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Android features kill-switch

Android features kill-switch

Android handsets such as the T-Mobile G1 will feature an iPhone-like 'kill-switch', enabling Google to disable applications remotely.

Although Google are taking a different approach to a mobile 'phone operating platform than Apple with the new Android OS, there's at least one thing they're borrowing from the iPhone: the application kill-switch.

According to ComputerWorld, the terms of service documentation for the Android Market, on which developers can publish applications to be purchased and downloaded for handsets running Android, states that “Google may discover a product that violates the developer distribution agreement [...] in such an instance, Google retains the right to remotely remove those applications from your device at its sole discretion.

Anyone familiar with the iPhone blacklist will be hearing some echoes there, as the approach mirrors Apple's centralised control over the content installed on customers' handsets. Where the two differ, however, is in transparency. While the functionality is the same – and just as objectionable to some – the method by which the news got out is very different indeed: whereas it took a curious engineer digging around hidden parts of the iPhone OS to discover the presence of the remote application blacklist and force Apple into a confession, Google's equivalent is right in the user agreement for anyone to read – although not exactly advertised.

Another instance of Google trying to be a little friendlier about its centralised power trip than Apple is with the statement that the company will make “reasonable efforts to recover the purchase price of the product [...] from the original developer on your behalf” if it does use its power to remotely remove a purchased package from your handset.

Whether these compromises will make Google's kill-switch any easier for people to swallow that Apple's version remains to be seen. Although there are legitimate reasons for such functionality to exist – especially with the Android Market, which doesn't feature the rigorous vetting procedure Apple forces developers to go through before apps are published – it's always a bit unnerving to know that any given application on your handset could disappear at the touch of a button somewhere in Mountain View.

Do you think that Google have done everything they can to make the kill-switch functionality less obnoxious than Apple's equivalent, or are the two identically intrusive? Share your thoughts over in the forums.

14 Comments

Discuss in the forums Reply
liratheal 17th October 2008, 12:51 Quote
Not shocked. At all.

With application stores, either as closed as Apple or as open as Android, there needs to be an option like this. More so with Google than Apple, but hey.

At least they're being more up front than Apple about the whole thing.
[USRF]Obiwan 17th October 2008, 12:54 Quote
wtf?

obi talking dirty over the phone to his girly...

GOOGLE: (in a android like simulated voice) "MDK! MDK! your phone will be disabled for 5 minutes for violating rule 36"


Rule 36: Your repeated violation of the Verbal Morality Statute
shigllgetcha 17th October 2008, 13:03 Quote
you can do whatever you want as long as we agree with it
BioSniper 17th October 2008, 13:19 Quote
What irks me is peopling saying "oh well, it's probably a good idea". Yet when apple does it people cry foul.
liratheal 17th October 2008, 13:25 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by BioSniper
What irks me is peopling saying "oh well, it's probably a good idea". Yet when apple does it people cry foul.

There is a difference between the two, though. Apple control their store very, very strictly. However, Google are running a much more open store, so the chance for malicious apps is much, much higher.

It also helps that Google have got this pretty up front, where as Apple didn't tell anyone until someone stumbled across the black list in the phones firmware.

Doing something like this with no explaination gives people a reason to cry foul, and yet, doing the exact same thing, but telling the users, and providing a fairly sound reason, isn't really giving people a leg to stand on to complain about it. As a side note, I wasn't fussed about Apple doing it either, but hey.
quack 17th October 2008, 13:32 Quote
Wasn't fussed about the Apple kill-switch, not fussed about this one either.
Tomm 17th October 2008, 13:45 Quote
I think the interesting thing will be how they choose to exercise their right to use the killswitch. Will it just be used to help users rid their phones of malicious programs, or will they block other programs that Google or T-mobile just disagree with?

I know that a few iphone apps to allow using the iPhone as a modem have been pulled from the app store, presumably because AT&T (and the other major carriers) didn't like the sound of it (although I don't believe Apple have used the killswitch to remove programs from your device yet?). I don't really see how this news can be interpreted as being good for the consumer, but I'm not going to get too upset by it.
liratheal 17th October 2008, 14:02 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by Tomm
I know that a few iphone apps to allow using the iPhone as a modem have been pulled from the app store, presumably because AT&T (and the other major carriers) didn't like the sound of it (although I don't believe Apple have used the killswitch to remove programs from your device yet?). I don't really see how this news can be interpreted as being good for the consumer, but I'm not going to get too upset by it.

Yeah, AT&T (Not sure about O2, but I expect they're the same. More than likely driven by Apple, to be honest) don't want the iPhone (Unsure about their other 3G phones) being 'tethered' (Used as a modem), which is a real kick in the junk.
War-Rasta 17th October 2008, 17:49 Quote
I don't know how anybody could not be upset by this. I don't own an iphone and don't plan on ever getting one and as for google's phone I don't think I'll get one any time soon IF i ever do get one, but giving google, apple or any company for that matter the power t odecide what goes on your phone just seems like a stupid concept to me. I wouldn't want Microsoft or Intel deciding which apps I can install on my computer just because my CPU or OS come from them! If I paid for the thing I have the right to do as I please with it and if I Install something that breaks my phone in two after it sent my passwords and credit card information to a terrorist organization that drives over baby cats in the Philippines that's my problem! Do you go crying to MS when you catch a virus on your computer? What they have to do is make sure that whatever they sell is not gonna do any kind of nasty things in the first place, but once I have an app on my phone it should stay there. If they find something they missed and want to pull the app off the should send me some kind of notice and I'll choose what to do.
Lepermessiah 17th October 2008, 19:16 Quote
I wants me an Android.
Tulatin 17th October 2008, 23:10 Quote
Short of for rifling malware, I don't see the ethical grounds for this.

It would be akin to Microsoft being able to parse your list of installed applications, and remove them at will.
D B 18th October 2008, 01:41 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by Tulatin
Short of for rifling malware, I don't see the ethical grounds for this.

It would be akin to Microsoft being able to parse your list of installed applications, and remove them at will.
That's pretty much what I think of the whole thing
p3n 18th October 2008, 12:21 Quote
They have to have a killswitch for mobile networks to agree to have it on their network, its simple people.
D B 18th October 2008, 14:33 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by p3n
They have to have a killswitch for mobile networks to agree to have it on their network, its simple people.
?
please expand on this for us simple people
... this is true for all phones? ... all networks
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