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A smartphone bloatware iconoclast speaks out

Matt Hamblen | April 9, 2015
It's my phone and 'I should be able to do whatever I want with it,' says Jesse Nunez.

Unlike other manufacturers, HTC has set up a process to authorize users to unlock a bootloader, Nunez noted.

By using the towelroot approach, Nunez said he has been able to eliminate redundant software for navigation, browsers and messaging that take up storage space and use up background resources on his Galaxy S5. "I'm buying this phone and it's mine and I should be able to do whatever I want with it," he said.

In one example, Google, Samsung and AT&T typically each have navigation software pre-loaded on a phone. Nunez argued there's the potential that all three could be using GPS and other location resources at once, resulting in signal loss and screen freezes. "Sometimes the same programs lash against each other," he said.

Carriers and smartphone makers pre-install many apps to meet customer demand, but having their own versions of apps already provided by Google and others is seen as a way to create customer loyalty. Ultimately, these apps can be used to offer advertising, and sell in-app services, but carriers get to increase data usage with updates.

AT&T, Verizon and other carriers were asked to comment about locked bootloading practices, but did not respond immediately. Sprint said earlier this week it allows a dozen preloaded apps on the Galaxy S6 and Edge to be uninstalled entirely. On Wednesday, Verizon said it will allow four preloaded apps on the new phones to be uninstalled:, Cookie Jam, Panda Pop and Candy Crush. Other preloaded apps can be disabled and hidden from view, but not uninstalled, a spokesman said.

Concerns over bloatware typically surface when a new smartphone is announced and ready to ship, as with the new Samsung devices. But the concern is hardly new.

"It's an old story left over from PC days and is really about vendors loading crapware on devices that we buy and pay good money for," said Jack Gold, an analyst at J. Gold Associates. "This is even worse in the mobile app era."

Gold said IT shops as well as typical users should be concerned about bloatware, as the apps themselves or the residual software that is left behind following an uninstall could interfere with other apps or cause security risks.

Bloatware has arisen as a problem for Android devices, but also affects other operating systems, Gold said. The problem isn't probably serious enough for the government to intervene. "This is more of an annoyance than a real danger to anyone," he said. "But the industry could be doing a much better job of policing itself."


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