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Sprint Pushes FPS NOVA With Firmware — and Users Can't Remove It 182

Posted by timothy
from the but-you-love-it dept.
theodp writes "If you could change the way wireless companies did things, what would you do?' asked Sprint CEO Dan Hesse. How about stopping the use of Sprint's firmware updates to download apps that aren't wanted and can't be removed, Dan? Sprint confirmed to CNET's Elinor Mills that those strange apps she was shocked to find on her Android phone — sci-fi shooter N.O.V.A. and Blockbuster — with a long list of permissions that couldn't be uninstalled had been sneakily downloaded onto her phone during a firmware update. 'Sprint does offer a variety of partner applications that are optimized for use on our wireless phones,' a Sprint representative explained in an e-mail. 'From time to time, we will provide new apps to our customers in conjunction with a software maintenance release. Also, Sprint, in conjunction with Google, is taking steps to develop a technical solution that would allow customers to remove any unwanted applications that have been preloaded or pushed in an over-the-air software update.'" Asking first would be a nice non-technical solution.
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Sprint Pushes FPS NOVA With Firmware — and Users Can't Remove It

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  • Shouldn't the OS already allow users to uninstall programs? What exactly needs to be developed?
    • The mechanism where you pay Sprint $5.00 per preinstalled app for it to be able to be uninstalled.

    • by josepha48 (13953)
      Unfortunately they bundle things that are not part of the OS into the firmware and they cannot be removed, but they can be upgraded. I'd love to remove monopoly from my phone as well as the other games I never use and screen share and a few other apps on the phone that are part of the firmware.
    • by milkmage (795746)

      Yes. The Google version of Android (meaning pure/unadulterated) should allow you to remove whatever you want, but since it's open, the hardware manufacturers/carriers are allowed to make any changes they want to the OS including shovelware

      http://www.wired.com/gadgetlab/2010/07/bloatware-android-phones/ [wired.com]

      • One would need root permissions, a UI patch, and a script to remove packages installed as part of the operating system. this behavior is by design. i know of no Google Experience certified devices that include this functionality by default. based on my own research (i own one) even the nexus one comes with the Amazon MP3 store pre-installed and is unremovable without access to the recovery and update system "partition". (Like Amon_Ra, ClockworkMod, or a google-signed update.zip)

        Now that we have covered wha
    • by LVWolfman (301977)

      Shouldn't the OS already allow users to uninstall programs? What exactly needs to be developed?

      Yes, an OS SHOULD allow that. However, neither Android nor IOS allow end users to uninstall "system" applications.

      However, if you root or jailbreak (respectively), then the end user IS able to remove those apps. On IOS devices, this also saves you room. On Android it doesn't since those unwanted apps are stored in the firmware. On the plus side, they don't take up valuable user app storage space on Android.

      I've removed the unwanted apps on my HTC EVO, not to free up room, but because I didn't care to se

  • Sprint has to develop something that allows them to unbundle something that they bundled first of all?

    Are they hiring? I'd like to be the project manager for this, I'll only need a few thousand bucks as budget and, say, 3-4 weeks. That should do as vacation money and time...

  • by TrentTheThief (118302) on Saturday May 28, 2011 @11:40AM (#36273564)

    And some people still wonder why many phone owners want to root their phone or flash a custom ROM?

    I can uninstall or install anything on my G2. Sprint is acting like Sony.

    Bad, Sprint! Bad!

    • by PRMan (959735)

      They didn't install an app which spies on you and sends all your entertainment preferences to Sprint.com

      They didn't make asinine statements to you about how their major screwups are "little hiccups".

      They didn't sue you for rooting your phone, and claim you fled the country when you went on vacation.

      They didn't lose millions of customer credit card numbers to hackers.

      They have a looong way to go to catch Sony. But it's a step in the wrong direction.

      • Good points. And you're right, they sure as hell are trying to get there. You forgot the Sony rootkit on music CDs.

          It always amazes me when people who have good product go out of their way to dick with people who like their products.

    • And some people still wonder why many phone owners want to root their phone or flash a custom ROM?

