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Posted on August 22nd, 2011 by Mike Jennings

Smartphone crapware: worse than laptops?

Sony Ericsson Xperia Mini ProA couple of years ago I holed myself up in the PC Pro Labs with some new laptops to see what impact their pre-installed software — known as crapware, bloatware and shovelware — had on performance.

The results proved shocking but, when it comes down to it, that software is pretty easy to deal with it’s just a matter of uninstalling everything and, if you’re really particular, running an app like CCleaner to get your Registry back to its fighting weight.

Not so with smartphones. On Friday, I eased the Sony Ericsson Xperia Mini Pro from its box, turned it on, and was greeted with a message urging me to set up McAfee WaveSecure before I’d even set up the phone with my Google account.

Delving into the app drawer revealed more unwanted software, with a host of apps neatly summarising Android’s perennial fragmentation issues: alongside the official Market, the Xperia Mini Pro comes loaded with four different app stores. There’s also other McAfee apps installed as well as a Popcap Games trial and a selection of media management tools.

It’s not restricted to Sony Ericsson handsets, either. HTC’s often held up as the paragon of Android quality — alongside Samsung — but my own Desire HD is riddled with stuff that I simply don’t want: 3Mobile-TV, 3Musik and Planet3 were all installed alongside third-party apps such as Amazon MP3, Bebo, Bejeweled Deluxe and a demo of EA’s Sims 3.

Who’s responsible? Networks, largely, which receive clean handsets and then load them up with rubbish after signing deals with numerous partners. And it’s not like you can just get rid of this software, either — most of it’s there to stay, with hard-coded blocks in place to ensure you don’t uninstall any of the tat you don’t want.

There are ways around it, with rooting a possibility if you’d like an untarnished Android experience. Personally, I use a superb app called LauncherPro to kill two birds with one stone: it replaces HTC Sense with its own customisable home screen, and it also allows you to hide apps in your app drawer — the next-best option if I can’t uninstall.

Vodafone’s actions prove that smartphone bloatware can go very wrong, but other companies don’t seem to be learning lessons. Instead, this greed continues, and comes at the expense of Android’s reputation and, more importantly, the tarnished experience that users will have with their new phones — after all, this sort of thing doesn’t happen on iOS.

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50 Responses to “ Smartphone crapware: worse than laptops? ”

  1. Philip Says:
    August 22nd, 2011 at 7:43 pm

    It can work both ways – I’ve found Samsung’s Kies Air preloaded software very useful. But then there’s the useless series of “hubs” that just duplicate other apps.

  2. TimoGunt Says:
    August 23rd, 2011 at 10:33 am

    don’t get an android?

  3. Steve Cassidy Says:
    August 23rd, 2011 at 10:48 am

    ssshhhh! don’t tell people about ccleaner, it’s far too easy a way to make money!

  4. Miles Says:
    August 23rd, 2011 at 11:53 am

    “after all, this sort of thing doesn’t happen on iOS” True, but then, with iOS you can’t do much of anything with your rented Iphone without praying to the gods of Apple for permission to do it :D

  5. ihsan Says:
    August 23rd, 2011 at 12:54 pm

    @Miles – No need to get defensive.. He’s raised a legitimate issue with Android. Android is ‘open’, enabling the network operators to do whatever the hell they want with it.. Unfortunately that includes locking it down ie. make it less ‘open’..

  6. Richard Says:
    August 23rd, 2011 at 1:20 pm

    Yes at least with Windows you can wipe the thing and re-install from a pukka MS OEM disk sans crapware.

    @Steve Cassidy – hope you’ve donated some of your easy money to the developers ;-)

  7. tech3475 Says:
    August 23rd, 2011 at 1:35 pm


    That’s not necessarily true about Windows.

    I’ve seen Laptops where you can’t get the drivers (or drivers which work on the vanilla OS) so a clean install is either very difficult or impossible.

  8. David Wright Says:
    August 23rd, 2011 at 1:49 pm

    @Miles – there have been several cases of apps stealing data on the iOS platform, although, like Android, they are soon pulled.

    There haven’t been so many of them, but iOS has had enough.

