I've been telling my friends and colleagues on Verizon to wait for the Samsung Fascinate. I'm sorry, I was wrong. Get something else.
The latest Google (goog) Android phone from Verizon is saddled with Bing for all of its search features, according to Engadget's review this morning. As Google incorporates its search engine into a variety of functions on the Android phone, it just kills the experience.
Google is said to rely on search revenues to fund its OS development, so this is quite a shocker. AT&T tried this on an earlier Motorola (mot) Backflip phone (using Yahoo (yhoo) as a search provider) and fell flat on its face. But Verizon wants to mine a little bit more money out of this phone and the poor consumers who may mistakenly purchase it.
Engadget was as surprised and put off as I was:
First -- we had a fairly extreme shock when we booted up this device for the first time. After some experiences with the "new" Android (that is, devices which have a much heavier carrier influence than Android's first wave), we've come to expect just about anything. However, what we found with the Fascinate still seems notable. The phone does not use Google as its default search. And it doesn't utilize Yahoo! either. No, the Fascinate search engine defaults to Bing. Bing is used for the home screen widget. It is defaulted to in the browser. It is present across the device ... and there's no way to choose a different search engine. Like, you know -- Google. When we pressed Verizon reps about this, they let us know in no uncertain terms that the stock engine is Bing without a second choice.
Clearly Microsoft (msft) to cripple the Samsung Fascinate. That is extra unfortunate because the hardware is as good as its Galaxy S brethren (plus it has a camera flash!). Verizon and Microsoft, to the surprise of many revealed a Bing App for Android last week. Is this just the beginning?
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That's what is interesting here. You start off with an excellent Android OS and fantastic hardware from Samsung. Samsung then puts its TouchWiz skin on it, making it clunkier, slower and harder to update to new versions (at release, this will be a generation behind). Then it gets shipped off to carriers who have their way with it as well. Other U.S. carriers have added annoying apps but haven't crippled the poor thing as maliciously Verizon. By the time it gets to the consumer, it is a mess and a poor experience.
Verizon clearly sees its customers as little piggy banks whose searches can be sold to the highest bidder (Microsoft in this case).
To make matters even worse, Verizon overrides Google's own superior maps service with their own pay Navigator maps which are inferior. I also see Bing Maps on that screenshot above. Ugh. You can change this deep in the settings but most people won't know how, at least right away.
I couldn't be more disappointed. This could have been the best Android phone out there on the best network.
If you were considering the Samsung Fascinate, go elsewhere. Steer
clear of this device. T-Mobile, AT&T (t) and Sprint (s) will give you much less crippled versions of this device. If you are stuck on Verizon, give one of the Droids a try, though I'd be very wary of the direction Verizon is heading with the Android platform.
I like where T-Mobile is going in this regard. Their upcoming G2 phone, which will be released at the same time as the Fascinate (September 9th), will be free of overlays and have the stock Android 2.2 OS. This is what consumers want. Bravo!