      I can uninstall or install anything on my G2. Sprint is acting like Sony.

      Bad, Sprint! Bad!

      @TrentTheTheif: Do you mean that you can uninstall everything because you've already rooted? On my T-Mobile G2--while generally an excellent phone--I am stuck with several irritating and stupid unremovable apps that T-Mobile stuck on there. I probably should get around to rooting to get rid of them, but I certainly can't do so in stock configuration.

  • by Surt (22457) on Saturday May 28, 2011 @11:40AM (#36273566) Homepage Journal

    You have to build the technology to ask during installation of a patch, which is generally supposed to be an invisible process. That's the opposite of a non-technical solution.

    • by sjames (1099)

      Best solution of all is don't stick shovelware in the rom at all, put it on a read/write filesystem.

  • The update along with the unwanted apps came down to my phone months ago. Root the phone and uninstall any app you don't want.
  • I've never seen a wireless commercial in this country as condescending as his. They don't think you can be trusted to tie your own shoes, much less make decisions about your phone.
  • ...firmware updates update firmware!

    Do they "ask" about pre-installing crapware when you first buy the phone? This was an ota firmware update, and they changed some of the pre-loaded apps. I'm much happier about the carriers providing ota updates and working on a solution to let end users "remove" pre-loaded junk from their phones.

    • by Fnord666 (889225)

      Do they "ask" about pre-installing crapware when you first buy the phone? This was an ota firmware update, and they changed some of the pre-loaded apps. I'm much happier about the carriers providing ota updates and working on a solution to let end users "remove" pre-loaded junk from their phones.

      Don't worry. Now that they are owned by AT&T you can look forward to ota updates bricking your phone [google.com] instead!

  • This is a problem. (Score:5, Interesting)

    by itchythebear (2198688) on Saturday May 28, 2011 @11:47AM (#36273632)
    I am a sprint customer, N.O.V.A. is hardly the biggest problem. My main complaint was the stupid sprint sports apps that like to run in the background. I don't like NASCAR, football, or any other of the sports they included apps for that are uninstallable and automatically run in the background. Funny enough, it seemed like the only sport they didn't have an app for was the NHL (something i would have used). The only reason I rooted my phone was do delete all of those apps, and wouldn't you know... I get twice the battery life.
    • by hoytak (1148181) on Saturday May 28, 2011 @12:38PM (#36274002) Homepage

      I've got a samsung epic with sprint, and really like it. Two things, though:

      1. Install Advanced Task Killer app. it periodically kills things like this when they run in the back ground. Usually, they don't restart once they are killed. After first booting the phone up, it usually kills 16-18 or so of these crapware apps. Most don't run again.

      2. If you root your phone (your call), you can uninstall all these apps. In fact, there are programs to do that.

      • by Kalriath (849904)

        Under Froyo (2.2), Advanced Task Killer will actually drain your battery even faster and you should not run it or apps like it.

    • I don't like NASCAR, football, or any other of the sports they included apps for that are uninstallable and automatically run in the background.

      Hum. I have the NASCAR and football apps on my Galaxy. I haven't tried to uninstall them, but they don't run in the background automatically unless the Running Apps utility is lying to me...

  • by KreAture (105311) on Saturday May 28, 2011 @11:47AM (#36273640)
    On my X10-mini I continously get "Roller Rev 99" and "Edge" two games I neither don't want or like.
    They can be removed from apps menu but every refresh or minor update reinstalls them.
    They are ofcource both trial versions and if you clean out their datastore to get rid of em, your trial licence is gone too, so all you can do is watch the horrible dialogs telling you to purchase fullversion and lock up before allowing you to exit again. The word crapware comes to mind...

    You have to be pretty corrupt and greedy as a manufacturer/vendor to bundle this crap.
    • by sethstorm (512897)

      You can't just create a nearly identical APK, and make it so that Android asks if you really want to install that?

      • by KreAture (105311)
        It seems to be in the image.
        They even reappear from the nightly/weekly software checks.

