What's with all these pre-installed apps, and can you delete them?

  • TECH
  • Tuesday, 27 Jun 2017

Pre-installed apps such as calendars and e-mail programmes are designed to keep consumers in a smartphone manufacturer's ecosystem.

There are plenty of useful apps out there. But the ones that come pre-installed on a smartphone generally don't fit into that category. Many are of doubtful value, and some might even pose a security risk. So why are they there?

"It's about differentiation and customer loyalty," says Mark Schulte, an analyst with market researcher IDC. "Manufacturers are trying to offer their customers add-ons that are valuable for everyday use and therefore make themselves stand out."

Often, though, it'd be better if they didn't. Such a practice can be useful in the business customer sector, but private customers "are more likely to ask themselves: 'Do I really need that?'" Schulte says.

Pre-installed apps such as calendars and e-mail programmes are designed to keep the user in the manufacturer's ecosystem  this applies particularly to Apple, but also to other smartphone makers.

The reasoning is that if consumers get used to certain apps, they will be more likely to stick with the same brand when they buy a new phone.

There's also the question of user data. "The manufacturer knows more about its customers from the apps and can then use that for targeted offers," Schulte explains.

However, not all smartphones are cluttered with pre-installed apps. "There are differences between the manufacturers," says Alexander Kuch, an editor at a German technology website.

"Samsung and Asus, for example, pre-install a lot, as does Huawei." But brands such as Spain's BQ, or OnePlus and Oppo from China, don't pre-install as much.

Manufacturers also offer a wide range of apps tied to their brand, for example ones that sync with a smartwatch. "Some of these are useful apps," Kuch says, "but some are only advertising."

Some pre-installed apps should be avoided because they require extensive access rights, or there are better alternatives. However, you might not be able to delete the pre-installed apps even if you do decide to go with an alternative.

"With Samsung it's possible to uninstall the purely advertising apps on newer devices," Kuch says. "But that is rather the exception."

Apps that can't be uninstalled are annoying not only because they use up memory, but because they take up screen space as well. They can also be a security risk; after all, an app guaranteed to be installed on many smartphones is a particularly worthwhile target for hackers.

Bloatware can also make it impossible to install important security patches if it takes up too much memory and then can't be deleted.

To permanently delete pre-installed apps on Android phones, you need to use what is called root access, something that really only experienced users can access.

Otherwise, you must go into a phone's settings to disable or uninstall an app. The app will no longer run in the background or appear on the Android start menu, but it will still take up memory.

Since iOS 10, iPhones have had a similar option for standard apps such as FaceTime or iBooks that removes the icons from the home screen. — dpa

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