Remember how we ran that story last week about Virgin Mobile laying the smackdown on manufacturer UI overlays? We liked that. But Virgin Mobile wants the Android community to know that they shouldn't consider the prepaid carrier a safe haven for illicit activities like rooting or custom ROMs - not that that's any different from all the other carriers. Here's what Virgin 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," a spokesperson said. "We endeavor to provide users a customizable Android experience within the limits of the tested and network approved Android OS."

This is pretty much word for word the rationale all carriers use against rooting and custom software, and it seems Virgin Mobile wants to make clear that, while it's committed to vanilla Android, user customization needs to be within the limits of what your phone allows without any sort of extra-contractual tinkering.

Is this a fair exchange - unfettered Android for an honesty policy on rooting and custom software? I think it's a better system than the one Verizon uses, for sure - locked-down-into-oblivion Android (excluding future HTC devices) and zero vanilla device choice (except the XOOM), resulting in a large and somewhat resentful community seeking to thwart those measures.

Sure, the argument that something like CyanogenMod 7 somehow puts a provider's network "in jeopardy" is something we can all agree is hyperbolic, but stock Android is a lot of the reason people use custom ROMs. For Virgin Mobile customers, the biggest reason to root 'n ROM has been all but made a non-issue (well, aside from some minor carrier bloatware).

Might offering users a choice to have vanilla Android actually reduce the number of rooted and custom ROM devices out there? Considering the fact that the tenacious Android developer community has rooted every major handset manufacturers have thrown at them, I don't think the carriers would have much to lose trying things Virgin's way.


David Ruddock
David's phone is whatever is currently sitting on his desk. He is an avid writer, and enjoys playing devil's advocate in editorials, and reviewing the latest phones and gadgets. He also doesn't usually write such boring sentences.

  • Sean

    My phone has never run better since updating it to DarkysMod.

    I have tweeted complaints to Virgin in the past about poor data speed and timeouts - with DarkysMod, the phone is a hell of a lot better! (I assume because of the updated radio drivers in it).

    So, I'm sorry Virgin, but I'm one very happy modded Android customer. Before the mod, I was seriously considering NextG as a fix for the poor network performance, instead it was just a simple software update away.

    I've got a Samsung Galaxy S.


      Hey hows that Galaxy S treating you on Virgin?

      I just got the S3 and I'm debating rooting. I bought it from Best Buy thru Virgin for $300. Can you even root and mod a CDMA phone without losing signal?

  • jack

    It has nothing to do with security. The only reason they want locked phones, is so they can remove features from android and then sell them as a subcription on the side.

  • Andrew

    I bricked my AT&T captivate installing a custom ROM the other day. I was very upfront with AT&T customer service that it was my fault, etc. The technician checked with his manager and confirmed that as long as there is no physical or water damage, AT&T would cover the re-flashing cost if Samsung would not. Several months ago, another AT&T rep went into a long explanation about how Android is open source and I have every right to root, put in custom ROM's, etc.

  • Luis

    I'm a service tech and one of the main reasons with issues of custom roms is that when a customer brings in a custom modded Android device in for service, it makes things difficult to diagnose when they come in with issues. I keep up with all the Android forums and there are hundreds of roms out there, to much to keep track of to successfully troubleshoot custom roms. The carrier only supports its own versions of its firmware that came with the phone to make service of the phone as fast as possible for the customer. So many people make a big deal about rooting and custom firmware and what carriers say about this, but there are disclaimers with doing this all over the internet in the many forums out there. "If you are going to take your phone in for service, unroot/flash the original rom on the phone" the warning is out there and still I have many customers that I have to let know that they have voided their warranty by rooting or installing a custom rom. Yes, Android is an open operating system, but how is the carrier or manufacturer responsible for a device that has been modified by the customer, hence the warranty being void.

  • JayMonster

    " Might offering users a choice to have vanilla Android actually reduce the number of rooted and custom ROM devices out there?"

