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Google pushed to take action against Android bloatware (9to5google.com)
254 points by pjmlp 10 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 233 comments





Does anybody understand the economic point of making apps nonremovable? From the point of view of a vendor paying for access, presumably their goal is to spark interest and shift default choices. So I get why LinkedIn would pay to be on the phone when it leaves the factory. But if somebody doesn't want it, what do they gain by preventing removal?

To me it seems kinda like DRM: I'm sure some executives get woodies at the thought of having power over users. But I really doubt that it's an economically rational activity.


It's all about data collection and metrics. Given how bad many of them are, I suspect many of the authors of the preloaded apps don't actually care if the user ever interacts with them. It's trivial to uninstall a 'normal' app, but disabling it (to the extent possible.. some of them are pretty nastily embedded) is something that most users likely aren't even aware is possible.

There probably should be some apps marked non-removable, because they would break core functionality of the phone, and even if they are made re-installable via Play Store [many of them aren't], would generate tons of complaints and support calls from confused users who uninstalled by mistake.

I'm thinking of: dialer app, SMS app, contacts app, settings app.

The problem seems to be that OEMs mark apps as non-removable when they don't fit that category. And even google does this. [eg. Looking on my phone I was not able to remove Google News, only "disable" it.]

And also on Android, you can install multiple dialers, multiple SMS apps, etc., so maybe you should be able to get rid of the stock one if you have a replacement.


Android mostly fixed this ages ago. You can "disable" non removable apps which makes them go away from the app list and hopefully prevents them running in the background.

That is not at all fixing the problem. The problem is disk space. There are cost conscious markets (the same places where a microSD slot is mandatory -- so Google has already decided they are not relevant for its devices) that care a lot about disk space. Huge numbers of users in those markets.

Hm, if a phone is to support a factory reset feature at all, everything it's bundled with needs to be there somewhere in read-only memory.

And everything I've read says that disabling an app and removing updates removes it from everywhere _except_ read-only memory.

I don't think there's any other way to do this at all, unless you want to give up on having a factory reset feature entirely. I think the only problem is that Android doesn't just call it "uninstall" and hide it better.


One option is to require an internet connection for the factory reset process.

One could imagine a setup where the system is rebooted into some kind of safe mode where only manufacturer-signed packages are executed, all other packages are deleted, and then any uninstalled original packages are re-downloaded from a manufacturer designated server, or even peer-to-peer to save internet bandwidth.

Considering the rare use of the factory reset process, and the large cost associated with exabytes of flash memory across all devices worldwide, this seems a worthy tradeoff.


Thats why I say mostly. I totally understand wanting them entirely gone but for most users you can do the next best thing and the space is not a huge issue.

There are a lot of 8GB phones out there, where space certainly is a huge issue. (Or have things improved since Oreo?)

Even with a microSD card, not all apps support being "moved" to SD.


They're still on your phone taking up space, though.

for better or worse, they are on the read-only partition, meaning removing them would change the checksum and result in the system partition failing signature validation at boot. Disabling is the best we will get as long as this practice continues.

But if an OEM does this to a lot of apps, that adds up and it's a lot of disk space the customer paid for, purchased, and cannot use.

I apologize for being blunt, but yours seems like a very lame technical excuse to justify existing behavior, at cost to customer experience. They could just as well put it somewhere where it's (1) still signed and (2) doesn't affect the signature of the base OS.


And even ignoring any potential checksum issues, uninstalling that kind of apps consequently only frees up space on the system partition, where it is of little value to the average user.

I can see this working if checksums are calculated per-item instead of as a group.

They are calculated both ways.

Thanks, I needed to deal with preinstalled fb apps on my phone

"So, you can pay us $20,000 to have your app preinstalled, or you can pay us $40,000 to have your app preinstalled and the end user can't remove it"

Most likely its so you can't just buy a subsidized device for cheap and wipe it clean.

Google and apple manage to do it.

I don't want a subsidized phone not does the average person. The frustrations I have to help people with when they go into that shitty version is always met with "why do they do they, why do I have two contact apps?"


The interesting thing I always found with Windows phones was how easy it was to remove any and all bloatware on their phones.

Don't the One Plus and Android One phones come pretty clean with only a few Google apps on them?


The problem was that android makers were cooking these apps into the core OS build. Without root you couldn't disable them. An initially it was to allow for custom needs to be implemented, but they of course took advantage.

Google added a disable feature. Funny thing is you can disable the disable feature for certain apps.


No. First objectively a non-removable Youtube (/Google Search/Play Store/Play Services/Chrome/Drive/Files/Gboard/Gmail/Maps/Photos/Daydream...) app is bloatware, even if made by Google.

Second, the manufacturer is still allowed to put some apps, especially background system apps. I'm not sure what the standard is but it seems to be about user experience rather than security/privacy/user freedom/space.

Third, I suspect a lot of the above fit a common description of spyware. They collect my data without my consent or at best with some fine print.

Android One is to Google what TouchWiz (or whatever it's called) is to Samsung.


> One Plus and Android One phones come pretty clean

OnePlus came with malware not too long ago, so I'm going to answer that with an emphatic no. They are better than some HTC phones I've seen, but that's not a high bar to meet.


Yeah, and they start in the $300+ range. The others are paid for unremovable bloatware, which lets them come in at a lower price point.

The Xiaomi Android One line does manage to price in the $150 range without bloatware, and I'm not sure how.


Chinese spyware that doesn't even show as an "app"

You have any proof whatsoever for that or just a general uninformed guess?

