Hey, you. Over there banging away on your laptop in outrage. Need to let you in on a little secret. The Dell Aero isn't crippled. Neither is the Motorola Backflip. And you need to stop saying they are.

No, we don't agree with AT&T's decision to not allow unsigned apps on the Backflip and, according to Phone News, the Dell Aero, which isn't even out yet. We'd much prefer the carriers follow in Android's spirit of openness. But you know what? It's AT&T's decision not to.

So before you start an online petition, before you even think -- let alone type -- the word class-action lawsuit, and before you hop on Twitter to rail against The Man, answer these questions: Were you being forced to buy either of these phones? Sure, they're the only Android fare AT&T has to offer, and that sucks. But neither of these phones is crippled. (At least not the Backflip -- we haven't seen the Dell actually turned on yet.) They do e-mail. They have a Web browser. They purchase, download and install apps from the Android Market just fine -- just like every other Android phone.

What they don't do is run apps outside of the Market. That's AT&T's decision, and that's just not that big a deal for the vast population of Android users. So think about this before you declare it DOA, especially before you even get a chance to use it.

/rant

 
There are 50 comments

draken says:

If the carrier disables something that was on the phone originally, I'd consider it crippled. Verizon has been crippling their phones for years. They are starting to ease up a bit, but still not totally hands off yet. This is why I'm looking forward to the N1 on Verizon...someday.

diverbelow says:

I totally agree. The android OS is open source. Yes, the phone maker and/or a carrier can do take the source code and customize to fit their needs, but seriously... as an ex-AT&T customer, and the Motorola backflip was my FIRST android phone, I would think this is how all android phones are, I would either trade it in or use it, and when someone talks about an awesome app and I try to install it and couldn't then what?!? The bloat ware AT&T installs/pushes to their phones is silly. Their bloat ware slows the phone way down.

I really hope the backflip is able to root the phone and take out all the AT&T crap and make it a decent phone.

jerbear says:

While I agree about the whining and the right of a carrier to release a phone however they want, I can;t agree that this behavior is not sometimes a gimping, nerfing, crippling etc. behavior. When a phone comes with something like a GPS radio that works perfectly well with, say, Google Maps but the carrier disables the GPS via software, that is crippling the phone or deliberately blocking a feature the phone has. I remember that going on with some of my old WM phones. The Sprint versions had the GPS working just fine but the Verizon versions had to be flashed with modified Sprint ROMs to access the built-in hardware. In that case, Verizon was looking for a way to monetize GPS as a feature rather than just allow access to the hardware in the phone.

Still, I totally agree about people getting over it as well. If you don't like ATT's only Android offerings or a disabled GPS on Verizon, there are 2 other major carriers you can use instead. Competition only works when people are willing to leave the deficient company and spend their money elsewhere. If you keep paying for what you consider to be less than acceptable then you are just feeding the problem.

VDub2174 says:

I agree with Phil on this.

milrtime83 says:

It isn't that they don't do what we want. They don't do what pretty much every other Android phone does. I would call that crippled. Worthy of a lawsuit? No, but still crippled.

kerpow says:

I think removing a feature from a phone is the very definition of crippled.
Say Mr. Android goes over to at&t and says I'd like to join your organization. The at&t boss man says get em boys, and they break his kneecap "functionality". Mr. Android is then crippled. Not totally crippled... he can still wave his hands and talk. But crippled none the less.
Being tired of the complainers doesn't make at&ts actions any less disappointing.

corydunbar says:

i agree, If a carrier deliberately removes a feature from a pone that it was designed with, that is crippling.

Analogy: Your a sprinter, I'm your coach, I chop off all your toes and then Your fans and I expect you to compete at the same level. NOT GONNA HAPPEN!

People are designed to have toes, just as Android phones are designed to run ANDROID! not (Android - ... - ...= AT&Tdroid). That said its AT&T's phone to mess with, they're just the retarded coach that like taking toes!

Droid_Moment says:

I love your analogy :D

anthonyzul says:

I agree with Phil here. The phones aren't crippled. They do exactly what the carrier intended they do. If you don't like what the phone does or doesn't have, then don't buy the phone. Simple as that. I swear, I've never seen a bigger bunch of whiners and little premadonnas then I've seen amongst the android community. You all really need to get over yourselves.

jerbear says:

"premadonnas"? :D

dougsyo says:

OK, I won't say crippled. Instead I'll say lame.

My present phone (WM6.5 on ATT) is good for a while longer. If ATT persists in this silliness, I will be looking at alternatives.

