Dec 1, 2011
Editor’s Note: The Hills Are Greener traditionally runs on Mondays. However, with the revelation of the Carrier IQ controversy, a mid-week column seemed appropriate.
Oh Android, what kind of trouble are you getting into now? Originally reported on XDA-Developers and picked up by Gizmodo, there exists a root kit software in many Android phones that records user input. While how or if this information is being reported back is unknown, there are some definite security concerns because of this heretofore unknown software.
Google needs to take swift and decisive action to put out this fire that undermines their platform. They need to make sure this software is not in any devices that have Market access in the future, and to start pushing out updates to remove it in current devices where possible. This kind of software, secretly installed without any user knowledge, is terrible and should not be condoned by Google.
Second, Google needs to take far more control of the Android user experience. This means pushing the Nexus line as their iPhone, and even as an entirely different platform from the rest of the Android devicss. They can produce high-quality phones with a stock user experience – it’s time to start throwing their weight around and sell the stock Android experience. The experience that doesn’t offer bloatware, and log all of their users’ activities. They know bloatware is a problem, they said as much at the Ice Cream Sandwich unveiling.
It is just clear now that the other manufacturers cannot be trusted. I believe that it is possible for a phone to both be open and free for users to do what they want with it, while still providing a stylish and secure hardware and software experience. If Google doesn’t do it, then someone else will. There are clear advantages to a curated experience that Apple provides, and what Microsoft is doing with Windows Phone 7, and Google meeds to make this the standard with Android.
Perhaps standards are the key? With Honeycomb tablets, the experiences were very curated by Google, and a device like the Xoom does not have the kind of bloatware that my phone, purchased from a carrier, did when I bought it out of the box. Did I then go and install a custom rom within hours of having my phone? Sure, but a large number did not, I’m guessing. I now realize that I should not have to hack my phone for a superior experience. And no one should have to hack it for a more secure experience. Apple has had security flaws themselves, yes, but they have the ability to fix them quickly and easily. This incident is proof that the open season on mobile operating systems needs to end. The carriers and makers of Android phones will not do it. So Google will have to. They can change Motorola, but it may be time to tell them to get on board and do what’s best for users, or ship out. Good luck with that. Until then, when I buy a new phone, I may just have to consider ditching Android, because it is a bigger mess than I have been willing to admit.