I have an A1 and have logged it's network requests all day for fun. There's absolutely nothing remotely resembling "spyware". Compared to prolific unremovable bloat than many premium phones have it's an excellent phone. Ended up buying another for safekeeping if something ever goes wrong with it.

Android One, monthly security updates, official bootlock unloader, some of the best LineageOS support around. Compared to nearly everything else on the market (besides Pixels or Nokias) it's an absolute joy to actually have control over my phone.


Not proof, but my Xiaomi A3 (Android One) European version has a couple of China Mobile packages and what I suspect is China Telecom.

It also has com.wapi.wapicertmanage, WAPI as in World Association of Professional Investigators! No idea what it does but from the name, it sounds it's security related.

Do these belong on an Android One phone? Do these fit with the impression that most people seem to have about Android One?


The WAPI you're looking for is https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/WLAN_Authentication_and_Privac.... Which, AFAICT, would allow the phone to connect to some Chinese wi-fi APs that were manufactured+configured to use the WAPI encryption standards.

You know how sometimes, cell ISPs ban certain baseband firmwares from connecting to their network, such that you have to upgrade your phone's firmware before it can connect? Now what happens if you live in some college dorm that has only WAPI-configured wi-fi APs? Guess your phone's a brick until you can find wi-fi somewhere else!

In other words, this is kind of a crucial package for a phone you're going to be using in China.

(But also, it's government-mandated that phones released in China have WAPI support.)


Thanks, that makes much more sense. I only looked at the domain name matching the package name. I'd still like to remove it but it feels much less worrying.

Hmm, looks like whatever that WAPI package is, it's not just on Xiaomi devices, I see it mentioned as bloatware on a OnePlus 7 Pro[1]

1: https://forum.xda-developers.com/oneplus-7-pro/how-to/debloa...


I don't know whether it's actually Chinese (OnePlus is by the way), not that it matters anyway. It has no business being on my phone and doesn't match with what most people seem to think Android One is.

> Does anybody understand the economic point of making apps nonremovable?

It wouldn't surprise me if there were some profit sharing or kickbacks going on as a result of the surveillance. LinkedIn has an ad network with a Mobile focus. They better they can track you, the more valuable you are to them.


IIRC it's actually a technical limitation. Pre-installed apps are installed on the system partition, which is read-only. If they installed them on the user partition, they wouldn't survive a later factory reset. That's why you can remove them if you root the phone.

They could of course fix this limitation, but I guess the incentive isn't there for them to do so.


That's a win win as far as I'm concerned. When I uninstall it, it's gone. If I have to factory reset, I don't have worry about uninstalling it again. I don't know or care why bloat gets preinstalled & can't be removed. I care that there's something on my phone that doesn't need to be there & I don't want it there.

User tries to delete app and launches it instead, #gotem.

"Power over users" is perhaps the oldest economically-rational activity.

Motorola (edit: and Google, Nokia, probably other) phones come without bloatware - vote with your wallets. (The preinstalled Moto apps are very small and actually quite useful, like accelerometer-based gestures for quick acces to camera or flashlight)

I buy phones as a platform for software, so it makes sense to pay attention to more than the hardware.


I disagree, Google and Motorola branded phones most certainly DO come with bloatware. The Google app is not necessary for the phone's functionality(this is, if you don't use google assistant) and I can not uninstall it from my Pixel 2. This is true for many Google apps that Google would have you believe is necessary for the functionality of the phone. These are all the google apps that came preinstalled on my phone that I can't uninstall normally that are absolutely non-essential to have on a phone:

Google Chrome( I use firefox)

Google Drive (Fastmail)

Google App (I can use Firefox as a search provider on android)

Google Play Movies and TV

Google Play Music

Google Play Services for AR

Google VR Services

Playground

Youtube (Frankly, with the amount of advertisements on Youtube these days, Firefox on android with ublock origin installed is a few better user experience then the actual YouTube app for android)

These are just the apps that I personally have disabled, I am a fastmail user, so Gmail is getting disabled soon as well as Google Calendar.

Even Google's "stock" Android on the Pixel phones has plently of blaotware. LineageOS has much less bloatware.


That's your opinion, but most users want a phone that comes with reasonable apps that makes it easy for them to do what they want. I hope you see this is not black and white, there is a grey area here where apps are bloatware for some people but legitimate useful for some people.

To take Chrome for example, for Google to ship an Android phone without what they consider the best browser for the platform would be borderline insane.


I don't know why you're downvoted. If I, as an average consumer, bought a phone that didn't come with a browser, maps and music software, I'd think there was something wrong with it and would return it.

There may be an argument to make about allowing the user to pick their browser during onboarding, but calling the browser "bloatware" is completely ridiculous. You may not want Chrome, but 99% of people buying a Pixel are perfectly happy with having it bundled, so by definition, it's not bloatware. You can't just redefine "bloatware" to be apps you don't like.


But that is the definition of bloatware. Software that you don't want on your device. Might not be bloatware for you, but it is for me and the op.

No, it's not. Bloatware is software that most people wouldn't want on a device.

For every app that comes with a device, there's at least 1 person out there who doesn't want that app. So by your definition, phones should come with 0 apps pre-installed?

Quite frankly, I think the post should get downvoted more. It's not an opinion, it's a fact that those apps are NOT necessary for the phone's functionality. The user even mentions that the apps are a 'want' to some users, not a need.

What makes the bloatware annoying is that they cannot be fully uninstalled, only disabled. I'm one of the users who disabled these google apps and it annoys me that I cannot remove them.


That's moving the goalposts, though. The only options aren't "necessary for the phone's functionality" and "bloatware". There's also "apps that most people would find useful", and a calculator, note-taking app, browser, etc. certainly qualify.

