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Is Verizon About to Destroy All Future Android Devices?


By replacing Google Search with Bing, Verizon could render its Android lineup completely broken and worthless.

Congratulations, AT&T (T)! You're possibly moments away from no longer being the most detestable mobile provider in the country!

Between proposed data caps, threatening customer service reps with termination if they don't upsell customers, an incredibly condescending ad campaign, and 3G speeds slower than AT&T, Sprint (S), T-Mobile, and even Leap Wireless (LEAP), Verizon (VZ) has been on a steady death march toward millions of unhappy customers.

And now, it could get worse. Much, much worse.

Today, Verizon gave the public a glimpse of an unpleasant future with its release of the Samsung Fascinate -- part of Samsung's well-received Galaxy S line. Reviews are trickling in and the overall response for most of the smartphone has been fair to positive: Gizmodo deemed the hardware to be respectable, the processor adequate, and features like the mobile hotspot and 4-inch Super AMOLED screen received high marks.

But, because of Verizon's heavy hand, the Android (GOOG) OS is severely hamstrung by a glut of useless bloatware. The app menu is choked by a Blockbuster app and a horrible IM client that only works over Verizon's network. Also, according to Gizmodo's Matt Buchanan, the carrier loaded a Tetris-type game which appears to be free, but asks for money once it boots up.

But as unforgivable as pre-installing lackluster apps is -- and a customized skin over the Android OS isn't a pleasing sight either -- Verizon went above and beyond its capacity for bonehead moves by installing Microsoft's (MSFT) Bing as the default search engine on the Fascinate. Also, making Bing the default map app rather than Google Maps. Moreover, there's no way to change either back to Google. The Google Search app and widget is purposefully hidden in the Android Market.

This, on a friggin' Google smartphone.

That means no seamless integration with Gmail. No Google Latitude. No multitouch in the map app, either. And in place of the free and fantastic turn-by-turn Google Navigator app, Verizon installed its VZ Navigator service -- a feature which costs $10 a month to use.

It would be one thing for Verizon to set the default search and map app to Bing with the option to switch back to Google. But it's utterly inexcusable for Verizon to destroy the possibility of a switch without the user having to root the device and, under Verizon's company policies, void their warranty. And on top of that, repeatedly charge you for a sub-par service instead of keeping the gold standard of navigation apps for free.

And as bad as that is, there's now a rumor that Verizon will be doing this again. On every single one of its Android devices.

After speaking with a Verizon representative about the Bing debacle on the Fascinate -- who also lied about the existence of a search alternative -- The Droid Guy contacted two Verizon tipsters who told him that the carrier "is dropping the Google Search from all future Android Devices and offering Bing in it's [sic] place."

Now, The Droid Guy isn't exactly considered a bastion of corporate leaks, nor has Verizon hinted at any plans of actually repeating the mistakes it's made with the Samsung Fascinate, but recent company actions have indicated that Verizon doesn't mind ignoring its subscribers' best interests. And AT&T certainly set a precedent for how far a mobile provider can ruin customer relations and still have new subscribers sign up because of a popular product.

Then again, Apple (AAPL) isn't in bed with Verizon. Yet.

Given the highly publicized feud between Apple and Google, would Verizon consider sabotaging its relationship with Google because the iPhone might bring in more customers -- mainly ones from a chief competitor?

It's a long shot, but so is the idea that Verizon would, in its right mind, ever prevent a user from installing Google Search on an Android smartphone.

UPDATE (1:40 PM): According to Business Insider, Verizon will be implementing Bing search in future devices but it is NOT an exclusive deal. A Microsoft spokesperson told the news outlet (emphasis theirs):

"Over the coming months, Verizon will announce the launch of new Android devices, which will be pre-loaded with Bing. The deal for Verizon Android devices is not exclusive."
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