If Bloatware Keeps You From Downloading Phone Apps You Actually Want, Should Carriers Offer An Upgrade?

We’ve written before about the annoyances of bloatware — those apps you are never ever going to use but come with your smartphone and cannot be deleted no matter how much you swear at your phone. Consumerist reader Ryan’s got his own bone to pick with zombie apps that can’t be killed on his Sprint phone, because they’re interfering with his ability to use it in the way he intended when he bought it. In short: he can’t download apps he actually wants because the bloatware takes up too much space, even with a new SD card.

Ryan writes that he is frustrated by not being able to use his one-year-old EVO Shift how he wanted to — he doesn’t have songs, movies or anything that would take up a lot of room, but he can’t download any more than the few additional apps he actually wants because of the pre-installed software. He bought a new SD card, which didn’t help because the bloatware can’t be moved or deleted whatsoever and apps can’t be downloaded directly to the card.

He wrote to Sprint customer service with a proposition as to how the company can fix his problem, saying in part:

The following apps I do not use, ye they also cannot be deleted, preventing me from downloading apps I want: Facebook, Kindle, Amazon MP3, Twitter, TeleNav GPS Navigator, NASCAR, HTC Weather, Sprint Football, Sprint TV, Peep, Footprints, Stocks, Calendar.

One of the main reasons I purchased a smart phone and pay for web service is to download and use the apps of my choosing. This is now an impossibility, even though my hardware isn’t damaged. It’s a flaw with the software configuration.

Since Sprint sold me a phone that largely cannot accommodate new apps — even with the larger SD card — I’d like to become eligible for my discounted upgrade now, instead of a year from now, so I can have a phone that provides me the services I pay for. If this is not possible, I’d like to be freed from my contract.

Instead of anything resembling a response that makes sense, here’s what he got:

Good morning Ryan,

Thank you for contacting Sprint/Nextel regarding your issue. we apologize for any inconvenience or delay .. our records account/ban#. ********* will NOT became fully ELIGIBLE for the maxim equipment upgrade discount ($150.00 -OFF) before mail-in rebate until “07/01/13” .. under the new policy you qualify in “22” months as oppose to the old “24” (2yr.) also poss. “14” days in advance if needed, something that was never offered before .. however we also offer the Refurbish Equipment Program at very LOW Cost & NO Contract contractual agreement as a temporary option .. thought this information might be helpful .. (please advise)


Say what now? Ryan replied:

With all due respect, you didn’t answer my question. I know I’m not eligible for a new phone. I said that in my email. My question wasn’t whether I am eligible for a new phone. My question is whether you will replace my phone with one that functions. Currently, I feel Sprint isn’t holding up it’s end of the contract because it was advertised that I could download apps with this phone, and I currently cannot.

Please let me know how Sprint will address this.

Also, I don’t understand why there would be a cost (even a LOW cost) for Sprint to replace a defective product.

We understand why these apps exist — partnerships between the phone’s manufacturers or carriers are moneymakers — but there should be a point where users can get those apps deleted. Perhaps a trial-period of non-deletion for the first months of a phone’s activation, or in-store deleting by customer service reps.

Ryan adds — “Shoot – I’m not even asking them to give me a phone. I’m asking them to let me sign a new 2-year contract and just push up my eligibility date for a discount. Of course, I probably could remove this stuff if I rooted the phone. But that would probably invalidate all sorts of warranties.”

In any case, using your phone with the apps you want on it shouldn’t be so difficult. Otherwise it’s just a mobile lump of unused apps that can take phone calls and send texts, which is so 2006. For shame, Sprint and other carriers! Free us from your app zombies.


Edit Your Comment

  1. InsertPithyNicknameHere says:

    Having an HTC EVO Shift of my own, I think one of the things that kills me most about the bloatware is that it includes two Twitter-based apps (Twitter and Peep). So, even if I was a Sprint Die-Hard and wanted to use all of the pre-installed nonsense, I don’t need multiple apps for the same online service.

    • 180CS says:

      Read my post on how to root the evo shift. :)
      (& on a sidenote, I meant to say link2sd, not app2sd)

      • InsertPithyNicknameHere says:

        My intention is to root my phone once the warranty expires. However, as I have had to use warranty service on my phone once (because it suddenly decided not to take any sort of touch-screen input, and instead randomly registered non-existant input), I don’t want to be in a position where Sprint decides that I broke my own phone by removing the bloatware.

        • 180CS says:

          If you have to send it in anyway, just do a factory reset. As long as you don’t install a custom rom/bootloader, you should still be able to do a factory reset. And no matter what goes wrong, just know that no electronic is going to survive 2 seconds in the microwave, but it’s water sensors will. :)

          • deathbecomesme says:

            I never thought of that! Awesome. I rooted my phone and know how to reset to factory defaults but never thought of actually frying it just incase lol

            • 180CS says:

              I would only use the microwave as a last resort option, but I can say it’s a pretty safe choice if you only leave it in for a second or two. That sucker will NEVER turn back on, and nobody will know why.

