UPDATED 14:20 EST / MARCH 22 2013


Bloatware: Get This Crap Off Of My Phone!

If you happen to have owned an Android smartphone or tablet device in the last couple of years, you’ll be familiar with this particular pet hate of mine.

Force fed apps, otherwise known as “Bloatware” or “Crapware”, are by far and away the biggest pain in the ass for Android users. I’m talking about those crappy, infuriating apps that your carrier or hardware manufacturer has deemed necessary to pre-install on your device, often disguised as some kind of ‘free version’, that simply cannot be deleted short of rooting your phone.

The odd customer might be okay with this, because they get an out-of-the-box solution to help them with whatever task it is they might want to complete on their device, but for the vast majority of users it just pisses them off no end. Fact is, a lot of these ‘free’ apps are actually just promotion-ware anyway, forced onto your device so that the manufacturer can make a few bucks from its partners, who promptly barrage us with constant reminders to update their crap or worse, upgrade to a premium version (as if).

Why are forced apps so bad? Well, apart from the fact that it’s incredibly annoying that we’re forced to have them on our phones, they sit there taking up valuable storage space, processor cycles, running in the background all the time, draining battery life. And they can’t be uninstalled!

Take my own Motorola Razr Maxx for instance, which I bought a couple of months ago. I’ve become pretty familiar with it over the last few weeks, and I’ve been impressed with features that are more or less on a par with my previous Galaxy SII. But as nice a phone as it is, Motorola has totally killed any satisfaction I may have had by pre-loading no less than TWENTY forced apps that I cannot delete! I mean, seriously, when we consider that most consumers are not business types or students, how many people really want CITRIX’S Go To Meeting cr-app (which doesn’t even work, according to the vast majority of reviews) on their phone? And who really needs Evernote for that matter, or the stupid ‘Smart Actions’ or even the painfully basic ‘Browser’ that Android spent about two minutes on designing?

It’s not just Motorola either – I had the same thing with my previous Galaxy SII (albeit, the crapware I counted was slightly less) and I know for a fact that carriers also do the same thing. A friend of mine unfortunate enough to be tied to a contract with Sprint never tires of lamenting the totally unnecessary pay-to-play software stuffed onto his phone – Sprint Radio, Sprint ID, TeleNav GPS etc.

Spot the bloatware: Crap apps on my phone

Older readers will appreciate that this bloatware ‘phenomenon’ is actually nothing new. It’s been going on for years in one form or another, dating back to the 1990s when force fed crapware was all the rage on PCs. And users were complaining about it then too – a quick search pulls up this CNN article from way back in 1998 about corporate users becoming increasingly bitter about rubbish programs being pre-loaded onto their machines. As in the case of mobile devices, bloatware on PCs has the hugely undesirable effect of slowing down boot up time and taking up chunks of storage space that would serve us a whole lot better by being EMPTY.

That consumers have been raging about bloatware for 15 years tells us one thing. Unfortunately, manufacturers and carriers couldn’t give a toss what their customers think, and this state of affairs is unlikely to change without real pressure. Fact is, manufacturers and carriers want to make money, and they’re more than happy to piss off consumers in order to do so, safe in the knowledge that everyone else is doing the same thing. Bloatware allows them to make extra money because they can either strike lucrative deals with developers like CITRIX, or else they can chuck in their own, second-rate yet premium services in the hope that a few ignorant fools might actually pay for them.

So what’s the solution? At the minute there doesn’t appear to be any, but carriers and manufacturers might do well to listen to their customers feelings for once. The biggest problem, in my opinion, isn’t that they pre-load this rubbish onto our phones, but the fact that we’re not allowed to uninstall them. By all means, manufacturers can keep on making deals with developers and forcing this junk onto us, but for goodness sake just let us delete the ones we have no intention of using! After all, developers would still be willing to pay to have their apps ‘featured’ even if users have the option to dump them, for they must realize that if someone doesn’t want it on their phone to begin with, they’re highly unlikely to start using it a year later?

So here’s my suggestions, manufacturers and carriers – Give us the option to uninstall this bloatware from our phones. It’s a small concession to make, but having a little respect for your customers can go an awful long way.

And who knows? With the emergence of open-source mobile operating systems like Ubuntu and Firefox, both set to be released later this year, consumers might finally be able to choose whether they want this crap or not. Given the choice, I think a great many consumers would happily switch to new device with a new OS if it means they can finally decide what apps they DON’T want.

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