The curse of Android bloatware
Forget fragmentation, there’s an even bigger issue affecting Google’s mobile OS
The ability of handset of manufacturers to modify the Android OS with bespoke skins causes all kinds of headaches, including incompatibility with apps, slow software updates and confusion for consumers who aren’t aware that phones like the HTC Sensation and Samsung Galaxy S II are fundamentally running the same operating system.
However, close behind fragmentation is another irksome issue: bloatware.
The two are actually somewhat connected. Bloatware is the name given to pre-installed software which is put onto your phone by the company that manufacturers it or the network that has branded it.
The idea is that these pre-loaded apps and games add value to the device and attract you to make a purchase, but in reality they can cause a tremendous amount of frustration and annoyance, and are one of the main reasons that people seek to modify their phones via custom ROMs and rooting.
There’s a good reason for this rather excessive course of action: bloatware cannot be removed.
Let’s take an example to illustrate just how problematic bloatware can be. The Sony Ericsson Xperia Play is a fantastic gaming phone which comes with several games already installed, including FIFA, Star Battalion and The Sims 3.
This was a major selling point at launch, and rightly so - being able to play awesome games straight out of the box is great.
However, games have a limited lifespan before they become surplus to requirements, and although you can remove the game data partitioned on your SD card, you can’t physically remove the install files from the Xperia Play’s internal app storage area.
That means those games are stuck on the device forever. They clog up your app drawer and occupy valuable app storage space which could be better used for other programs. In short, they are the very definition of bloatware.