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Print 22 comment(s) - last by jRaskell.. on Mar 5 at 9:47 AM

Carrier's response to the FCC is unappologetic

Google Inc. (GOOG) is supposedly a champion of developer rights and software freedoms.  So it seems highly curious that while the majority of Android manufacturers like Samsung Electronics Comp., Ltd. (KS:005930) and HTC Corp. (TPE:2498unlock their bootloaders, Motorola Mobility's phones (such as the popular Droid RAZR) are still locked up tighter than Fort Knox.

Unlocked bootloaders allow for custom ROMs and the removal of unwanted carrier "bloatware".  This is particularly handy for independent developers, who may wish to test apps on several different versions of Android, on one device.

I. Motorola: Locked up Tight

On the other hand, a locked bootloader can be a daunting obstacle to enthusiasts.  It takes a lot of effort to reverse engineer one.  Although unlocking the bootloader via exploits is legal, the difficulty factor means it is done for only a handful of the top selling phones such as Apple, Inc.'s (AAPL) iPhone.  And even in these cases, the exploitation process creates security risks, which the company and unlockers must patch.  All of this is less ideal than in the case where the carrier provides a secure, authorized bootloader unlock.

Motorola in posts to Twitter indicated that its phones were "locked per carrier".  

Droid RAZR boot loader

But was this really the case?

II. Verizon Defends Locking

It appears so.

A reader of the site Droid Life filed a complaint with the U.S. Federal Communications Commission about the bootloader locking of Motorola phones on the network of Verizon Wireless, a joint venture between Verizon Communications Inc. (VZ) and Vodafone Group Plc. (LON:VOD), and AT&T Inc. (T).  The user complains to the FCC that the provisions of Verizon Wireless's government "Block C" spectrum license prohibit such actions.

In response to the complaint Verizon Wireless, the largest U.S. carrier, strongly disagrees with that sentiment.  It wrote the following letter to the FCC:

Verizon Droid Unlocking

Verizon's statements echo Apple's who has long fought ardently with unlockers.

III. With Great Power Comes Great Responsibility

In reality, Verizon and Apple are right to an extent -- greater freedom of unlocked hardware means more risk (the digital analogy of getting your drivers license) that third-party ROMs might allow malware or interfere with the fundamental network hardware, such as data transfer utilities or the phone's antenna-dependent signal strength algorithms.

However, it's also an excuse for control.  Some of this control -- such as fighting pirated apps -- is at least mildly pro-developer.  Other aspects of control, such as user monitoring and punishing unauthorized tethers, are more questionable, given that it can detract from a user's experience and or endanger them.

The issue of user monitoring was especially noteworthy, given that it was recently found that HTC's smartphone were printing sensitive information via a monitoring app.  And aside from the HTC-specific security risk, the revelation raised privacy concerns about how much data was being collected, and who it might be shared with.  The scandal appeared to be part of what pushed HTC to unlock its bootloader.

Verizon Wireless claimed via Twitter that it did not use Carrier IQ.  But domain lookups looks show that Verizon Wireless owns IPs associated with Carrier IQ domain names, according to sources.  Some have speculated that Verizon may have simply rebranded the app, disguising its name (which would make its above denial technically correct in literal terms).

And that's not to mention that unlocking allows Verizon to lock consumers to its network by disallowing their handsets to work on other networks -- an anti-competitive technique.

And ultimately the biggest point is that locking makes a developer unable to test their product broadly on one handset, locking out small developers from the process -- or more likely convincing them to pick a less restrictive carrier/OEM.

The decision definitely makes Verizon Wireless the carrier not to choose for those considering Android development.

Verizon expensive
Verizon is the most expensive carrier and one of the least friendly U.S. carriers when it comes to developer boot unlocking. [Image Source: Flickr/Exif]

For average customers, it's one more factor to weigh.  Verizon has industry leading customer service ratings and the nation's largest LTE (4G) network, but also charges more than any other carrier for its data plans.

