With Android becoming a major player on every major network in the US, each individual carrier is now looking for ways to stand out of the crowd and think outside the box in order to persuade more and more Android shoppers to activate new service with them. Verizon is a perfect example right now, having recently announced plans to release a V-CAST App Store on its Droid devices. But they aren’t the only ones making headlines as of late; two weeks ago, Sprint used CTIA to announce a new service it was launching on its newest Android phones called Sprint ID.
Sprint ID lets you customize your Android handset by managing different ID’s, or profiles, each of which using the 5 home screen panels on your Android to focus on particular experiences or needs you may have as you go throughout the week. Each Sprint ID has its own package of apps, tones and wallpapers onto your home panels that fit your differing preferences. But it does even more than that; it will also include preset email settings and widgets. Perhaps during the work week you are focused on business, but Friday night you want to be completely social. No problem, just load a specialized business-centric Sprint ID for the weekdays. Become a socialite over the weekend? Choose the Social Connections ID and watch as your home screen panels change from everything business-centric into Facebook, Twitter, and other apps that fit you for the weekend instead. It’s just that easy.
Accessing Sprint ID is rather simple. On the bottom right of the screen you’ll find a button specifically for ID. Press that and you’ll be taken into a home page that gives you several options of ID’s to choose from. If there’s something new you don’t have, click “Get New” and you’ll be able to find ID options from several different categories.
It’s a rather clever idea, but I can’t say it’s completely original; I seem to recall Scenes on HTC’s Sense UI doing the same thing.
So how is it different then? The biggest difference I can see is that instead of only a few preset Scenes to choose from, Sprint ID is more open to developers and each individual ID is available from multiple Android phones, not being limited to one specific manufacturer. The preset email settings are also a nice touch; chances are you don’t always want to have your work email accessible — especially if you’re not getting paid to read them at home — so at night after work you can choose an ID that has that email account turned off, then change your ID back in the morning. One downside is that only 5 can be available for use at the same time, but it’s easy enough to just delete one of your Sprint IDs in order to choose a different one you’d use more often.
At launch, Sprint planned to have Sprint ID available on 3 different models: the Samsung Transform, Sanyo Zio, and LG Optimus S. The first two are now available in Sprint stores, just leaving the third to materialize sometime soon.
I do like seeing companies work hard to think outside the box and come up with a unique solution to having the same ol’ Android. But I do have some concerns about Sprint ID up front.
When I download a new ID it takes several minutes to load because it’s downloading all of the prepackaged apps, wallpapers and tones, and then installing them. Once it opens up for my perusal, I find an amazingly large number of apps that I don’t use, have never heard of, or the apps are eerily similar to the usual crapware or bloatware that we catch carriers doing from time to time. Bloatware haters, fear not: when managing individual ID’s, it is possible to go through each one and check off a list of the apps you never use and don’t want; once submitted, it wipes them off your phone.
Not only does it take several minutes just to download each ID, the apps that are “installed” as part of each package aren’t actually installed at all. Upon installing a fresh ID I attempted to go into multiple apps, only to find that I was actually being rerouted into the Market, with that particular app being the only download option. This makes it even more difficult for me to enjoy prepackaged themes when most of the available material still has to be manually downloaded anyway.
While I’m not a huge fan of prepackaged themes, many people who are new to Android have a difficult time making sense of what to do with their new phone, especially with 100,000 apps available for download in the Market. And if you are brand new to Android, Sprint ID is a stellar idea that will help you get the most out of your phone as quickly as possible.
I also attempted to download and install a new ID, but to my amazement discovered that I could not do so since I was connected to WiFi. It would only let me do this when connected to Sprint’s 3G network. I tested this on both the Samsung Transform and the Sanyo Zio just to make sure I wasn’t doing something incorrectly, but no matter what I did to troubleshoot the problem I could not get it to work. I can only theorize that this was done by design, but am unsure as to why it would be limited in such a fashion.
Lastly, if you don’t want the Sprint ID button showing up on the bottom of your screen, tough luck. Without downloading a different launcher via the Market, it’s impossible to get rid of it. It’s not difficult to get out of the program if you accidentally hit the button, but I prefer having the extra space to use for other shortcuts.
So overall, how was Sprint’s latest attempt to drive the Android-buying masses into its stores? It isn’t a good enough reason to switch carriers, that’s for sure. While it is a creative way to make Android handsets more customizable, it also slows down the phones, adds in a button on the screen that not everyone may want to have, and doesn’t necessarily add much more to an Android phone than is already available without it. While Android users that are new to the whole experience may enjoy having developers tell them what to download and how to use your phone, I have always preferred to just learn as I go and make the Android phone my own.
Check out below for a video on Sprint ID as well as a screenshot gallery.
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