AT&T: We Block Non-Market Apps to Keep Developers in Check


Ok, perhaps they didn’t say it quite like that, but that’s how it sounded in my head. Upon taking a look at AT&T’s newly-created landing page for all things Android at their site, someone noticed AT&T’s stopped playing hush-mouth regarding their reasoning for blocking non-Market apps on devices that land on their network.


Essentially, they want to make sure developers are held accountable for all apps present on any of AT&T’s customers phones: basically, they don’t want to be held liable if you install something that turns your phone into a bomb (or something less ridiculous). By using the market, they can leverage the ever-so-vocal community that graces the Android market to ensure their users have the utmost protection in downloading apps on their devices.

The strategy makes sense: if your app is malicious, the Android community will call foul and flag the app, and Google can handle all of the dirty work (including taking the app off of the market and remotely wiping it from people’s phones). That’s cool and all, but I don’t think many people are going to take that answer without more of a fight.

[via AndroidGuys]

Quentyn Kennemer
The "Google Phone" sounded too awesome to pass up, so I bought a G1. The rest is history. And yes, I know my name isn't Wilson.

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  1. Hi, I’m an android novice. What apps are there that don’t exist in the market that an android user might call “essential”? Why is this a big deal (clearly, I do not own an Android)

  2. Can’t you still install any app you want on an ATT Blackberry?

  3. I used to have a blackberry with att, and it could install apps from anywhere. Don’t know if they’ve changed that policy, but I don’t see why they care now.

  4. A lot of root applications that can cause damage to your phone if used by an idiot will not be allowed on the market. Also, the android porn store is not on the market.

  5. Hi Nathan, the Swype keyboard is one such app. That’s because it’s still in beta I guess.

    Pretty much anything else you want will be in the market.

  6. Its all propaganda. I hope nobody is smart enough to believe it.

    THEY USE THE MARKET SO THEY CAN CONTROL WHICH APPS ARE AVAILABLE TO YOU. For example, if you have an AT&T sim card in your phone and you go to the market to search for PDANet or EasyTether, YOU WILL NOT FIND IT.Carriers are able to filter market applications which is why AT&T blocks non-market apps.

    Don’t worry though. AT&T Android users can still install non-market apps through ADB like they can on the Backflip.

  7. Or you could buy a non-AT&T branded phone, drop your simcard in it an install non-market applications normally like I did.

  8. At&t has become THE WORST mobile wireless carrier in the country, thanks to the iPhone. Dont buy anything from them. Any Android phone released with their blessing is going to be gimped in one way or another. This should be made as public as possible, as much like metered data, it could spread like a disease to the others, and its mostly only bad for us, the users, in the end if it does, but also for innovation.

  9. @ Nathan, Problem with this is, it destroys the opportunity for developers to utilize a wider beta group for testing before putting an app on the Market. I’m in a beta now for an “outside the Market” app. I found and reported some bugs, and they’re working on perfecting the app. As I’m sure others in the beta test have done.

  10. As others have said, AT&T is full of it, I personally have an AT&T flavor Nexus One. AT&T blocks 3rd party apps to force you to use the official app market, which their SIM cards have the ability to block any app they want from even SHOWING at all in the market so that you don’t know of apps that even exist (let alone, let you choose).

    As another user has posted. PDAnet and EasyTether are such apps that exist in the market, but you will not find it with an AT&T SIM card, even if your phone is unlocked..a way around this if the phone is unlocked and not from AT&T, then you can take the SIM card out and search via Wi-Fi.

    Sadly, most phones from AT&T, you MUST have the SIM card in the phone to even use Wi-Fi.

    I hate AT&T corporate decisions, treating consumers like they are stupid (rip-off plans, higher-rate plans, removing unlimited data but then enabling tethering for $20 more per phone to drain from the same pool of smartphoen usage, etc) but I do appreciate the engineers who develop their network, especially since it is the best in my area.

    If T-Mobile ever gets their act together and upgrades all their GPRS sites to EDGE (as their is no excuse not to from a software standpoint) and actually try to expand their small 3G coverage instead of re-inventing faster 3G for specific areas, then I would of already switched to T-Mobile as they offer a specific 2 smartphone plan for $109.00 (least minutes/unlimited text/data/tethering) that AT&T offers $200.00 (and that is with a 2Gig limit)

    With AT&T if you go over the 2Gig limit you get fined, with T-Mobile if you use too much (around 5gigs) they reserve the right to throttle you (they didn’t me), but still don’t charge you.