    Are you kidding? No way! Those that want to root want " their" ROM, not the version compiled onto the phone, even if it is Vanilla. Just look at the OG Droid! Despite what some claim as their reason, it is not about Vanilla, it is about control, and of you can't, then you " don't own it" whether it is Vanilla or not.

  • Spartacus

    Considering that Titanium Backup requires root to back up my phone, I'll be rooting any phone I buy. I don't need a custom ROM (my T-Mo Vibrant is rooted but still running Touchwiz), but backups are essential.

    • http://schpydurx.livejournal.com ProfessorTom

      You can back up any iOS without having to root, jailbreak or mod the device.

  • Misphit917

    Let me start off by saying this if you root your phone make sure you can also return it back to stock it makes things harder for people who appreciate the rooting process. I can respect virgin take on a stripped down android platform minus all the bloatware-thx that being said their are a few companies that think they're going to be a game changers by locking their bootloaders and I will say to you your barking up the wrong tree. Know what open source is and respect it.

  • http://richardgilboy.tk Rich

    I'm still going to just root it and it as PMP anyway.

  • Andrew / Des Moines

    I was expecting a quote on service, not free service. All AT&T has to do is reinstall the software, so it is not really a big deal. If the cost was going to be more than $40 or so I would build a jig and do it myself. And while many would root (which does not cause issues), few would be running custom ROM's if the current OS were delivered in a timely manner. I didn't put a custom ROM on my Captivate until the whole 2.2 fiasco had become a circus.

  • Kodiak

    i have the LG Optimus V... for the most part i like vanilla Android.... but Virgin still puts a lot of bullsh*t apps on the phone i wish i could get rid of!!! the phone only has 200MB of space... and there's a number of virgin apps that i don't use taking up space!!! with this next phone coming out i hope they don't stock it with most of these apps!!!

  • http://stuarthalliday.com Stuart Halliday

    As usual the consumer market will decide which type of phone they'll want. Ever since I bought a O2 branded phone and discovered to my horror that the email app was hardwired to use 3G only despite it having wifi ability. I made a decision never to buy a Operator branded phone again. Certainly never a O2 one!

    But with the Android market being so new, most people are not aware of the disadvantages of buying a branded phone and even less aware they can do something about it.

    Personally, I feel the phone reviewers need to make a big thing about this aspect of Android phone and rate the phones down when they come across them.

    • JayMonster

      At least in the US, many people are aware, but few are willing to give up the subsidies and pay full price for the phones.

  • AC

    I'm sure there are legitimate reasons against that. But honestly, getting a vanilla AOSP rom is the only reason I root.

  • Steffen

    You forgot something important, no manufacturer is currently supplying timely updates for their Android range. None. (I'm quite sure at least). I have a Samsung Galaxy that is supposed to be running Android 1.5 (!). I upgraded it to GAOSP which is 2.2.3 or sth like that mostly to get the security patches. Sure, it's still a long way from the proprietary Android-successor Honeycomb (no code drop > it's not open source), but it's something.

    Why should I loose my warranty because GAOSP did Samsung's job of providing vital security updates? In any case, where's the warranty that I'm supposedly entitled to? Samsung is wilfully withholding these fixes without due cause (if GAOSP can manage to do this, surely Samsung can? Or they could simply distribute GAOSP...), even though my phone is only just over a year old and therefore well within the legally required* warranty period?

    Samsung and the other manufacturers (including non-Android, if they fail to provide available updates without due cause) should be criminally charged with computer sabotage, and be additionally forced to pay full restitution for all damages resulting from their intentional and greed-motivated sabotage. And they can't hide behind "oh but software can't be perfect" - nobody with any sense is asking for that. I simply want _already_ _publicly_ _available_ security fixes. If Samsung is too evil to make them available I should not be punished for doing their job for them just because I can't afford the time&stress&money to sue them.

    *=Germany requires 2 years of warranty. The company that sold me the phone is responsible for statutory warranty and not Samsung directly, however, I think that's besides the point.