Droid_Moment says:

It is still crippled regardless of your post Phil... a phone that cannot perform the things the owner wants is crippled.

AT&T cripples phones as much as they do people.

It's a double standard.

fadydizzle says:

That's so ironic that YOU can '/rant' about when other people rant. Sure, doesn't affect most of the population and yada yada, but when something affects you personally (I'm guessing you're not getting the backflip), then I'm sure you'll have two cents to throw in about it.

PS: I don't really care as I'm a sprint user enjoying my Hero as I wait for the Evo.

Droid_Moment says:

I know right!?

It's the same thing lol complaining about the people complaining about the phone is much worse

I patiently await for my NONcrippled EVO

JONNNathannn says:

What a stupid post.

It doesn't matter that no one's being "forced" to buy these phones. THEY ARE CRIPPLED. Why? Hmm, how about (1)they're missing universal Android features and (2)Google has been removed for Yahoo.

Yeah, it's AT&T's right to do whatever they want, but it doesn't change the fact that these devices offer CRIPPED ANDROID EXPERIENCES.

Wow. It's not that hard to understand. It's not about "doing what you want" it's about "doing what every other Android phone does." If Verizon took the N1, removed the ability to install apps outside the store and threw Yahoo on it, guess what? It's crippled compared to other N1s.

Just because you write for this site it doesn't make what you say right or more valid than anyone else. You're wrong, crippled is crippled, it would help to stop being so biased and defensive. All Android phones on AT&T will be crippled to give the upper hand to the iPhone, who is allowed Google Search. That's how it goes.

p4trickh#IM says:

Be careful, talk bad about the editors and they might just send you a nasty-gram :D

No really they will, it's be done :-|

Gameboy70 says:

Hopefully Google curates a set of "Google Experience" phones on its google.com/phone site to distinguish full-featured Android phones from crippled ones.

Phones like the Backflip weren't designed to be "Android" (what I call "Google Experience") phones per se, but feature phones that can boast access to thousands of apps from an existing market, which will probably prove to be more successful than a carrier catalog of J2ME apps. AT&T and Motorola don't really care about Android except that it's open source, giving them the ability to put on Yahoo/Bing as the default search engine and Motoblur as the UI; the fact that Android is the plumbing is incidental.

dr4stic says:

I'm gonna take a stab at this one from a different tack.

I buy phones unsubsidized so that I can a) avoid being on contract, or b) get the phone I want. Years ago, all I had to worry about was having a quad-band phone I could SIM unlock. These days you almost HAVE to buy a phone from AT&T if you want the 3G bands to work. Either them or one of the Canadian carriers as they share the same 3G frequencies. That's typically the makings of a monopoly.

At least with cable companies and/or local phone companies, it's a "natural" monopoly because the service infrastructure is difficult to lay out and only a few companies ever really do this.

So AT&T has created a situation where it's difficult to buy phones that will work with their network, an unfriendly marketplace for hardware. Why then, when they sell me a phone I pay full price for, is it not considered crippled when I can't change the OS installation on the machine? Keep in mind, these things are essentially computers, they aren't just phones anymore.

Let me put it another way... If you bought a Dell, or an HP, or whatever... and the BIOS was modified so that it would ONLY run Windows XP. No linux (android) for you. Worse yet, down the road as Windows 7 comes out, the BIOS doesn't get an update provided and your shiny old computer won't let you run Windows 7. A machine that doesn't perform like all other machines sounds crippled to me.

rufflez says:

Easier way to put it would be:
You bought this nice HP computer. Does a lot of what you want... You gotta buy HP approved programs though from HP website. All other programs will be denied permission to install with no priviliges from an administrator.
ATT seems to like this theme, since the iPhone is the same way without hacking it. VZW did this crap too before the Droid/Eris came out. My LG Dare had limited apps. I was told many would be available shortly after I bought it. 1 year later, there were like 20 apps. Ebay costs $3.99 a month and was no different from the mobile ebay site, which was free considering you needed the internet package anyway. Want to install a ringtone that you didn't buy from VZW at a higher price than the full MP3 would have cost? Nope. A way around that was bitpim, A primitive UI program that was hard to use for non-tech savvy. I tried giving directions on how to use it through webchat.... we both gave up as I hadn't used it in a while and she didn't know what she was doing.

Yes, its crippled, in more ways than 1. Ironically you guys have a post 2 posts newer about how ATT 3G maps are off their website. This further validates its crippled.

