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Google Relaxes Handset Makers' Requirements for "Must-Include" Android Apps 80

According to The Verge, anyone who buys a new Android phone may benefit from an interesting change in their phone's default apps: namely, fewer pieces of included bloatware. However, the affected apps might not be the ones that a user concerned with bloatware might care most about (like carrier-specific apps), but are rather some of the standard Google-provided ones (Google+, Google Play Games, Google Play Books and Google Newsstand). These apps will still be available at the Google Play Store, just not required for a handset maker to get Google's blessing. (Also at ZDNet.)
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Google Relaxes Handset Makers' Requirements for "Must-Include" Android Apps

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  • Pff. (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward

    Now let's see Google let OEMs choose which browser to bundle with their devices. Open platform my aching ass.

    • Good God, no. (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Overzeetop ( 214511 ) on Sunday August 23, 2015 @11:26AM (#50374029) Journal

      What makes you think the Verizon browser would be anything but a shit sandwich with extra advertising on top?

      Remember that Verizon still hasn't adopted IMAP for their email protocol. To view them as competent at anything is a farce.

    • Re: Pff. (Score:2, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Choosing a different browser on android is the least of its problems.

      • by rtb61 ( 674572 )

        I don't choose the first browser on Android, Google does that when ever I use Google Now but each and every time Google Now does it's bit I choose which browser actually accesses the internet. I was also running some MSN stuff right up until Windows 10 and then all M$ stuff on Android bit digital oblivion, Windows 10 is just so far across the line as to require no more custom with M$ or MSN.

        Google should also relax Android OS features upgrades to allow, install of some stuff like GUI features or applicat

    • That's why you buy phones that permit you to root them... including full bootloader access. Then you blow out whatever the default rom is and replace it with something else... or just delete the bullshit.

      This is really only an issue because so many people have locked phones.

      When you buy a PC, the crap that might come on it if you buy it with preinstalled shit doesn't matter that much. You CAN uninstall it. But if the phone is locked... you can't. And THAT is the problem.

      • That's why you buy phones that permit you to root them... including full bootloader access.

        If I am buying a phone in person, why aren't sales associates trained on which phones have "full bootloader access"? If I am buying a phone online, how can I accurately gauge the size, weight, display quality, and touch screen responsiveness of a device through the Internet?

        • Don't be a goofball, watch some reviews, read some reviews, make an informed guess, and buy online with an unlocked bootloader.

          I've never regretted a phone bought this way. They all work just fine.

          As to the sales associates... they don't know anything and they never will. So you can let that little dream die or pound sand.

          Don't mean to be a dick but those are actually your options.

          Buying online works for me. I don't do it blind. I try to research the phone first and generally learn what I need to know very

    • by Rob Y. ( 110975 )

      OEMs are free to choose a different browser. Don't know whether Chrome has to be installed, but it certainly doesn't have to be the default. Remember when Verizon was selling Android phones with Bing as the default search engine.

  • by jimmyswimmy ( 749153 ) on Sunday August 23, 2015 @11:17AM (#50373993)

    Be nice if I could uninstall some of that crap. I just bought a Samsung and a Motorola mobile phone. Can't believe how little extra stuff is installed on the Motorola - it's wonderful. But both of them have a lot of Google apps I just don't want. Love Gmail and calendar, but news? books? Do not want. It would be wonderful if Google would let us remove these apps via the Play store. If they could do something about all the extra Samsung junk that would be great too.

    • by johanw ( 1001493 )

      Easy: root the device and uninstall them with Titanium Backup. You need to know what you're doing though: uninstall the wrong package and your phone muight start acting weird(er?).

      • by Anonymous Coward

        "easy". "need to know what you're doing".

        Does not compute.

        • "easy". "need to know what you're doing".

          Does not compute.

          Riding a bicycle is easy, but you still need to know what you're doing.
          Driving a car is easy, but you still need to know what you're doing.
          etc, etc.

