01 November 2010

Androids and iPhones and Carrier Douchebags

I've tried to love the iPhone.
Really... I've tried.

I work on Macs. I only work on Macs. I'd probably refuse to take a job that didn't allow me to work on a Mac.
I'm not an Apple fanboy -- I just like working with tools that allow me to get the job done.

The trouble is that I want to choose how I use these tools. If I think the best way to peel ginger is with a spoon not a vegetable peeler (which is a fact btw) then I want to be able to use a spoon -- even if the person making my tools thinks I should use a peeler.

And this is why I hate the iPhone.
I want the freedom to use my tools the way I want to use them - and I want to be able to customize these tools to work best for me. I honestly don't care what Apple thinks is the best (or "right") tool for the job - or how they think I should use these tools. I know what works for me.

So I use Android phones.
And today's experience with my phone is a perfect illustration of both how well this works for me -- and why it works so poorly.

I got a replacement phone in the mail from TMobile (warranty replacement for a phone that their own over-the-air update had bricked on me). The phone sucked.

As it was when I got it.

There was an enormous amount of bloatware pre-installed on the phone (seriously, does anyone want a copy of Avatar on their phone - with custom video player?). Various standard Android applications had been replaced by inferior custom ones (the calendar that eliminates a number of critical options for creating new Google Calendar events for example). Various interface elements had been replaced but in a half-assed and unintegrated manner (resulting in UI and UX consistency issues all over the place).

And all of this was locked. I could not uninstall or change any of it.

Just like the fucking iPhone. Right?

Well.... no. Not really.

With almost no effort at all I preceded to root my phone (enable superuser access to the phone). This then allowed me to install an app to manage files etc on my phone - including system ones. I used this to delete all the bloatware. I installed a ROM (package) manager application and replaced a bunch of the crap carrier / OEM replacements with the stock Android versions (calendar, wifi tethering, launcher, etc). I deleted all the horrible widgets and replaced them. I changed all the various interface elements and styles to what I wanted (yeah... including changing the system font to Frutiger - so sue me, I like the font).

And now I have a phone that works the way I want it to work.
Not the way the carrier wants me to use it.
Not the way the OEM thinks I should use it.
The way I want to use it.

But here is the problem.
I've now violated my warranty.
I can't accept OTA updates without waiting to see what happens to other guinea pigs.
I'm on my own for support.

And that's bullshit.

I'm not blaming Android (or Google). Yeah... I'm still pissed about the Nexus One, the wireless spectrum auction, and Google blowing it on their chance to castrate the carriers for once and for all. But really... they're offering freedom -- and freedom is not just for me, but for douchebags like cellular carriers.
And that's who I'm blaming this on.

So cellular carrier douchebags. If any of you are reading this, listen up.
We hate you.
No... let me rephrase that...
We all fucking hate you.
We hate you because you suck. We hate you because you refuse to give us what we want and what we need and instead give us what is going to make you the most money -- and then overcharge us for using the devices we don't want. We hate you for your over-promising and under-delivering. We hate you for your lying. We hate everything about you.

And one of these days someone is going to come along and break your back the way that Google could have done.
And we're going to throw a party to celebrate.

You've been warned.


At 5:07 PM, Blogger Dave Selden said...

For powerusers, you're right. You can make an Android phone more useful for yourself if you are a nerd who understands ROMs and exe's of questionable origin.

But for everyone else, iPhone is WAY better. Out of the box, it does 99% of what most people want their phone to do, and it does it well. It's not AT&T's music manager, it's apple's. Which is thoughtful and well-made.

At 6:05 PM, Blogger Anthony said...

Chris-- I made the opposite move from you: I went from 15 years of development, consulting, and web design into opening my coffee bar. I started web development in an X-windows environment when the only way to learn HTML was by copying code from the NCSA. Was funded by IBM to develop web-based teaching environments in '96. I was staying at the Triton doing due diligence on a number of SGI-funded projects when the bubble burst. I am still in touch with many friends in the coding community, and here's the uncanny coincidence: everyone over 30 has exactly the same response to the iPhone (and Android) as you. But the really smart kids in their 20s, eh, not so much. Here's how they see it: for all intents, there is no bloatware on the iPhone. So what if it is somewhat closed-- what it does, it does very well. But there's no real crap preloaded. And the apps that are available are very good. The younger developers are seeing their apps accepted, and they are very excited by seeing their code in use. And they are making tools that make the iPhone better.

I no more care that my iPhone is somewhat closed than I care that my Nikon, Pentax, or Canon cameras are (to a much stricter degree) completly closed. I only wish that those cameras were as extendable with 3rd party apps as my iPhone is. I've changed my point of view to think of my phone as an amazingly efficient, networked documentary tool, not a lightweight computer that I need to be able to mod or program.

ATT sucks and I'd kick them to the curb in a second, but the IPhone doesn't suck. I can't imagine how bad the iphone would have been if Apple had made concessions to ATT that Google has made to TMobile, Verizon, and the other carriers. To me, Android very much feels like a business play, a means to an end. It's like the tea party, with piles of corporate money behind it. And I'm not sure its success is a long-term win if the trade off is the eventual weakening of net neutrality through wireless exclusion deals. Control of the network is much more of a concern to me than control of the handset, and there's very little new information that leads me to believe that Google is on your or my side.



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