A few months ago, I upgraded from the Samsung Galaxy S3 to an S5. I wasn’t expecting a huge difference, but I figured with the increased processing power and bigger screen, those differences I noticed would be in the positive. They were, as far as that went. That paled in comparison to one adaptation that took a new phone and made it actively worse than its two-year-old predecessor.

Specifically, I was suddenly extremely restricted in what I could do with my external SD card. For instance, I could no longer take files off the computer network and copy them directly to the card. The reasoning was that it was a security precaution:

This keeps things “tidy.” Apps aren’t dumping files everywhere on the card — something we’ve all encountered — and instead have one central location to put all their files. There also are some serious security concerns that were addressed by not letting an app write files just anywhere.

This means that Jerry’s Awesome Photo Viewer app can still scan your entire system for images, build a thumbnail database of them all and save it to a folder on the SD card. But it can’t move or save the pictures themselves to folders — including the Pictures folder — on the SD card because it does not “own” those folders. If programmed right, it could save copies of the pictures to Jerry’s Awesome Photo Viewer’s own folders on the SD card. The folder is part of the app, and if you uninstall it, the folder goes, too. The old method of putting anything anywhere you want is gone, forever.

The author asks whether I want it to be “easy” or “secure.” In fact, what I really wanted was the ability to do something that I consider to be unremarkable and not-particularly-risky, without having to take intermediate steps.

Which is to say that I am not hugely invested in the Open vs Closed debate. I am perfectly fine with Closed as long as I can do what I want and have the features that I want. It’s my experience that the more open a system is the more likely I am to be able to do that, but up until this I never (for instance) felt the need to root my phone because I could do what I wanted on it without going to the trouble and voiding my warranty.

This changed that. It could have been avoided with a more intermediate computer step (apps cannot write to the SD card without the users’ express consent each time). More to the point, it could have been avoided by having a capable file management application included with the phone with the appropriate permissions.

Google, though, isn’t particularly interested in that. They are more interested in trying to dictate how we use the device, which is to say that they appear not to want us to be able to sift through the file structure at all.

They have their reasons, of course. The end result to all of this, though, is that they tipped my hand and forced me to finally look into how to root my phone. Which I’ve done, disabled the security feature, and can now get my 2014 phone to do what my 2012 (and 2010, 2008, 2007…) phone could without question.

Of the major mobile operating systems, Android is still the lesser of evils. Unfortunately, a lot of the trust has been lost here. Now instead of wondering what cool thing the next version of Android will do, I am worried about what feature the next version of Android will take away.

Category: Market

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