          There are plenty of things we do every day that are really easy once you know what you're doing, but can be incredibly intimidating to someone who's never done it.

      • Rooting is an ugly, ugly hack. What we need is a way to configure the install (or whatever you call the ROM update, etc) so that ONLY wanted apps are installed, kind of like the way the way some Linux distros allow you to do a minimal install then let you add the packages ("apps" in smartphone-speak) you want.

        A custom ROM like Cyanogenmod allows that to some extent. I have a tablet without any of the closed-source Google apps installed (some Google "frameworks" software are present however).

      • Nah, I want an official, supported by the OS maker, method for uninstalling any app. Rooting is using an exploit to bypass the system security and that, obviously, is something Google will try to make disappear. In addition, also by its very nature, a different method may be required by each model/ROM version.
        • With the latest version of Android, you can disable any system app. Although the app binary still remains on the system storage, for all intents and purposes it is as if the app has been uninstalled - the app does not run and the app's icon is removed from the launcher. I think this is a good compromise and I don't see any benefit of allowing system apps to be uninstalled versus being disabled.
          • by iapetus ( 24050 )

            There's a big benefit on low-end devices with lots of bloatware and very little storage.

            • In Android, system apps are installed in a read-only system partition. Uninstalling system apps would not make the space available to be used by other applications.
    • Or at least disable. Some of these apps don't even let you disable them. I know that doesn't actually free up any space if you just disable, but uninstalling doesn't help so much either because these preinstalled apps are on the /system partition, and removing them doesn't give you any more space on your /data partition.

      • Install adb (easiest way may be to just install Android Studio) then use it to "pm hide" whatever you want. No root required.
        This is in addition to just disabling an app via the usual settings thing.

      • Or at least disable. Some of these apps don't even let you disable them. I know that doesn't actually free up any space if you just disable, but uninstalling doesn't help so much either because these preinstalled apps are on the /system partition, and removing them doesn't give you any more space on your /data partition.

        Actually it can, sometimes. The copy in /system is undeletable to a normal Android system, but that also means it can't be updated. Where do the updates for these apps go? /data of course.

        That said I'm pretty sure stock Android allows you to remove updates for those apps and regain that space, but I'm not 100% sure since I haven't run a stock Android system in years.

        • by tepples ( 727027 )

          That said I'm pretty sure stock Android allows you to remove updates for those apps and regain that space, but I'm not 100% sure since I haven't run a stock Android system in years.

          All versions of stock Android that I have used on Nexus 7 have had the "Uninstall updates" button on each preinstalled app's page in Settings.

    • by swillden ( 191260 ) <shawn-ds@willden.org> on Sunday August 23, 2015 @12:38PM (#50374351) Homepage Journal

      Be nice if I could uninstall some of that crap. I just bought a Samsung and a Motorola mobile phone. Can't believe how little extra stuff is installed on the Motorola - it's wonderful. But both of them have a lot of Google apps I just don't want. Love Gmail and calendar, but news? books? Do not want. It would be wonderful if Google would let us remove these apps via the Play store. If they could do something about all the extra Samsung junk that would be great too.

      Others have pointed out that you can uninstall by rooting. I just want to provide some technical background.

      Android device storage is partitioned into multiple file systems. Exactly how many file systems and what they are, what they're called and for what purposes they're used varies a bit, but fundamentally there are one or more read-only partitions which I'll call /system and one read-write partition which I'll call /data.

      /system contains all of the system binaries and libraries. It's mounted read-only as a security precaution and so that factory reset of the device will actually restore the device to its original condition. It's only modified during system updates (unless you root the device and modify it yourself).

      /data contains all user data, including all of the apps you install. As I said above, it's the only partition on the device that is mounted read/write. Factory resetting the device simply wipes /data.

