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'Bloatware' Becoming a Problem On Android Phones 415

Posted by timothy
from the maybe-they're-just-pregnant dept.
elrous0 writes "According to a recent article in Wired, consumers of many new Android devices (including Samsung's Vibrant and HTC's EVO) are complaining about the increasing presence of something that has plagued consumer PC's for years: Bloatware (or, to use the more kind euphemism, 'Pre-installed software' that the computer manufacturer gets paid to include on a new PC). Unfortunately the bloatware (aka 'crapware') that comes with these phones has a nasty quality not found on even the most bloated PC: it can't be removed. Many angry consumers have begun to complain openly about this disturbing trend."
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'Bloatware' Becoming a Problem On Android Phones

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  • by Miamicanes (730264) on Thursday July 22, 2010 @01:30PM (#32992594)

    NASCAR!!!!! Argh!

  • by Matatouille09 (1488443) on Thursday July 22, 2010 @01:38PM (#32992736)
    The bloatware on the HTC EVO is all Sprint Apps not an android issue
  • by AmazinglySmooth (1668735) on Thursday July 22, 2010 @01:38PM (#32992754)
    I had to reimage my father's PC, a 2005 Dell, using the built-in system restore feature. Now he has AOL and Norton that is seriously out of date!!! This stuff never dies. It took another 30 minutes for me to remove all the crap and put on newer versions of other crap.
  • Custom ROMs (Score:4, Interesting)

    by nukem996 (624036) on Thursday July 22, 2010 @01:39PM (#32992786)
    Even custom ROMs suffer from this a bit. Whatever the author of the ROM thinks is a good application your stuck with. The only way I've been able to get a slim down ROM from my Droid is by downloading a ROM and customizing it myself.
  • by squiggleslash (241428) on Thursday July 22, 2010 @01:56PM (#32993092) Homepage Journal

    Well it is and it isn't.

    What we're seeing here is kinda like Mac vs PC, circa 1998. The PC was the open architecture, manufacturers providing a wide choice of different configurations, all running a powerful operating system that was available to anyone who wanted it, with the manufacturers choosing to differentiate themselves by pre-installing their own software. Meanwhile, the Mac was the closed architecture box with the clearly inferior operating system, but with the manufacturer taking great pains to ensure the user's initial experience was as clean as possible.

    Fast forward to today: Android is open. As with Windows in 1998, Google is making no attempt to control what's done with it (well, actually Microsoft exerted *more* control in 1998 - I mean, Google is allowing, for example, Motorola and AT&T to remove all of the Google components from the version of Android running on the Flip, and replace them with AT&T-branded Yahoo equivalents. As with the Windows example, Android is the superior, open, system, and any manufacturer can get it, and install it on a variety of different configurations of hardware. Meanwhile, Apple has the inferior operating system, but is exerting heavy control on the system. Users have less choices in terms of hardware, they have even less choices when it comes to what they can do with the system, but, and it's a big but, Apple's control extends, just as with the Mac in 1998, to ensuring that the user's initial experience is as clean as possible.

    BTW, unlike Windows, where an application may be spread out in the file system and in terms of entries in the registry, it's relatively simple to remove an Android app if you have root access to the box (ok, that's the tricky bit) - everything's generally in a single file called something like /system/app/ApplicationName.apk.

    This is not to say that's how it should be. But it does make it easier to foresee a future where, if Google gets pissed in the same way Microsoft eventually did about pre-installed crapware, Google's fix could be pretty simple.

  • by mlts (1038732) * on Thursday July 22, 2010 @01:57PM (#32993118)

    That is becoming harder and harder every new model. The N1 (the last easily rootable Android device) is not in production anymore, and newer phones either have signed bootloaders, have hardware tricks to prevent critical filesystems from being remounted R/W, or worse.

  • by C_Kode (102755) on Thursday July 22, 2010 @02:00PM (#32993160) Journal

    This applies to most phones sold by carriers. Prior to purchasing my Nexus One I had a Blackberry (and the one before it) Both had lots of T-Mobile crap on them that I never used. The good thing about Blackberry though is it allowed me to "hide" any apps I didn't want to see.

    I suppose in Android I just wouldn't put them on any of my multiple desktops and just leave them in the main app list. (if thats possible on those phones)

  • Re:Shovelware (Score:5, Interesting)

    by gorzek (647352) <gorzek.gmail@com> on Thursday July 22, 2010 @02:04PM (#32993218) Homepage Journal

    I'd call it "bundleware," which is relatively precise without being a loaded term.

    I always thought of "shovelware" as being what you get when you buy a 10-pack of games, and only two or three of them are good--the rest are garbage, just shovelware to fill out the package.

  • by rm999 (775449) on Thursday July 22, 2010 @02:08PM (#32993290)

    I'd love to hear his explanation of why Apple doesn't resort to such measures but somehow makes billions of dollars a year. I realize that catching up to the market leader is tough, but shouldn't that encourage companies to give their customers a BETTER product/price, not worse?

