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We Need to Talk About Android Bloatware

The Android platform is being hurt by carrier and manufacturer additions
We Need to Talk About Android Bloatware© 2017 Google

A video appeared on Youtube last night which showed something that should be impossible. In the 6 minute clip, a low-end Moto E smartphone appears to conclusively beat the ultra-high end Samsung Galaxy S5 in load-times for opening apps, and conducting simple tasks. But how could a phone which sells for 129USD, with parts more akin to a 2012 smartphone, manage to defeat the cutting-edge hardware of the 600USD+ Galaxy S5?

The answer revolves around one simple concept: Bloatware.

But what exactly is Bloatware? It is any additional software, applications or other additions that come pre-installed on your device which are not an integral or intended part of the user experience. More simply, Bloatware is any unwanted or unnecessary software on your device.

Many of these applications are difficult, if not impossible to remove from your phone.

Bloatware usually has one of two possible origins: your mobile carrier or your phone’s manufacturer. Both of these parties have their own motivations for shipping your device pre-installed with their own software, but it usually comes down to them trying to leverage their position in the smartphone supply chain in order to force users to use their own applications. What’s worse, is that many of these applications are difficult, if not impossible to remove from your phone.

Some manufacturers of smartphones take Bloatware even further on the Android platform. Rather than using ‘stock’ Android versions, manufacturers often create their own user interface which is displayed on top of the Android backbone. While some of these Android skins add useful features, mostly they serve to try to force users into using bloatware apps over the Google services that the operating system was designed for. Furthermore, these Android skins are often very poorly optimised for their hardware, and as such, often have slow, laggy and stuttering user experiences.

Which brings us back to the Moto E and Samsung Galaxy 5S - the Moto E is running a version of Android which is almost identical to the ‘stock’ version of 4.4.2 Kit Kat, while the Galaxy S5 is running Samsung’s widely criticized ‘TouchWiz’ skin of Android. TouchWiz has been declared by many commentators as being riddled with Bloatware, and indeed adds little functionality to the device, while simultaneously slowing it down.

This comparison illustrates the choices and dangers facing Android manufacturers. They can on one hand work with Google to bring the best possible Android user experience to their customers, or they can go at it alone, and impress their own designs on how the software should look. The danger is that should they continue to produce sub-par and poorly optimized software, the entire Android brand will be tarnished, and customers may begin to move to the more tightly-controlled user experience of iOS or Windows Phone.

 

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