Rant: Verizon and Android and Me

Note: When I started this blog, my intent was to use it to separate out more religiously-themed stuff from my other writing. So far, it hasn't really worked out that way, and it probably won't. It's just too much trouble to maintain separate blogs, microblogs, and so forth, and I do have other interests besides religion. Yes, I'm Orthodox; I'm also a hopeless geek. So it's back to a unified blog, for now. For better or for worse, you get all of me. (Lord, have mercy…)

I'd like to say a few words about Verizon Wireless and how they're handling their Android phones. Simply put, I'm frustrated.

Chalk me up as one of those people who was chomping at the bit for an iPhone, but unwilling to move to AT&T to get one. You see, I'm a former AT&T customer who paid their ransom (a.k.a. early termination fee) to get out of a contract after it became painfully obvious that AT&T's coverage in my area was, to put it mildly, execrable.

So when the iPhone came out, and was AT&T-only, I knew there was no way I would switch back, no matter how good the phone was, because above all I need my phone to be a phone, capable of making calls from such exotic locations as my office and my home. I'm so hard to please.

And then came Android. The G1 had issues, not the least of which was being saddled with the T-Mobile network, but at least it showed there was an serious alternative to the iPhone. It took a while, but when Verizon finally came around and introduced the original Droid, it seemed like a perfect match--America's best network and an app-based touch-interface smartphone with the power of Google. What could go wrong?

As it turned out, plenty could go wrong. I should have known it was too good to be true; Verizon has a long history of crippling phones and forcing their own substandard software onto them. When it was happening on the Razr and the enV, it was barely tolerable. On an Android phone, which like the iPhone is essentially a handheld computer, it's borderline evil. I'm looking for the "Google experience." I want Google search, Google docs, Google contacts, and especially Google Voice. I most emphatically don't want VZW Navigator instead of Google Maps. I don't want Bing instead of Google search. If I'm using Google Voice (and I certainly am), I have no need for Backup Assistant, because all my contacts are in my Google account. I don't want second-rate crapware forced on me that I can't remove. I won't put up with it on my laptop and desktop computers, and I'm not about to put up with it on my handheld computer. No how, no way. Yes, I can always root the phone, but why should that even be a necessity? And it's not like I'm eager to go down that road in the first place. To some degree, it sounds like it has the potential to be my Linux experience all over again, and I'm not eager to repeat that.

Furthermore, the whole thing just rubs me the wrong way. It's like buying a BMW, and then being told by the dealer that you can only get it with an aftermarket padded vinyl roof, white-sidewall tires and a cheap tacked-on Bluetooth module. It's the mark of a bully.

The problem is that I really need to be on the Verizon network. They're simply the best in my area, and it doesn't hurt that I get a 19% discount on my service and hardware through my company, especially since I'm paying for a four-line family account. The savings are considerable.

So here's my dilemma: my phone will be out of contract in a few months, and Verizon is extending me the opportunity to upgrade now. I've been sorely tempted by the Droid X and Droid Incredible, although I know that the tech world being what it is, there are better/faster/newer phones coming down the pipeline. Do I upgrade now, before Verizon manages to sabotage these phones (and hopefully get grandfathered in to their current unlimited data plan)? Or do I wait and take my chances?

Alternatively (and here's the twist), I can do nothing. I have a two-year-old LG Voyager, which is certainly no smartphone, but it handles voice calls. text messages and Twitter posts just fine. On my four-line account, only one will still be under contract next year. If I hang onto my old phone, I can avoid having to sign a new contract, and be in position to move elsewhere--Sprint, perhaps--if I feel another provider can meet my needs, something easy enough to test out with a cheap pay-as-you-go phone.

Finally, there's the fabled Verizon iPhone. With both Verizon and AT&T transitioning from their current 3G CDMA and GSM networks to 4G LTE in the next year or two, we may very well eventually see the iPhone come to Verizon. Now that Apple is permitting Google Voice apps to be sold in the App Store, my main reservation about the iPhone has been resolved, and if there is anything certain in life it's that Steve Jobs won't permit the iPhone to be hobbled with Verizon's bloatware.

So, in the end, even though I love the network coverage and I really want an Android phone, Verizon's idiotic hobbling of Android may drive me into either leaving their network entirely or getting an iPhone after all. How ironic is that?