  • Security problems (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Eponymous Coward (6097) on Thursday July 22, 2010 @02:10PM (#32993328)

    My problem with this is security. Every single one of those pre-installed applications have bugs in them that could be exploited by malware. For me, that's what makes it so irritating. An app, that I don't want, is taking up space, and makes my data less secure.

    It's sad how the open platform gets saddled with crap you can't remove and the closed platform (iPhone) is kept clean by a CEO who gives a shit about aesthetics and user experience.

  • Re:I'm Confused... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Zorkon (121860) on Thursday July 22, 2010 @02:12PM (#32993354) Homepage

    If I could mod this up 10000x, I would.

    I love me some open Linux-y goodness, but Android isn't open. Not in the same way the Ubuntu or a desktop OS is. That's not Google's fault, it's the fault of the phone manufacturers. But the end result is the same - if you want full control over your "open" Android phone, you have to circumvent the restrictions the manufacturer has placed on it - *just* like you have to with an iPhone.

    So, given that little tidbit, I'd rather get an iPhone. At least Apple has an idea of how to design quality user interfaces. Android suffers from Linux-UI-itis.

    (disclaimer: I own both a Nexus One and an iPhone 3GS ... and develop software for both of them. I bought the Nexus One because it was more "open" ... and then discovered that it really wasn't)

  • Re:I'm Confused... (Score:2, Interesting)

    by jimrthy (893116) on Thursday July 22, 2010 @02:25PM (#32993556) Homepage Journal
    How did the GPL miss this sort of thing?
  • Nothing new (Score:2, Interesting)

    by bm_luethke (253362) <luethkebNO@SPAMcomcast.net> on Thursday July 22, 2010 @02:28PM (#32993592)

    Very few phones do not work this way and as a number of Apple people say about the closed store geeks get worked up over - few real users are going to care (and in this case I think it is true, in the case of Apple regular people *are* aware of how closed the app store is and are starting to see apps for the Androids that they will never get because of it).

    If you do not want them on your desktop simply press and hold the icon until it "locks" to your finger and drag it to the trash can. It will still be in your list of installed applications (and you will see it when you bring up your app screen) but other than a small amount of storage it doesn't take up anything. They could, of course, at some point force loading of it and have annoying op-up adds but then that *would* be noticed and cared about by pretty much everyone. Heck most do not care if they are eat up with them on the PC to the point their computer slows to a crawl. These applications do not start up in the background (though ones that are widgets will until you remove the widget) so it isn't like they affect anything other than seeing the icon in you full app listing.

    Even in the link form the main article only a VERY small handful of people care more than a "I wish it were not so" (which would be my attitude) and currently all but one person realizes that they can't go someplace else to get away from it (the one posts solution - an iPhone - has applications one pretty much *must* use even if they do not want too, can we say iTunes for interfacing with my phone? Yea, there is where you go for an open extensible phone that doesn't force you into doing something in ways you do not want).

    Of course this is what happens when an Open platform is picked up by business - freedom to do what you want with it means you can make choices others do not like. It isn't freedom if you tell me what I have to do with it. Android is Open and this is why you will see a range from mostly stock (Nexus One and Motorola Droid) to highly modified (Motorola Droid-X and much of the HTC offerings). Most of them can be rooted and your own custom ROM installed - but even most of those are "customized" with applications the ROM developer thought were good ideas. Not to mention the Droid-X has been rooted already, time will tell if they can get around the boot-loader issue or not.

  • by donny77 (891484) on Thursday July 22, 2010 @02:38PM (#32993754)
    Well, this is part of why I laugh when people complain about AT&T iPhone exclusivity. Apple went to Verizon first. Verizon said you'll install our crapware and Jobs said no and went to AT&T. I bet teh biggest reason there is no Verizon or Sprint iPhone right now, is crapware. Jobs will not let them install it.
  • Annoying. (Score:5, Interesting)

    by MaWeiTao (908546) on Thursday July 22, 2010 @02:42PM (#32993800)

    I've been considering getting a smartphone recently and one of the things that turned me off from Android phones was all the reports of bloatware. And some carriers, like AT&T, don't even allow the user to delete that crap. The HTC Aria, for example, is stuck with 4 or 5 different AT&T navigation applications, in addition to the one provided by Google. People have managed to hack the phone and are providing clean installs. Years ago I might have done that, but nowadays I don't have the time or patience to deal with that sort of thing.

    This kind of crap automatically leaves me seriously considering an iPhone. Why in the hell is a company like Apple more successful in keeping bloatware off their phones? Why are Google and Microsoft incapable of demanding their products be free of this stuff? It's in their best interests.

    I want something designed well, that just works without and doesn't require me screwing around with the device to get it just right. And this is coming from someone who used to spend a lot of time obsessing over getting icons and tools set up just right. I've designed my own themes for Windows and even found an application that let me create unique themes for my old Sony Ericsson. I like some level of customization but if things are design properly the need for it is diminished.

    It's bad enough having to go through and delete junk that's installing only to try to convince me to waste my money. It's offensive that I can't even remove that crap from the phone.

    For now I'm not getting any smartphone. I'll wait to see how things play out. A regular old phone does the job just fine and I'm in front of a computer all day anyway/

  • by Imazalil (553163) on Thursday July 22, 2010 @02:49PM (#32993916)

    From the article... "The record figure for a single month was reported as T$18 billion which is roughly $570 million for the month of April and thus reflects..."