        Oh and I am ashamed of "neither don't want or like". I'll admit to that before anyone points it out.
        I should have said "neither want nor like".
    • by Sentry23 (447266)

      I doubt that's SE's doing, since my wife has the same phone without those apps pre-installed in her firmware updates.
      A lot of carriers are bundling crapware with mobiles. Sprint is not the only one.
      It not only causes issues with the phone sometimes, but also delays firmware updates due to 'carrier customisations'
      (Hi Vodafone! Hope you're reading this as well, you @@$**!^ )

      Just pick a phone that allows bootloader unlocking and become owner of your phone again.

      • by KreAture (105311)
        Could the sim-card be making the phone download the apps?
        Phone was purchased unaffiliated, and subscription supplied by work.
    • by PNutts (199112)

      if you clean out their datastore to get rid of em, ... lock up before allowing you to exit...

      Do you think the two are related?

      You have to be pretty corrupt and greedy as a manufacturer/vendor to bundle this crap.

      Are you willing to pay more for the phone and have them left off? If no, that makes you greedy.

      • by KreAture (105311)
        The phone is bought full price!
        No locking, no subscription, no sponsoring, no string attached.

        I never buy phones affiliated with carriers.
        The only thing special about my phone is that is was purchased in Norway.
        Model: E10i
        Firmware: 2.1-update1
        Kernel: 2.6.29
        Build: 2.1.1.A.0.6
  • Natural outcome (Score:5, Insightful)

    by hackertourist (2202674) <hackertouristNO@SPAMxmsnet.nl> on Saturday May 28, 2011 @11:50AM (#36273656)

    This is what you get when the gadgets are given away or subsidized. Abuse will ensue to make sure the provider recovers their costs.
    On PCs, at least the shovelware is generally removable, and you have the option to buy a nonsubsidized gadget that doesn't have crap installed. In the US phone market, usually the gadget and service are provided by the same party and the abuse includes locking down the OS.

    • by Ltap (1572175)
      More importantly, on PCs you have the option to wipe it all off and install Linux.
    • by tlhIngan (30335)

      This is what you get when the gadgets are given away or subsidized. Abuse will ensue to make sure the provider recovers their costs.

      False. We've already seen a phone at least where you can buy it subsidized and it comes with ZERO carrier crap. You can choose to install it, though. Hell, it's not only subsidized, but it comes with no carrier branding.

      Yes, it seems Verizon and AT&T have managed to crumble to Apple and keep the phones stock - installing no apps nor branding (the only branding on the Verizo

  • who's phone is it? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by guygo (894298) on Saturday May 28, 2011 @11:52AM (#36273680)
    This kind of junk will continue until the carriers realize the phone belongs to the customer, not them.
    • "This kind of abuse will continue until the customers realize that the phone belongs to the customer, not the phone company."

      TFTFY.
    • by bendodge (998616)

      This kind of junk will continue until the carriers realize the phone belongs to the customer, not them.M

      Carriers will continue to think the phone belongs to them until more customers start buying them outright. If it's subsidized, it might as well belong to the carrier.

  • What happens if there's not enough disk space left for the game? Or is it being installed in a dedicated system partition?
    • by canajin56 (660655)
      If there isn't space for the game, you cannot upgrade the firmware.
    • by Jeslijar (1412729)

      What happens if there's not enough disk space left for the game? Or is it being installed in a dedicated system partition?

      I'm going to go ahead and assume that since this is bundled with a system update that unless there was disk space available for both the update and the game(s) and bloatware that it just wouldn't update the phone. I'll assume again that this would all be put on internal phone storage as well so that a user couldn't just delete it off the SD card storage.

      Still, rooting the phone would allow you to eliminate it and give sprint that much less control :)

    • I would think it's being installed into memory reserved for the OS which is why it can't removed on an unrooted phone. On the plus side, you're not losing space for user apps, besides the SD card space for textures and stuff.
  • by dagamer34 (1012833) on Saturday May 28, 2011 @11:55AM (#36273708)
    And this is why you should get a phone that can be rooted and have a custom ROM on it, no wireless carrier is going to be able to install their shitty software OTA just to make a buck.
  • So who is at fault if a forced app get loaded runs in the background and runes up your txt or data bill. Just wait for some roaming in canada to get a forced Over the air update with a app that runs in the back round at $2.05/MB it does not take alot to run up the bill.
    • by hedwards (940851)

      Isn't it obvious? The end user has to demonstrate that it's the carriers fault. Sort of like in the past when carriers wouldn't allow you to disable data features on your end. If you wanted to do that you had to have them do it. And same for text messaging, so that they could get a piece of the action whenever somebody sent an unsolicited text to you. Knowing full well that few people would waste their time appealing a 10 cent charge.

