There are only a few derogatory words that are generally bandied around in relation to the Android ecosystem, and bloatware is one of them. “I hate bloatware,” or “why on earth did they include all this bloatware” are some of the tamer things people have to say about bloatware. So, what is bloatware? Is it bad? And most importantly, does it drain your phone’s battery? Let’s take a look.
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What is bloatware?
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The first thing we need to do is define bloatware. Every Android device has several different “layers” of apps. The lowest layer is the default apps like the clock, the calculator, the phone dialer, the SMS messaging app etc. These are common to every Android device, however some of the standard AOSP apps on your device may have been replaced by ones written by the OEM. The next layer is the Google apps, all the apps related to Google’s services like the Play Store, YouTube, Maps, Gmail and so on.
A phone with only the standard built-in Android apps and Google’s apps doesn’t have any bloatware. Next comes the OEM’s app. These are apps written by the OEM and come pre-installed on your device to “add value.” These apps aren’t normally available on the Play Store for devices by other manufacturers. Examples of such OEM apps include Samsung’s S-Health or S-Voice. This is the edge of the bloatware phenomenon. If an OEM adds badly written apps that no-one wants then they are no longer perceived as adding value, but rather as being a nuisance.
The layer above the OEM’s apps are the partner apps. If the OEM or carrier has signed a deal with another company then those apps will also come pre-installed. For example your phone might come with Amazon’s Kindle reader installed by default or with some of Microsoft’s apps, like Microsoft Word, Outlook, or Skype. Here we are firmly in bloatware territory. However how this bloatware is perceived depends on which apps are installed. For example, I always install Kindle and Skype on my Android phones, so I wouldn’t call these bloatware, however I never install Polaris Office, MobiSystems’ OfficeSuite, or WPS Office. So if these come pre-installed then I would call them bloatware. Your opinion on these apps may differ from mine, but any pre-installed “partner” app that you don’t like is probably bloatware in your mind.
The final layer are the OEM apps. Carriers all around the world including Verizon, T-Mobile, Orange, Vodafone etc, have all been known to install their own apps on the phones they sell to their subscribers. For example, the Verizon branded Samsung Galaxy S7 comes with 7 or 8 Verizon apps including a replacement SMS messaging app, My Verizon Mobile, and VZ Navigator. These apps are only available on Verizon branded devices, and are meant to add to the user experience.