SHaitien says:

In my opinion, and it seems in many others opinion the Backflip is "crippled". Yes as you state, "They do e-mail. They have a Web browser. They purchase, download and install apps from the Android Market just fine", but there are things that this phone should be able to do that it can not because AT&T has "crippled" it.

Great discussion. Pretty sure I said up front that this is a bad thing. But there's crippled, and then there are missing features. Removing the phone app would cripple it. Removing gmail would cripple it. Removing the Android Market would cripple it. This is just a missing feature, and to say the phone is otherwise unusable is irresponsible, especially seeing as how nobody -- us included -- has seen the Aero even powered on.

Now, some individual attention:

@corydunbar: Don't think I'd equate the inability to load unsigned apps with losing an appendage. Maybe I just value my fingers and toes more than some people. Again, see above.

@dougsyo: lol. "Lame" is better.

@Droid_Moment: You're correct. This post did not manage to give the Aero the ability to load unsigned apps. I'm good, but I'm not that good. :p

@JONNathannn: You've got a lot of qualifying there. I never said anything about "crippled Android experiences." We're talking about calling a phone "crippled" as in the royal "This is a POS under any circumstances" crippled. I disagree that the inability to load unsigned apps significantly changes the Android experience. And while parity among smartphones would be nice, it ain't gonna happen. Oh, and the fact that you're even able to start your comment with "What a stupid post" shows that we do, in fact, care about letting others have their say. It's about the discussion, no matter how juvenile comments may be.

p4trickh#IM says:

Nobody likes a whiner, but we're consumers and we're allowed to bitch with both our voices and our dollars. The problem isn't that the phone doesn't do what we "want" it to do its the fact that it had a piece of it removed for the sole purpose of limiting choice and consumers deserve choice whether or not most will use it. Everyone has already listed plenty of good metaphors so I won't jump on that band wagon but to sum it up nobody likes to purchase or pay for something that is less than what it should be. So I guess maybe Android Central doesn't want us whining here, okay I understand. Hmm, where would be an appropriate venue to voice our concerns about smartphones... oh I got it a website about smartphones! Oh wait damn...

Fatasaurus says:

REALLY PEOPLE?!?! who in their rite mind is buyin the backflip to sideload applications?! HONESTLY! stop complaining for the sake of complaining. If ur smartphone savvy... the backflip is NOT for u! Its really that simple. Ur whining about a fone that even if it had the capability u STILL wouldnt be buying it. Unless ur a developer most of the apps ur sideloading r paid apps u dont wanna pay for which technically is illegal neways so who really cares! The fone is not crippled. It functions perfectly well and does everything that Google and AT&T intended it to do. Heres an analogy for all of u who seem to like them. U and I... we r both people we both have eyes, ears, noses and mouths. We have 2 arms and 2 legs. Im musican... ur an athlete... am i crippled because im not an olympic sprinter, or basketball player? R u crippled because u cant read music or play a symphony? NO everyone has different skill sets. We all have the same basic programming but we all have different skills features and personalities. Just like fones even across OS's have different features and functionalities. I dont see u all crying because HTC makes all their fones come with Sense on them. Google didnt intend for that... U cant do all the same things on a phone with Sense that you can do on a phone without it. STOP WHINING AND COMPLAINING! UR ADULTS! ACT LIKE IT!

GEM555 says:

What if the phone doesn't do what it's SUPPOSED to do? I can't get Exchange sync to work on my Android. In fact, no one I know (4 phones with three different Exchange servers) can. Voice dialing through Bluetooth? What's that? Voice dialing in a car, period? Nope. Enter a new contact and it dissappers, never to be seen again. Ditto with Verizon support - enter a service ticket and it disappears, never to be seen again!

Stuff like this make the phone tough on business users.

On the other hand, it's a big step up from a Storm (I/II) which are fairly utter POS.

eric.atx says:

It's really sad that an editor of this site tells the readers here, in essence, that if we, the staff, don't like what you have to say we would rather you shut up then say it. If this site does not serve as a place to educate, inform and share experiences and opinions about Android then what else should we do here? Are we all here to listen to the editors speak from on high and we are to sit in wonderment about their breadth of knowledge?

Treat your visitors like you want them to visit not like they must visit and cannot do without you.

How pathetic and condescending.

David says:

Well said.

UncleMike says:

Not running non-Market apps is a lot different than not running signed apps. Though I don't know that Market apps can be unsigned, I would find all Android developers (especially the ones offering free apps) are paying hundreds of dollars a year out of their own pockets for digital signatures.

