (42 Mpbs, and LTE for later). That theoretical phone would be better than the Nexus ideas that are floating around. AT&T is not where I want to go. I like T-Mobile, I just wish the hardware makers weren’t so damn high on exclusivity. Samsung making their new phones for every network is a great idea. I hope Moto does the same. They have so much potential.

  • renyo

    Hey Google! Seems Nokia is in trouble too… Wanna give them a hand?

  • LaNsLyDe

    I read somewhere a ways back that the carriers do this because it is easier to sell devices if they had multiple skins versus everything having the same look except for how the phone is made.

    It makes sense to me, 15 android phones all with the same OS look and feel. Would encourage manufacturers to push the bar on actual handset design though. :/

  • Monk

    Since the milestone, all international moto phones are locked with encrypted bootloaders because Motorola wanted and not because of the carriers.

    Most carriers outside US don’t ask for that (they also do not customize it), so it’s motorola the evil here. They also promised to unlock phones when a FB crusade was organized last year (still waiting) and refuse to update perfect capable phones with serious bugs and never delivered (last victim is the Atrix).

    Until they change their policy and I see REAL improvements, they lost me as a customer. I can choose any other brand in my carrier, they are all unlockable except moto.

    • grellanl

      Precisely – Moto has been using this BS excuse for far too long, even now when they’re supposed to have mended their ways. If there were any truth to this, they would have sold the international Milestone, and every GSM device since, off-contract with an unlocked bootloader.

      I, like others, bought the Milestone SIM-unlocked from Expansys as soon as it came out, not from any carrier (in fact no carrier was even selling the device yet at that stage). As far as I’m concerned we were tricked as we weren’t told they had changed the game following the original Droid (which Google had pressured them to keep open). There was no carrier to blame, either: that was all Moto’s doing.

  • Chad

    I always felt that if that Razr Maxx came in stock Android, It be a sure fire hit for Motorola.

    • ChrisLH

      Nope, because Verizon wouldn’t push it since it wouldn’t have Verizon’s own apps/bloatware/customization on there. There’s no incentive for Verizon (or any of the carriers) to push a stock Android device compared to a device with the carrier branding on it – so they don’t.

      Look at the huge advertising campaign that Verizon pushed with the entire Droid family. It was so big that Droid and Android almost became synonymous because of it. Yeah, the original Droid was stock, but that’s the only one and it was used as the launching pad for many Verizon-branded Droid devices since Android was a relative unknown at that time. Everything else has been heavily customized.

      Manufacturers are the same – why let Google/Android get all of the branding recognition when you can develop your own? Otherwise, its much easier for users to just switch to a different manufacturer for a phone, meaning that the manufacturers then have to spend a lot more time and resources differentiating their hardware. Popping Sense/MotoBlur/TouchWiz software on the phone is a much easier way to develop loyalty to the brand.

  • h0ruza

    The carriers needs can be fulfilled with a theme and a selection of well made apps.

    Come on Moto. You could make the difference

  • superusermode

    In the end, it doesn’t make much difference. The only reason Motorola wants to go closer to stock Android is less work to get an update out, and that’s it. That said, it won’t make much difference when the updates for these devices stop after the device is a year (unless it’s a Verizon device), despite the OHA 18 months of updates agreement.

  • goku2k

    If only carriers/manufacturers would allow the devices to have unlocked bootloaders. That would solve the problem – run a crappy default bloated OS, or let people use it like a PC and install what ever OS they want.

  • kookeetree

    Customizations? or bloatware?

    • klcow92

      bloatware more often

  • melan26

    I would really love customization on a phone but my gosh, all those that come with it makes me want to hurl my phone, it’s taking up so much space and not enough left for other things that you would want to add.

  • dutrak