      So, any apps that are supposed to be present on a factory-default configured device have to be installed on the read-only /system partition. Putting them on /data would mean they disappear during factory reset, unless there were also copies stored elsewhere which could be reinstalled, but that would just double the space they consume. And since they're on a read-only partition they can't be removed, and even if they were deleted from the read-only partition you wouldn't actually gain use of the space unless you re-partitioned the device and reallocated the freed space to /data.

      Google has done a couple of things to try to address this issue.

      In Ice Cream Sandwich, Google added the "disable" feature (and added a compliance requirement that disallowed OEMs and carriers from disabling the disable feature) which allows you to disable pre-installed apps. They're still present on /system, but aren't allowed to run on the device, so you can functionally get rid of them but not free up the space (which would require re-partitioning).

      In Lollipop, Google introduced the notion of "virtual pre-installs". A virtually-preinstalled app isn't installed in /system, but instead placed on /data at the factory. The user can then delete it, and it will be gone and the space it consumed will be available for use. When the user factory-resets the device it will be gone... but the first time the device is connected to Wifi, all virtually-preinstalled apps will be downloaded and installed, getting it back to that "fresh-from-the-factory" state. And the user can then delete them.

      The virtual pre-installation feature is particularly attractive to carriers, because Google also allows virtual pre-installs to be specified by the carrier. So if Verizon (for example) decides that they want to virtually pre-install the Verizon app then when a user with a generic phone inserts a Verizon SIM into it, the Verizon app will get installed -- to /data where the user can delete it.

      But virtual pre-installation only enables user deletion of OEM/carrier bloatware if the OEM/carrier decides to use it rather than "real" pre-installation. I don't know how many OEMs and carriers have opted to use it, but my impression is that not many have.

      • So, any apps that are supposed to be present on a factory-default configured device have to be installed on the read-only /system partition. Putting them on /data would mean they disappear during factory reset, unless there were also copies stored elsewhere which could be reinstalled, but that would just double the space they consume.

        As you said users can't read and write from the system partition anyway. Also apps typically have a small disk space footprint compared to data they cache. I see no problem with your solution of providing a copy in the system partition for those apps. ESPECIALLY since the whole point of this is that many users don't want to install them all.

        This is a model used by a lot of off the shelf PCs. There's a recovery partition which contains everything needed to factory reset the device, and I see no reason why th

        • So, any apps that are supposed to be present on a factory-default configured device have to be installed on the read-only /system partition. Putting them on /data would mean they disappear during factory reset, unless there were also copies stored elsewhere which could be reinstalled, but that would just double the space they consume.

          As you said users can't read and write from the system partition anyway. Also apps typically have a small disk space footprint compared to data they cache. I see no problem with your solution of providing a copy in the system partition for those apps. ESPECIALLY since the whole point of this is that many users don't want to install them all.

          That's achieved just as well by putting a single copy on /system and allowing the user to disable the app, which is what Android does.

          This is a model used by a lot of off the shelf PCs. There's a recovery partition which contains everything needed to factory reset the device, and I see no reason why this model can't be adopted by all but the absolute cheapest of smartphones. 30 seconds of video footage recorded from the front camera takes up more space than all the pre-installed junk on my phone.

          Disk space is much cheaper than flash. Particularly on older devices with smaller internal storage spaces, every last MB is precious. And, of course, today's monster storage will be small in a few years. Software tends to grow to fill all available space.

          Actually the "recovery partition" strategy is fine now, but when it first began a decade or so ago, it was pretty obnoxio

          • That's achieved just as well by putting a single copy on /system and allowing the user to disable the app, which is what Android does.

            It is but with a difference. By keeping a copy on system you have multiple issues: Firstly any update to the app causes the app to be duplicated anyway since system isn't writeable. Secondly and I can't think right now if the whole /system thing is the reason for this, but presently any larger update to Android itself causes all the system apps that were disabled to become re-enabled. It's likely a bug or an issue with the update process, but this wouldn't be a case if the apps were opt-in rather than opt-o

      • Thanks for that, it was interesting. IIRC getting the /system partition mounted rw was a pain on my last rooted device.