Yes, it's (marginally) annoying that you can't uninstall them, but the majority of users won't care.

> I'm one of the users who disabled these google apps and it annoys me that I cannot remove them.

Unless you are running low on space on your phone and really could use those extra megabytes, your annoyance is illogical. That doesn't make it invalid, but it does make it unsurprising that this issue hasn't been addressed.


I think most people would be fine with them shipping them, at least on their own devices, so long it can be fully removed (not disabled) by the end user.

You can disable them, which is the same thing as far as the user is concerned. Uninstalling from a read-only partition doesn't make sense.

Then installing/deploying these apps on a read-only partition doesn't make much sense in the first place.

The idea is that they should survive a factory reset, so the read-only partition is the right place for them. Obviously many of us would be fine if they didn't survive, but that's not really the point.

Why? As far as the user is concerned, the end result is the same. The app doesn't appear in the app drawer, and none of its entry points are exposed to the OS. The user who just bought a phone gets a fully functional phone right out of the box instead of having to wait for downloads. A factory reset to get back to the initial state is as simple as wiping all writable partitions.

Presumably the person you're replying to is a user too, so apparently the end result isn't the same for all of the people you're thinking of.

The person I'm responding to hasn't given any reason why the end result is meaningfully different. As far as we can tell, they just don't like the word "disable." If Android replaced the word with "uninstall," they would presumably be happy, which sounds like a minor complaint.

They take up space.

Isn't it in a read-only partition, where, by definition, you wouldn't be able to reuse the space? Wouldn't it only be users at their storage capacity who would be affected?

The fact they they are installed in a read-only partition is what makes them non-removable, if they were installed in the regular partition then the "system" partition wouldn't need to be so big, they would be removable and you could reclaim the space.

Then you couldn't factory reset without access to a network, as I pointed out.

the experience would be the same if all the apps were disabled by default - and ONLY when the user goes to install them they are able to just enable it instead

No, it wouldn't. The user expects a fully functional phone out of the box, complete with web browser and mail client.

i meant the user who isnt expecting the phone to have what they want gets the experience.

otherwise why allocate disk space to be read only and have apps on it people might not want? (as far as user experience is concerned)


You said, "the experience would be the same." For the vast majority of users who expect the device to be productive out of the box, the experience would be significantly degraded.

ah yeah i did not articulate that fully. i see the implication i was making now

i meant they can maintain an app store experience without the bottlneck of downloading expected apps on day 1. instead of downloading and using data an wasting time, it would enable the app. so its the same "opt-in" experience as downloading but with benefits


They still take up significant space, and they often are re-enabled automatically whenever the device gets updated.

> They still take up significant space

Not usable space.

> they often are re-enabled automatically whenever the device gets updated

This has never happened for me.


Does that mean these apps can't be updated? Or are only updated when the OEM updates android? That's a crazy design deciscion, especially for Chrome!

They update but the original copy on the system partition hangs around. The only way to clean them out is with a rooted phone.

No, it means nothing of the sort. They're updated as usual from Play Store.

Also updates can be uninstalled (since they are on the user partition).

>Motorola (edit: and Google, Nokia, probably other) phones come without bloatware - vote with your wallets.

Yes, vote with your wallet, but also vote with your actual votes. I'd very much like to see a decision from the EU or FCC to finally stop this practice of making it impossible for people to remove the software from the phones they own.

Consumer rights when it comes to mobile devices which are arguably already the primary platform for end users need to be extended. The extent to which businesses are able to lock down devices is just a disaster.


This might be a bit of a rabbit hole. My OnePlus has a relatively clean Android but comes with a few apps like Calculator, Notes, or Chrome that don't seem to be removable. They're also not core functionality. So I wonder how easy is it to draw the line between these and the crap that many phones come with.

Also stuff like Play services or the Google Store are somewhat replaceable. How could these be categorized?


So what if someone wants to remove a non-core functionality calculator?

Let them.


Oh, I'm not against rules that enforce good behavior.

I wouldn’t. Why is the knee-jerk reaction to solve problems (especially trivial ones like this) with more red tape and bureaucracy?

Remember that HN is a bubble. We might care about bloatware, but maybe millions of regular users don’t (or even find some of the bloat useful).


> We might care about bloatware, but maybe millions of regular users don’t (or even find some of the bloat useful).

Users don't care about technical details as "bloatware" one bit. That's true.

They do care about their phones running slower and having a much worse battery life though (compared to iPhones with background app refresh turned off).


it wouldn't be a knee-jerk reaction given how long this has been an issue, and there is little to no bureaucracy or legislation involved other than telling companies what not to do with their consumer's devices. Giving users the right to delete applications is technically straight forward and involves zero additional bureaucrats. Honestly the only knee-jerk thing about this is describing freedom-enhancing measures in the interest of users with the absolutely meaningless 'red tape' buzzword.

And I don't think this is a bubble issue either. People being frustrated with having applications fill up their menus or screens and memory is an everyday issue that everyone complains about.


I got a moto because of this. It has _almost_ no bloatware. LinkedIn, DropBoxNativeClient, and a few other apps I don't use cannot be uninstalled.

Edit: some others I can't uninstall from my international, unlocked Moto G6: Google Drive, Duo, Chrome, YouTube,


> I got a moto because of this. It has _almost_ no bloatware. LinkedIn, DropBoxNativeClient, and a few other apps I don't use cannot be uninstalled.

Sorry, but WTF kind of world are we living in where a terrible professional network app being permanently stuck to your phone is regarded as almost no bloatware? I'm not disagreeing with your statement that Moto phones are low in bloatware; just that if it's this bad for Moto phones I can't even begin to imagine how bad it is for Samsung. I wonder how much LinkedIn is paying for that deal.

