I woke up with this subject and title at 430AM. And for all the thinking that I had at the time that it was great, interesting things happen to topics when all you do is write them down and then sleep for a few more hours.
I woke up thinking about the YP Mobile (Yellow Pages Mobile) application that was on the Samsung Captivate that I reviewed for Brighthand some weeks back. It was nice and all that it was there, but it felt so forced, like the water company forcing you to purchase the water and the faucet from them. Not to say that YPMobile is a bad app, its acutally pretty decent. But, is it really something that carriers should be putting on a device, or leaving the yellow/white pages to being something you go for when you need it.
With mobile devices we see this often; especially on devices purchased from carriers. There’s the default applications, a few add-on ones from the manufacturer, and then the ones from the carrier. Depending on the carrier, it could be a nice selection, or a duplicate of several apps that you would have been on the fence about anyways. These applications, or at least the testing and verification of them per device per carrier tends to be one of the reasons that it takes a bit longer for carriers to bring mobile devices to market (in some cases it can take up to a year after the mobile device is released).
I don’t think its wrong that carriers offer these apps. I think its a good thing actually that they have a solid enough relationship with developers and developer houses that they can get such apps created and utilized across several mobile platforms. Thing is, I just don’t like them in there by default, choice is good for everyone.
Something I saw in the Android Market for both the AT&T and T-Mobile devices I reviewed was as section of the store specifically for that carrier. WIthin that section were carrier-branded applications and a list of top-pick apps. This was good I felt. They vetted through several apps and pull out a number of them that I wasn’t just interested in downloading, but knew that I’d use fairly often. Some were free, some were a buck or two, but it was all choice, and this felt right. This was the kind of approach to carrier apps that I had wanted.
What I didn’t want was to see a slew of carrier-branded (or event 3rd party) apps on the device, strewn all over the place (a few on a homescreen, a few hidden behind folders, and all of them on the main applications listing page) without the means to uninstall them. It is at that point that it becomes forced on me, or bloatware as many have described the trend.
In the PC world, this also happens. But I know several people that, as soon as they unwrap and power up the new PC, have pulled out the restore/system software disc and have wiped the PC completely. No ignamious virus suites, games, trial applications, or anything else. They want the blank slate of the platform to customize as they desire – and this should be the case. We are now at a point with PC computing that everyone knows how to find reputable places to download and purchase the software they want to use – PC companies don’t need to give the pipe and the faucet.
In mobile, its the same way. Sure, before the iPhone many people had no clue that all mobile devices could install applications (carrier-restrictions notwithstanding). And many people knew of at least a few people and/or websites to get some direction from towards installing them. We don’t need that help now, people know how to search, purchase, and install. The resources carriers use towards building and testing these default applications can be better spent towards creating more adaptive native applications and services alongside the manufacture’s offereings.
I woke up in the very early morning feeling that I would appreciate mobile applications and services more if there was a bit of a search/discovery component to them. And if the carrier could do that, instead of forcing certain apps or services on me, I’d proably be a better customer towards those offerings. They handle the pipe, and I’d like them to remain happy in doing so. Let me worry about the facuet and the texture of the handles.