A Verizon spokesperson has reached out to Ars with the following corrections about its version of the Pixel:
“… [W]hen Google releases an update, Verizon phones will receive the same update at the same time (much like iOS updates). … [W]e have three apps pre-installed on the phone Go90, My Verizon (which is your account management tool) and Verizon Messages (your messaging app). As you noted, all three can easily be uninstalled by the user.”
Assuming this pans out, it’s the closest anyone has gotten to Apple’s total control over the software on its phones. The only difference: the (removable) pre-installed Verizon crapware apps.
When I last purchased an iPhone from a carrier store, I was pressured to activate the phone in-store so they could install their apps for me, supposedly it was “company mandated policy.” I wanted to do an iCloud restore, I didn’t want to twiddle my thumbs while that happened in their store, so I insisted on getting the phone in the box or I was leaving. I was only allowed to do that on the promise that I’d install “myAT&T” when I was finished with the iCloud restore. Naturally, I didn’t do it, their website works just fine.