I guess I'm glad I run either Google phones or Android One; highly recommended for your next phone. Vote with your wallets. The Android Ones are more affordable than the eye-watering prices Google charges for Pixels these days.


I've become disenchanted with the whole industry. I don't even trust Google phones or Android One to be what I want in a phone. So I've reduced to the lowest common denominator in how to solve this problem: I've stopped caring. My phone is no-longer a highly customized piece of tech I'm glued to. It's pretty much default settings with a handful of extra apps installed.

And to be honest, I kind of like it. I'm hoping to wean off a phone entirely and be able to shut it off and leave it on my desk when I'm at home.


Get a flip phone, your habits will quickly change.

Oh wow. My Moto phones never had anything like that. Moto G3, G5, and One Vision. Bought in Germany without contract.

Edit: I don't see Google apps as an (additional) problem. Google already controls the phone and its apps don't waste CPU time or memory while not active.


> its apps don't waste CPU time or memory while not active The 20% of my battery used by Google Play Services, despite the fact that the only Google service I use on my phone is YouTube, disagrees

Google Play Services is a framework which other apps use. That battery usage is just imprecisely categorized usage of the other apps you have installed. Some of those apps might be Google's, but anything that wakes your phone or uses GPS will end up contributing a bit to that percentage.

Then you should turn the location off. Might be also Store updating apps.

International unlocked moto G6. I was wrong about Facebook. It's LinkedIn that cannot be uninstalled. I just checked now.

Install a firewall and see if the LI app is phoning home when idle. That is the only way to fully cut off network access without going to LineageOS.

Chrome is also the web engine for embedded web views. Even if you did uninstall Chrome, it wouldn’t do much good. The engine would still be there.

The non tech part of me just wants the option to uninstall Chrome in order to remove it from the huge list of apps, updates, etc. Without having to configure a custom launcher.

Understood but the point being made is that your OEM will build AOSP with some ancient, say 2017 or whenever your device was released, embedded version of chromium - susceptible to security flaws from that release date. Chrome overlays a replacement engine to ensure webapps don't get p@wned.

So yes, as a firefoxee, I never want to see the Chrome icon. However, purging Chrome is a security risk.


“It has _almost_ no bloatware. LinkedIn, DropBoxNativeClient, and a few other apps I don't use cannot be uninstalled.”

Sounds like a serious case of Stockholm syndrome.


How? Stockholm syndrome is when a hostage befriends their captor, presumably thinking their captors cause is just. How is thinking that a situation is not "completely" terrible stockholm syndrome?

They can be uninstalled... with a computer and android adb

>Nokia phones come without bloatware

Chinese spyware is not bloatware?

https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=19449824


Was just going to say that.

My last two phones have been Motorola phones. I was really happy when I first seen the app drawer and was greeted by almost nothing. It made such a nice change from the obscene amount of crap that came installed on the two Samsungs I had previously. I don't think I actually disabled any of the preinstalled unremovable things on my Motorola and I even use some of them. Which is saying a lot.

My pixel 3 (direct from google) has numerous uninstallable apps that I don't want.

My Moto G6 came with a bunch of Moto apps, Facebook, a weather app, Google Drive, Gmail, Google Photos, and YouTube. All of which is unnecessary bloat that I can't uninstall, but I was able to disable without losing any functionality.

Or any manufacturer supported by LinegeOS.

According to my research, LineageOS often has worse battery life and camera image quality. So you need to get very specific models which work best. Also you need to be willing to tinker a bit, obviously. Let me put it like this: if a geek friend had found a nice model and already figured out how to solve the expected problems, I'd probably get the same model.

They are not good at updates, though.

vote with your vote and stop promoting consumerism as a form of democracy.

Google actually had a program that addressed this head-on a few years back, where it retailed 'Google Play Edition' versions of flagship phones like the Galaxy 7, updated directly from Google, with their own factory image and no bloatware. For whatever reason, they killed the program without it really going far or being marketed well, which was a real shame:

https://www.xda-developers.com/discontinued-a-look-at-google...


I guess the successor is Android One, though those are still vendor images, not made and maintained by Google.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Android_One


the best feature of the GPE phones was that they came with the bootloader unlocked.

You have Android One today.

My Android One phone has xiaomi apps installed on the system partition. IIRC, the google play edition phones did not have any third-party apps.

My Nokia Android One had only a support app (visibly) installed.

It was still slow and updates took longer than I wanted to arrive.

I bought the cheapest new iPhone I could get last black Friday (around $600) and for the first time since my Galaxy SII in 2011 I got a phone that I have actually enjoyed.

FTR, phones I have not enjoyed:

- Samsung SIII (two, one was terrible, probably a defect part, luckily it bricked itself so I got a replacement, the second wasn't terriblę just disappointing),

- Note (at least one, can't say for sure which),

- Sony Z3 (screen detached from body - this might be my fault for disconnecting the charger half asleep many times, but more importantly installed Amazon adware during Android upgrade),

- Samsungs S7 Edge (slow, microlag, generally disappointing)

- and finally Nokia 6.1 Android One (slow, updates took long time to arrive even if in was Android One certified, spyware concerns - I'm not sure if mine was affected.)


The Nokia 6.1 camera app phones back to Facebook on every startup even if you don't have any account with them. Other than not being rootable, it's a reasonable device.

I tried to find out more about the issue where it phones back to Facebook but wasn't able to in a reasonable time. Do you have pointers?

