AT&T cripples the HTC Aria, removes ability to install apps outside Android Market

AT&T can’t catch a break. After announcing that it would be releasing its first worthwhile Android phone next week, the HTC Aria, it now appears that the carrier is having trouble coming to terms with the open nature of the Android operating system. It’s planning to lock down the device from installing apps outside of the Android app Market, according to ComputerWorld.

AT&T did the same to its first Android phone, the Motorola Backflip. It never released an official statement on why it chose to lock that device down, but an Engadget interview with AT&T’s Mobile CEO, Ralph de la Vega,  seems telling:

We like the Android as an operating system on its own, but we want to make sure that we have, and customers have the option, to put applications on that device that are not just Google applications, so when the G1 came out and T-Mobile launched it, it’s primarily a Google phone. And we want to give customers the choice of other applications on that device, not just the same Google applications.

While it sounds as if de la Vega would be all for allowing Android apps outside of the Market, there’s also a deeper meaning to his statement: He wants more control over the device than Android typically allows. Anything AT&T doesn’t like on Android’s Market can be blocked, and locking down app installation from other locations prevents users from seeking out alternatives.

It’s well within AT&T’s rights to strip out Android features, but it’s not the most assuring move from the carrier. It demonstrates that AT&T doesn’t grasp what makes Android special — but then again, as long as the iPhone remains exclusive to the carrier, it doesn’t really need to. We’ve dropped a line to AT&T for comment on the matter, and will report back if we hear more.

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