              • eldritch2k4 says:

                So…on a site dedicated to creating a pleasant consumer environment, you instruct someone to intentionally commit an act that would willfully void a warranty to cover up another act that willfully voids the warranty. Then, lie to the company offering the warranty on good faith.

                They have a term for that and it is “Warranty Fraud” and it is illegal.

                • dwasifar says:

                  In a perfect world, where warranties were actually offered in “good faith,” I would completely agree with you. Be upright and honorable and do the right thing. Always the best policy when it’s available.

                  But in a world where warranty claims are routinely denied on flimsy pretexts, such as dodging coverage for a hardware fault by pointing to a completely unrelated software installation, it seems like turnabout can sometimes be fair play. If they don’t play fair with you, why should you play fair with them? Playing fair with a cheater gives them an advantage; if you can’t stop them cheating, your next best option is to match deviousness with deviousness.

                  In the situation described by Pithy above, where an apparent hardware fault rendered the phone inoperable and hence unrestorable, I fail to see who would get hurt by this. The phone’s already broken, and should be covered under warranty if it weren’t for the carrier playing fine-print games to evade responsibility. Now he’s worried that removing bloatware apps will void his warranty. What bearing does the practice of forcing people to keep apps they don’t want have on a hardware warranty? How is that fair? How is it “good faith”?

                  TL;DR version: If the carrier/manufacturer play manipulative games with the warranty, it’s fair play to do the same thing back.

        • Lt. Coke says:

          I’m afraid I have bad news, IPNH. The Evo Shift has some horrible design flaw that will make this problem effectively inevitable. I’ve had it happen to me twice, and a friend just had hers do the same thing. Sand or dust gets inside the phone through the sliding mechanism, I think, and ends ends up shorting out connections related to the screen. The EVO Shift also seems especially vulnerable to water damage – I was very very very careful to avoid it. Somehow though, every time I brought my phone in to get it checked out, “all the water sensors were tripped.” I’m guessing sweat got in through the sliding mechanism or Sprint was lying because they know this phone is flawed.

          The whole mess has convinced me to never buy from HTC again. Touchscreen keyboards aren’t so bad; I recently made the switch and found I typed just as well as I did with a mech keyboard.

  2. MutantMonkey says:

    Like I said in the other thread about cell phone BS, I just want to buy the phone I want without this preinstalled crap, including OS wrappers. Sell me the phone and let me customize the applications it uses to suit my tastes.

    • 180CS says:

      Pretty soon, you’re going to be asking how to root your laptop/pc too. Microsoft is mandating locked and encrypted boot loaders for any AMD based computer that will be running windows 8. We’re a couple years away from having to hack to uninstall bloatware on desktops too.

      • eldritch2k4 says:

        According to Microsoft’s design documents, the Secure Boot system must be enabled by default on x86_x64 systems (Intel and AMD), but must also have a way to disable the Secure Boot system as well as have a method for adding non-Microsoft keys to allow the UEFI/Secure Boot system to boot alternate Operating Systems.

        Microsoft based ARM products (tablets and phones) do not have such requirements in the documentation, however this is not unlike iOS and Android ARM systems.

        • 180CS says:

          But I read those documents. It requires the ability to disable the secure boot for intel, but it also requires the inability to do so with AMD.

  3. PragmaticGuy says:

    I have much of that stuff on my three year old Samsung Moment. Some of it I use, some I don’t but I have no problem downloading new apps and I also have about 150 songs on there as well. So, maybe his HTC just doesn’t have enough RAM as I’m still using the original 2 Gig card that came with the phone.

    • romoish says:

      Crazyness. Here’s my last few phones. Samsung Moment -> HTC EVO Shift -> Galaxy S2 (Epic4gTouch).

      I can feel the OP’s pain because the Shift has like 100mbs of storage. I spent most of my time deleting things and flushing temp files and frantically moving apps to the sd card because it was constantly flashing warnings about being too full.

  4. 180CS says:

    In the time it took him to write all that, he could have downloaded simple root and used it. http://lifehacker.com/5576340/simple-root-unlocks-htc-evo-4g-in-one-click

    Then he could have installed root uninstaller, and uninstalled *anything*

    Then he could have installed app2sd, and made a virtual extension of his ROM storage, effectively giving him up to 1.5GB in additional storage.

    (Ryan, if you’re reading this, do it!)

    • eccsame says:

      He doesn’t want to uninstall the bloatware – he wants a new phone! Sheesh!

    • MutantMonkey says:

      “I probably could remove this stuff if I rooted the phone. But that would probably invalidate all sorts of warranties.”