Install NoRootFirewall. You'll see the camera app making Facebook requests on startup.

and ~~no~~ Google's bloatware. Google Play Music, Google Play Books, Google Play Games, Chrome, Gmail, etc.

probably killed because of a mix of bad results and leadership changes, like almost all of Google hardware efforts.

Most of the bloatware comes from Google itself: on my Samsung Phone I have Google Chrome, multiple Google Play stores, Google Keep, Google Photos (sends your photos to the Google cloud), Google Drive, Google office apps, etc.

I've never wanted all those apps, I don't even have a Google account...


I think calling Chrome bloatware is a bit much. Is Safari bloateare on an iPhone? Is the Play store bloatware?

How would you even get anything on your phone the first time without the Play store or Chrome being installed?


Chrome is bloatware when Samsung Internet is a much better browser included with my phone.

The Play Store is not bloatware. The Play _stores_ are bloatware (books, games, movies, etc.)


I think Samsung Internet is bloatware... And all samsung apps. I can't get rid of Bixby, internet, the calendar, etc...

Both of you make the point that we should be able to uninstall - not just disable - anything that is not OS.

(for the record I've disabled a lot of stuff on my Galaxy)


YES. But with samsung is worse. I can't disable the calendar app, or not add my google accounts there. Your account is added, and the only thing you can do is de-select the calendar to not sync/display notifications...

That's why I never use my real google account with my phone. Android phones offer too little control over what is perhaps one of the most important digital asset I own: my google account.

Is Samsung Internet better than Chrome? I've always assumed it was bloatware since it's preinstalled and I haven't heard of people using it. I personally use the Firefox mobile browser, which I think works great.

I tested about a bunch of browsers on my Samsung phone (including Chrome, Firefox, Maxthon, Dolphin, Cheetah, Brave, Puffin, Opera, and Yandex), and eventually decided that the "Samsung Internet Browser Beta" was the best of them for me: https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.sec.androi...

My main demands were a browser that had a reliable "reader mode", a black background "night mode", allowed reasonable ad blocking, and had a full screen mode with minimal clutter. The Samsung browser isn't perfect, still occasionally makes me mad, but definitely is worth trying if aren't fully satisfied with what you are using.


Dolphin! Man, I haven't heard someone talk about that browser in YEARS.

I used that ten years ago back when the play store was called Android Market because it had addons and I thought it was the bee's knees. I still rotate through chrome, chrome canary, Firefox, Firefox focus, opera, and sometimes nightly builds of Firefox just to see what's getting tinkered with lately. Firefox still my daily driver though.


thanks for the recommendation. I really appreciate the boost in performance or the samsung browser (even if it is based on chrome, it is much faster)

samsung internet is an outdated chrome so most browser stats reports don't break it out seperately - it just shows up as an oddly large number of people using chrome 71. but it has a few extra usability features that people like and definitely a big userbase.

I just tried Samsung Internet Beta on my old One Plus 3+ based on this thread. In terms of performance, it's much zippier than either FF or Chrome. Give it a go.

Other apps use the chrome webview, which is why it can't be uninstalled.

A/K/A Chrome is (illegally) tied to system functionality.

Microsoft was sued for antitrust violations for much the same thing:

https://www.justice.gov/atr/chapter-5-antitrust-issues-tying...


Android isn't intrinsically tied to Google, unlike iOS is to Apple. Once upon a time, Android had its own, neutral Browser app. It was then replaced with Google Chrome, just like Email was replaced with Gmail. A pointless branding exercise in my opinion.

> Android isn't intrinsically tied to Google

Except Google spends billions in both engineering and infrastructure to develop, test and maintain it. Including those apps is part of how they fund said development.

But these days, people expect everything to be completely free and tech companies to do things out of the goodness of their heart for no financial benefit.


This response says everything it needed to say in the first sentence without the gratuitous snark of the second.

>Is Safari bloateare on an iPhone?

It is when you only use Firefox..


If you could theoretically uninstall something without bricking the phone but you're blocked from uninstalling it, then it's bloatware.

What's worse is I have an Android phone still that has Google+ and guess what, it's not going anywhere.

Demand an update that points to the Internet Archive's Wayback Machine links!

(Only ... slighly ... joking.)


Isn't it even the case that google forces other OEMs to bundle all their apps if they want to include the play store?

That's how they fund Android development. The other alternative is having OEMs pay a small fee per device, which is what they ended up doing in Europe.

https://www.theverge.com/2018/10/16/17984074/google-eu-andro...


Yup, it's an all-or-nothing package. The device maker wants Google Play (only way to sell devices)? They need to include Google Keep and Google Sheets. As far as I know, the only exceptions are Google Chrome and Google Search, both of which you can unbundle in the EU and Russia.

Is it even possible to use Android without a Google account?

Yes you can, it doesn't force you to log in at installation. You can't use the Play Store to install new applications, but you can update existing apps. Google Play services continue to work too (Location and common APIs)

I personally use Aurora Store, a FOSS reimplementation of Google Play Store, to install new apps without a Google account


You basically don't login to your Gmail. There's tricks to not do it during setup such as hitting the home key.

Last I checked, I only had to select "skip" during setup to use the device without signing in to an account.

I feel like I've seen this on some devices, but other devices you just hit the home button and it works fine.

Hmm. I use literally all of those.

What if you had to install them first?

This will be good for the low end phones. My partner mother had an lg with 8gb of storage, it came bundled with all sorts of nonsense, 2 calculators, 2 alarms, some office suite. It made installing things like whatsapp or Facebook hard because of the bloat taking up the space. This only damages the reputation of these brands for me that do this sort of thing. Skins/ui and other functions are fine, but at least let me get rid of the junk

The problem is that those low-end phones are competing on price rather than reputation, and a lot of consumers shop by price. The bloatware isn't for giggles; they're paid to put it on. Taking it off might result in a better experience but would also raise the price -- and a lot of people would switch to a cheaper phone.

