Mar 8th, 2010

attbackflipWe were always worried about Verizon Wireless suffocating their Android handsets – but they didn’t. Over the weekend it was AT&T’s turn to launch their first ever Android handset, the Motorola Backflip, and customers are starting to complain about the phone being somewhat crippled. That is… AT&T has removed features that SHOULD be available on the phone by default but chosen to block for one reason or another.

We knew the Backflip was on Android 1.5 and replaced Google Search with Yahoo Search… fine, it’s not the end of the world. But today we’re hearing reports from around the web that not only does AT&T prevent you from deleting their branded apps from your phone, you’re also not able to download non-market Android Apps. You know the option in your settings “download from unknown sources”? Doesn’t exist on the Backflip – you simply can’t do it.

This is sure to make a lot of customers upset and it’ll be interesting to hear if AT&T offers an official reasoning, but my guess is they want to “control” the experience a bit more to protect their customers. Suppose someone finds (on a random website) a “bank account phishing app” and have their identity stolen – you’re pretty much screwed, right? But if AT&T only allows apps through Android Market then they could likely track any malicious activity back to a developer account/individual.

I’m not defending AT&T and saying it’s the RIGHT thing to do, I’m just explaining what I assume their line of thinking to be. This brings the Android experience on AT&T closer to the iPhone experience although Android Market itself is still much less locked down than the App Store. I’m wondering if AT&T will be taking this same approach on ALL of their Android Phones or whether they’re trying to “ease in” to Android or what the deal is.

Here is the frustrated response from an XDAer:

[Android] Motorola Backflip – DON’T BUY, HERE’S WHY!

OK, so I’ve been using a Kaiser/Tilt with Eclair on it for awhile. I’ve spent countless hours drooling after the Nexus One. When AT&T finally got the “Backflip” from Motorola, I just couldn’t resist. I took the plunge.

I should’ve known better. I have plenty of AT&T horror stories, and this is the same carrier that wont allow you to tell your Java apps NOT to ask for permission more than once (making Opera mini a PITA but the only usable browser for it).

There is NO option to install applications from untrusted sources. This means anything on your SD card, downloaded from the web or over your wifi at home WILL NOT WORK. Naturally, you also cannot use the “su” command in terminal.
Motoblur is nice I guess, but the uninstallable AT&T paid apps, the limitations of 1.5 firmware (ie: no google navigator, no voice search) and the locked-to-yahoo-search-bar are enough to get me to say NO to any further AT&T abuse.

With the Kaiser’s bloatware, they removed/hid apps from you so you wouldn’t try to use them and replaced them with their crapware.

AT&T does not know the meaning of “open” and they do not understand Android. You are not buying an Android phone when you buy from AT&T.
You are buying a device LOCKED to a market with a smaller number of applications that the iPhone (I don’t use Apple products either ) forced to use a lesser search engine for your most convenient option and subject to losing any application that was once on the market but then removed. You can’t install your own apps or even test them on your device. Period.

Also on my first day of using it I got a number of “Force Close” messages including on the built-in applications (ie: Motorola’s flavor of the desk clock).

It’s decent hardware, it feels pretty zippy to me, but this is exactly why I WONT buy an iPhone.

Screw you, AT&T. I will make sure that everyone I know is properly informed about this crippled device that is nothing like the Android experience is supposed to (expected to!) be.

/endrant phew, going to go breathe for awhile.

This certainly isn’t a welcome development for AT&T Android fans – will this change anyone’s mind who was thinking of getting the Backflip or an upcoming AT&T Android Phone?

[XDA via A&M]

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