With recent news of Verizon and Sprint releasing updates primarily for the purpose of advertising and marketing of third-party apps where does it leave the customer that pays thousands of dollars for phone contracts? And more importantly, what do all those those promoted apps do to Android?
In the last year, Android has become the platform for bloatware, spam and advertising nearly anywhere it fits. It’s nearly impossible to find phones without all the demos and crapware loaded on top with annoying and intrusive notifications. They’re bad for the platform because they unsurprisingly run background processes that can slow the phone to a crawl when you’re relying on it most or playing intense games. T-Mobile’s myTouch 4G ships with apps like Photobucket that frequently notify the user about their existence, sometimes asking for multiple times per day. Swype and Blockbuster and are the other source of our anger for the time-being. Carriers don’t know where their place is in the sale of these phones, and more importantly – they don’t know when it ends.
Some features that come bundled with the myTouch 4G actually add something to the experience like Qik, providing video chat that Android’s natively missing. Swype provides an interesting keyboard that I personally don’t enjoy using but it just loves to run processes in the background — and it can’t be removed without rooting. It hurts the image of Android as a platform and destroys frame rates during gaming and sends the wrong message about software that should ‘just work’ out of the very expensive box. Customers unwilling to root usually don’t care about Qik, Swype, Blockbuster or that annoying PhotoBucket app being on their phone; they care about the battery life problems the background processes cause.
Users think the bad battery life is Android’s fault when in-fact it’s the carriers who’re responsible for the poor performance. But this bloatware has grown, even after the purchase of the device which is where our immediate issue stems from. I’m not sure if their part of the update to pay the developers, but the cost of the contract should include the updates or the phone manufacturers should charge for the updates that add first-party features. Bug fixes should never be charged for, and things that don’t work on the phone when we buy them should be fixed without question or advertising.
Now, when a phone comes with these apps, it’s a different story. They’re listed on the box, on the specs and the carrier is up-front about the so-called “features” — mostly because they legally have to be. Updates are; however, a completely different story. While you have the option whether or not to buy the phone the update is not presented as optional. The option to download now or later exists, but the refusal of these updates requires continuously pressing update later to avoid the ads that come bundled with them.
Will cheap Android phones eventually be funded by these ads? Will carrier greed prevail and continue to dominate phones like the Droid X on Verizon or EVO 4G on Sprint? And is advertising worth the price of ‘free’ updates, really?