| Benjamin Krueger |
Berlin (dpa) – It is possible to get something for nothing. Just turn on a brand new smartphone and most users will find an array of software already preinstalled. Whether that’s a good or bad thing is the question.
Many smartphone users quickly realise that the preinstalled options aren’t as good as other software available on the market … and that it can be next to impossible to remove the preinstalled versions from the phone.
The real problem with so-called bloatware is that it takes up valuable limited space on a phone.
The functions performed by preinstalled software often isn’t the problem, notes Hannes Czerulla of German computer magazine c’t.
“A lot of the apps perform a useful function. For example, there are video players, news clients and fitness apps.”
The true problem is that a lot of the preinstalled apps aren’t as good as the ones users can tend to find at app stores.
“The apps from the hardware manufacturer are often weighed down with functions and connect to online services without your permission,” says Czerulla. “Some of them are always running in the background.”
Many of the preinstalled apps have proved less than popular.
A March 2014 study by US consumer researcher Strategy Analytics found that users of Samsung’s Galaxy S3 and S4 tended to use the preinstalled apps for only about seven minutes each month. That compares to 149 minutes a month for Google apps.
Looking closer, Samsung’s Messenger ChatOn was used for an average of six seconds, putting it a far cry from WhatsApp.
But such dismal results have not convinced Samsung to stop packaging the bloatware, out of hope they can build stronger ties to customers, gather user data and make some profits from the sale of digital products.
Gennadiy Pushkashov of the Institute for Internet Security says bloatware carries some risks.
“Apps can create security risks because they were not designed properly. That makes targeted attacks against an app possible, which can then be used to gather up a users’ information. These kinds of attacks only make sense if an app is widely distributed, as preinstalled apps are.
But there’s not much users can do, other than to regularly install security patches. That’s because it’s not so easy to remove the bloatware.
Often, the apps are stored in a part of the phone’s memory where users have no access.
“Getting such apps completely out of the system is complicated, requires experience and means you’ve violated your guarantee,” says Czerulla. It also means you have to root the device, meaning you make yourself an administrator.
“It works differently on every device and every software version,” he says.
But there is a more radical method for professionals and those who like getting their hands dirty with their Android. It means turning to CyanogenMod, the alternative operating system based on open Android code. Using it gives the user more rights, but installing it is not easy and comes with its own set of risks.
The safest way is to deactivate the apps and just keep declining updates. That means going to the Settings and marking the appropriate app for deactivation. Sometimes it can even be deleted. This is also where one would go to deactivate alerts about updates.
Apple users only have the option of taking unwanted apps and hiding them in a folder and preventing them from sending messages. Just go under the messages command and block messages from the apps in question.
At the same time, Apple machines make it very easy to remove apps from third parties and business partners, such as delivery companies, hotel finders and other services.
If you buy an Android smartphone, you can have some control over the amount of bloatware you’ll get by being choosy about the manufacturer. Czerulla says there is very little difference among the majors, such as Samsung, Sony, LG and Huawei. But HTC and Motorola have fewer and Google has none on its Nexus devices.
Apple users, by comparison, get less bloatware, though there is the Game Center and the Tips app.
As for Windows users, they can enjoy a bloatware-free life.