Asus, My “Device May Have Junk” – Your Junk
We’ve previously given a full review of the Asus ZenFone 2 on the XDA portal. If you’re interested in a more thorough and objective look at the phone, along with its hardware and software, I suggest you check it out. If, instead, you’re here for a rant, and don’t want to read a serious review about the phone, you’re in the right place! Remember, I’m not a phone reviewer, and this isn’t meant to be a phone review.
Today I took an Asus ZenFone 2 out of its box. It was a fairly decent box – it was made of cardboard, and it did the job of getting the phone here safely. The phone also looked nice enough – a black slab of glass, like all the others. Alas though, all this could be said about any phone. That’s the last thing that I could say about any phone however, when looking at the ZenFone 2. (As an aside, I’m really not a fan of the misspelled “fone” in the name, but I shall leave that for now, as there are bigger fish to fry here!)
First things first, I tried to turn the phone on. The power button is located on the top of the device, in an ambidextrous-friendly central position. Unfortunately though, it is simply the worst power button I’ve ever had the misfortune to have to press. I include heavy industrial equipment, and $15 feature-phones in this statement. The button is too stiff, and there’s no feedback if you’ve successfully pressed it, since the actual button is simply a push-through towards a switch on the inside of the casing. As the button is at the top of the device, you need to stretch a finger up to reach the button – this means you will invariably not be pushing it with the full force you would have pushed a front or side power button. That would be fine… if Asus had considered this when designing the phone.
Unfortunately they didn’t – the button is so stiff and lacking in feedback that it’s difficult to tell if you’ve even pressed it. I couldn’t get any sign of life out the phone, so I ended up taking the back off it (following the nice instruction sheet in the box) to find a non-removable battery – so I couldn’t simply remove and re-insert the battery – what a shame! Having established I was indeed pushing the button correctly (by looking at the mechanism on the case), I proceeded to plug the phone in and charge it. I tried this on both USB and AC, but didn’t get any kind of response from the phone. So I left it for about half an hour, and returned to it. Disappointing – it seemed this phone was dead-on-arrival (which is fair enough, every manufacturer has these issues). I noticed though that it was drawing current from the charger (thanks to a $5 inline USB current and voltage meter), which suggested there was indeed life.
There was no charging status LED lit though, which seemed strange. Eventually, after more prodding and squeezing of the world’s worst power button, I managed to extract some kind of vibration from the phone. Still nothing on the screen, but I felt a sign of life! The resuscitation process then began, and I charged the phone for another few minutes. I then tried again, and (I believe) I held the power button down for longer. The screen burst to life, and the device booted.
At this point, you’ll likely laugh at me, the idiot who didn’t hold down the power button. And feel free, although note that I did indeed try this, and held down the power button for about 10 seconds when first trying this. I also tried the recovery key combination, just in case it worked. Just remember, though, that the instructions say to “press the power key” to turn it on, and don’t mention holding it. Given the stiffness of the button as well, it’s not easy to hold down the power button, while being sure it’s still properly held down.
So a quick note for Asus – please don’t ship phones with your batteries so low in charge that they can deplete in the supply chain. Or at least turn on the LED to show it’s charging in the bootloader! The other option is that the device drains in powered-off mode (which is certainly possible – it’s an Intel CPU and I’ve never tried a phone with one of those before, so I can’t vouch against the idea). And maybe invest next time in a better power button, that isn’t as stiff as a double-whisky?
Having turned on the phone, and proceeded through the setup wizard, all seemed fine. Again, reviews will talk more about this. I won’t – I need to get to the point of this article! I looked away from the phone for a few minutes, and returned to it. The screen had turned off (as one would expect), so I woke it up. Fortunately, the device supports double-tap-to-wake, which is virtually essential given my problems above with the power button. I double-tapped and was surprised with the sight which awaited me.
Yes, that’s right – right at centre-stage on the lockscreen, a notification from “Clean Master”. Just to inform me, “Your device may have junk”. Uhm, yeah… Given I literally turned it on 3 minutes before this, and I’m already getting notification spam from pre-installed bloatware, it certainly seems my device may have junk. Clean Master being the first piece of said junk. Their software is questionable at best, with a lot of significant inconsistencies and generally questionable practices. In any case, this is scareware at best, warning the user a brand new phone might have junk, and that their app should be used.
Fortunately, I was able to “disable” it from within the applications menu on Android. I’d have preferred if Asus had either not pre-loaded garbage, or had done what Sony do, and allow users to fully uninstall it. But either way, I got rid of it.
Now made somewhat insecure by the presence of this pre-installed software, I decided to check in case my device “had junk”. Unfortunately, it did. Lots of it. In whole-sale, bulk-buy containers. I won’t go into the details of what was pre-installed, since plenty of others have done so already. What I will ask, though, is what on earth were Asus thinking, when they agreed to pre-install this software? Whose amazing idea was it to install scareware junk, which has notifications popping up on first boot of a brand-new handset, warning it may contain junk? And who in the quality assurance department agreed to this, and authorised the firmware they tested to be used for final production?
So yes, my phone did have junk. The Asus-preinstalled bloatware was spot on. Alas, most of the junk was able to be disabled, which is good. This does raise an important point for manufacturers, however – sell us a phone, and put some decent software on it, and leave it there. Don’t view your users’ app drawers and storage space as advertising hoardings, or your customers will resent it. Don’t pre-install bloat – that’s just so 2000’s. Even on the desktop and laptop, Microsoft has a signature store, where nothing has any bloat. The days of bloat are numbered – let’s get rid of pre-installed garbage once and for all – it’s not like you can’t install any apps you would use from the Play Store, after all!
What’s your worst experience been of carrier or OEM bloat? Were you able to remove it easily?