At today’s Verizon Developer Conference in Las Vegas, Verizon laid out its plans for its upcoming app store for Android, to be branded under the V CAST name. Previously, many had wondered about the point of such an app store–it would merely make the Android platform more confusing, would be bad for consumers (since if they switch networks, their apps would no longer work), and would likely be a continuation of Verizon’s crapware tendencies.
Verizon was known in the pre-smartphone era for stuffing its own cellphone UI into every phone it offered–you might remember the red-themed UI on the Motorola RAZR, for example. That UI was largely loathed, as it often cut out features the phones actually could handle, and gave no benefits beyond consistency. In Verizon’s new life as an Android power, the company has started adding crapware onto its Droid lineup, starting with the Motorola Droid X and Droid 2. Though solid phones, both the newest Droids have been universally panned for this crapware.
Well, there’s more of this proprietary Verizon software to come. The V CAST app store is already courting developers, who will be gifted with a few points of data that isn’t given to developers for the usual store. That mostly consists of location data and the ability to push notifications. Location data is promising but also a bit scary: Verizon has access to a huge amount of location data, and will make all of it available to developers in a passive, persistent way (meaning, you won’t have to turn on GPS to be located). That comes with its own set of privacy concerns that Verizon has pledged to address responsibly.
So, is a Verizon app store a good idea? I don’t think so. There’s a philosophical argument to be had–Android being inherently open, why allow something so obviously closed–but more to the point, it’s bad for consumers. It’s confusing and unnecessary to have two separate app stores with purposes similar enough that none but the nerdiest of the nerds will understand the differences. So, Verizon? Back off the software. Stick to what you do best, expand your network, and leave the software to HTC, Motorola, and Google.