May 9, 2011
One of the biggest problems with AT&T and Android has been their lack of sideloading applications on their phones. However, AT&T has announced that along with a variety of new Android phones including ones with hardware keyboards, they will enable sideloading in the future. This means that AT&T users should be able to enable ‘installation of non-Market applications’ in the near future. The first phone confirmed to have this feature is the incoming Samsung Infuse 4G. According to AT&T senior vice president of mobile devices, Jeff Bradley, the decision to disable the option to sideload applications was done in part for user security, and in part because AT&T couldn’t remove any ‘bad apps’ that might be installed. Of course, sideloading is a setting that must be enabled by the user, apps always prompt when they are being installed, and simply making this an option would have been the simplest option for users. Of course, power users have always been able to root and install custom roms that support sideloading and other features.
A big reason for this change might be the Amazon Appstore. It works through sideloading applications to the phone that are sold through Amazon’s storefront on their store. This has been unavailable to legitimate AT&T users, and it has offered paid apps for free on a daily basis, as well as cheaper prices for apps like Fruit Ninja thanks to their more flexible pricing. They sell Fruit Ninja for $0.99, whereas on the Android Market it is currently ~$1.28. Presumably, they could not sell it for $0.99 on the Android Market due to whatever base price it is set to in their region. Of course, $1.28 corresponds to more than $0.99 Australian, so why this price is what it is in the US is confusing, but the point is that region-appropriate pricing is something that the Amazon Appstore provides that the Market does not yet. This is completely avoiding the fact that Amazon is giving away paid apps on a daily basis that AT&T users are not privy to yet.
Of course, how much influence Amazon and their Appstore had on AT&T’s decision is unknown – but given Amazon’s power player status, it must have had some input on AT&T’s decision. It is good that AT&T is finally taking a step to letting their users use their phones in the way they want, though.