  11. What about modded ROM’s? (Cyanogen, etc), those aren’t available on the market. AT&T going to block those?

  12. @Vegeta
    . . From their web site . .
    Expanding to 185 million people
    T-Mobile® is rolling out a network faster than our competitors standard 3G networks*, with HSPA+ to over 100 metropolitan cities and up to 185 million people by the end of the year, giving its customers a faster wireless experience
    . .
    As none of the major players in the US have 3G let alone 4G compatability.. And I’ll say it now, I highly doubt LTE is going to be any different.. I say more power to em if they can get a competing technology (that’s getting good reviews) out the door,

  13. AT&T is also restricting corporate customers from installing internal company-built apps that would never be in the Android market. If only the carriers would stop thinking consumers and realize that Android is poised to dominate enterprises with a platform on smart phones and tablets running specialized corporate apps.

  14. +1 Ron — I write a lot of custom apps for small businesses, and AT&T’s policy would prevent them from installing any custom android app I wrote for them.

  15. You can download PDAnet on verizon androids right?

  16. AT&T sucks hairy goat balls as they are in bed with Jobs. They followed the Draconian antics of Apple yet people still deal with them. No way. I’m not that desperate to be victimized by corporate greed…okay maybe a little from other companies…LOL

    I would never get a crippled Android phone from them unless it was the Nexus One where they can’t do anything to it. Let them have the iPhone. I’ll stick Droid X on Verizon when it comes out!

  17. In the name of democratic process Google lets developers put out anything they like on the Market with the users of Android phones left to sort out the junk!!!

    Many apps are:
    1. Adult in nature: “jackyli”, “sowallpaper.com”, “AROMA PLANNING”

    2. Violate copyrights: “Joon Apps”

    3. Improperly categorized: You can find hundreds of adult photo apps such as those from “AROMA PLANNING” in Games -> Casual

  18. Ahahahahhahaha AT&T sucks

  19. Wow, this just makes me madder… I have never had any problems with AT&T, but their treatment of Android is almost enough to make me drop them just on principle (although I’m sure in time the devs will be able to get around all remaining AT&T restrictions).

    Also, the first three FAQs at the bottom of the page linked are either inaccurate or downright lies.
    1) The Backflip cannot currently be upgraded to a later version of Android, and the update Motorola is working on is for 2.1, not 2.0
    2) The apps that I sideload are normally betas, etc (like swype) and come highly recommended from many users. I would say they are normally safer than installing a random app from the market. And besides, we all know that the real reason AT&T doesn’t want non-market apps is because they don’t want you to be able to tether.
    3) The fact that you can set your home page to google or download a search widget is not the same as setting the default search engine to google, the box that pops up when you hit the hardware search button is still yahoo.

  20. The fact is, what if the app doesn’t work on the phone for some reason? A dev can’t just install a beta anymore. No, to get any level of testing they’d have to launch something potentially unstable on to the Market.

    AT&T, leave Android alone. We all know you love iPhone and Blackberry and it doesn’t mean you can cripple Android.

  21. they’re protecting their iphone marketing. imagine this in the at&t store, “here’s the iphone, but over here is the Android that lets you install ANY app from ANY source you so desire.”

    again, how about “i’m an adult, i will install whatever i want on the device(s) i own, i take responsibility for the consequences, you will have nothing else to say about it, and you’re gonna be happy to have me as a customer.” even if at&t would go for this attitude, they still suck at operating a network and apparently hate their customers.

  22. As long as there is XDA there will be a way to load whatever you want on whatever you want …
    As I see it AT&T underestimated the consumer desire for the iphone, back when it was Cingular it was hands down the best network in my area for voice, data, and versatility (GSM is a must for me), not perfect mind you but the best of what was available. When ATT reaquired Cingular then released the iphone the network went steadily down hill, and is still plummeting. I’m stuck with ATT for now as I have a family plan and our contract cycles do not match up … I’d like to get an android phone, but att is loading their corporate crap on them and locking functionality out, so what’s the point?
    I’d really like to go to verizon as a salesperson told me that for many of their phones they want to include GSM radios in the future … don’t know how true that is, but he said it.