        The funny thing is that the only reason I want to delete some of these apps is because it's so hard to do it - my hackles are raised and I'm too foolheaded to back down.

      • by phorm ( 591458 )

        In Ice Cream Sandwich, Google added the "disable" feature (and added a compliance requirement that disallowed OEMs and carriers from disabling the disable feature) which allows you to disable pre-installed apps

        One caveat to this is that - even though they're disabled as in not currently running - they will update in the Play Store if you have auto-updates turned on (and sometimes after doing so become enabled again).

        • One caveat to this is that - even though they're disabled as in not currently running - they will update in the Play Store if you have auto-updates turned on (and sometimes after doing so become enabled again).

          No, if updates to a disabled app are being downloaded, that's a bug. On what device do you see this?

          • by phorm ( 591458 )

            Galaxy S5. They don't auto-download (as I've got auto-update disabled) but they're keep prompting to do so in my list of updates.

            • Galaxy S5. They don't auto-download (as I've got auto-update disabled) but they're keep prompting to do so in my list of updates.

              That's bizarre. If you search for the app in the Play Store app, what do you see? The button that is normally labelled "Install" or "Open" should be labelled "Enable". If you don't enable it, Play will never offer you an update.

              Just to be sure I wasn't misremembering, I both checked the code and tested on my Nexus 6. To test, I disabled the pre-installed Gmail app (which I don't use, since Inbox is so much better) which removed an update from /data, leaving just the factory Gmail app on /system. In Play,

              • by phorm ( 591458 )

                So I went back and re-disabled a bunch of these apps, and they're not showing up in the updates now. Perhaps something else re-enabled them previously causing them to show up in the updates again.

                I'll have to keep an eye on that. I wouldn't rule out some Samsung or phone-carrier shennanigans, but you are definitely correct that they're not showing in updates after the recent disable.

              • by phorm ( 591458 )

                p.s.
                How's marshmallow, and what device are you running on? Where did you get the build from?

                • I like Marshmallow quite a bit. It's actually been so long since I ran Lollipop (since February or so) that I'm not always sure what's new and what's not, though.

                  I have a Nexus 6, though I'm sure I'll upgrade to a new device shortly. I get the build from Google's internal build servers, except when I build it myself. I'm an Android engineer. :-)

    • Motorola still has shady as fuck apps like the FM radio that cant be removed. WHY does the FM radio app need access to Device ID and call information???? Its ridiculous.
  • I wish I could convince the phone manufacturers that I don't need the facebook app. I don't have a facebook account and have no use for the app, yet my phone will not let me uninstall it. In fact my phone keeps telling me that I need to update this large app that I never use.
    • I wish I could convince the phone manufacturers that I don't need the facebook app. I don't have a facebook account and have no use for the app, yet my phone will not let me uninstall it. In fact my phone keeps telling me that I need to update this large app that I never use.

      Assuming your phone is on 4.0 or above (which it likely is; less than 8% of devices are on older versions), you can go into Settings -> Apps -> Facebook and disable the app. That will prevent the update requests. It won't actually remove the app because it's installed on a read-only file system, but it will get it out of your face.

      • Assuming your phone is on 4.0 or above (which it likely is; less than 8% of devices are on older versions), you can go into Settings -> Apps -> Facebook and disable the app. That will prevent the update requests. It won't actually remove the app because it's installed on a read-only file system, but it will get it out of your face.

        That isn't as useful as removing, it though. It is still there, taking up space. I have an older LG android phone (4.0.x) that has only 2GB of internal storage, so every last MB is precious. Hence it is rather frustrating that the manufacturer decided I needed this app on my phone even though I have never used it.