A few brands (mostly, it seems to me, ones with explicitly Chinese names like Xiaomi) are trying out a "cheap price no bloatware" strategy, especially now that carriers like Google Fi are attracting people from the carrier-branded stuff. But don't be surprised if a lot of the cheapest phones continue to make the bloat unremovable -- it's a low-margin, high volume proposition that works.


That’s the thing that astounds me about buying an android phone. When you buy an iPhone you get one app from Apple for each task. Because it would be ridiculous to get more than one.

But if you buy an android phone you might get a copy of Google Chrome. And some sort of rebadged Samsung browser. And maybe a Sprint browser because you bought a Sprint phone.

Now repeat that for email. And text messaging. And a couple other things.

It’s crazy. I’m amazed new users can figure out which one to use sometimes.

All because every layer of the supply chain has to add their “customization“. To add “value“.


They are adding value alright but it goes to invisible (to us) shareholders, not to the end users.

See: Android One

https://www.android.com/one/

No bloatware, updates available.


*When the vendor decides to make new versions available...

Can you unlock the bootloadr and load your own ROMs for Android one phones?

That's an orthogonal question. AIUI. Android One phones have to follow certain rules, but bootloader locking isn't on the list (or if it is I haven't noticed).

That said, what do you prefer: The ability to install a ROM of your choice, or a guarantee that what you boot is what you bought?


Isn't it way way past time for smartphones to standardize the booting process the way PCs did back in the 80s? The old excuses of "we couldn't fit a generic kernel on our tiny built-in storage" rings hollow in these days of 16GB storage in the base model phones.

This isn't a hard problem. We solved it decades ago. There should be an "Smartphone Kernel" that gets updated like the Linux kernel with drivers for all variety of hardware that you can install on most every phone as is. Vendors could cut out drivers for hardware they aren't using, but a random person should be able to install a generic kernel and boot the phone. Android would be the userland installed on top of that kernel. But it seems like vendors are more interested in maintaining lock-in instead of simplifying their maintenance and update tasks.


For PCs there was a very clear reason. IBM was in the lead and everyone else wanted to have a clone that worked with the software for IBMs.

Right now Samsung seems to be number one in android phones. what benefit would they get from doing this? Making it easier to update their old products? They don’t care. All that does is make people buy fewer new phones.

Across all the vendors they could save time… but I kind of doubt they’ll ever do it. I don’t think that motivation is strong enough for them to change the way they do things.


This isn't that easy, you'd need support from SOC manufacturers, board manufacturers, also I believe ARM chips don't have feature enumeration as x86 chips do. Not to mention that your kernel would need to embed a whole lot of binary blobs since many things like modems are not open at all.

I'd like that as well of course but vendors don't seem very interested in cooperating with each other right now.


Frankly, I would prefer the ability to install what I want. Just because what is on the phone boots what I bought doesn't mean I want it on there. I think the objective of Project Treble was also to allow that to be much easier as well.

Having a locked bootloader means I an unable to truly install what I want.


Why not both?

To cut off anyone claiming this is a dichotomy - on LG phones, you already get both. They come locked, but if you root them, you get a warning saying it's rooted during every boot.

Yeah, Sony, Xiaomi and IIRC Google does that too. It's not both, it's either. Each individual customer of these companies gets to choose X or Y.

The Xiaomi A3 is an Android One phone and comes with Aliexpress and the Xiaomi store pre-installed.

From the product images, it looks like Android One devices come with Duo, Gmail, Google, Chrome, Google Photos, YouTube, Google Drive and I'm guessing the rest of the Google suite preinstalled.

I don't know about your definition of bloatware but that stuff is definitely included in mine.


I mean, the way iOS comes with iMessage, Mail, Siri, Safari, Photos, the iTunes Store, iCloud, and a suite of apps including Pages, Numbers, Keynote, iMovie and GarageBand?*

Yet that isn't commonly called "bloatware"... because, of course, it isn't.

Bloatware is commonly understood to be third-party software, often of questionable utility and quality. Not first-party.

(*The suite is only preinstalled on 32GB+ devices.)


Shipping the basic software that customers expect on a computer is not bloatware. People expect you should be able to send text messages, receive email, and browse the web from a computer without having to install anything extra.

This is a testament to how messed up Android is these days. Have a look at iOS. The minimal set of Apps they ship their phones with aren't bloated or anything besides useful. Guaranteeing updates if the vendor decides to ship them?

It's basically an example of how Apples strategy with tight grip on their platform makes so much sense. iPhone owners don't have to worry about any of that. Generally phones are supported way longer and updates available even for older phones.


>> aren’t bloated or anything besides useful.

Really? I have a folder on my iPhone three pages deep called “apple junk” which is nothing but all the apple pre installed bloat apps that I never use.

Do some people find a use case for them? Sure. But there they are on my phone. Pre installed and just taking up space..


Why keep them in a folder? Uninstall them? 3 Pages Deep? That's 27 icons. I don't think a default iPhone comes with 27 pre-installed apps.

It’s only been recently that you could uninstall them, and even then it just removes the icon but keeps the data for a lot of these pre-packaged apps.

It keeps the system frameworks they rely on. The app itself does go away.

Except that you pay a hefty price for that privilege. In my country people live an entire month for less than what an iPhone costs.

