At the Ref Desk (5/12/20): We have entered the Age of Lookups. [more...]

AT&T is the Death Star (HTC Fuze Edition)

Submitted by Leo Klein on Sat, 11/29/08 (12:34pm)

Just got my new HTC Fuze from AT&T. Going through the always helpful forums at XDA-Developers, I came across the following cry of pain:

Why did AT&T (and others like Verizon) have to make changes to it?

Why can't they just leave it as it is as the Touch Pro? I can't stand the fact that they had to change the keyboard to be different!

No tab and Ctl key.....come on!!!!!

The guy has a point.

att_deathstar_100x180.gif First there's the load of AT&T crapware that's included. You can't escape this since the good folks at AT&T thoughtfully re-engineered the default interface to include a prominent link to it. It mainly features fee-based services that ordinarily can be found elsewhere for free. Did I mention that you have to hack into the system to get rid of this stuff?

But back to the above lament.

The keyboard on earlier versions of this phone only had four rows. This allowed for larger keys. By squeezing in a fifth row, HTC, the manufacturer, had to reduce the size of the other rows and hence the keys. This made the keyboard slightly more difficult to use but no doubt HTC felt this reduction in functionality was justified since consumers now had a 'full qwerty' keyboard including a row of numbers.

Unfortunately when AT&T got its hands on the device, it simply said, 'qwerty, schmerty' and replaced the top row of numbers with punctuation marks. Worse, it replaced the normal function of certain keys on the lowest row with (surprise, surprise) yet more links to its fee-based proprietary services.

There is a conflict of goals here. The consumer wants a device to communicate with while the company wants a gateway to its proprietary fee-based services. This conflict results in interface decisions that alter how hardware and software traditionally function.

To the question then, what would a keyboard or operating system look like if it were designed by a telecommunications company, we now have an answer. For those of us concerned with the results, working towards a regulatory framework that separated the two -- i.e. the provider of the network from the provider of the network device -- might be a safe option.