Saturday, June 18, 2011
Lessons in my Desire
This phone is (on specification and in third party reviews) an iPhone 4 equivalent - more powerful and does a few things that Apple restricts its users from but alas not quite as user friendly. But the phone I purchased was truly awful.
The Ebay advert said it was "unlocked" but did not reveal the shortcomings. This phone was from the Middle East (possibly Saudi Arabia) and it came with a restrictive set of applications and no Android Market. A smart-phone without an app-store is useless. I was limited to the thirty apps the phone came with. Ugly. I was missing some apps I consider very important (eg VOIP apps).
The solution was to "root" the phone (ie hack the system) and install a decent operating system (HTC Android 2.3). For someone only mildly geeky this was a little harder than it looked. There was a fine YouTube video series here but it did not cover the nuances of using the Android Developer Kit and nothing seemed to work in my virtual-box Windows so I had to hijack my son's computer.
Two and a bit hours later I have a fine phone - one I would prefer to an iPhone 4 (although probably not to an iPhone 5). It was however much harder than it should be and this process would not appeal to a mass audience.
A few lessons:
(a). Whilst phone companies and governments will fiddle around with phones and their operating systems the attraction of walking down to the Apple Shop and buying an iPhone remains. iPhones all work the same way and its hard to imagine an iPhone without the App Store. The Apple slogan is "it just works". My phone worked in a narrow sense - but Apple's worked better out of the box even though my phone beats the iPhone 4 in many surveys.
(b). The whole experience cheapens the Ebay brand. I thought the Radioshack and other shops selling mobile phones and contracts were not long for this world because phones would come without contracts and be purchased online. I figure that will be right in the end but risk aversion sends me to something explicitly local to my jurisdiction for a little longer.
(c). The modifications made by countries and phone companies to Android phones cheapen the product. Non geeky people - say 99 percent of the population - could not be expected to hack their phone. So they are left with the crappy phone they are sold in the first place. If it is full of bloatware so be it. Android is as sleek as IOS. The things done to Android are not...
(d). Big corporations (especially it seems tech firms) are prepared to play ball with oppressive governments. My phone was hobbled to please the Saudi Government. Google may have said no to participating in Chinese oppression but their partners (such as HTC) happily participate in oppression when they sell Android phones. And as they do it they continue to cheapen the Google/Android brand.
(e). For a small proportion of the population - those that can hack a phone install themselves as super-user and get around government communication restrictions modern technology beats oppressive governments - but we are kidding ourselves if we believe this will be a widespread skill.
For thought and comments...
PS. For those that want to know I installed T.B. Fusion 1.1.9 - an Android 2.3.3 system. The complaint on the web about this install is battery life - though I have not (yet) decided that is problematic.
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