  9. Chris Says:
    August 23rd, 2011 at 4:00 pm

    When i had android i rooted it, then installed root explorer (excellent file manager), then go into where the apps are installed on the system and delete the APK files, then all the crapware was gone :D but I have left android because of all the customizing manufactures seem to do, went to WP7.

  10. ihsan Says:
    August 23rd, 2011 at 4:55 pm

    @David – Security issues aside, I think we should give credit where credit is due.

    Apple have resisted the insistance of resellers to load ‘crapware’ on their computers, and they’ve resisted any insistance of network operators to load ‘crapware’ on their phones.

    It’s an oft-glossed over point that no doubt deserves at least a little consideration.

  11. Richard Says:
    August 23rd, 2011 at 5:52 pm

    “I’ve seen Laptops where you can’t get the drivers (or drivers which work on the vanilla OS) so a clean install is either very difficult or impossible.”

    Which laptops? I’ve never seen that myself. And actually, as a matter of course, I image backup the original installation, so as a last resort I could copy the drivers from that. But I agree, it can sometimes be a bit of a pain to get everything working, I just wish manufactures wouldn’t install crapware in the fisrt place. Although on the other hand, I guess if they didn’t get the kickbacks we’d end up paying more.

  12. Darwin Says:
    August 24th, 2011 at 4:14 am

    This article does not mention that Apple doesn’t allow the carriers to put such garbage on their phone. But Google and the Android manufacturers rolled over for the carriers. Not because Google is open because it isn’t and never has been. Surprising there are people who still buy into that.

  13. Bob Says:
    August 24th, 2011 at 4:34 am

    Actually iOs is loaded with crapware like Itunes and Apple’s App market.

  14. Sunny Singh Says:
    August 24th, 2011 at 5:01 am

    I definitely hate this part of Android, but it’s not necessarily Google’s fault. Although they’re trying to finally do something about it, it’s really all the big networks and carriers, as you said, who are installing all this crapware onto amazing phones running an amazing OS.

    It is unfortunate that these a$$holes are taking advantage of Android like this, and users who don’t know any better will simply blame the phone that they’re holding, and possibly not recommend Android to anyone.

    I faced a bunch of crapware when I bought my HTC Aria, which was AT&T’s second Android phone. It took up a bunch of space which limited me to the number of apps that I could install. I also couldn’t install apps onto the SD card since it was running 2.1, and the 2.2 update came many months later.

    I obviously rooted my phone way before they released the update. I got rid of all their stupid apps and installed CyanogenMod. It is running beautifully on my phone right now, and I get to enjoy the many features of Android 2.3 and more. It’s a great solution for geeks who were screwed over like this, but I can’t say much for the average consumers.

  15. Paul Ockenden Says:
    August 24th, 2011 at 10:30 am

    I love how (in ‘user’ reviews) many of them complain that WaveSecure is difficult to uninstall.

    Err… durrrrrr…. Isn’t that the whole point? If some scrote pinched your phone would you really want them to be able to uninstall the phone recovery system that you’re paying for?

  16. Matt Says:
    August 24th, 2011 at 10:55 am

    But android crapware doesn’t seem to slow your phone down – just ignore it

  17. leo Says:
    August 24th, 2011 at 11:07 am

    it’s not just the operators/carrier. all smartphone makers do it, nokia is the worst. what doesn’t make sense to me is that crapwares affect price…

  18. Nohbahdy Says:
    August 24th, 2011 at 1:12 pm

    @Richard: If you think you’re getting a cheaper phone because of the crapware, you’d be mistaken. They’re charging you just precisely what they think they can charge for the thing and then they’re getting whatever they can out of their “partners” with the crapware in addition to what they’re getting from your hide.

  19. Nohbahdy Says:
    August 24th, 2011 at 1:15 pm

    @Matt: So you say…the crapware from Moto/Verizon that was on the original Droid would launch on it’s own and run in the background for you. And Blur…heh… No, the crapware DOES cause performance problems- it’s just you’ve not had issues with it.

  20. JT Says:
    August 24th, 2011 at 2:14 pm

    Then buy unlocked phones. They cost in the $600 range though. Cell companies charge $200 or less (or even give it to you for free) because they recover the cost via the crapware. Compare that to an emachine that costs $200 vs. a high-end workstation that costs $3,000. One has dozens of crapware and free trial to AOL, and the other has 2-3 disk utils and remote management software at most.

