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ACLU blames carriers is demanding a full investigation of the issue

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) took the unusual step of injecting itself into the smartphone discussion, asking the U.S. Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to investigate America's top carriers over claims of Android abuse.

According to the ACLU, Google Inc. (GOOG) regularly puts out patches and upgrades to its Android operating system -- the world's most used smartphone operating system.    But in its 17-page report, it accuses America's top wireless carriers of recklessly endangering consumers by not rolling out updates fast enough.

The report calls out both of America's top two carriers, AT&T, Inc. (T) and Verizon Wireless -- jointly owned by Verizon Communications Inc. (VZ) and Vodafone Group Plc. (LON:VOD).  But it also accuses Sprint Nextel Corp. (S) and Deutsche Telekom AG's (ETR:DTE) T-Mobile USA of contributing to the problem, as well.

The ACLU wants the FTC to force carriers either to offer customers refunds or to force them to provide warnings that they are inadequately protecting customers.  The advocacy admits that it is unusual for it to look to protect consumers (which is typically the job of other more specialized advocacies), but it said in this case that the security risks from the carrier negligence could be used to justify Orwellian new federal laws -- like the controversial CISPA bill that recently passed the House.

ACLU lawyer Chris Soghoian, who authored and submitted the complaint last Tuesday, comments, "This is part of our attempt to reframe the cybersecurity agenda,.  Before violating anyone's privacy, the government should first be addressing the low-hanging fruit that everyone can agree on."

Android smartphones
The ACLU is targeting America's top carriers for sluggish Android updates.
[Image Source: Android and Me]

While the report may echo the frustrations of many Android users, it was met with scorn and derision by figures in the telecom industry.  Verizon responded that it releases patches and updates "as quickly as possible", but that it must commit "rigorous testing" before any release.  Carriers argue that the nature of Android -- which allows both OEMs and carriers to modify or disable certain functionality (e.g. tethering) -- makes testing a slower and more arduous process.  

They argue that rushed updates could "break" smartphones causing them to gobble data unnecessarily, be unable to run apps, or be unable to make calls.  Indeed this has happened on occasion in the past.

But not everyone is buying that excuse.  Carnegie Mellon Univ. Computer Science Professor Travis Breaux comments, "There are standard practices for testing and evaluating patches.  Microsoft does this all the time."

Sources: ACLU [complaint], AP

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RE: annoyance
By BRB29 on 4/23/2013 9:04:45 AM , Rating: 2
Once the GS4 drops it will be beaten. Of course, it remains to be seen how practical performance is and how well the GPU handles its resolution. Videos of the GS4 are all choppy so far (hard to know if it is the hardware or Android itself, we'll see).

In CPU performance, many Android already pass the iphone. In GPU performance, the Android phones are now starting to catch up. Nexus 4 and HTC One are 2 examples that CPU performance exceeds iphone5. HTC One looks like GPU performance is on par but does bad in benchmark because its resolution is so much higher.

An sRGB calibrated IPS screen looks much better than an oversaturated AMOLED any day, especially when the best selling high end Android handset uses a cheap pentile matrix. Size is personal preference but 5" phones are too big for single handed operation. If you want a big screen then by all means get one, but display quality in most Android devices is substandard.

What's the point of having great color accuracy if you're going to put it in a tiny screen. Sorry but I don't want to hold my phone stupid close to read something. The difference between my GNEX 4.65" and iphone 5 4" is huge. It makes reading much much better. It comes down to preference but it's pretty clear people would rather choose the bigger screen since it's the most popular complaint about the iphone right now. 5" is on the large side but with a thin bezel and slim form then it's still very pocketable.

Also, you cannot compare iphones to cheap android phones. Iphones are priced high end. Compare it to high end phones.

The HTC One and DNA both have excellent screens and build quality, I really like them both. Calibration isn't as good as the iPhone's but its good enough, and it blows away Samsung's displays/build quality. No argument there.

Yes they both have excellent screens and quality because they are all high end phones priced in the same zone. Color accuracy isn't as good but close. Screen size is bigger and higher res. I would prefer the screen on the HTC One over the iphone any day of the week. Even for photography freaks, I would still sacrifice the slight accuracy for much higher res and size.

