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Sprint ID for Android smartphones (review)

We took a look at Sprint's new Sprint ID interface for Android phones. While the concept is interesting and potentially useful, we have a fair amount of reservations.

Sprint ID Entertainment Pack

We admit that we were skeptical when Sprint's CEO Dan Hesse launched Sprint ID at the fall CTIA show earlier this week. The service essentially gives Android users an opportunity to swap among five different thematic profiles. It sounds useful at first description, but we quickly wondered if the ID Packs--which contain the wallpaper, widgets, home screen shortcut buttons, and apps--are just another way to spam people with brand advertising. So we took our review units back to the office and out on the streets to get to know Sprint ID.

As we mentioned, Sprint ID is a collection of profiles that go beyond simple themes to install a range of focused experiences. Most of what you see shows up on the Android phone's five start screens, but individual ID Packs, as they're called, are also capable of presetting e-mail configuration, for an employer or a university, for instance. Developers are the ones that create the ID Packs, so they choose which apps, widgets, and shortcuts come bundled in a pack.

Mobile crapware?

Sprint ID is an intriguing concept for personalization and convenience that in reality is less tailor-made than you might like. While some profiles sound interesting and even useful, the ones we loaded drained our patience and processing power. It takes multiple minutes to download and then install an ID Pack. Although we found some useful apps and pleasing wallpaper, ID Packs can all too easily install unwanted applications and shortcuts, making them much like the mobile version of bundled desktop crapware.

Sprint ID logo

Of course, downloading ID Packs is purely optional, and you do have the option to delete individual apps and wallpaper using the Sprint ID management app, but only after all apps in the pack load up. In addition, one theme incorrectly loaded a weather widget that has since spun in the notification bar. Also, the phone seemed to lag after we installed a pack.

We understand that Sprint is grabbing for a competitive advantage. On one hand Sprint ID offers consumers a unique approach to customization that's also convenient to set up. On the other hand, it also gives large and small brands a visible "in" to the consumer consciousness. However, we don't appreciate the wasted time in downloading apps in a Pack that we then might modify. On top of that, tweaking the ID Pack content after the fact is counter-productive to Sprint's goal of creating one-click customization for topics people care about.

In our perfect world, the Sprint ID gallery would integrate with the Android Market, showing you a list of apps (and their ratings), wallpaper, and other attributes in the ID Pack that you can pick and choose from before they download. The packs themselves should also accept user ratings.

Show us that and our affections for Sprint ID may grow.

Sprint ID availability

Sprint ID launched on three Android handsets: the Samsung Transform, Sanyo Zio, and LG Optimus S. Sprint is currently preloading the Sprint ID interface on select Android phones running Android 2.1 or higher, and the company is looking into making Sprint ID integral on a wider range of phones.