Defining Bloatware: Where Do YOU Draw the Line?

Defining Bloatware: Where Do YOU Draw the Line?

Bloatware. The very word makes Nexus purists cringe and carrier users flee for the hills. Typically this is for good reason, just the word bloatware is disgusting and gets lumped together with the other ‘wares’.

For many of us buying a carrier branded device it means spending 15 minutes pruning our phone; Facebook, Visual Voicemail, NFL Mobile… gone, gone and gone. But depending on who you ask, applications one may consider bloat could be someone else’s favorite. Some people will purge their phones of all things Google Play [insert service here] while others keep and regularly use pre-installed software. One man’s trash could truly be another’s treasure. So where do we draw the imaginary lines of what is and isn’t bloat, is it strictly a matter of choice, and who crosses those lines?

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Yeah, your junk

There is no doubt that bloatware is talked about more now than ever before. It also is a fact that the term bloatware spikes during major Android OEM device launches reaching an all-time high during the Note 5 launch last year. So what is considered as bloat? That definition varies from user to user. It is also the reason as to why we shouldn’t be using a blanket phrase to identify any auxiliary software over and above the core function of a device. For example, Verizon bundles a host of applications with phones sold on their service. One application is Verizon Messages and while on the surface it can quickly be ignored as “bloat” it also has a very useful feature, SMS sync.

Hate that Pushbullet charges you to sync SMS over a small limit? Verizon’s messaging application has had SMS sync since the Galaxy Nexus days. and I know a number of people who use it regularly. While we give Verizon a lot of crap it is a very useful application that people use and is beneficial. Likewise Samsung bundles applications like Samsung+. While on the surface it can easily be written off as another piece of Samsung “bloat” it serves the function of device support directly from Samsung. We often complain about Android devices not receiving the same level of support that Apple devices get and this is a small step in the right direction. Further Samsung also includes some system level enhancements such as the Theme Store and S-Suite that are genuinely useful, even if they can cause duplicate app situations.

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An old man’s Netflix

While these are just a few small examples, bloatware has a bad connotation for a good reason. While Samsung bundles some very useful applications and tools with its phones it also bundles a version of Clean Master’s SDK which includes some “useful” things like a RAM cleaner, cache cleaner and “security” suite… Clean Master is hardly something most of us would consider “useful”. AT&T bundles the wildly popular and superbly useful DirecTV application with its phones and T-Mobile insistent on pushing its T-Mobile TV service. It gets worse though as ASUS found out last year with the Zenfone with its legendary amount of bloat. Examples like these are why bloatware is such a derogatory term and why it is so often used as a blanket term for any pre-installed applications.

While there are both good and bad examples of bloatware, blanketing an entire spectrum of all pre-installed isn’t fair. For many users these applications aren’t bloat. While the common complaint against Samsung devices on the forums is the sheer amount of changes and additions to the software, that software is also a contributor as to why Samsung is the world’s largest OEM. A dividing line needs to be drawn when and if we consider an application as bloat. Things like: is this useful, is the UI/UX attractive or manageable, or is this just an app for the sake of an app? Other things to consider are is this actually negatively affecting the consumer, is this possibly a security issue on the device, and how much space is it taking up should be looked at as well.

Where do you draw the line? What’s bloatware to you? Let us know below!

About author

Daniel Marchena
Daniel Marchena

I've had a love for Android since 2009 but I also use iOS regularly. While I love rooting and customization, I tend to focus more on living with my devices. I also am just starting out writing in the PC space as I have always had a leaning towards this market. I am always all ears so PM, or Tweet me if you have any questions!