  • Pretty amazing. (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Beelzebud (1361137) on Saturday May 28, 2011 @12:11PM (#36273822)
    It's pretty astounding that these companies can whine about data usage of their paying customers, and then not bat an eye and upload who knows how many gigabytes of useless games/apps to people who don't even want the crap.
    • by tlhIngan (30335)

      It's pretty astounding that these companies can whine about data usage of their paying customers, and then not bat an eye and upload who knows how many gigabytes of useless games/apps to people who don't even want the crap.

      I've wondered about that - it seems in my experience that Android apps are small but they're often "downloaders" of more content - that is you buy the app, run it only to find out it needs another 90+MB of data files to download.

      Which is somewhat annoying, being used to the iPhone method

  • Seems fine to me that they want to give us some free apps. Likely someone paid a lot of money to get that in front of your eyes. All Kosher with me. Whatever. But please don't prevent me from removing it or I'll root my phone you fuckers.
  • by theodp (442580) on Saturday May 28, 2011 @12:17PM (#36273860)

    "Unbeknownst to me, my 5-year-old found N.O.V.A. on my phone and was shooting the guns and weaponry and killing enemies in the N.O.V.A. game," someone wrote on an HTC customer forum [htc.com]. "Thanks a lot HTC and Sprint for forcing violence on my 5-year-old! I am protective of my kids and would never install a game like this on my phone, but now you forced this app onto my phone and I can't uninstall it! I'm very frustrated and VERY ANGRY!"

    • by merky1 (83978) on Saturday May 28, 2011 @12:44PM (#36274050) Journal

      You handed you child your phone, unattended I'm assuming since it seems the child was killing and slaying long enough to learn the controls to the game. Imagine what you child could have been exposed to if they clicked on the evil internet icon...

      • by Nyder (754090)

        You handed you child your phone, unattended I'm assuming since it seems the child was killing and slaying long enough to learn the controls to the game. Imagine what you child could have been exposed to if they clicked on the evil internet icon...

        Don't try to put the blame on the parent!! It's the government who should be watching the children!!!!

      • by swb (14022)

        If you have good reason to believe your phone doesn't have apps you don't want your kids to use and the carrier sneaks them onto your phone without your permission or knowledge, how is that bad parenting?

        If I sneak Hustler magazine into your kids room is it bad parenting to complain about that?

      • by sjames (1099)

        The parent handed the child a phone with only games he/she approved of. However, without her knowledge Sprint shoved a shoot'emup onto the phone.

        It was at least thoughtless and rude of Sprint to do that.

    • by bedouin (248624)

      The bright side is that those 10 minutes playing a FPS might give him the guts to fight back at school bullies, and with a mom like that I'm sure he'll deal with plenty.

  • by Animats (122034) on Saturday May 28, 2011 @12:17PM (#36273872) Homepage

    What's needed is an indictment with language like this: "vendor knowingly and with intent to defraud remotely accessed customer's telephone without the explicit permission of customer and installed programs which accessed vendor's network, accumulating charges which accrued to vendor and were charged to customer."

  • They keep raising prices on a service that gets cheaper every year. They use fraudulent billing practices. They don't compete in prices. They have convinced everyone on the planet they need a cellphone and every child over the age of 4 needs one for their safety. I look at my cellphone bill, and wonder how could they be so desperate for more money they have to resort to this level of depravity? They exhibit the same pattern as coke/crack heads. They will never have enough money, and they will resor
    • Demanding growth in a saturated market. Rather than better phones, faster service, more quality services, they look for gimmicks for short term revenue gains.

