True cost of Apple control: no carrier bloatware on iPhone

We often accuse Apple of being too controlling when it comes to the iPhone, but sometimes that control benefit the end user -- for example preventing the kind of carrier bloatware being foisted on the iPhone that Wired says is being foisted on the new Android devices from Samsung and HTC. Examples include trial versions of subscription services like MobiTV, GoGo Flight Internet, Where, Nascar, Football, and others.

“It’s different from phone to phone and operator to operator,” says Keith Nowak, spokesman for HTC. “But in general, the apps are put there to meet the operator’s business and revenue needs.”[...] But bloatware isn’t a feature in all smartphones. AT&T hasn’t piled extraneous software onto Apple’s iPhone.

No, AT&T hasn't piled extraneous software onto Apple's iPhone because Apple won't let them. As Wired themselves profiled recently, any attempt by AT&T to dictate anything iPhone related to Apple would be rebuffed and -- if needed -- "escalated to Steve" who may then "scream at Ralph".

At the D8 conference Steve Jobs said many companies mistakenly believe the distributors (retailers, carriers, cable providers, etc.) are their customers. Apple believes end users are their customers and in this case they don't seem to care a wit what the carriers want.

Google's model, by contrast, is incredibly carrier-centric. Their customers are the carriers. Their prime consideration is to get more and more manufacturers and carriers to make and carry more Android devices. That's why their open source license is Apache -- a license that ironically leaves their source open to carrier control up to and including the ability to close things out. Manufacturers and carriers can do pretty much anything they feel like including adding non-removable bloatware, locking out side-loading, preventing rooting, etc. And yeah, you can hack your way around it but you can also jailbreak an iPhone. That's fine for power users. For mainstream users, not so much.

(Sadly, the single Android handset Google did control, the Nexus One, is being taken off the market.)

So we iPhone owners can get upset when Apple occasionally messes up and doesn't approve an app until there's an outcry, or sticks stock and weather apps on the iPhone we'd rather hide away, but does anyone think the iPhone user experience would be better if Apple were more open and the carrier was given complete control?


Rene Ritchie

Rene Ritchie is one of the most respected Apple analysts in the business, reaching a combined audience of over 40 million readers a month. His YouTube channel, Vector, has over 90 thousand subscribers and 14 million views and his podcasts, including Debug, have been downloaded over 20 million times. He also regularly co-hosts MacBreak Weekly for the TWiT network and co-hosted CES Live! and Talk Mobile. Based in Montreal, Rene is a former director of product marketing, web developer, and graphic designer. He's authored several books and appeared on numerous television and radio segments to discuss Apple and the technology industry. When not working, he likes to cook, grapple, and spend time with his friends and family.