Bloatware should be outlawed

Since smartphones need to run as efficiently as possible in a small memory space, the issue of Bloatware has become more important. Is anyone doing anything about it?

What is Bloatware
The term Bloatware is used in many ways. As used here it refers to the inclusion of software into a device (smartphone, pad, PC, Smart TV, …) that the user did not request, cannot be used without extra fees or privacy compromises, cannot be removed, and that use up storage and/or processing resources. Not sure, but this may be primarily an American consumer issue. The EU may have more laws regarding this.

Why Bloatware
Lets give the manufactures and sellers some slack and say that they have perfectly good reasons for the use of Bloatware. There must be some remuneration involved, and this ultimately brings down the final price the user pays. There are also various non-directly financial reasons, like Zawinski’s law of software envelopment. Thus, we have systems with eye-tracking that can’t see, gesture recognition that ignores, and bells and whistles that only hum.

Issues with Bloatware

  1. They take up space. One article says up to 45% on some devices
  2. Sometimes cannot be removed or disabled
  3. May be trialware
  4. Could be compromised since will not be updated by user
  5. May be secretly active
  6. May be sending usage and other information
  7. Can pull in unwanted supporting libraries or programs
  8. A source of advertising
  9. Are just fronts for paid services, sometimes with free trial periods
  10. Unused and unwanted
  11. Make it harder to easily update non-bloatware

Adware and Snoopware
This situation is even worse than it appears. Two other issues are making things even worse: Adware and Snoopware. Adware is also running amok in the industry. Everything and anything is a vector for targeted ads and upselling. This adware also takes up bandwidth and processing resources. The other, Snoopware, is the bandwidth being used to invade privacy and security. This is being done by the large social media and search giants but also by the small players. Snoopware is also used by the law enforcement agencies and is also a bandwidth and processing drain.

Thus, Bloatware, Adware, Snoopware, are reducing the frictionless use of what we are paying for.

Apple and Bloatware
Not being a fan boy, I’m not up on the Apple side of the house. Since Apple products are in a sense a ‘walled garden’, one could say they are the bloat. The premium pricing is payment for not getting other people’s bloat. Just joking here. 🙂

Removing Bloatware?
If you search, you’ll find many sites giving info on how to remove this software. Unfortunately, these approaches are not very practical. Only a small subset of users would wipe a PC or install a custom ROM in their smartphone by Rooting to get rid of junk. In fact, I’m sure many consumers don’t really have a concept of Bloatware. Regarding rooting a phone, see The Pros and Cons of Rooting Your Phone.

What could be done
It will take more than one thing to reduce bloatware. Some steps may be:

  • Make this a more visible issue
  • Start a petition to make Bloatware illegal
  • Disclosure: System vendors must supply a truth in packaging document listing the Bloatware. They don’t have to use the term “Bloatware”, just list which software or devices are ‘extras’ supplied by 3rd parties and are not required to use the system. And, what are the true costs of using these extras. This info is needed so concerned consumers can make a better buying decision. Of course, will do nothing; who reads the EULA? Its up to the news and web space to bring these comparisons to view.
  • The configuration screen for applications and settings must state which are critical to the device operation. Since many apps and features are locked, who knows?
  • A default opt-out of the use of any Bloatware must be in effect. This is critical if said software will eventually require a fee for its use. Navigation and communication apps are a prime example. Some applications have a default setting to also install virus and spyware detectors. These should be defaulted to opt-out.
  • Models of the system must be made available that have no extras installed.
  • Must provide ability to not only disable but also remove any Bloatware. The consumer can decide if they are willing to pay the different prices.
  • Congressional bills (or whatever in your country) to put some rational guidelines on this. (yes, rational and politics are contradictory).
  • Boycott devices that contain Bloatware
  • Create a non-carrier carrier
  • Bypass commercial carriers using a dynamically allocated peer mesh network

March 4, 2014: The new Samsung Galaxy S5 is will come stuffed with premium apps and subscriptions worth over $500. But, you read further and find that all these have limited subscriptions. For instance, the Wall Street Journal is only six months, the LinkedIn Premium account is only three months, etc. Hence, bloatware. Can any of it be removed if unwanted?

Further reading