The recent launch of the Samsung Galaxy S6 has once again highlighted how the North American carriers (and to a certain extent, manufacturers too) still believe that they know best when it comes to the customer smartphone experience. We can see a number of differences between the stock, unaltered Samsung Galaxy S6 as released straight from the manufacturer compared with the device(s) as released by the carrier in question. In the case of AT&T, the US carrier removed Download Booster, OneDrive, Simple Sharing and Smart Manager. Verizon removed Smart Manager and the Microsoft applications. T-Mobile USA prevents customers from disabling the capacitive lights and locks in the S-Finder and Quick Connect, whereas Sprint has removed the Download Booster functionality. One of the issues associated with the carriers removing various applications and services from the device is because Samsung have advertised the device with a number of these products and services included. A great example is OneDrive’s 100 GB of online storage – AT&T and Verizon Wireless customers will not be receiving this extra cloud storage. It is possible to reinstall these applications using the Google Play Store, but in the case of reinstalling the Samsung Smart Manager, this can cause complications – the carrier does not permit certain applications to work properly. And it’s true that the situation is not insurmountable as there is a lot of Android knowledge available online, this is not an ideal situation.
The reason why the carriers, and to a point the manufacturers, load up so much additional content is because selling service or the device is just one way of earning money from customers. Carriers in particular do not wish to simply become the dumb pipe between the Internet and the customer, but instead wish to provide all sorts of value-added services. One way to do this is to bundle in additional features on the device, but many customers do not wish to use these carrier-provided services and instead would prefer the carrier involvement to simple be in providing that Internet connection. When a carrier changes the default application load on a device, this is to realign the “user experience” with their chosen revenue-generating applications and services.
Surely, a better experience for customers is to include all originally advertised applications, including content deals, widgets, applications and media packages, but to provide customers with instructions and the means to easily and quickly remove these additional features. This will allow them to reclaim the additional storage space if wanted. An alternative is to use the Google Nexus, or Apple iPhone, experience model, where the software on the device is simply that provided by the device manufacturer.
Our smartphones are one of our most personal pieces of technology and as such, they are almost always uniquely set up. This is one of Android’s great advantages – it can be almost completely customized to suit the user. This should include the full choice of applications on the device, which means carriers and manufacturers ought to allow all applications to be installed and removed. For the carrier or manufacturer to not allow the customer to remove a given application suggests that they know best, but the final decision over what runs on my smartphone should be the customer’s decision.