Does it seem like some carriers don't want us to enjoy our phones?

Evan Selleck
Contributing Editor from Arizona
Published: May 5, 2012


Is it a safe assumption to believe that, despite the fact that our wireless devices are changing at great speed, the wireless carriers are doing anything but? From this perspective, I can’t help but look at the way that carriers used to treat phones on their networks, and how they do it now. I understand that these are changes that the higher-ups at these networks believe are essential to keep their business running, or at least I hope that’s the case, but there seem to be some decisions made that look to be nothing more than a way to control the way we use our phones.

Way back when, before the iPhone found its initial debut, phones were phones and people used them for entirely different things than what they use them for now. That comes down to capabilities, of course, and nothing else. Yes, there were smartphones out there, but by today’s standards they were pretty limited in their reach and scope. Still, it’s not like smartphones are a brand new thing. And, more to the point, it’s not like tinkering with our smartphones is anything new, either. Developers and those who just like to find out how things work have been digging into the insides of phones for a long time, but it has been getting a lot more attention ever since Android hit the scene.

Now, bootloaders, ROMs, and everything in between is front and center in the conversation when you talk about Google’s mobile operating system. There’s really no way around it. I’ve had conversations with people who would never dream of rooting and customizing their phone, but they still know what it is. They’ve heard other people talking about it, or seen it on the Internet in some fashion or another. It’s part of the Android dynamic, and that’s actually one of the draws of the platform.

And, truth be told, it’s one of the reasons Google is so happy about Android. Android, as we’ve discussed in the past, is the complete opposite from Apple’s iOS in a lot of ways, namely the way that it is meant to be used. Google wants you to be able to have fun with your device. They want you to be able to root it, change settings that a “normal user” wouldn’t necessarily be able to change at face value.

Google is about the developer, maybe even more so than the end user.

But, as much as Google may still wish it, the Mountain View-based company isn’t in charge of the way that Android finds its way into the customer’s hands. Yes, Google builds it, but then you have manufacturers and carriers who get in the way. And, as the title suggests, I honestly get the impression that carriers don’t want us to actually enjoy our phones.

Carriers don’t have to worry about it with Apple, because the iPhone is designed differently. The same goes for Windows Phone. You could even throw in Research In Motion’s BlackBerry OS if you really wanted to. It all changes the moment you get an Android phone, though. You want to be able to unlock your bootloader to make it easier to root it and customize it? Sorry, that seems to go against the rules.

The worst offense has to be the upcoming launch of the One X by HTC for AT&T’s network. The worst offense recently, anyway. It has become known that the AT&T version won’t have an unlockable bootloader, even from HTC’s official site. An official site that is built specifically to unlock bootloaders. So, the obvious assumption is that AT&T doesn’t want you to unlock the bootloader on your new One X.

So if you’re someone who loves to add customizations, to root your phone and add new ROMs, it just became that much harder to get that done. Even if it is an HTC-branded phone.

So what’s the deal? We’ve heard in the past that carriers are worried about security, and we’ve heard carriers say that unlocking the bootloader might ruin the experience for the consumer. No it won’t. Not unless that consumer is someone who messes around with their phone and screws it up themselves. And, if that’s going to happen, it’s going to happen regardless of whether or not the phone has an unlocked, or even an unlockable bootloader. Devs are resilient, carriers. You must know this by now.

It doesn’t make any sense to me, so what about you? Why do you think the carriers are so intent on locking down your Android devices? Let me know in the comments below.