  23. HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAH my ATT plan is up in aug. monday i will pay the 15.00 to for early termination of my contract to get a andriod phone w/ Verizon. ATT doesn’t have 3G in my area(or is ATT 3G just HYPE? heard a bout it for 5 or 6 years now) and i’m not willing to pay for others to have it and not me.

  24. You know, I can see why AT&T and Apple meshed so well together. They both have extremely narrow, close-minded view points and walled-garden type ideas. AT&T is essentially trying to do the same thing with Android apps that Apple is with iPhone apps, or at least as close of an equivalent as is possible. If they truly are blocking apps in the Android Market, in addition to blocking all apps from other sources, that just proves how utterly arrogant they are. Yet another reason why I will never, EVER darken the doorway of an AT&T store. With all the problems the iPhone 4 is having, and the awesome phones Verizon keeps getting, I think we’re going to see Verizon’s subscriber numbers grow, and AT&T’s start shrinking. And if the Verizon iPhone does actually appear (I predict a CDMA/LTE 4G iPhone on Verizon by the end of this year or early next year), well, I just can’t wait to see AT&T get hit where it hurts the most. I mean, hey, I don’t want to see anyone lose their jobs in this economy, but at the same time, top execs of companies need to learn that they can’t keep running over their customers like this.

  25. I saw a full page ad from WILSON in a tennis magazine that was basically promoting a QR code and a scanner download for people that did not have the scanner on their phone. As I did not have a scanner on my AT&T android, I followed instructions, which were really easy…HOWEVER!! AT&T blocked my download because of this ‘security’ gate they have thrown up. I would not think a QR scanner would be a treat…none the less I am sure a large brand like WILSON will not be too happy that a large carrier like AT&T is foiling their ad. Is there any where to report a blocked app that should NOT be blocked??

  26. Wow that really sucks. I like androids because they are open source and at&t are pretty much making it closed source… hopefully verizon won’t follow in their footsteps or else im screwed as well.

  27. welp there goes me trying the TweetDeck Beta.

    you suck AT&T

  28. This is complete bull. Glad I found out about this totally by chance. I was considering getting the Motorola Backflip or Samsung Captivate. But it applies to ALL android phones? Ridiculous. Sorry AT&T..NO SALE

  29. GetJar is offering Angry Birds (adware) for free, and my phone is listed as one that would work, but I can’t install an .apk file, so I have to wait for the Market to get it? That sucks – there are thousands upon thousands of crappy shovelware games & apps coming out of China, and they’re free to clog up the Marketplace, but a quality game (with a proven track record on the iPhone) is denied for some reason.

  30. You can still download all the blocked apps like pdanet and easytether by turning off your phone, removing the sIm card, and when you turn the phone back on it you will be able to find all the blocked apps. install them then turn off your phone and insert your sim card, and when you turn your phone back on you will still be able to use them.

  31. Tried that, no luck!

  32. Hello, I need help with my cell phone Samsung Captive with Android 2.1 model AT&T
    My version if Android don’t have “Unknown sources”, what can I do now, because I can’t use program or games out of Market.
    You can help me?

  33. @xarophti – you nailed it! How the hell are we supposed to beta test our app if you can’t install .apk files? Make all our users install the SDK? Yeah right!!!

    This is weak sauce with extra weak up in it.

  34. there is a way around the app restriction stuff. and it DOES NOT include rooting the phone.

    look on youtube, you can find videos. if you download the android SDK you can Sideload apps to the phone using ADB. Google that stuff and you should be able to figure it out. I installed PDAnet for tethering. yes you can pull your sim card out to download the apps, but my phone wouldnt let me install it still, so I sideloaded it (sideloading is installing it on your phone from your pc)

  35. Ricardo of Brasil – see post #34 I too have a samsung captivate and am on att. my phone is not rooted, warranty still in tact and I have a few apps on my phone that were not in the android market

  36. I’m def going to have to try to find the instrux referred to in 34. Crippling my Android interface to prohibit loading from Unknown Sources is NOT cool. I was wondering “when” PDANet or EasyTether were going to appear in my appmarket…now I see that they are being specifically blocked–along with the new Amazon Android AppStore, so I can’t buy Apps from Amazon…or anyone else except AT&T. I hate when near monopolies work very hard to act like total monopolies. Now that they’ve purchased T-Mobile for 39 billion, it’s time to get the government involved and break them up again, I see.

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