Vodafone UK rocks the bloat with demands for vanilla Android

You want plain, colourless Lollipops, have them, says Motorola


Vodafone UK wants to sell Android phones which are as close to stock (as Google intended) as possible, and the red company's favourite device for this is the Moto G.

Writing on the Vodafone company blog, Motorola senior marketing director Marcus Frost unsurprisingly extoled the virtues of the new phone – but he's not just trying to flog more smartphones.

The post points to two future directions, which can only be seen as an endorsement from both the handset company and the mobile network.

It’s interesting that those directions are complete opposites: Feature creep in hardware and a reduction in software bloat.

Mobile operators have always wanted more for less. Whatever the spec of the phone (not Apple though), the networks have looked at the teardown and offered the handset manufacturer the slimmest of margins.

Traditionally, the handset manufacturers have fought back against this “more for less” by offering more software features, which are a non-recurring-engineering cost as opposed to a bill of materials cost. Software isn’t free, but providing it’s not licensed, it can be amortised.

This led to an arms race. Manufacturers would look to add three classes of software: features the networks asked for (and it was a lot); stuff that rivals had and which they did not; and those that would mark the phone out as being different.

Then, of course, rivals would add those differentiating features and the arms race increased.

One of the things which made this worse was the network wanting customisation to support the things they wanted to sell: Vodafone Live, Orange Signature, T-Mobile MyFaves and so on.

The networks gave up on their customised experience ambitions, but that didn’t stop the handset manufacturers trying it. They thought that if you got used to using Sense, Touchwiz or MUI you’d only buy an HTC, Samsung or Xiaomi phone.

The Vodafone post shows that not only has the company given up on the customised experience idea it tried with Live, it wants its suppliers to do so too.

The post quotes Frost saying: “We believe it’s crucial to be as near to stock Android as possible. We haven’t adapted Android Lollipop at all, really – it’s still a very pure Android experience. The reason for that is that leaving Android as is allows the phone to be uncluttered and to be really silky smooth to use."

"Other manufacturers add bloatware or customisations that don’t really add anything to the experience, and that often means that the phone will end up slowing down over time," he added.

Or it could be because having gone from 100,000 people to fewer than 8,000 staff, Moto doesn’t have any programmers left. ®


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