There was an announcement this week about a new alliance between Google and Verizon Wireless. The short of it is, Google and Verizon Wireless (VW) will be working together to deliver several Android-powered devices on the VW network.
Android is an open source mobile operating system (OS). Yeah, open source. That means, you or I can go download the source code for the entire operating system and make changes to it if we please. Android is also an open architecture, in that applications developed for the OS have full-reign. Applications can change anything from the user interface (UI) to how a phone dials a number.
My confusion with this whole deal stems from Verizon Wireless’ past record with one huge issue: control. The company is notorious for locking devices to a mere fraction of their manufacturer’s default functionality. This is always done in order to control the things their customers can do on their network.
VW “customizes” the user interface of nearly all devices sold on their network. These changes are primarily made to prevent you, dear phone owner, from using the features that are built into your phone. That’s right! If you have a phone that was new within the past 3 years or so, it most likely has the capability to install custom ring tones. If you are a VW customer, I guarantee you cannot get custom ring tones on your phone without paying VW a monthly fee, or a per download fee, to get the simplest of tones you may have already downloaded to your computer. That last statement excludes only skilled geeks that hack around these limitations.
Another great “benefit” VW customers gain from the customized user interfaces is slow to unresponsive interfaces. The developers working for VW do not appear to be very talented programmers. The interface of nearly every device I have owned that has been ravaged by these folks is a horribly-performing, gaudy-looking, cluttered mess.
It’s just what Verizon Wireless does to its devices; that is cripple them.
So again, I am astonished at this deal. How in the world will Verizon Wireless maintain a stance of openness with these new Android devices? Will I be able to remove the inevitable garbage that the VW developers will come up with for these devices? Will I be able to browse the Adroid Market/Library and install any application I want to on my device?
What Google Will Not Stand For
Google will simply not stand for Verizon Wireless taking control over devices that make use of the Android OS. I am still concerned about VW’s track record though. I can only see them making every effort to control yet another class of devices. The public does not have access to the actual deal made between the two, but I certainly hope that Google stood by their morals on this one.
Bullies have never done well against Google. A case-and-point is the whole issue with Apple and getting Google Voice on the iPhone. Verizon Wireless is a well-known bully. How will this deal turn out? I guess, we can only wait and see.
The Future of the Mobile Market
If this deal plays out as announced, Verizon Wireless supporting an open device OS without governing it with their domination-nation, the mobile market will spike for the better. The new kid in town (Android) will finally have made enough friends to compete with the popular one (iPhone).
We need more of this kind of competition in order for true innovation to spark the necessary growth in this country (U.S.). We are well behind other countries in the mobile market. Most of Europe enjoys the next generation mobile infrastructure (currently, 4G) years before we begin to see it here. While there may be some provider issues abroad, generally mobile communication is much more affordable than here in the States. Our providers stifle the entire industry with their archaic practices and Band-aid methodologies.
My Final Take
I am actually excited about the deal between Google and Verizon Wireless. I know it seems surprising after reading all the above. The fact is, my family left VW last year for AT&T. I was so sick of the “device-crippling” that I just had to bail. One of the reasons Verizon Wireless has never been known for its cutting-edge devices is mostly due to their locking practices in order to make a buck on every single transaction you initiate from your VW device.
Now, I am unsatisfied with the coverage of AT&T. Granted, it was already second to VW, but it was acceptable for our needs a year ago. Since then, iPhone usage has snowballed and proven my point about our provider infrastructure problems. I feel certain that no matter which provider Apple teamed with, the iPhone would have totally discredited the network upon saturating it with streams of data requests. None of our providers can support that kind of traffic. AT&T is paying that price now.
I’ll switch back to VW for a truly open Android device on a network with the best overall coverage in the country. However, I still feel that all of the underlying infrastructure needs a total makeover. It won’t be long before VW suffers the same fate as AT&T, when an army of new Android users flood their network.
What is your take on this deal?