As noted in a previous post, I recently picked up a Nokia Lumia 800 running Windows Phone 7. Before that I had a Samsung Galaxy S Android phone and an iPhone 3G before that.
One major thing that has stuck out to me across these three platforms is that Apple and Microsoft have relinquished nothing to the carriers, whereas Android, by it’s very nature, is completely bound to them and suffering as a result.
When I first fired up my Galaxy S I was presented with a choppy, pixelated Vodafone logo animation. Once running, Vodafone were rife across the phone with their own music store, app store and other horrible apps that had clearly been thrown together with various greed-led deals with third party service providers. It instantly made the phone feel like it was several years dated on first usage. Fortunately, I’m a massive geek and within the first month I’d rid myself of this hellish experience and installed a custom rom on the phone which made things immensely superior. It ran faster, had a significantly improved battery life and actually worked. But I’m a massive geek. How many Android consumers aren’t and wouldn’t know a custom ROM if it slapped them in the face? I’d wager most of them, in fact in my experience the majority of my non-geek friends hate Android and still crave the iPhone. I know, from experience, this is the carriers fault, which makes it Google’s fault for not managing this well enough.
When I fired up my new Windows Phone, still on Vodafone, there was a single solitary Vodafone app. Which I was able to immediately delete. Microsoft have retained quality control in the same way Apple have with the iPhone. So yes, iOS and WP7 are closed, proprietary walled garden platforms, but they’re performing significantly better to the majority as a result. Android really needs to stamp some authority on how much carriers can butcher this otherwise amazing platform. This has been explained in much better, more informed detail by Siegler.
In my opinion, the carriers business today is old-fashioned and totally holds back innovation in the mobile space. They are driven entirely by greed and for some reason there just seems like no need to innovate and compete. Every year mobile contracts get more restrictive and expensive and tactics of the operators are becoming ever more underhanded and dishonest. Unfortunately we’re somewhat at ransom to these few giants which is why it’s all the more important the likes of Apple and Microsoft retain their control. I would love to see Google impose some UX restrictions on what the network carriers can do to their phones.