    Go to any online merchant and find out the “real” cost of your smartphone, and compare it to what you paid (or not paid) when you signed the 2-year contract.

  21. jhn Says:
    August 24th, 2011 at 4:43 pm

    Android phones and Windows PCs have crapware, “smartphones” generally don’t and neither do other operating systems.

  22. Steven Fisher Says:
    August 24th, 2011 at 4:50 pm

    @Bob, #13: Which apps? The only one I’m aware of was Aurora Feint, which wasn’t pulled. I’m not aware of Apple using their recalling kill switch EVER (and I’d love to know if it’s been used).

  23. GQB Says:
    August 24th, 2011 at 4:52 pm

    @David Wright
    Care do document that claim? I call BS.

    I’d like to point out regarding the article that by ’smartphones’ (being loaded with crapware), he means Android, and by PCs, he means pre Win7 Windows machines.

    Typical to try to slime iOS with Android grunge.

  24. John Says:
    August 24th, 2011 at 4:58 pm

    Well, there was the password management app (not 1Password, don’t remember who) whose developer was anonymously tracking passcodes and reported on the findings.

    But I think #13 is referring to the uninstallable Apple apps that come with the iPhone; hard to argue that the app store and iTunes are “crapware”, but I won’t argue that Stocks has merit.

  25. Hector Says:
    August 24th, 2011 at 5:14 pm

    Just because its standardized crapware does not mean that its not crapware (for any user that does not care for them.)

    I HATE the bundle of apps that come in iOS and I cant uninstall:

    Facetime, Weather (powered by yahoo), Notes, Youtube, Calculator & Stocks. Games display GameCenter data from within themselves so I’d also include Game Center in the list of things I don’t really want in my springboard.

    iOS 5 will expand that further with Reminders and Newstand and Messages (I assume you wont be able to remove those).

    I would also make a case for Camera, Maps and Safari, since I can buy replacement apps in the App Store that I may enjoy more. Never use Videos or Photos either, always browse both media from other apps. Would love to remove those.

    Sure, these don’t take much space, but I like to keep a minimalist springboard and hate having a folder exclusively for built-in apps I never ever use or ever will.

    At least iBooks I can install and uninstall by choice.

    Don’t take me wrong, I love my iPad and iPhone, but I hate apps I cant uninstall.

  26. Steve Says:
    August 24th, 2011 at 5:59 pm


    So you hate pretty much every single app. The issue is, as a programmer, I need to know various apps exist. I might want to launch Safari or an Image Browser or an MMS client. To maintain simplicity for 99% of the using public, making these specific apps ALWAYS available makes life 100X easier for the development community.

    For those people that simply want a BASH shell and nothing else, Android really is the sweet choice.

  27. Tom Anderson Says:
    August 24th, 2011 at 6:03 pm

    Phones shouldn’t need ‘crapware’ because the oems get additional revenue from a share of the service contract plus a share from the ap store. Android needs it even less because they pay $0 for the OS. In the pc world the hardware makers saw all the profit go to Intel and Microsoft and they had to look for another source of revenue. Crapware saves $25 to $50 minimum in the price of a pc.

  28. J Says:
    August 24th, 2011 at 6:30 pm

    People blaming the carriers for all the unwanted software that come on Android phones need to rethink their position. Carriers have ALWAYS done that, even before Android came out. So it is really Google’s fault for allowing them to install all this crap on your phone. Google knows the reputation of these carriers for installing this stuff on phones and yet they gave them the power to do so.

  29. Hector Says:
    August 24th, 2011 at 6:58 pm

    You are taking my comment to extremes.

    For one, few of the built-in apps are actually useful to depend on, and removing Safari does not remove the developer’s ability to use WebKit controls. Same goes for image browsing, you don’t need the app nor do you need to re-implement every aspect of it. There are controls and APIs to handle the tasks.

    Just because I want to get rid of the built-in calculator and that redundant Yahoo Weather app, does not mean I want a bash shell and nothing else.

    You may also had noticed I never said anything about removing the App Store, the MMS app, the Mail app or the phone calling App. Just the ones that, like iBooks, can easily be replaced by another app in the app store.