A phone that doesn't do what you want isn't necessarily crippled. But if a carrier intentionally blocks or removes access to hardware that exists in the device, or has the hardware manufacturer do it for them, meaning meaning the device is no longer capable of doing what the hardware manufacturer intended it to be capable of, then it's crippled.

It's unfortunate that instead of using Android as a selling point, AT&T is turning the purchase of an Android-based device into a buyer-beware situation. While it may not be a big deal for their target market (they don't appear to be marketing the Backflip as an Android device, but are marketing it more for its social features), anyone stuck on AT&T and specifically wanting an Android device will surely be disappointed.

I applaud Google for refusing to brand such devices with the Google logo.

chrisoverly says:

Due to the attacking nature of this blog post, I have decided to discontinue use of my account after this post, also to delete your feed from NewsRob on my UNCRIPPLED Motorola DROID. Whenever a functionality is stripped from a phone it is CRIPPLED.

Just because your company got paid by at&t (the root of all evil) to post this, I will be taking my leave and making sure I no longer direct people to any of your networks' sites.

eric.atx says:

You are not the only one. I think it is time to look for a new site to get my android news from seeing as this one does not wish it's readers to share their opinions if they are not in following with the opinions of the staff.

dhughes says:

I agree

Droid_Moment says:

@ eric.atx

what are you talking about!?

You CLEARLY have not the read the posts of other readers, we are still being entitled to our own opinions, its what makes a website lol a blog, a forum etc.

If we weren't allowed to have our say, we wouldn't be posting on this specific post. It would be locked and we would be able to see it whenever we got to the homepage.

eric.atx says:

@ Droid_Moment

I have read everything in this thread and I replied to Phil not a particular post. So I forgive you for your assumption but you are wrong. I think the attitude Phil showed in this news post was horrid and that alone was what I was responding to. Obviously they'd not remove every single comment that took issue with what was posted.

tkfox007 says:

This is America/the internet, you can say whatever you want. Phil is voicing his opinion just as you are. And since you don't like it, you can GTFO you have that freedom as well.

The worst people that complain are people like you. Just because your opinion doesn't mesh with someone else's doesn't mean they are wrong because their opinion is different than your own. Go back to the commies.

tkfox007 says:

STFU, the guy can run it however he wants.

eric.atx says:

I am not going to "GTFO" or "STFU" you immature child. Always nice when people without the necessary vocabulary enter into a discussion and bring things to the lowest common denominator. I voiced my opinion regarding this so called "news" article. Which now I have no problems with even if I think Phil is still wrong.

BoNg420 says:

You already have problems if you are on ATT anyway. All they can say to defend their shitty coverage is we gots the iCrap phone and you can use data while on voice. OMGZ you so cool ATT. They can go suck a fat one. I hate paying a little more on vzw, but im glad I have reliable coverage + I get 19% off my monthly bill.

Then what would you like us to call it. When comparing AT&T's Android offerings to other companies AT&T's stuff sure looks crippled to me. I want to go Android because of the fact that it's totally open source. Which I thought was the whole point of Android in the first place. I mean if Google who came up with Android won't even put their name on AT&T's devices, that's defiantly saying something. I have to stay with AT&T because of my business, but I guess I won't be buying any new devices from them or signing any new contracts. HELLO NEXUS 1! AT&T has been in bed with Apple for far too long. They've learned some dirty new tricks. Oh and you guys should check out Android and me dot com. They don't appear to be in bed with anyone besides The Open Handset Alliance itself.

Hi there. How's everybody doing? Sorry if you feel like we haven't been letting you express your opinions, but I think the fact that I just read them and am taking the time to respond shows that we do care what everybody thinks, and that your opinion makes this site is good as it is (and it's getting better all the time).

If anyone wants to discuss this further, PM me in the forums with your phone number and I'll gladly call you Friday. Go ahead. Try me.

For everybody else, we're glad you're here, we love doing this for you and with you, and we'll be right back at it tomorrow. And the day after that, and the day after that.

- Phil

eric.atx says:

I think my biggest issue with this Phil is at the top of this thread it goes "Home » Articles » News » Stop calling phones crippled just because they don't do what you want" and I don't think a rant qualifies as news? But that is just my two cents.

Well, that's an easy fix. :) (FWIW: That's just the default category, and, yeah, it shoulda been "editorial.")

eric.atx says:

Cool thanks and for what it's worth I still think you are wrong about your opinion... lol ...but I just have issues with AT&T so I don't know that I wouldn't find issues with anything they did as long as they were so hyper-controlling like they currently are.

