Nick Saint refuses to buy a Motorola Droid X. Why? Android skins.
The Droid X ships with Android 2.1, the second most recent version of Google’s mobile OS.
What? The new Droid X, the heir apparent to iPhone 4 killer, doesn’t even have the latest Android OS?
But, like many Android phones, it comes with a special, modified version of Android, specific to Motorola. And, like most of the Android skins, Motorola’s software is awful.
Why not just download Android 2.2 Froyo for Droid X and be done with it?
But Motorola really, really wants you to use its skin. So much so, that they’ve designed the phone to self-destruct if you load a different OS.
Amazing. Motorola (and other Android cell phone makers) have a specific version of Android for their phones which come with custom-designed skins to differentiate their Android phone from other Android phone.
Why isn’t anyone complaining about all these cell phone maker walled gardens? Whatever happened to the open Android movement? Apparently, it’s not so open.
Cell phone makers who rely on Android as the OS of choice to compete against iPhone have something in common with Windows PC makers. Differentiation difficulties. How does Motorola make their Android phone different from, say, an HTC phone? A walled garden. A skin scheme exclusive to Motorola’s Android phones.
For Motorola Droid X, often described as the best of the Android-based smart phones, it’s a self-limiting walled garden. Droid X users are prohibited from upgrading to the latest Android OS version until Motorola says they can.
Motorola is using a chip called ‘eFuse’ (via MobileCrunch) to verify that your Droid X is running approved software at bootup. If it detects a rogue OS, it deactivates the phone. After that, only Motorola can reactivate it.
So much for open, huh?
Android skins are a terrible idea, but they shouldn’t be a big deal. Part of the beauty of Google’s open platform, in theory, is that you can load whatever software you want on to your phone, without waiting for teams of hackers to jailbreak it, as you do with the iPhone.
I guess open just isn’t what it used to be. It’s certainly not what people think it is. In reality, nothing is open. Curated environments and wall gardens are the norm. They always have been and always will be.
Open? You can’t run Android apps on iPhones. iPhone apps from the App Store won’t run on Android devices. Apparently, even recent versions of Android itself are prevented from running on some Android-enabled devices.
All this talk about what’s open and what’s not is just technobabble from geeks. The vast majority of customers don’t care about open. They want a phone that works. For all of Apple’s iPhone 4 antenna problems, there’s not a line of customers waiting to return the phone.