  30. Someone Says:
    August 24th, 2011 at 7:33 pm

    The advantage with such crapware is that the devices are cheaper. Carriers get money, they profit a little bit from it, and shave a bit more off the cost of your device. (Compare that with a fruity device, which costs more and stays that way the whole year)

    @Steve: You can still have the Webkit libraries installed. You don’t need an icon installed on your desktop / homescreen. On the i-series phones, you aren’t allowed to create dependencies on other applications directly anyway. Heck, in the Developer Agreement, you’re not even suppose to use SDKs other people make (that may have changed by now).

    Android has no such problems. It’s designed in such a way as to share content (be it text, pictures, etc) nicely. You install an properly designed app that can share (FB, Twitter, SMS, a notepad app, URLs, etc) and then use a properly designed app to move content from one app to the next with two button presses (Share > Pick App) — if that.

    You know what? Nobody in the general public really cares. Even with all this supposed crapware, Android is *STILL* 52% of the US marketplace. It just doesn’t bother most people all that much — Especially with Android, where you put whatever you want on your homescreen and never really have to touch your app drawer.

  31. Chris Bird Says:
    August 24th, 2011 at 7:53 pm

    One person’s crapware is someone else’s gotta have it app, apparently. I too would prefer it if the phone came naked – with just enough to connect to an app store and allow me to put some things I want on it. Or, perhaps, have some stuff preloaded with some options to uninstall. I hate “free” versions, but to get the functionality you have to buy the app. That is just bad stuff – and popular in many industries – especially the street drug trade!

  32. Zpok Says:
    August 24th, 2011 at 8:12 pm

    If you have Apple products, you’re a mindless drone, a fashion victim and stupid. In the good old days you were of course also gay and a communist. Now maybe not, but you’re obviously against freedom and clueless.
    The more things change, the more they stay the same.
    I’m still trying to figure out if being clueless feels better than being a commie. I bet there’s an app for that!

  33. MichaelMJ Says:
    August 24th, 2011 at 9:02 pm

    Many of the Win Phone 7 hardware loaded apps were actually more useful because they had access to SDKs that normal devs did not. I think that’s why you didn’t see a whole lot of crapware complaints.

  34. Andre Richards Says:
    August 24th, 2011 at 9:07 pm

    @Bob: “Actually iOs is loaded with crapware like Itunes and Apple’s App market.”

    That’s not the same. Those apps are essential for accessing the basic functionality of the iPhone’s features/ecosystem and put in place by Apple. Crapware is generally defined as third-party apps puts on a given PC without direct consent of the maker of the OS.

    Now, you may not *like* Apple’s built-in apps, but that’s another debate. And since you can put them all out of sight in a folder (unlike crapware on Android) it seems like a silly, overly-defensive thing for you to bring up.

  35. Hamranhansenhansen Says:
    August 24th, 2011 at 9:26 pm

    You really have to start being more precise in your language now that we have more diversity in technology.

    Everything you said about “smartphones” doesn’t apply to the best-selling smartphone (iPhone 4) or the second-best selling smartphone (iPhone 3GS) and everything you said about laptops doesn’t apply to the best-selling laptops (MacBook Air.) You’re specifically talking about Android smartphones and Windows laptops. The other smartphones (Apple, RIM, Microsoft) and laptops (Apple, Linux) do not have this problem.

    In iOS, a 3rd party app is a self-contained bundle that can easily be removed by the user, and 3rd party apps are only ever installed by the user. You have to have at least one of those, if not both. The best path forward is likely for Android and Windows to update their app platforms so that all apps are self-contained bundles that can always be removed by the user. Microsoft could probably get that done but it would take forever; not sure if Google can make that happen across Android because of the various interests involved.

  36. Ian Betteridge Says:
    August 24th, 2011 at 9:42 pm

    @JT: “Cell companies charge $200 or less (or even give it to you for free) because they recover the cost via the crapware.”

    Ahh.. no, no they don’t. They recover the cost by charging you a higher contract price over 18-24 months. The crapware fees are just a bit of extra cash.

