Buying a phone from service providers is one of the things we dread the most. If you want a good deal on a new Android phone, you usually have to sign a two-year contract. But the issues don’t stop there; carrier-branded phones never get software updates as fast as unlocked phones do, and they are always weighed down with additional software that no one really cares about. We wouldn’t complain much about bloatware if service providers only included the apps you need to manage your account or check your visual voicemail, but most phones have anywhere from 5 to 20 additional apps (most of which are available through Google Play) pre-installed into the system partition, making it impossible to uninstall them.
Android has made it possible to hide these apps on the device, but a new Android 5.0 Lollipop feature may change the way service providers install apps on their phones. In an interview with Ars Technica, Dave Burke and Gabe Cohen, Android VPs of engineering and product management, described a new way service providers would be able to bundle their apps on Android devices.
Burke: So the idea is as part of setup, Verizon might have some apps that you want like an app that tells you how much you used that month in terms of charges. There’s legitimate use cases where you want apps, but you also want those apps to be treated like any other app. What happens now is when you’ve got a Verizon SIM in the device, it actually installs Verizon apps as part of the setup flow, and then you can remove them if you want as part of the Play Infrastructure. And Verizon can update it.
Cohen: They’re not on the system partition.
Ars: Oh ok, so you can remove them?
We’re not sure when this new feature would be implemented or if it’ll be mandatory. We’re excited that Google has come up with a solution that should make service providers and consumers happy. However, there does appear to be a downside: if you own an unlocked device with no bloatware, sticking a T-Mobile or Verizon SIM into the phone would automatically install all the apps that the service provider thinks you should have. Yes, you will have the option to uninstall them, but the end user still has to go through a few extra steps to have a clear device.