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Lee Badman
Lee Badman
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Smartphone Bloatware Is Bad For Everyone

It was time to switch out my beloved Motorola Droid for something new. I did my research, placed my order, and was delighted after getting home from work one day to find that FedEx had done its thing. As I dug into learning and configuring my new device, I found myself experiencing another sentiment shared by fellow smartphoners--the angst of discovering that your device is loaded with garbage programs that you can’t remove. Ah, yes, bloatware.

It was time to switch out my beloved Motorola Droid for something new, in a ritual that smartphone lovers revere almost as much as their favorite holiday. I did my research, placed my order, and was delighted after getting home from work one day to find that FedEx had done its thing. As I dug into learning and configuring my new device, I found myself experiencing another sentiment shared by fellow smartphoners--the angst of discovering that your device is loaded with garbage programs that you can’t remove. Ah, yes, bloatware.

The model I opted to upgrade to is almost irrelevant to the point, but I went for the Casio Commando. Though this unit is not a leader from the specification perspective, it is a respectable leap forward from the original Droid I’ve used for the last couple of years and gets huge points with me for military-grade toughness and the use of the Android operating system. Just like with a new laptop, the many icons to programs that I’d never have use for wasn’t all that surprising to find, but the fact that most of these worthless-to-me programs couldn’t be uninstalled was.

When a mobile computing device only has a few hundred megabytes of internal storage to begin with, seeing around 100 Mbytes of useless bloatware is of concern. To me, saying I’ve got 512 Mbytes of internal storage when I’ve really got 512 Mbytes minus irremovable bloatware is like saying that a 2-Gbyte data plan is somehow "unlimited." Alas, as technology gets better, it seems basic math used in marketing gets handled ever more strangely.

So, I’m whining about wasted space on my phone--big deal, right? This forced app ownership is certainly bigger than my own rant. A casual browsing of user forums covering a number of smartphones reflects wide-scale frustration with unwanted programs that can’t be removed by simply running an uninstall option. Here’s where it gets bad for the carrier and the customer: Even non-tech-savvy users are rooting their devices to take control of the entire file system to get to the parts they don’t want eating up space and often slowing down the phone. The NFL app, VCAST applications and others that have nothing to do with actual device operation are being removed by my fellow Commando owners out of warranty-breaking desperation, and, in the process, mistakes are being made that create often irrecoverable damage to the device. All because there is no "remove" option.

But, wait, there’s more! Many of the apps of questionable value require additional fees for fetching video and music. Under the heading of Double Whammies, they also help you to burn up your unlimited (wink, wink) data plan faster than you might otherwise do by baiting you into trying the service that you are stuck with on your phone. If you choose to sample the app and like it, so be it. But to not like it, and to not be able to get rid of it on a device that you have purchased and spend a good monthly buck on, is just bad consumerism.

Also trolling the forums, you’ll find widespread conjecture that certain bloatware programs also reduce device battery life, and, indeed I can say that on my own device this was the case with a certain app. And though I do not advocate violating the terms of your own service contract in any way, I can also testify that there are, ahem, ways of improving your bloatware and battery situations. And that’s all I’m gonna say.

Lee is a Network Engineer and Wireless Technical Lead for a large private university. He also teaches classes on networking, wireless network administrtaion, and wireless security. Lee's technical background includes 10 years in the US Air Force as an Electronc Warfare ... View Full Bio
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