  37. Geokaplan Says:
    August 24th, 2011 at 10:33 pm

    It isn’t just the carriers who load up the Android phones. On my Nexus One, which is supposed to be outside the games played by carriers, Google added a books app and a couple more which can’t be deleted. Those apps exist for the benefit of Google and not the user. I got the N1 to avoid those sorts of games but Google apparently thinks it knows better.

  38. twri Says:
    August 25th, 2011 at 12:03 am

    McAfee WaveSecure on the iPhone

  39. James Says:
    August 25th, 2011 at 4:24 am

    You Android nerds kill me. Who wants to root their freakin’ phone for god’s sake?

    Apologize for Android all you like, but it is far behind iOS and (shudder) WinPho7 in terms of usability.

  40. James Barnes Says:
    August 25th, 2011 at 11:28 am

    Great post but this stuff *does* happen with iOS – I can’t remove apps I don’t need like Game Center, Safari and iTunes.

  41. Trevor Ellis Says:
    August 25th, 2011 at 12:59 pm

    Orange has been this bad, or worse, for a long time – with over 50 apps – some just trial versions that can not be removed. To me, it shows the utter contempt that the network company and in particular the marketing dept has for their customers. Next time I will buy an unbranded phone (it is work the little extar one pays over the 18 months period) … and consider a change of network.

  42. Trevor Ellis Says:
    August 25th, 2011 at 1:00 pm

    At least with Android its only the network company trying to take complete control of out lives – pity the iPhone people, many don’t even realised the extent to which their options are controlled.

  43. StantonDrew Says:
    August 25th, 2011 at 9:57 pm

    re laptop PCs shipped without drivers – I’ve got one. It’s an Elonex Sliver 10″ netbook with Win7 Starter. Only 9 months old and the Western Digital HDD suddenly died. No drivers are available – unless you know better?

  44. Dieter Says:
    August 25th, 2011 at 10:58 pm

    Owning an iphone i’m somewhat bemused at this article. I’m not saying it’s better than Android, only that I haven’t had any carrier crapware on there. I have enough with my laptop thankyou.

  45. Robert Visser Says:
    August 25th, 2011 at 11:46 pm

    For the purpose of avoiding bloatware, aside from opting for an iOS device, the only option for Android OS is a Google Nexus S. Once the Google / Motorola deal receives approval, we’ll have to see what additional options are available.

    Concerns over bloatware are not only on smartphones, it also covers all tablets — in short all mobile devices.The only tablet which comes without any manufacture’s or carrier’s bloatware is, of course, Apple’s iPad.

  46. Andre Richards Says:
    August 26th, 2011 at 1:35 am

    @James Barnes: “Great post but this stuff *does* happen with iOS – I can’t remove apps I don’t need like Game Center, Safari and iTunes.”

    Apple supplies those apps to access the basic features of the iPhone. That’s a lot different than a third-party app thrown on by yet another third-party with the intent to sell you something or market themselves and subsidize the cost of the product.

    Besides, a lot of “crapware” can’t be easily removed or hidden, but you can create a folder in iOS and move all those apps into it if you really object.

  47. Shirna Says:
    September 15th, 2011 at 5:49 pm

    crapwares??…they’re still and app right? and some people still buy it w/o I think they are still useful though..Its always a matter of taste..

  48. Laptop Repair Hull Says:
    November 18th, 2011 at 10:43 am

    I love it when an old laptop can run better than it did from new after formatting and reinstalling windows without all the preloaded software. Shame on a mobile phone such as the HTC you have to flash the rom to get rid of all the operator loaded utilities and risk invalidating the warranty.

  49. Neilas Says:
    January 8th, 2012 at 1:15 pm

    Android = Micros**t.
    Here are the same people who spend hours on their craptop reformatting and scanning for viruses are now having to do the same things on their phones.
    You couldn’t pay me to go back to Micros**t and you couldn’t pay me to get some second rate iPhone wannabe.

  50. Joao Says:
    February 22nd, 2012 at 4:23 pm

    I bought one of this… Xpheria mini pro…. and after a great discussion with Vodafone assistance, and paid for unblocked the phone, now i’m having the problem with pre-installed programs from Vodafone, that use my personal information….
    and after i wrote on the compliance book, the answer was similar to: We apologise but we can´t do nothing….
    …now i?m learning how to “Rooting” the phone to delete all that Crap….


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