Android Q, the next major iteration of Google's mobile operating system, is all set to bring a host of new features that users will certainly appreciate, but it may also introduce some unwelcome surprises too. The source code of Android Q has mentions of new ways in which carriers can lock a smartphone and restrict it to their own network. While that may not sound new, carriers can also choose to disable the secondary SIM slot of a smartphone if users don't use a SIM card from a partner or whitelisted telecom operator.
At least four commits in Android's Gerrit source code management indicate that Android Q will enable carriers to lock a smartphone in ways more than one. Titled ‘Carrier restriction enhancements for Android Q', the commits suggest that carriers will be able to create a database of other telecom operators whose SIM card can function on a smartphone. The new carrier locking restrictions will be applicable to both single SIM and dual SIM smartphones. So, in what fashion will these powers be enforced?
In case of single SIM devices, the original carrier can specify which networks will work on that particular smartphones. This will apparently be decided on the basis of a list which contains the names of ‘allowed' and ‘excluded' carriers whose telecom services can be activated on a smartphone. In technical terms, a SIM card will work only when parameters like the MCC match the details provided by a telecom operator for the carrier restriction configuration.
When it comes to dual-SIM smartphones, Android Q's carrier restriction features might sound draconian to users. With the arrival of Android Q, carriers will be able to lock out the second SIM slot unless it contains the SIM card from an approved carrier. This can play out in multiple manners. The original carrier can make it mandatory for its own SIM to be used on the first slot in order to let users activate the services of another on the second slot. Also, carriers can forge partnerships to selectively enable each other's network services on a smartphone. And if the latter gains prevalence, smartphone buyers will have minimum flexibility when it comes to choosing the services of a particular carrier. The new carrier restriction commits were first spotted by 9to5Google.
The status of all four commits is listed as ‘merged' on the Android Gerrit source code management, which means they will most likely make it to the final build of Android Q. So, there you have it. On one hand, Android Q is expected to introduce features such as a system-wide dark mode and more refined app permission controls. But on the other hand, it appears the new version will also grant carriers more power to restrict the scope of choices smartphone users have at their disposal.