Editors Note: Since Dave wrote this we have spoken to our contacts at Oppo who confirm that the Chinese version of the Oppo Find 5 will not sync with Google, however those of you buying the Chinese Oppo Find 5 will be happy to know that you will be able to flash it to the international ROM which has working Gapps!
Last month we published as story about how Alibaba was attempting to strip Google’s presence out of Android, to effectively steal the OS from Google in the form of their Aliyun OS. Our article then included quotes from Andy Rubin at Google regarding their views on “stealing” Android.
Apparently Alibaba wasn’t the only company with the idea, and Oppo’s Find 5 has a significantly modified version of Android that does it’s best to completely remove Google from the equation. In a word, I’m horrified. They’ve created there own “Near Me” Cloud services, and duplicated nearly every service that Google offers (either directly or through partnerships with Baidu and others).
The result is a phone that doesn’t have access to the Google Play Store, doesn’t sync contacts with Gmail, and was not able to run the versions of Gmail or Play Store that I loaded onto the phone. The company clearly put an huge amount of man hours (and presumably delayed the product release) to ruin the core of what makes Android great.
I’m completely dumbfounded. They’ve taken what should have been an amazing hardware platform and crippled the software so that it can only operate inside a trapped ecosystem operated directly by Oppo themselves. And while I can understand why the company would want to emulate Apple, I don’t think that copying only the bad elements of Apple’s corporate behavior is the way to become the next big mobile sensation.
A quick call to the manager of Oppo’s Shenzhen store told me that the local staff was completely unaware that the device could not use standard Google services. The manager promised to look into the problem and to offer a refund if there wasn’t a way to sync Google contacts and make the standard Google Apps work. So at least the company’s customer service doesn’t seem to be broken. It’s yet to be seen if that’s a promise that can be collected on.
As it is, I’m completely disappointed. Knowing now that much of the delay in releasing this product was probably due to these custom software changes, and that are neither needed or wanted in any way, just adds insult to injury for the enthusiasts that have been waiting for the devices.
The only hope now for the Find 5 seems to lay in the hands of the software engineers at xda-developer. They’ve already gotten their hands on a device, with luck will offer a port of CM10.1, Paranoid Android, Stunner, JellyBAM or any of the other ports of Android 4.2.x from the AOSP.
This story is still developing…
UPDATE (2013/02/01): We’ve determined through experimentation that it is possible get contacts imported from Gmail, although it takes several hours for the process to get all the contacts. By adding a gmail account as an “enterprise” account the Find 5 will connect to Google via Microsoft Exchange protocol, and over time, the contacts will slowly show up in the address book. It’s unclear at this point that is a two way process, but just the fact that the contacts can be added to the phone alleviates a large part of the pain that Oppo inflicted with their wholesale software changes.
- Testing of the 4.1 OS versions of Google’s Play Store and Gmail apps yielded the following results:
- The APK files are easily recognized and installed
- The installed apps can’t be launched.
So clearly there is more missing than just the apps themselves. What’s needed is the attention of some of the clever xda developers to build an installable APK with all the Google Apps and the other bits that are needed to make them work.
Also, Oppo sent us a link to their forums explaining that Google services are still included in their International ROM, but after scouring their user forums for the software and instructions for how to do this, we found that neither are available at this time. No comment can be made on whether Oppo’s International ROM actually fixes anything, because we’ve yet to see if it even exists.
To be fair, not all of Oppo’s software changes are for the worst. They’ve included a good camera app that takes advantage of the new features of the excellent Sony Exmor RS camera module that they’ve included. And we can’t find any fault with the screen or the rest of the physical design.
Several sources have explained that Oppo’s motivations where less about “trapping” customers in their cloud, and more about the fact that Google services are often blocked by the Great Firewall of China. But regardless of their motivations, Oppo would not be the first company to have noble intentions go awry. It’s notable that ZTE’s recent spinout, Nubia, has similar options to sync to a China based cloud service, but manages to do so without removing Google services or purposefully scrubbing all mention of Google from the device.
With Android’s current Chinese market share of over 90%, it’s clearly tempting for Chinese manufacturers to try to gain back control. But we hope that more companies will opt for Nubia’s “embrace and extent” method, rather than Oppo’s “raid and pillage” decision.