No Android Market for the Middle East [we're not 'Appy]
So you dig Google‘s slick Android interface, and shop around for a techtastic mobile running Android 2.1. You find Sony Ericsson’s tech-tastic Xperia X10, and spring for one of the best Android handsets to date. As you lovingly peel away the clear, screen protector and boot-up the mobile marvel, you smile to yourself. In seconds you will have one of the best mobile operating systems available, complete with Google‘s ace voice and image search, Google Maps, Gmail and a load of sweet applications via the Android Market.
But wait, as you slide your fingers around the lovingly designed multitouch screen you notice something missing. Actually, a lot is missing. Because your phone doesn’t have Google’s Market app. Odd, you think to yourself, but I should be able to get it online. The Android Market has over 50,000 apps, one for every day of the month for 136 years, and is hugely important for Android-users everywhere.
As you look at the Android Market’s online presence, you notice a distinct lack of ‘download’ button. And a few Googles later, and you still haven’t found a thing. That’s when you turn to your friendly neighbourhood Stuff magazine, and fire off an email asking for help.
This activates the gadget-help siren at Stuff Towers, prompting the whole team to slide down a pole downstairs into the Stuffmobile.
This happens fairly regularly to our team of gadget-obsessed ninja-like staff, and in this case, we set off in a particularly speedy fashion. We sped to the offices of Sony Ericsson in Dubai, and started hammering on the door. Sony Ericsson just launched the X10 in the Middle East, so if anyone knows what’s going on, it’s the phone-friendly blokes behind it.
After a few Jack Bauer-esque torture sessions with the VPs – they finally cracked.
It seems the Xperia X10, or indeed any officially sold Android Mobile in the Middle East, lacks Google’s ace Android app. No official Twitter applications, no Facebook-friendly custom apps, no notepads, no Google-assisted maps. You’re stuck with whatever comes preloaded on your mobile’s hard drive, and a few paltry apps stuck in the Middle East’s slew of manufacturer-specific marketplace apps.
We asked the just-beaten staff over at SE why this travesty continues, this was there response:
The Android Market is not supported in the UAE. This is due to the fact that Google has not had the necessary agreements with the Regulatory bodies as yet. This is fully controlled and managed by Google. Sony Ericsson will be offering Slide Me which is an alternative to Android market in the UAE.
Say it ain’t so. So it seems the UAE’s government is to blame for our region’s lack of ‘Appiness’.
In normal situations, the Stuff team would jump back in the significantly-armoured Stuffmobile and head off to the government’s offices. Unfortunately, it got wind of our mischievous mobile plans and gave our gadget-laden vehicle a ticket. Then it was towed away. It seems this is one battle we can’t wage with force (they have guns, you know). So we’ll have to handle it in a more diplomatic (read boring) fashion.
We’ve asked Google and the Government and Sony Ericsson to comment on this thrilling adventure of App freedom. Updates to follow.
[UPDATE: Google have got back to us, here's what the search giant has to say:
Our goal is to create a trusted marketplace where the rules are clear to users and developers for how to interact (e.g. refund policies), and that protects users' devices and the shared network from abuse. Currently, Android Market is available in dozens of countries (see the list here, and we are working hard to launch in additional countries. Please note that until Android Market is launched in a country, it cannot appear on local devices.
At this point however we don't have a comment on any regulatory / telecoms-specific issues.
It's worth noting that we tested the original Android-running mobile, the HTC G1 (or T-Mobile G1 if you prefer) which ran the Market app fine. It seems the problem is getting the Market on your mobile to begin with]