Verizon Wireless and the Galaxy Nexus Saga

I haven’t posted on this subject yet because it hadn’t been a big enough pain in the ass to make it worthwhile and I was too busy writing papers for the classes I took this semester… But things have changed. I’m now out of school for the rest of the year, and though I thought I’d have been the hell off of T-Mobile’s crappy network by now, Verizon Wireless has become a major pain in my ass.

I suppose I should back up a bit and give you a little background information.

Until January, 2009, I had been a Verizon Wireless customer, but since they hadn’t announced any plans to allow Android based phones on their network at the time and my contract had just expired, I went to the only company that was offering Android phones: T-Mobile. From day 1, I wasn’t happy with T-Mobile, but I had little choice. The main reason I was dissatisfied with them was that I could sit completely still in my house in Detroit, Michigan, and watch my signal come and go for both voice and data. While I was (and believe it or not still am) reasonably happy with the G1 hardware and software T-Mobile’s service was and still is shit.

Fast forward a year and a lot of developments and improvements on Android, a lot of new models were released, including the first long rumored “Google Phone”: the Nexus One. I tried to get T-Mobile to give me an early upgrade in exchange for extending my contract another two years, but being the shitheads I think they are, they refused. So, I canceled my G1 contract, paying the early termination fee, and ordered the Nexus One which I’m still in love with to this day. Sadly, in the three years that I’ve been a T-Mobile customer, their service hasn’t improved here in the slightest, so I’ve been planning to go back to Verizon or maybe even switch to Sprint pretty much all year. My destination depended on one thing: who would be carrying the next Nexus.

Back before the the Galaxy Nexus was officially announced, it was rumored to be exclusive to T-Mobile or Sprint and eventually, and accurately, Verizon, at least for a limited time. Given the service that I had gotten from Verizon in the past, I was really hoping for them to get it at just the right time to allow me to switch back when my T-Mobile contract expired, or perhaps even a month or two before. The only thing that was negative in my mind at all was that Verizon had just killed their unlimited data packages. In all honesty, I considered signing up with them in early July to get “grandfathered” into their unlimited data plans, but I decided to wait and see how things played out: after all, it was possible that Verizon wouldn’t get the new Nexus at all, let alone as any kind of exclusive. After all, if Sprint picked it up, I could probably get unlimited data for less than I could get 2 GB/month from Verizon. Don’t get me wrong, I really wanted Verizon, but I wanted to be smart about this…

October 18th rolled around, the Galaxy Nexus was officially announced, but was not confirmed for any U.S. carrier. Rumor held, however, and appeared to be verified shortly thereafter that the phone would have a limited time exclusivity deal with Verizon! This was great news for me! Better yet, rumor held that the release date was only a few weeks away, November 10th to be exact! Perfect! But Verizon never said anything.

In fact, they still haven’t said anything about it. While there’s an ad for the Galaxy Nexus running on the Verizon Wireless site whenever you search for “Galaxy Nexus”, there’s no official information, no announcement, barely any references to the phone at all.

The rumors started flying, of course, especially with release dates. For the last month, the release date was always just another few days away, and Verizon said nothing. People blamed Google, thought that there must be flaws in the software that prevented the release, but Google said nothing as well. I think my theory probably is the most valid for the delay for all of November: Google had just released the Motorola Droid Razr during the week that we suspected the GNex would come our way, so it seemed and seems probable to me that they delayed the GNex so that the Razr would have some reasonable chance at selling considering it’s coming with a older version of Android than the new Nexus. (Android 2.3.x versus 4.x on the Nexus.)

The Razr is a nice phone I’m sure, but without some of the key features in the Nexus line (NFC in particular since the Nexus S came out last year, and of course the new version of Android) it would’ve been buried by the Galaxy Nexus. As much as I hate bullshit like that, I accepted it because it made sense from an economic viewpoint for Verizon. Besides, if they had a 2 month exclusivity deal with Google, they could hold back the Galaxy Nexus a month to get sales of the Razr, then still sell the Galaxy Nexus as an exclusive for a month.