I was going to send you a PM with my number but I cannot as I have not posted on the forums.

It's an argument worth having, and I'm not entirely sure my position on it has been sound. :p I think what it comes down to is the pejorative nature of calling something "crippled." Dictionary definition certainly holds up, but I just don't agree with it in this case. Should make for an interesting podcast discussion. But the long and short of it is I just wouldn't use that word to describe a phone that can't load unsigned apps.

eric.atx says:

Perhaps using the word handicapped is more appropriate? I agree the description of "crippled" is not entirely accurate, but like most descriptions they almost become a colloquialism unto themselves.

rufflez says:

I find it ironic that Google Ads recommends ATT ads for this thread :)
Sorry Google, I'm going to pass on this one ;)
I think the Backflip is a horrible device. With all the new flashy stuff coming out or currently available (hell, my Hero doesn't lag as much as the Backflip and its 6 months older), Motorola and ATT screwed the pooch on this device (and the Pre coming to them as hardware issues are still going to be an issue). I personally think its an attempt to play both sides on ATT's part. By having a WebOS phone and an Android Device on the same network as the iPhone, they are trying to show diversity. By crippling both or accepting crappy hardware (Pre), they are appealing to Apple loyalty when a negotiation regarding what networks will get the iPhone (hoping that Apple stays with them). Or the obvious decision has been made and they are expanding to a world Post iPhone dominance.

I think that it is unfortunate that AT&T "cripples" its phones. Makes me feel good that I'm not with them. But I would have an issue if my carrier did this to a device that I was anticipating. AT&T did this for years with BlackBerry devices disabling BlackBerry maps so you were suckered into buying AT&T Navigator. As far as the rant by the editor, I get it. They express their ideas like we express ours. No biggie. It does seem like the readership here got a little sensitive, but in return, pulled no punches themselves. My personal opinion, we need to have thicker skin when posting in forums. And we definitely can't be hypocrites. If we want to rant, then everyone should be allowed to rant - everyone. No matter how nonsensical it may sound. That's our privilege. Peace everyone (two fingers).

tkfox007 says:

I agree, a phone isn't crippled just because it won't do what you want it to. If a phone doesn't do what you don't want it to, then don't buy it, buy one that fits your needs.

The phone is limited, not crippled. A crippled phone would be one that doesn't make calls. The Backflip, Devour and anything else with Motoblur, is just an Android powered Sidekick. Remember how limited those things were?

I do think that AT&T did limit the Backflip to draw people away from it and push them more towards the iPhone. Since AT&T doesn't know how to sell and their customer service is terrible, they may rely on limiting the phone, software or hardware wise, to push people to the iPhone, the only thing they know how to sell because it sells itself. And Apple gives AT&T like $400 for every iPhone sale too.

Verizon does the same, although they do it more with their mouths, they push people towards the Moto Droid, when someone (who doesn't know what they want) is interested in a non-smartphone the sales person pulls them over to the smartphones, then when the customer is interesting in something, they pull them over to the Moto Droid. I think Verizon is more underhanded in it because they manipulate the customer into wanting something they don't need.

Why would you not push a customer towards your flagship phone?

If a phone does what it was designed for, it's not crippled. AT&T wanted it designed to their liking. But for all of us who have the Droid (rooted or not), N1, myTouch or Hero, then yeah, the phone is going to feel like it's lacking something and feel limited.

Andromedo says:

AC, brought to you by AT&T?

Say it isn't so!

greno says:

Personally, I think it's a mistake. As an Android developer, I would never buy a phone locked down because I wouldn't be able to put my own apps on it.

Plus, it would be impossible to participate in beta programs. For example, there would be no way to get the Swype beta.

mneme says:

Stop saying poople are wrong when the English language doesn't mean what you think!

"crippled", when talking about software or hardware (as opposed to wetware) doesn't mean that the product is useless. Hasn't for years. Instead, it means that some part has been built, and then deliberately broken -- typically for non-technical reasons (security, captive audience, financial reasons; whatever).

This was true of the SK3's mp3 ringtnes, as well as the intaller on the backflip--it doesn't refer to making something a "cripple", but to taking something that works and make it not work no more.

xhepera says:

As a new owner of a Backflip, and with the acknowledgement that AT&T has limited certain functionality, I must say that I find the histrionic, drama-queen wailings of the naysayers infinitely more loathsome than I find any limitation on the device.