We have taken the bold step today of saying that you shouldn’t buy a phone. Read more to find out why the Motorola Backflip, and AT&T’s policy on Android phones, has driven us to this important decision.
We’ve been reviewing our review policies, and today are introducing four new ratings that will replace our five point scale. And, they are: Top Pick, Good Buy, Mediocre, to Do Not Buy. We feel this new rating system will help give you a quick, simple choice in what devices and gadget to purchase down the road. But, that does mean sometimes also rubbing the industry the wrong way, and it’s probably best to do that right now.
A full review of the Motorola Backflip isn’t necessary for us to tell you to not buy it. Why? Because we feel so strongly that Android phones that cannot allow unsigned software are damaging to the industry. They stifle innovation and make sure your phone won’t be able to run The Next Big Thing… unless gatekeepers in the industry permit it to do so.
Google and the OHA designed Android to not have gatekeepers. But, as it is Open Source Software, device makers can overrule Google. In this case, the carrier, AT&T, has chosen to do just that. They have demanded that Motorola remove the Backflip’s ability to run unsigned applications from the device.
Unsigned software, for those that aren’t fully aware, is software that is released independently from any type of App Store. It allows people to offer applications that take advantage of the open pipe that the internet offers, and use it for any purpose. Carriers don’t like that, because they want to control applications that demand many resources. They also have a competitive standpoint to regain in the “home portal” arena, as many carriers are attempting to (re-re-re)launch their own App Stores.
Because of all this, you should stay as far away from the Motorola Backflip as possible. We do note that this limitation does not apply to similarly-designed Motorola phones, such as the CLIQ line of devices or Backflip models on other carriers.
Worse, AT&T does not make any notation of these limitations… something that Bluetooth phone manufacturers have been required to do via class action lawsuits related to false advertising. We hope that AT&T someday realizes that it must explain to customers these limitations, before they purchase the phone. Simply put, an Android phone that isn’t able to run unsigned code, shouldn’t be advertised as an Android phone.
For those looking to use an Android phone on AT&T, we suggest the AT&T-compatible version of the Nexus One from Google. Because it is released outside the control of AT&T, it does not suffer from these anti-Android limitations. In addition, Palm appears to have successfully avoided such restraints from the upcoming Palm Pre and Palm Pixi family of phones that will soon be launching on AT&T.
We expect to review each and every Android phone on AT&T similarly, until AT&T choses to change this policy.