The best apps I use are platform exclusive. Going to another platform would mean a downgrade in quality or losing it altogether. Even most mainstream cross-platform apps are better on iOS (mainstream stuff like Flipboard or Yelp), and the biggest Android app news is usually when something ancient like Instapaper or Flipboard finally gets an Android port. Even some of Google's iOS apps are better than their Android counterparts (maps, voice search, gmail). And the best GMail client isn't by Google, same with the best Youtube client. They are called Mailbox and Jasmine, and they are both iOS only.

Gmail apps works great. Has pretty much almost all functions of gmail I need, it's stable and snappy. Mailbox and Jasmine are subjective but they are great too. It's pretty much preference. I hear google maps is better on ios but probably not anything much since it's rock solid in android.
The whole platform exclusive apps you think are better than anything else are just subjective. What are you comparing it to. You are probably just a loyal apple fan and there's nothing wrong with that. I have iphone5 for work and my nexus for personal. I know both very well. I think they're both good phones and apps are almost the same. iphone is more stable because it's not open. That's the only advantage I see most of the time for apple.

Certainly, and I wish it was like that for all Android devices. Unfortunately the Nexus makes up a single-digit percentage point of all Android devices sold, hardly a relevant data point.

you're right. This is not android's fault, this is the carriers faults. Apple somehow got around that probably because it's not open. But I only care as what i experience as the consumer so iphone wins here.

Speed, battery life, LTE, display quality (Anandtech slammed the Nexus 4 display), applications, build quality, etc.

Did you even read the article? I just glanced at it again to be sure but he praised the Nexus 4. The only thing he "slammed" the Nexus 4 for is the screen not being calibrated and a little on battery life.

RE: annoyance
By TakinYourPoints on 4/23/2013 5:14:28 PM , Rating: 2
I look at practical benchmarks, not synthetics. I do the same with my PC and I do the same with phones. AMD CPUs do better than Intels in certain synthetics, but no way I'm getting one based on how much better Intel does in nearly all practical tests.

A higher Geekbench score isn't reflected in faster browser performance or a smoother UI. I don't use things like fill tests for GPU comparisons either, even though those would show the iPhone as 5x faster. It is an irrelevant synthetic benchmark compared to a practical one that shows an entire scene.

As far as size and applications, I completely agree that it all comes down to personal preference. Color aside, I do not case for big 5" phones and the big chassis that come with them. Single-handed operation and pocketability are important to me.

I also completely understand why some people would sacrifice applications for the flexibility of Android and access to bigger hardware. I'm not faulting anyone for preferring that. The only thing I find annoying is when people lose all objectivity and say that the advantages of Android are objective advantages for everyone, and that it has no disadvantages to other platforms, both of which are ridiculous.

All platforms have tradeoffs, I've said that over and over again. Its all about deciding which tradeoffs you want to live with, even if some of those tradeoffs (the more portable iPhone chassis for example) are advantages for some.

I personally would love to see more high end Android devices in normal 4" sizes, not like the crippled GS3 Mini. Right now every high end Android device is around 5", which is limiting given that larger sizes aren't for everyone and they don't sell nearly as well as smaller devices. High end devices like the GS3 and HTC's flagships are a drop in the bucket compared to the iPhone and the numerous lower end (and smaller) Android devices out there.

Maybe size differentiation is how they can separate their high end devices from Apple's but I think it'd be worth a shot given how much people like 4" phones.

you're right. This is not android's fault, this is the carriers faults. Apple somehow got around that probably because it's not open. But I only care as what i experience as the consumer so iphone wins here.

Yup, and for years I've said that Android's biggest issue was Google giving up too much control to carriers. I wish every Android device was treated like the Nexus, it would address so many issues.

Did you even read the article? I just glanced at it again to be sure but he praised the Nexus 4. The only thing he "slammed" the Nexus 4 for is the screen not being calibrated and a little on battery life.

Yes, and I specifically said that he was talking about the display, not the phone in general.


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