        And yes, I know, 4.0.x is ancient. I might as well be posting this in the windows 95 thread. Some people don't enjoy upgrading their phones frequently, though. And oddly enough my phone

        • by BradleyUffner ( 103496 ) on Sunday August 23, 2015 @02:09PM (#50374773) Homepage

          That isn't as useful as removing, it though. It is still there, taking up space. I have an older LG android phone (4.0.x) that has only 2GB of internal storage, so every last MB is precious.

          Nope, doesn't take up any space that would be usable to you. In Android the system is split in to separate partitions for the system applications and user applications. Even if you could delete something from the system partition it will not make additional usable space in the user partition.

          • I think the complaint is that it should never have been installed in the system partition in the first place. Instead, it should have been installed in the user partition at the factory and placed on a list of apps to automatically reinstall when the user first connects to Wi-Fi after a reset.

            • I think the complaint is that it should never have been installed in the system partition in the first place. Instead, it should have been installed in the user partition at the factory and placed on a list of apps to automatically reinstall when the user first connects to Wi-Fi after a reset.

              Except the feature to do that didn't exist in the platform until Lollipop.

              • As I understand it: First, people blame Google for taking until Lollipop to get this right when bloatware was becoming a problem since Gingerbread. Second, even if the functionality were not part of the operating system, people blame manufacturers and carriers for not providing a single app, installed in /system with appropriate system permissions, to do the same thing after a factory reset.

                Whether implemented in the OS or in a manufacturer's customization, this functionality could have reduced /system to f

          • That isn't as useful as removing, it though. It is still there, taking up space. I have an older LG android phone (4.0.x) that has only 2GB of internal storage, so every last MB is precious.

            Nope, doesn't take up any space that would be usable to you. In Android the system is split in to separate partitions for the system applications and user applications. Even if you could delete something from the system partition it will not make additional usable space in the user partition.

            Regardless, that is system space from the total that is dedicated to an app that I don't want and don't use. If they had set it up without that app, the partitioning could have allocated that space to the user space instead. There do exist android phones that do not have the facebook app installed, which suggests that the owners of those phones can install the app into user space.

    • You will never have the "convincing power" of the FB company.
  • by savuporo ( 658486 ) on Sunday August 23, 2015 @12:12PM (#50374211)

    Well, it would be really awesome if i could actually disable or at least throttle something called 'Google Play Services' that keeps running the battery down on every single device

    • That's kind of a crucial one Google use to upgrade phones, check for malware and provide for a bunch of network stuff (Google cloud messaging, for example). You don't want to be fiddling with that.

    • The problem with disabling Google Play Services is that it is Google's tool for taking back some control from the carriers. Increasingly, portions of Android are updated through Play Services meaning you get security patches and functionality updates faster. Maybe it needs tweaking or improvement, but I think the purpose of the app is spot on.
    • Google Play Services is a banner that encompasses a variety of things your device may do including things like providing location.

      I believe the vast majority of people who have Google Play Service draining their battery it's actually the result of another service constantly waking the phone to request its location, often that is Google Search. If your phone is rooted there's a few threads on reddit about the issue, and using Xposed framework blocking Google Search from getting the devices location seems to

  • by CODiNE ( 27417 ) on Sunday August 23, 2015 @12:16PM (#50374231) Homepage

    With the recent security problems and the inability of many to update their phones due to manufacturer and carrier incompetence I was hoping Google would make things a bit more standardized and pull some control back from them.

    • by gaiageek ( 1070870 ) on Sunday August 23, 2015 @02:09PM (#50374779) Homepage
      Exactly this. Android isn't a fledgling OS anymore where Google has to suck up to carrier demands. It needs to require that Android phones be able to receive critical system updates. It's actually pretty inexcusable that Android has gotten this far without this -- and I say this is a die-hard Android user.
    • This changes absolutely nothing. We are not talking about core Android, but Google specific apps. These are already only and uniquely updated by the play store, even if they come preinstalled. These apps are not in AOSP. The change will make them optional to install. That's it. All of Android's security issues remains just the same.

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