Bloatware – Coming to a phone near you

If you’ve ever bought a PC from a major retailer – I’m looking at you, Dell – you’ll know all about bloatware, those annoying programmes you didn’t want or know about that serve no purpose but to slow down your new computer and try and sell you more useless software.  For nerds like me bloatware is only annoying for as long as it takes to uninstall, but for less tech savvy users it can be a nightmare.  The problem was so bad on Dell PC’s that one guy even built a “de-crapifier” to clean all the bloatware away.

Well you’ll be pleased to know that bloatware is coming to a mobile phone near you.  I suppose it was inevitable really, with phone OSs getting more and more like their computer counterparts and the networks looking to bolster their paper thin margins.

The most recent example I’m aware of in the UK is when Vodafone snuck a load of rubbish on to unspecting HTC Desire owners phones including shortcuts to dating sites, users were prompted to download an “update” – which many users understandably thought was Android 2.2 – only to find no extra functionality and a load of bookmarks added to their browser.

A piece of software that adds dodgy bookmarks to your browser eh? sounds like malware to me, and yet networks are able to push this kind of thing on to your phone and call it an upgrade.

It’s even worse in the USA, Verizon customers who buy the Samsung Galaxy S are stuck with a branded version of android that only lets you use the Bing search engine, you can’t change it and the google search widget on Android marketplace is disabled. Seriously? Bing? Imagine buying a new Hi Fi and being told it would only play music by the Cheeky Girls or a TV that will only show programmes starring Jeff Brazier.

There are also various “trial” versions of apps pre installed, and by trial, I mean “YOUR TRIAL PERIOD IS OVER GIVE US YOUR MONEY”.

Why do networks do this? Money, plain and simple. Microsoft pay networks to limit their customers to using Bing, and to be fair it’s the only way they’d get me to use it.

So what can you do if your next phone comes packed with network sanctioned rubbish? Not much, unfortunately, unless you’re prepared to wipe your phone and install a vanilla version of your operating system, and that will probably void your warranty. So short of buying an unbranded sim free phone at full price, it seems like we’re stuck with whatever extra “features” the networks want to force upon us.  Now it’s not often that you’ll hear me singing Apple’s praises, but at least they only put their own bloatware on the Iphone, they don’t let the networks stuff theirs in too.

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