I'd probably buy an iPhone if it cost like $300 and didn't have all the bells and whistles. Not because I can't afford one. I just can't see myself spending $1000 on a device where the main use case is communication via WhatsApp.


>I'd probably buy an iPhone if it cost like $300 and didn't have all the bells and whistles.

The iPhone SE came out at $400, and dropped to less than $200 (locked) a couple of years ago.


You assuming US, right? In Brazil it can be 2 months salary if you are starting your career, more if you earn minimum wage.

I doubt it was as cheap here in Mexico.

Currently the cheapest iPhone here is the iPhone 8 4.7'' and it costs about $550 USD.


> Have a look at iOS. The minimal set of Apps they ship their phones with aren't bloated or anything besides useful

Not sure about yours but mine spams me to sign up for Apple Music every month, came bundled with GarageBand etc and bugs me about creating a Memoji, spams up my messaging app/emoji tray with animojis etc.

The days of iOS being the restrained stoic only what you need OS are over because marketing needs to push features to sell handsets and services.


Agree! Also, what's the definition of "anything besides useful"? That really depends on what you use. What if you only use the browser (Chrome) and camera? Can you get rid of Safari? And what about all other apple trash?

Does Apple allow you to make your own ringtone for your own phone yet? Or copy your own songs to your own phone for your own listening?

As much as bloatware is awful and Google could probably have some better rules on this, Google itself doesn't ship bloatware on it's own phones. I guess it depends on your definition of bloatware, but YouTube isn't exactly bloatware on the same level as the junk that comes installed on most third party phones, and it can be uninstalled - a lot of third party bloatware is installed as a system app and can't be deleted.

If people don't like junk pre-installed on their Samsung phones or by Verizon, they should probably complain to them, or stop buying those phones. There are plenty of brands with stock Android that don't come with pre-installed junk.


I think this could be easily addressable by Google: remove the option to have uninstallable apps

All of the major device manufacturers fork Android so they could easily block that and make it impossible to uninstall certain apps. Google could potentially force it in the licensing terms, but that might run into antitrust concerns.

All applications should be removable and all notifications should be disableable. Even Windows 10, which comes with all sorts of useless irritants, lets you do this.

Imagine how many people would accidentally uninstall the play store. Also, as near as I can tell, there is no actual legitimate "Phone" app available there.

They could have a functionality like the 5 tap thing to enable developer mode. The lack of an official Phone app is irrelevant since you could just download another one, assuming you want to be reachable via phonecall.

The two most common sources of bloatware I saw when I was using Samsung phones were: AT&T and Samsung. Not only the number of bloatwares is crazy, they keeps coming back (from OS update?).

As a samsung user i can confirm this , maybe it has its own contribution to competition, but i dont see any excuse creating and dictating your own ecosystem for every single bit of mobile functionality but i am pretty sure its not limited to samsung. Also what is wrong in my opinion is that they do prevent flashing stock images

Samsung doesn't want to be dependent on Google for a core business. They are hedging their bets by building out a parallel ecosystem to enable a future switch to another OS.

This almost doesn’t even matter. I swore I’d never buy an Apple product, but that changed after yet another Google “core” (nexus/pixel) phone got busted after an update. I’ve been happy with my iPhone for months now. The quality is just better in every single way—and most of the quality issues aren’t going to be solved by tinkering with the deck chairs like this. These “bloatware” apps are just symptoms of a larger issue: Google isn’t a hardware or consumer goods company, and it shows in every way in this product space.

I think this is an issue with both iPhone and Android. I had an iPhone 6 that was bricked by an update, but was out of warranty, so I ended up getting a Pixel phone and have been pretty happy with it.

I hope this works.

On Samsung devices, we have to use hacks like using Package Disabler Pro to disable stuff:

https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.kinder.pks...

My phone is considerably faster and and battery life is much better after using this. No to mention this probably also closes some provacy holes.

Motorola, on the other hand, does a great job by using mostly vanilla Android with just a few really useful modifications.


It's also one of the reason I try to keep phones for as long as possible until buying a new one. I loathe all that bloatware and hate dealing with it with every brand new one.

This is why I stick to Google's flagship phones- Nexus and now Pixel. Clean, up to date version of Android.

I bought a Samsung, never again...

Any Android One phone runs stock Android

I can totally recommend the Nokia phones like the 7.2 or 5.1. They run A1 and have a great feature set for the price.

There are phones without all the bloatware For eg. Nokia Android phones, Moto phones etc.

It's more "asked nicely" than pushed. "Pushed" implies the organizations have some leverage over google.

I'm blaming mostly Samsung for this. Because of some, for me mind-boggling, reason, Samsung grew to be The Android manufacturer, and still is today. In earlier days I really don't recall their phones being any much better than their competition. But their software was and is bloated beyond good taste. And I guess because of that, other manufacturers just followed along.

It's still a problem with Android. If you buy a Dell laptop running Windows, it will come with a bunch of useless bloatware. But you can just uninstall it. On Linux, obviously you can uninstall whatever you want. On Android, you cannot, unless you happen to find the right incantations at the right time for your device before an update stops them.

Windows is proprietary though. If Google starts dictating too much of what you can and cannot install on Android then they'll get dinged with another anti-trust suit.

They don't have to dictate it any more than Microsoft does (since they allow PC manufacturers to install all sorts of horrific nonsense). They just have to make the OS such that you can uninstall any application. If this is impossible to do with non-proprietary software, then that's a point for proprietary software.

The OEMs will just add the uninstallable flag functionality back because Android is open source.

The only way to prevent OEMs from doing that is to tie it to the Google Play Services agreement which will, again, open Google up to yet another antitrust suit.


