Mobile // Mobile Devices
Commentary
6/30/2010
10:35 AM
Eric Zeman
Eric Zeman
Commentary
Connect Directly
RSS
E-Mail
50%
50%

AT&T Attempts To Head Off Android Market Criticism

AT&T has been bashed for banning its Android phones from installing non-Android Market apps. In an attempt at some damage control, AT&T tries to explain why.

All Android phones have a little permissions switch that users can turn on/off that allows them to install applications from outside the Android Market. This has been a key feature for me as an Android user, because I often test beta and pre-release software that isn't available from the Android Market.

On AT&T's two Android phones -- the Motorola Backflip and HTC Aria -- this feature is absent, thus preventing users from installing non-Market apps. By blocking what Android refers to as "untrusted" apps, it reduces the flexibility of the platform.

Why is this? AT&T is, as far as I know, the only U.S. carrier to block off-market applications from Android devices. Sprint, T-Mobile and Verizon Wireless all allow their Android devices to install off-market apps. I really have to wonder if this is because of some contractual obligation AT&T has with Apple and the iPhone, or if it's simply because AT&T is mean-spirited.

Well, it turns out neither is the case, if you believe what AT&T has to say about the issue. It recently stated, "The Android Market, managed by Google, is open to all developers. There is no approval process for applications, they are all accepted by default and Google has stated that they place apps in the Android Market within 24 hours of their submission. AT&T selected Android Market as the exclusive source for applications because it forces developers to be accountable for the apps they submit. If the Android community has issues with an app, the app can be flagged and removed. This minimizes the risk of malicious apps harming customers and provides more protection to the customer’s private data stored on the phone."

The short answer, then, is that AT&T is protecting its customers. I can understand this viewpoint. After all, who will Aria and Backflip customers complain to if an application bricks their device? AT&T. But I still don't agree with it.

Will most users even know about off-Market apps? Probably not. Plenty of advanced users, however, will be miffed that they can't install beta or pre-release applications. It feels like a close-minded approach, if you ask me, and AT&T is making the assumption that things will go bad if users have access to non-approved applications. The whole decision feels very "Apple like." It's a shame, really.

Comment  | 
Print  | 
More Insights
Building A Mobile Business Mindset
Building A Mobile Business Mindset
Among 688 respondents, 46% have deployed mobile apps, with an additional 24% planning to in the next year. Soon all apps will look like mobile apps and it's past time for those with no plans to get cracking.
Register for InformationWeek Newsletters
White Papers
Current Issue
InformationWeek Tech Digest - July 22, 2014
Sophisticated attacks demand real-time risk management and continuous monitoring. Here's how federal agencies are meeting that challenge.
Flash Poll
Video
Slideshows
Twitter Feed
InformationWeek Radio
Live Streaming Video
Everything You've Been Told About Mobility Is Wrong
Attend this video symposium with Sean Wisdom, Global Director of Mobility Solutions, and learn about how you can harness powerful new products to mobilize your business potential.