  • The price of my Sprint Evo 4G phone ($400ish) was high enough that I expected to be able to ask for these to be removed at a Sprint Store. Instead, they removed the Task Killer application which I'd installed to automatically kill the Amazon, Nascar, NOVA, etc. The store representative said that once killed, Amazon and Nova are programmed to re-start themselves, creating potential conflicts. Yes, their resolution to that conflict was to remove the task killer. Also, I constantly delete data that NOVA etc.

    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Having worked as a Sprint service technician, if you do brick your phone, just take it to a service center and tell them you want it exchanged. Don't tell them you tried to modify it, but just tell them "well, one day it just started doing that." Get shitty with them if they put up resistance. They'll give in eventually.

      The things that will make them balk is if there is physical damage to the phone or if the litmus dots on the back of the phone are smeared, indicating liquid damage. When I worked there,

  • This is such an over-the-top privacy violation (all those unavoidable permissions) that the privacy watchdogs should be salivating at eating up Sprint over this one.

    I did note with interest and disappointment, that the latest version of I-Heart-Radio doesn't even show up on the ATK screen for killing any longer.
  • by CmdrPorno (115048) on Saturday May 28, 2011 @01:45PM (#36274436)

    This is part and parcel of the opt-out society that our corporate overlords have created.
    Don't want to receive promotional e-mails? Too bad, you didn't opt out.
    Don't want your personal information shared? Too bad, you didn't opt out.
    Don't want crapware foisted upon your gadgets? Too bad, you didn't opt out.
    Don't want to be drugged and kidnapped? Too bad, you didn't opt out.
    Don't want your organs harvested? Too bad, you didn't opt out.

  • by DickBreath (207180) on Saturday May 28, 2011 @02:32PM (#36274760) Homepage
    Don't call it 'offering' an application when you force it on me without my consent.

    Sprint does offer a variety of partner applications that are optimized for use on our wireless phones

    Quit with the euphemism of 'offering' partner applications.

    I would more properly compare it to a rapist that says he offers intercourse that is optimized for women who say No.

    • by lgw (121541)

      I would more properly compare it to a rapist that says he offers intercourse that is optimized for women who say No.

      I like that! A better description of bloatware I have never read on /..

  • I'm reminded of the Apple/Microsoft commericals. [youtube.com] I thought Sprint was doing a fair job of providing phone service, now they want to be just like Microsoft.
  • With th iPhone your cellular provider has squat to do with what gets installed on your device. They just act as the connection provider and don't get in the way between your device and the hardware manufacturer. I am not saying this to trumpet the advantages of the iPhone, rather to ask why no other manufacturer has taken this approach?

    BTW my provider does provide an app, but like everything else you get it from the app store.

    • First, no other manufacturer has the clout. Apple's single phone was exclusive to one carrier (in the US) for over 3 years. Other makers may have one major model exclusive to a carrier, but they usually have other phones on other carriers, and are in a race to the bottom with others for lowest subsidy pricing, which limits their negotiation ability.

      Android is also touted as free and open to tinkering by anyone, be it user or carrier. Carriers love creating their own Android builds for phones because it give

  • Jamming Rhapsody down my throat.

    Bought the phone because it was supposed to play MP3's.

    Bricked the phone copying a music collection to it (drag & drop).

    Got a new phone under warranty and was told to use crapsody haven't used the music player since (1.5yr) which was the reason I bought the phone in the first place.

    I will be much more careful in the next go around.....

  • This is just a problem of networks trying to make some extra cash. OTAs weren't designed to have optional features. You can't "ask" the user if they want parts or not. You update or don't, in a linear fashion. If something is optional then it should be a free download in the Market instead, but I'm sure the deal Sprint signed says they get paid for putting these apps directly on the Home screen, not as an opt-in. Basically Sprint is asking Google to add marketing features to Android.

  • I need more space on my phone for the apps I want. I never understood why I couldn't remove Nascar, Sprint TV, and a few other app that I *never* use.

  • Sprint has a long dirty history of allowing you update firmware in order to brick it. I've bricked two different HTC phones this way. One killed the radio the other killed all ringers including vibrate.

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