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Vodafone Backs Down In Row With Android Users

Tom Jowitt is a leading British tech freelance and long standing contributor to TechWeek Europe

Vodafone has reversed its decision to install its own branded apps and bookmarks via a software update to its HTC Desire users

Vodafone has backed down in the face of angry opposition from Google Android customers, who last week received a software update thinking it contained Android 2.2, but instead found it contained Vodafone’s branded 360 service.

The Vodafone 360 service was launched in October last year. Essentially, Vodafone 360 is a user interface that puts social networking on the front screen of the phone, and arranges the users’ contacts so you can reach any person with a phone call, IM, text or other call – or send a location message to meet up.

However it also installs irremovable Vodafone-branded apps and bookmarks, including links to dating sites.

Not Android 2.2

The problem for Vodafone was that its HTC Desire smartphone users, which runs Android 2.1, thought that the update they were being offered, would install the eagerly awaited Android 2.2 (Froyo). Instead, they found the downloaded installed Vodafone-branded apps and bookmarks, and so they complained.

Customers are incredibly keen to get their hands on Android 2.2 at the moment because of its much touted performance boost and its capability to turn the handset into a wireless hotspot. Other features include HD video recording, and the fact that it will include support Flash software, which is currently thought to be used in 80 percent of all online videos.

Following the complaints, Vodafone backed down and said it would now offer an update without the Vodafone-branded applications.

Rollout Suspended

“What happened last week was that we issued a software update for HTC Desire users for Vodafone 360,” explained a Vodafone spokesperson, speaking to eWEEK Europe UK. “The current operating system for the HTC Desire is Android 2.1, but many users believed that the update would contain Android 2.2.”

“We listened to customer feedback and we initially suspended the rollout of the update following some performance complaints. However, we also then looked at other feedback and took a decision to stop rolling out that particular update,” said the Vodafone spokesperson.

“Instead, in future we will offer customers two updates. The first will be a rollout of vanilla Android 2.2, once we have carried out appropriate testing to make sure it doesn’t cause any problems on our network or handsets.”

“At a later date we will offer users a Vodafone 360 update, but we will give users a choice. That wasn’t clear to users in the download message this time,” the spokesperson added.

Official Statement

“We’ve listened to feedback from customers on a number of points around the recent 360 Android 2.1 update and made some changes to the roll out plan,” said Vodafone in an official statement. “The Android 2.2 update for Vodafone HTC Desire users will be based on the HTC open market version of the software and we will customise it to ensure our network settings are installed.”

“For customers who have downloaded the recent 360 update for Android 2.1, we can confirm that the Android 2.2 update will remove the 360 applications and will leave the homepage and bookmarks on your current settings,” said the operator. “Customers who want to access the 360 services will be able to do so once the Android 2.2 compatible version is available and, in the meantime, can now download apps like 360 People from the Android Marketplace.”

“We plan to make the 360 apps available in a separate update for the HTC Desire at a later date, giving customers the choice to download it,” it added. “We will let you know when the date for delivery of the Android 2.2 update is finalised, but, subject to testing, we expect this to be in 7-10 days time.”