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Android has kill switch; G1 review mixed

updated 12:10 pm EDT, Thu October 16, 2008

Android Kill Switch

Google has implemented the same sort of remote shut-off feature for rogue Android apps as with the iPhone, according to the search engine producer's notice in the Android Market user agreement. The company claims the right to "sole discretion" for remotely removing any app from phones that violate the Market's distribution agreement, such as malware or other potentially damaging software. Google attempts to reassure users by noting that customers should be refunded for any paid app revoked in this way.

Extra support is also put in place to support customers in a way not present with the iPhone App Store: customers can ask for a refund within 24 hours of downloading a paid app and therefore avoid the problems triggered by Apple's system. The latter has no immediate protections and often passes the refund to the developers, who may take a loss by refunding not just their portion of the costs but also Apple's 30 percent revenue cut.

The measures are considered more important for Android devices like the T-Mobile G1 than for iPhones due to Google's more open policies, which don't require an approval process before the apps go live. Such a system removes the conflicts that have forced some questionable programs from the App Store but also creates the potential for hidden but deliberate security risks as well as apps that perform poorly.

That balance is something to consider when buying the G1, columnist Walt Mossberg says in his review of the HTC-made T-Mobile phone. While the openness of Android is an important distinction, he notes that apps are only allotted 128MB of memory to protect the core software and that he quickly ran out of storage where iPhones aren't limited in size or RAM besides hardware.

The G1's core interface is also mixed, Mossberg adds. Android on the G1 is described as fast and much more customizable than the iPhone, but also has no way of synchronizing with computers short of third-party software; Exchange and other non-Gmail accounts are also off-limits. Media playback is likewise described as a purely secondary feature and needs users to manually copy files over to the microSD card when the phone or the reader is attached to a Mac or PC.

HTC's hardware keyboard is appreciated but is considered just "fair" and has no touchscreen alternative; users must always open the phone to type text even when the owner wants to use the phone closed. The thicker overall design, T-Mobile's currently limited 3G network and the absence of a native headphone jack are also considered important setbacks for the device.

"The G1 is a very good first effort," Mossberg says, "and a godsend for people who prefer physical keyboards or T-Mobile but want to be part of the new world of powerful pocket computers... but [it and the iPhone] have different strengths and weaknesses, and are likely to attract different types of users."

by MacNN Staff



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