Virgin Mobile USA's "true Android experience" forbids rooting

You may remember we previously ran a story regarding Virgin Mobile USA's decision to only sell Android devices that use the stock UI, instead of the customizations that the likes of HTC and Motorola often employ.

Virgin Mobile released this statement explaining their decision:

"Virgin Mobile USA aims to make available devices that allow the end user to have the freedom to customize the device to their liking. We like to take a consistent approach with our Android portfolio and so we prefer to have the true Android experience loaded on all our Android phones"

The statement was a tad vague, it didn't explain if the decision was just in regard to custom UIs or if there was a chance that Virgin Mobile would be releasing devices with unlocked bootloaders. As it turns out, PCMag has discovered that this only applies to the stock Android UI and not any of the other aspects that many people feel are a crucial part of the Android experience, particularly rooting and custom ROMs.

In fact, not only are Virgin Mobile not encouraging rooting, they're stating that it's a violation of their terms of service. Here's what they had to say:

"We do not endorse in any way end users using a non-officially tested operating system nor do we approve of 'rooting' devices.  This constitutes a violation of our terms of service and puts our network in jeopardy. We endeavor to provide users a customizable Android experience within the limits of the tested and network approved Android OS."

This is bad news for anyone that got excited about the prospect of a carrier relaxing its stance on Android customizations and now it's clear that Virgin Mobile's decision was likely more of a cost-cutting one rather than a true benefit to users. When all of your phones share the same UI, its much easier to train your support staff to deal with it rather than training out 3 or 4 different UI designs. It also keeps Virgin Mobile's developer costs down, as they wont have to deal with custom UIs when it comes to modifying them to insert their own branded apps and services.

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27 Comments

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most android phones are those freebie phones they give out to clueless customers. they are basically dumb phones. i highly doubt those people know they are buying android phones. lets see figures for the higher end phones in the same vincinity as iphone ,wp7 and blackberry. i bet it looks pretty grim and thats why google is being very vague about their numbers. they keep touting activations, what the hell is an activation? phone sold? google apps license sold to oem? user logging in for first time when setting up device for first time? it all seems shady. developers are not even making any money with their apps. i made 5 times more money with my app in windows phone in a fraction of the time it was in the marketplace compared to android. i made a killing on iphone. with android most of my users were pirating my software. as a developer, i've never developed for such a screwed up platform before.

I think it was a bit evident that this was a cost-cutting measure. In addition to paying staff for support and showing users how to operate the phone, adding Blur/Touchwiz/whatever probably adds to the cost of the phone.

Also, no carrier is going to like anyone rooting their phone as it takes away almost all control from them. I still sometimes wonder how we lucked out in having such an open device on historically restrictive networks, especially Verizon.

SHADOW-XIII said,
mistake in the title, shouldn't be: "true Android experience forbids Virgin Mobile USA" ?

In soviet Russia, mistake fixes you!

SHADOW-XIII said,
mistake in the title, shouldn't be: "true Android experience forbids Virgin Mobile USA" ?

+1
Aah, I love good Soviet Russia jokes

PlogCF said,
Android is a disorganized mess that gets sloppier by the day..

I agree, plus the defragmentation of the OS it only gets worse even with their own store that does not support different platform.

Unix2 said,

I agree, plus the defragmentation of the OS it only gets worse even with their own store that does not support different platform.

Yes Android Market not supporting other platorms such as Windows Phone or iPhone is a disgrace. /sigh

As far as Android being fragmented, I do really hate having a device in which I have a say in how it looks...

It seems that most of the good reasons that Android enthusiast push to persuade others to the platform are not things that the service providers want the end user to be doing. The argument that Android is an "open" operating system may be true from the manufacturer's perspective, but not the user's. What you have to do to get unauthorized use out of your phone seems to be exactly the same as any other phone: you have to hack it. If you hack it, you violate your ToS and risk losing service. This is true on Android as it is on any other phone. Android is just open enough so that Google could get away with (*cough*) utilizing a large amount of code that they didn't write. Which works great for their data collecting needs . Helps that their users are just as religious about Android as the users of some other companies...

PlogCF said,
Android is a disorganized mess that gets sloppier by the day..

Hey, just think of Android as being in beta still. It will start to blossom after a few more years.

PlogCF said,
Android is a disorganized mess that gets sloppier by the day..

Yes, it's such a mess that even though there are so many builds of Android, most apps in the Market run on these devices fine... what a problem.

</sarcasm>

Unix2 said,

I agree, plus the defragmentation of the OS it only gets worse even with their own store that does not support different platform.

Widgets on my home screen. There I did it. I trolled.
Android = The true power of choice. Amazon appstore for android. Google android market.

PlogCF said,
Android is a disorganized mess that gets sloppier by the day..

Wow, a lot of people like a disorganized mess then. Sucks for iOS and especially WP7 platform.

UndergroundWire said,

Wow, a lot of people like a disorganized mess then. Sucks for iOS and especially WP7 platform.

A lot of people are ignorant. It doesn't make it more or less disorganized regardless...

Shadrack said,
It seems that most of the good reasons that Android enthusiast push to persuade others to the platform are not things that the service providers want the end user to be doing. The argument that Android is an "open" operating system may be true from the manufacturer's perspective, but not the user's. What you have to do to get unauthorized use out of your phone seems to be exactly the same as any other phone: you have to hack it. If you hack it, you violate your ToS and risk losing service. This is true on Android as it is on any other phone. Android is just open enough so that Google could get away with (*cough*) utilizing a large amount of code that they didn't write. Which works great for their data collecting needs . Helps that their users are just as religious about Android as the users of some other companies...

There is no comparison with the "other companies" you commented about where Android is concerned...so dont even try. With that said, users like Android because you can do more with the same amount of $$$ or less.

PlogCF said,

A lot of people are ignorant. It doesn't make it more or less disorganized regardless...

Yea, and you must be one of those ignorant people then. Fragmentation is only a deal to anti Android people and people who love to bash the platform...like Apple and many of its users. So bitch all you want about fragmentation as Android is still surging ahead and people are buying them and loving them.

PlogCF said,
Android is a disorganized mess that gets sloppier by the day..

Wow, another non informed person. I guess you never heard about Google talking to hte providers to provide faster updates. I also guess you dont know what GB and HC will be combined to one Os called ICS which will greatly help fragmentation people seem so concerned about. If you expect them to wiggle their noses and have these changes in effect right away, then you are delusional.

PlogCF said,

A lot of people are ignorant. It doesn't make it more or less disorganized regardless...

You my friend are definitely ignorant. Take your fanboyism else where. Have some real thought to your comments for once in your life.

techbeck said,
Approve or not, it will happen anyway.

I don't see the reason. There isn't a lot you can do with such a dated phone. It is a wannabe Android phone with an ARM6 processor that is overpriced as is at $199.

I guess only time will tell if you will see a dual core ARM7 for under $250 or so without a contract. My guess is yes, maybe in two years.