Saturday, November 30, 2013

Android's curious advantage: lawbreaking made easy

Remember when Apple made ads about ripping CDs? iTunes and the iPod made it elegantly easy [1]. The ads were coy but clear -- wink, wink steal that music. Used CD stores made good money loaning out CDs for extraction. This was after Napster launched digital music, but before legal DRM-free tunes crushed CDs.

Now, of course, Apple is again virtuous, and iOS is a hard target. There's still no iOS 7 iPhone 5s jailbreak. Not only is IOS more secure, there's also less interest in iOS jailbreaking. The hacker community has moved to Android. 

With good reason, because Android is oddly easy to jailbreak. Almost as though bypassing DRM were to Google and Samsung's competitive advantage. Which, of course, it is.

That's interesting, albeit unsurprising, but it gets better. Not only does Google keep Android rootable, the Google Play store sells apps that require rooting to work. Wink one.

It gets better still. WiFi Tethering, one of those root-requiring apps, exists only to bypass carrier restrictions on tethering. So Google sells an app that's designed to at least violate contract terms. Wink two.

That shouldn't be a big deal to carriers who charge for data [3], but for 'unlimited data' [4] carriers like Sprint and TMobile it's money out the door. A single LTE connection can support quite a bit of traffic.

Story done? Not quite. There's one more interesting bit. Nobody writes about this [5]. It's a de facto conspiracy -- because we all hate carriers [6]. Wink 3.

I suspect Google will clean up its act soon. With 80% of the retail market this is a good time to go straight. Android will become harder to root, Google will make more money from DRM, and the Play store will stop selling apps that bypass tethering restrictions.

The wild days will become a passing memory. Who remembers now when Apple was rad?

- fn -

[1] iTunes was a LOT simpler in those days.

[2] Really, that is remarkable.

[3] I dislike AT&T as much as the next geek. Go get 'em!

[4] Of course carriers play games here -- data rates can get pretty slow after first few GBs and unlimited data plans have become pretty expensive in the US. So the real advantage is people who are holding on to low cost legacy unlimited plans. I am so jealous of these (mostly) guys -- they have the equivalent of a rent controlled apartment in Manhattan.

[5] Yes, of course there are a zillion articles about how to bypass tethering restrictions. I mean nobody writes about Google/Samsung's business strategy. By contrast when Apple made ripping CDs easy there was a lot of coverage. Fortunately i'm not giving anything away here -- my readership is very small.

[6] Even people who work for them. Ok, maybe we don't hate Ting - notice they don't have unlimited data.


Jeremiah said...

Hopefully the story/links come up for you. if not i'll copy/paste them here as a comment. Thought it an interesting addition.

JGF said...

They are behind a login so couldn't see