If this is the case legally, then it seems in the world of phones, an OSS operating system puts users at the mercy of more organizations (OS developer and phone manufacturer) rather than giving them more control.

It’s not mind boggling at all. There is no money in selling Android phones. I doubt even Samsung’s phone division makes money. However, Samsung as a whole has larger margins sense it makes many of its own components.

Cheesy preinstalled apps is the main reason I go iOS not Android.

There are brands without any annoying crap preinstalled. If you want iOS go for it, but "Android has crapware" is not a very strong reason.

But then you are stuck with iOS and Apple

When your flagship $1000+ phone is filled with bloatware and you still buy it, it means you don't have a choice and Android is a monopoly.

How does it mean that? There are much cheaper phones without bloatware, and iPhones with very little "bloatware" -- there are built-in apps but only one or two of them are shitty.

I'm afraid it's impractical to ask Google to do anything about this, because they don't control what a non-Google device vendor gets to put on a device.

In order to have that control, Google would have to supply a completely locked down pre-built image to all the third party vendors that they are no able to customize.

And, so then, how would the end users have any modicum of freedom.

No, this has to go from the bottom up: users have to be able to get a blank device from a vendor with nothing, and then install a clean OS of our choosing (whether that be Google or whoever else).

The idea that Google can somehow, or should force vendors to give users a clean(-er,-ish) image is downright wrongheaded. The image cannot pass through third party hands such that they have no control over it, yet the end user somehow does.


You can install whatever you want on the phone before you sell it to me as long as you let me delete it. A few exceptions could be made for the home screen, Google Play Services, and Google Play Store just because many users would have a hard time reinstalling them.

Could app removal be done via an app? This app could also provide a scan and tell you which apps are bloatware. Bonus if it was a global registry.

Or is it only thru ADB that you can remove (unless rooted)? https://www.maketecheasier.com/uninstall-system-apps-without...


Even through ADB is not a full removal, you just don't see the app on your "user profile".

The worst fucking thing on my phone, BY FAR, is the Google Assistant. I have literally thrown my phone multible times because that GOD DAMN google assistant keeps poping up and no matter how many hours I spend online I can't fix this issue.

Google Assistant and the Samsung program that does the same thing (namaly pissing my off and refusing to be deactivated). Its the worst experiance.


Open up your assistant, expand it to full screen, go to your user settings, then assistant, in the list of devices click on your phone and from there you can disable it.

I just did this. Assistant still pops up asking me to enable it when it takes me too long to move my thumb off the home button.

It's a good initiative and what they're asking for is extremely reasonable - but it does imply Google having more control over the OEMs who are responsible for dumping this stuff onto phones. Microsoft went through this with "signature edition" Windows.

> Microsoft went through this with "signature edition" Windows.

…and somehow we still have Candy Crush bundled with "stock" Windows :/


(Lots of) people like Candy Crush. For them this is like how Windows comes with a nice solitaire game.

Microsoft wrote their own Solitaire game back in the Windows 3 days. It's not complicated, there's no reason they couldn't have written their own non-tracking properly free game.

They had a little run-in with antitrust regulation some years ago and probably want to avoid it. They kept bundling their own stuff, often with favored access to undocumented APIs, and people stuck to those defaults.

If Candy Crush licensed its source code to Microsoft and Microsoft used that permission to remove all kinds of tracking and internet connectivity features from the game, then I wouldn't mind having it on my fresh Windows installation.

I can’t see that ever happening given that Microsoft puts those “features” into Windows itself.

The latter is a first-party app; I don't see how it's comparable.

s/solitaire/pinball/

The problem isn't really a third party game. It's that it's bulky and that it keeps coming back.


Google actually had a program that addressed this head-on, where it retailed 'Google Play Edition' versions of flagship phones like the Galaxy S7, updated directly from Google, with their own factory image and no bloatware:

https://www.xda-developers.com/discontinued-a-look-at-google...


Really glad to hear this. Hopefully, Google will take action and I finally can get rid of those

The lesson of history is that people don't learn from history.

Microsoft has gone through phases where vendors like Dell and HP crammed computers with "crapplets". Microsoft has leaned hard over a long period of time to improve the situation.


For those that may have missed it: a step by step guide on how to remove Bixby and Facebook: https://20-things.com/Thing?thingId=21

I'd like to petition 9to5google.com to not make me have to hit back 5 times to exit the page I just loaded on mobile.

As far as I can see Google's antitrust settlement with the European Union specifically prohibits them doing most of these things in the EU.

Not sure why the organisations didn't think of that.


Why should Google be able to dictate what third party manufacturers can’t put on their phones? How would that be different than Microsoft telling manufacturers back in the day not to include Netscape?

Not that I have a horse in this race I buy iOS devices.


Google is half the bloatware on my samsung. Can't uninstall, and only disbled by a hack. Start by being the change you want to see.

>Google pushed to take action against Android bloatware by 50 organizations

Google should start with ... Google. Lot of bloatware comes from them too.


Most apps can be uninstalled from Pixels / Android One phones these days (including Chrome, YouTube, Google assistant app, Play music/movies) etc. so they did change quite a bit these last years.

Unfortunately OEMs still love to abuse the "Don't allow installation" flag on APKs to prevent you from uninstalling Facebook, LinkedIn, etc. (I'm looking at you Samsung).


I really don't think you can uninstall play services from any phone. They have become slightly better by not installing apps like google+, but that's because they have killed those apps off themselves.

Ugh, sorry, I meant Google Play Music, Google Play Movies or what's it. I fixed the post.

Play Services are considered a core component and I think even app developers would be pissed if that could be removed.


this is why i never run stock rom



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