Source: Droid Life



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Carriers need to go to school
By Freddo on 3/1/2012 3:11:23 PM , Rating: 5
Carriers need to learn that they are network providers, nothing more. They have no business in tinkering with the phones.

Just as internet providers have no business in tinkering your home computer.

Good thing never buy my phones directly from the carriers but unlocked to begin with.




RE: Carriers need to go to school
By dgingerich on 3/1/2012 6:08:42 PM , Rating: 2
Er, well, kinda wrong. It's their network, and they do whatever they can to make more money from what goes on with their network. If they could make money selling demographics info (men aged 34-50 visit these sites most often on their phones) they definitely will, and do, without you knowing a thing. If they want to gather info on the location of your phone to sell along with that demographic information, they will, and do. I don't like it any more than anyone else, but I doubt we'll ever be able to do anything about it without tearing down this whole country.


RE: Carriers need to go to school
By Lifted on 3/1/2012 10:03:26 PM , Rating: 2
I guess you've never heard of the breakup of AT&T for this very reason.


RE: Carriers need to go to school
By someguy123 on 3/2/2012 12:09:15 AM , Rating: 2
Well, wireless is a different beast. Having a few people who don't know what they're doing load up a virus while trying to swap OSs can end up causing headaches for verizon and its network. It's not like verizon is running landlines to each phone and can simply pump up infrastructure. These companies are all out trying to obtain more spectrum. Hell lightsquared just recently got taken down out of concerns of interference with GPS. It's not quite as simple as tossing more money at the problem when it comes to wireless networks.


By jRaskell on 3/5/2012 9:47:30 AM , Rating: 2
quote:
Well, wireless is a different beast.


No, it isn't.

quote:
It's not quite as simple as tossing more money at the problem


Nothing is ever as simple as tossing more money at the problem.


RE: Carriers need to go to school
By GmTrix on 3/2/2012 2:33:23 PM , Rating: 2
quote:
Just as internet providers have no business in tinkering your home computer.


This actually makes me surprised that internet providers don't offer laptops at a discount when you sign up for internet (i.e. combine the laptop price into your monthly payment). It could make laptops [seem] very cheap for people who are willing to sign up. (Think $0 laptops!) And then they'd let you upgrade your laptop after 2 years.

Definitely not saying I want this to happen. AT ALL. It just surprises me that it hasn't.


By PitViper007 on 3/2/2012 3:13:00 PM , Rating: 3
IIRC, this was tried some years back. It obviously didn't do so well since it isn't being done any more.


RE: Carriers need to go to school
By MrWho on 3/2/2012 5:40:58 PM , Rating: 2
Maybe not in the US, but I bought a nice netbook for my wife a couple of years ago for €150 with a two-year mobile internet subscription contract. Saved around €200 on the netbook, and I'm paying around €20 per month for the service. Or, if you prefer to see it from a different angle, it's like I bought the netbook at full price and got two years of mobile internet almost free.


VZN is no angel
By zlandar on 3/1/2012 2:43:43 PM , Rating: 5
It really puzzles me why some people feels Verizon is somehow "better" than ATT.

Both will screw you over if they have the opportunity.




RE: VZN is no angel
By quiksilvr on 3/1/2012 3:05:33 PM , Rating: 2
Not to mention ridiculously expensive. $20 a month for texting? The hell? At least with AT&T that $20 gives you free mobile-to-mobile to any carrier (which pretty much means unlimited talk).


RE: VZN is no angel
By kleinma on 3/1/2012 3:38:16 PM , Rating: 3
I don't think people typically think Verizon is better at things like customer service or pricing our device selection, etc...

Most people who claim Verizon is better are typically talking about the quality of the service and availability of the service in various areas. VZW doesn't always take the crown, but at least where I live, which is a NYC suburb that is highly populated with both people and cell towers, VZW beats other carriers for service 9 out of 10 places you test.


