The Samsung Infuse 4G is a remarkable smartphone, but not for the reasons you might be thinking. Yes, the massive 4.5-inch Super AMOLED Plus touch screen, thin 8.9mm design, and 1.2GHz processor are impressive, but none of these features has Android fanboys buzzing with excitement. Rather, the hot topic today is that the Infuse 4G is the first Android phone from AT&T to allow app installation from outside of the Android Market.
Long a thorn in the side of Android enthusiasts, AT&T has restricted the ability to load apps from any source outside of the Google portal. So in other words, users could not install a beta app from a developer looking to get feedback on an upcoming release.
Even companies like Gameloft and EA, who offer games from their Web sites, have little to no presence on AT&T phones. Then there's the new kid in town, Amazon. Unless the consumer had root access on the phone, it was virtually impossible to load any games or apps from the Amazon App Store.
AT&T's previous stance on the issue was that it cared for the user experience and that the Android Market principles held developers accountable for the apps submitted. As AT&T saw it, if a developer played ball, its subscribers didn't have to worry about malicious apps and evil-doing. As we've learned over the last few months, however, the Android Market is not an impermeable fortress.
In speaking to the press yesterday, AT&T's Senior VP of mobile devices Jeff Bradley indicated the carrier's desire to open up.
I think we'll go more open. First and foremost we were genuinely concerned from a network bandwidth standpoint and a customer experience standpoint for not having any mechanism to take down a bad app. And the only way we could do it at the time was relying on Google to leverage what [security] they had in [the] Android Marketplace. We took a lot of negative publicity for doing it, but it was 100 percent driven by a desire to be able to have the ability to support our network and be able to help our customers. It really was.
Assuming this is the AT&T policy going forward, I see this as a win-win scenario. Consumers will be happy, as they can access apps from Amazon, Getjar, and other stores, while AT&T benefits by getting additional consideration when it comes to future Android purchases.