    I'm guessing that's Taiwanese Dollars, not the US kind that Apple reports in. In USD it would make it about 1.7 billion per quarter to Apple's 10.

    Sorry to burst your bubble.

  • by Space cowboy (13680) on Thursday July 22, 2010 @03:01PM (#32994128) Journal
    From your own link [worldtech24.com]

    The record figure for a single month was reported as T$18 billion which is roughly $570 million for the month of April

    $0.57B is waaay less than $10B/3...

    If you *really* want to see how Apple is blowing away the competition, look here [businessinsider.com] for a graph of Apple profit vs the combination of {RIM, Motorola, Nokia, HTC, Sony Ericsson}... Now Samsung and LG aren't part of the group Apple is compared against on the graph, but when you're making huge amounts more *profit* (not revenue as you quote above) than a significant number of your competitors *combined*, you're doing something right.

    Simon

  • Re:I'm Confused... (Score:4, Interesting)

    by SilentMobius (10171) on Thursday July 22, 2010 @05:53PM (#32996704)

    Android 2.2 has tethering built in so, you can:

    1) wait for 2.2
    2) buy "Pdanet" from the market
    3) Root your device and void your warranty
    4) Write an app yourself

    On the iphone you can

    1) Jailbreak your phone remembering apple claims this is illegal

    _That_ is why android is more open.

    Now _within_ the Andoid ecosystem there are more and less open phones (it's worse for you poor sods in the US, but that because telco's pay their way out of needed regulation)
    If you got a Nexus1 then rooting is available with google supported tools (you still void your software warranty though) if you get HTC branded phone it's harder and Moto are really pissy about that sort of thing.

    A friend of mine said it best:
    "The iPhone encourages you to be a consumer
    Android encourages you to be a creator"

  • by Miamicanes (730264) on Thursday July 22, 2010 @08:48PM (#32998532)

    > Because the actual GLP'd kernel code is available, just without the proprietary drivers.
    > There is no violation because the source code is available.

    Actually, no. It *is* pretty much a clear-cut open and shut GPL2 violation. FSF can argue with Linus over whether or not loadable kernel modules are or are not part of the kernel proper (and thus subject to requirements that their source be released), but I don't think there's *anyone* who's going to argue that what HTC does is OK.

    The problem is, you can't just go and sue someone for "violating the GPL(2)". You have to prove in court that:

    1) You have standing to bring the case (ie, you're one of the people who collectively own the Linux kernel's copyright)

    2) The court you've chosen is the proper venue to pursue the case.

    3) The code you contributed is in the kernel they shipped.

    4) The source files they released were legally inadequate to fulfill their obligations as a licensee under the GPL2

    5) You suffered real harm due to their actions.

    Getting past step 1 could easily cost tens of thousands of dollars and involve multiple court appearances. Rest assured, the defendant's law firm is going to do everything they can to cast doubt upon your standing. If that fails, they're going to do everything they can to challenge your choice of venue (ie, the authority of the court to hear your case, and its appropriateness).

    3? The easy part. Don't smile yet, because 4's going to be a bitch.

    4) Have fun proving they violated the GPL2. Common sense might dictate it, but there's surprisingly little case law to actually cite one way or another because most lawsuits involving the GPL end up getting settled at the last minute & vanish from the legal radar.

    5) This is the toughest of all. To get the grand prize you really want -- equitable relief granting a plea to force them to "go forth and sin no more", you have to prove that their actions have harmed you. The best-case here is probably if you own the device they shipped without the source and was unable to build your own copy of the kernel you helped develop and partially own because of their infringement. Of course, if you had to root your phone to get it into a state where it's physically possible to make use of such a kernel, you can bet they're going to throw every legal theory they can at you in the hope something will stick and get you classified as having "unclean hands" (ie, you're at least partly responsible for your plight). They might prevail, they might not, but they'll fight hard & fight dirty.

    However, it doesn't end there. Suppose the judge agrees that they were totally wrong, harmed you & the larger community, and agrees to issue a court order demanding that HTC release the source to everything included in their kernel. You can bet that before anyone at HTC fires up a text editor to go to work on preparing the source, Qualcomm and everyone else who furnished those proprietary binaries (or info under NDA necessary to implement them) will have injunctions of their own to stop HTC from releasing source they don't have the right to release. If you're lucky, you might be able to force HTC to do what they should have done in the first place: re-implement them as proper loadable kernel modules, rebuild the entire kernel so it works with them, and release THAT... and do the same for everything going forward. Realistically, the likelihood of this happening fewer than 5 years from the moment you walked into the law firm's office to kick off the case is depressingly slim.

    Oh... also... if the trial DOES drag on for years... don't let HTC's private investigator catch you using a different phone. Courts won't hear cases that are moot. If your claim that they've caused real harm to you rests upon being unable to build a kernel of your own for your phone (based on their infringing release), and they can demonstrate you haven't touched that phone in 3 years... well... let's just say it wouldn't be good. It wouldn't necessar

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