updated 01:05 pm EDT, Thu September 9, 2010
Verizon may require Bing, contradict Android ideal
Verizon's decision to force the use of Bing as the core search engine on the Samsung Fascinate may be part of a larger change that could undermine Android itself, a rumor hinted today. Two sources for Droid Guy, at least one of them previously accurate, claimed that Verizon is making Microsoft's Bing the mandatory engine on all of its Android phones in the future. It contradicts a previous statement from a Verizon representative that customers could change the search engine on phones if they liked.
While it's not uncommon for carriers to make deals for default search engines, Verizon's approach also prevents owners from choosing an alternative short of installing unofficial firmware, an investigation found. The Google Search widget has been removed and can't be found in Android Market for another download. More than one APK (Android app installer) for Google also fails where they work properly on Samsung Galaxy S variants for other US carriers, such as the AT&T Captivate or T-Mobile Vibrant.
Microsoft is known to have a long-term deal with Verizon for search, but until now there hadn't been active steps to prevent using an alternative. The company may be especially vocal about changing the search on Android devices, since a stock Android phone is immediately a help to Google's search ad revenue.
Regardless of motivations, the restriction if broadly applied would have Verizon reneging on its pledge to support the openness of Android and reflects a wider trend of the OS being artificially restricted by carriers. Most US providers are disabling Android 2.2's tethering support in favor of their own, and AT&T has banned non-Market Android apps under the pretext of security. The moves paradoxically leave Apple's iPhone more open in some areas, as its users can choose Google, Bing or Yahoo for search and don't have first-party apps deliberately hidden or broken.
Verizon has yet to comment on the authenticity of the claims beyond what's been shown to be true with the Fascinate.