And this seemed to be exactly what Verizon was doing… As December 9th approached, there seemed to be more and more activity going on with the Galaxy Nexus at Verizon. The number of leaked emails and information started to skyrocket, there were even photos of the phones being stocked at Verizon Wireless and Best Buy stores in preparation for a launch today…  Most of us didn’t care a whole hell of a lot that Verizon got their way with the phone a bit to add some of their software. I prefer plain vanilla Android, but I can tolerate two unobtrusive apps being added to the phone’s image, but apparently Verizon decided to fuck around a bit more than that…

Despite the fact that Google Wallet has been around for months, and is installed by default on the Sprint version of the Nexus S, and also the fact that Verizon execs have had God knows how many builds of Android 4.0 on various Galaxy Nexus sample units, they decided in their infinite fucking wisdom to wait until the launch was imminent to tell Google to pull Wallet. Never mind that the firmware image was already updated to fix some bugs before the release here in the United States, at which point they could have told Google to pull Wallet, but they decided to wait until the proverbial last second to start causing some problems over Wallet.

So what’s the big deal? Well, Verizon is claiming that Google Wallet will require additional hardware in the phone as well as infrastructure changes that they aren’t prepared for in order to properly handle security and secure transactions with Google Wallet, and thus they want it pulled from the phone. The problem with that request is that it’s software based: data encryption is already being done between the app and Google’s servers where I’m sure the actual credit card information is being stored. There’s no need to have any additional hardware in the phone, but for the sake of argument, let’s say there was. Doesn’t Verizon think that Google and Samsung would’ve already thought of this considering the Samsung Nexus S on Sprint’s network has the very same NFC technology and the very same application? Does Verizon think that Google and Samsung missed something?

I seriously doubt it. You see, Verizon, AT&T, and T-Mobile are partners in a mobile payments software company called Isis, which will be making a product that pretty much competes directly with Google Wallet using NFC to initiate the transactions. The problem? Isis isn’t complete yet, and rumor has it they won’t have their software ready for nearly a year. So rather than give Google Wallet a full year to establish itself on the Galaxy Nexus on Verizon’s networks, Verizon is digging up technical mumbo jumbo bullshit to say that the phone isn’t properly secure for this purpose nor do they have the infrastructure. This is bullshit because if they can transmit and receive data to and from the phone, then they have the infrastructure; Google is already handling the encryption and security for the transactions.

Why am I saying this instead of Google? Well, they’re just too fucking polite to state the obvious, but I think I know a few engineers over there would be screaming “fuck yeah!” if they ever read this. Google has to maintain a cordial relationship with the carriers in order to get their phones on to their networks. If Google had already put out 20 different phones, that sold millions on the release date, Verizon wouldn’t be trying to push them around. The Nexus phones aren’t iPhones, even if me and half million other buyers think they’re better… Apple sure as hell wouldn’t be getting this kind of treatment from Verizon…

So what’s the logical answer given this hubbub? I say Verizon should NOT block Google Wallet in any way shape or form, and Google shouldn’t pre-install it either. Google should put Wallet in the Market and make it available for download for phones with NFC. Why? So that we the users, the people paying or will be paying Verizon a monthly bill have the choice. This should be our choice because we’re the ones that may or may not use Wallet or Isis. It should be up to us to decide who we trust and how we pay for goods, not Verizon.

So another rumored release date has come and gone, this time with the phones in stock at retailers… They’re not allowed to sell the phones yet because Verizon is apparently waiting for Google to pull Wallet… Well, Google, I hope one of your managers reads this blog entry… Pull Wallet exactly as the fuckers at Verizon want you to do… Then release it in Android Market once the phone has gone on sale exactly as I suggested above… You’re the application developer, and Verizon claims that they don’t block any app… So, do what you want to do… Grow some balls, and do what’s right for your customers… If Verizon wants to be a whiny baby and decide not to carry the next Nexus after this one, fine… fuck them. You’ve got Sprint, AT&T, and T-Mobile customers drooling over your phones already, and I’m sure that if necessary, I’ll find a happy home with Sprint after my Verizon contract ends…

Update 12/14/2011: Verizon’s finally gotten around to announcing that the Galaxy Nexus will be released tomorrow… About time…! I’m not saying all is forgiven, but at least we can start getting this mess behind us…