RE: VZN is no angel
By sigmatau on 3/1/2012 7:10:07 PM , Rating: 1
Verizon has horrible data. Only with LTE are they beginning to catch up and surpass AT&T's old 3g network. For talk they are great if you wander in real rural areas (think parts of Alabama.)


RE: VZN is no angel
By RealTheXev on 3/2/2012 9:24:04 PM , Rating: 3
Ha! AT&T and 3G don't belong in the same sentience without the addition of roflcopter in my area.

Check northwest PA's coverage map for AT&T. They have their fake "4G" (aka 3.5G HSPA+ network), and mostly... yeah you are seeing that, EDGE. Gotta love how they fool people with their false marketing that HSPA+ is 4G.

After AT&T purchased this former CellularOne area, they haven't done a damn thing to upgrade the networks in this area. Call quality has gone to crap, and my cousins who install Satellite dishes in the area can't rely on the network to perform their job. They stick to Verizon and so do I.

Want to see even more crap, look at the Sprint coverage.. more 2G only service... does not work for my data needs (which is cellular internet.. my ONLY non-dialup option with decent speed).

But its no wonder AT&T doesn't make any money around here. Most people who are former CellularOne moved to Verizon when their contact's expired and with good reason: being treated like crap by AT&T. Also doesn't help that everyone I know that owns an iPhone, are grandfathered in on $15 unlimited data.. wonder how long that will keep up?


RE: VZN is no angel
By kleinma on 3/1/2012 3:38:52 PM , Rating: 2
I don't think people typically think Verizon is better at things like customer service or pricing our device selection, etc...

Most people who claim Verizon is better are typically talking about the quality of the service and availability of the service in various areas. VZW doesn't always take the crown, but at least where I live, which is a NYC suburb that is highly populated with both people and cell towers, VZW beats other carriers for service 9 out of 10 places you test.


RE: VZN is no angel
By dgingerich on 3/1/2012 6:04:00 PM , Rating: 2
I'm currently on AT&T, and I'm going to go elsewhere when my current contract runs out in August, but I will never, ever do business with Verizon again. They cheated me on a mail in rebate, extra charges for various unwanted services (the GPS program built into my phone cost me an extra $4.99/mo until I noticed it on my bill, after starting it once by accident), and they reset my contract duration after one customer service call, charging me $170 "early termination fee" when I left a month after my contract was supposed to have ended. AT&T is a bunch of greedy, power hungry old men, but Verizon is a bunch of damned thieves.


Bloated
By vapore0n on 3/1/2012 3:41:34 PM , Rating: 5
Truth is, everyone would be happier if they didn't include all that bloatware.




RE: Bloated
By seamonkey79 on 3/1/2012 6:04:41 PM , Rating: 2
...and think of how much less network congestion there would be if my phone wasn't constantly calling home to them over the network!


By Lord 666 on 3/1/2012 7:28:46 PM , Rating: 2
In the spirit of the quiz games at a bar;

Its named after a fruit
They originally came only in one color
Still only available in 3g
True enterprise management features

Who am I?




In other words...
By NellyFromMA on 3/2/2012 1:10:01 PM , Rating: 2
... Unless I can't control every aspect and way that this device might be conceivably used, it might negatively impact my profits...

Hmmm, a little tweaking of the nouns and it sort of sounds like a 50's husband talking about his wife.




SomeThing Fishy
By toyotabedzrock on 3/2/2012 7:03:43 PM , Rating: 2
If Verizon owns Carrier IQ That means they had access to network strength info from every other carrier doesn't it?




Quality Customer Service
By TileGuyJesse on 3/4/2012 12:13:41 PM , Rating: 2
Love the photo. Now we have a good idea where the money is going..




This many posts and...
By Howard on 3/5/2012 4:01:20 AM , Rating: 2
nobody's pointed out the glaring typo?




"What would I do? I'd shut it down and give the money back to the shareholders." -- Michael Dell, after being asked what to do with Apple Computer in 1997














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