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Google Should Block Galaxy Nexus From Verizon

When you think about it, Verizon Wireless was almost lucky to suffer a 4G LTE outage this week. That’s because it diverted attention away from the controversy surrounding the carrier’s decision to ask Google not to include Google Wallet in the Samsung Galaxy Nexus. Contrary to various reports, Verizon insisted it was not blocking the mobile payment app on this highly anticipated handset. But Verizon is ostensibly blocking the app by not including it or allowing users to download it.

If consumers can’t get the same pure Android experience on the Galaxy Nexus as they can on the unlocked version, what’s the point of the Nexus brand? This is going to sound harsh, but based on principle alone, Google should refuse to sell this phone to Verizon customers until the provider does an about-face on Google Wallet.

In defending its decision to leave Google Wallet off of its flagship superphone, Verizon claimed that the app is more than just that. It’s more complicated because it involves “a new, secure and proprietary hardware element in our phones.” However, the NFC chip and secure hardware element inside the Galaxy Nexus S on Sprint has been working for months without any major issues. And I don’t imagine this solution is any different. Could it be that Verizon is stalling for another reason?

Isis, a competing mobile payment network backed by Verizon, AT&T, and T-Mobile, is on the way but just this week we found out it won’t launch until the end of 2012. That’s a lot of time consumers could be using to try out Google Wallet, which has rolled out to thousands of merchants around the country. Just in and around New York City I’ve noticed Google Wallet checkout terminals at the Port Authority Bus Terminal, Duane Reade, and Subway shops.

I really hope Verizon isn’t dragging its feet because of business reasons, because that would be both anti-competitive and anti-consumer. Galaxy Nexus owners should have a choice as to what mobile payment solution they use, just as they should in choosing what music app or movie service to use.

Right after the you-know-what hit the fan earlier this week I tweeted: "It’s not like Verizon can pull Netflix from phones to promote V Cast. Why should Google Wallet be different?" Just one day later, reports surfaced that Verizon and Redbox would be teaming up to launch a Netflix competitor at the end of May 2012. Nothing should or could prevent Verizon from promoting this service on its handsets once this service goes live, but should it be able to ask Google to remove its movie service from the Android Market?

The answer is obviously no, but my point is this: Where does Google draw the line? I can understand if Verizon wants to have more control over its own branded smartphones, but the Nexus line is supposed to be different. It’s Android unadulterated. And Google should take a stand now. You could even argue that Verizon including two of its own apps in My Verizon Mobile and VZ Backup Assistant go too far, though I wouldn’t.

Do I want to see an Android Ice Cream Sandwich phone with LTE speeds on Verizon’s network? Yes, and a lot of other people do too. But if Google doesn’t defend everything the Nexus brand stands for now, carriers will just keep chipping away until it’s just another phone.

Responsible for the editorial vision for Laptop Mag and Tom's Guide, Mark Spoonauer has been Editor in Chief of LAPTOP since 2003 and has covered technology for nearly 15 years. Mark speaks at key tech industry events and makes regular media appearances on CNBC, Fox and CNN. Mark was previously reviews editor at Mobile Computing, and his work has appeared in Wired, Popular Science and Inc.