      • 180CS says:

        And if he ever needs to use the warranty, he can pop the phone in the microwave for 2 seconds, or do a factory restore which should re-root it.

        Either of those options ensures nobody ever knows he rooted his phone :)

      • lyontaymer30 says:

        The shift doesn’t allow downloads to sd card? what version of android does it have?

        And you can unroot it and bring it right back to factory standand and they wouldn’t be able to tell.

        • 180CS says:

          It probably does allow moving *some* downloaded apps to the sd card, but that is a little deceptive in and of itself. Try moving angry birds (about 20mb) to the SD card. Suddenly the size of the app drops to about 2mb. That’s because 18mb, or about 90% of the app, stayed on the phones internal storage.

          Programs like link2sd can help a lot, moving nearly the whole app instead of nearly none of it.

          • pythonspam says:

            I don’t think carriers or app developers should be able to tell me that a particular app must be stored on the phone vs. those which can be used. Even those apps that don’t come on the phone or from the carrier can still block themselves from being moved

          • erinpac says:

            With most of the current Android phones, it doesn’t much matter anyways, even if it did let you move the whole app instead of a small part. The internal memory is partitioned so that part of it is the “SD” (as far as the OS cares) and the actual removable SD card becomes “ext-ssd” or something similar, which can only be used for media and files, not apps, even with something like link2sd. So, you think getting a larger card will help, as it looks like the SD is full… only to find that adding a larger card doesn’t change that size.

        • MutantMonkey says:

          Tell that to the less than savvy users who brick their phones and then botch about it on the android forums.

          • lyontaymer30 says:

            That’s why you read and understand what you’re doing. I bricked my phone the 1st time I did, because I went ahead and did a bunch of crap I didn’t understand and didn’t read the whole process lol.

          • 180CS says:

            Very true. But if you brick your phone because you didn’t know what you where doing, you should have asked for help in the first place. I see those types on android forums a lot too, but I guarantee you they will be more careful next time, and bricking a phone you hate anyway isn’t the worst thing in the world. Right lyontamer? ;)

            • MutantMonkey says:

              At the end of the day you are still encouraging someone to do something that could cause them to end up in a worse situation than they are already in.

            • 180CS says:

              If they’re only rooting though, I can’t think of anything they can’t reverse. It’s when you install custom roms/bootloaders that you can brick your phone. If you root your phone and, say, uninstall some critical system component, just do a restore and all is well again. Lesson learned, and nothing was destroyed.

              I even did stupid things like that when I was younger, but I think the benefits of where I am with my electronics far outweighs the hours I spent sweating over deleting the wrong things a couple of times.

  5. PunditGuy says:

    Root. Custom ROM. Load/delete whatever you want.

    I bought a Nexus phone to specifically avoid the bloatware. Doesn’t help OP now, but he might want to look that direction in the future.

  6. njack says:

    Root it and be done.

  7. Lyn Torden says:

    Buy an unlocked Android phone. Root it and install a fresh new Android image from Google. Then you can delete anything you want. Then sign up with a pre-paid service and you can quit them any time you want.

  8. clemenko says:

    Replace the firmware with a faster one that you can control :

  9. Purple Elmo says:

    Good luck at getting a crapware free phone from any wireless provider in the USA. I ran into this problem within 3 months of getting my Android from AT&T. In addition to what Ryan mentioned, the amount of available space dwindles as upgrades are installed. Since the base app is not modifiable the only way to make changes is to add more code which means more space is consumed by the crapware app.

    I have been looking for a phone that is compatible with the AT&T SIM card but comes only with the Android OS and have found nothing in over a year of searching.

    • 180CS says:

      I don’t think you’re going to find that. If I where you, I’d look for an android phone that can easily be rooted/unrooted & reset in the case of a warranty issue.

    • golddog says:

      Galaxy Nexus. Buy it from Google, call AT&T to activate it. Stock Android, no bloat. Uninstall anything it comes with you don’t want.

    • Geekybiker says:

      You haven’t been search very hard. Nexus on the google play store for one. Otherwise just goto XDA and install Cyangenmod.

  10. Not Given says:

    root it

  11. Jesse says:

    It seems to me like Sprint answered his question, but in a long winded manner.

  12. mikedt says:

    I have a feeling they forwarded Ryan’s note around the office and had a good laugh over it.

  13. JF says:

    Jailbreak it.

  14. SavijMuhdrox says:

    ahhh.. blockbuster.. what ARE you doing on my phone? oh, are you upgrading again? that’s sweet.. like an ant pumped full of the Ophiocordyceps unilateralis fungus.. you just keep on trucking.. with no idea how dead you really are.. until a stalk of fungus sprouts forth from my phone!!!

  15. Azagthoth says:

    Move what you can to the sd card (settings/applications/manage applications/move to sd), then Root and install Titanium Backup (if you can now), which allows you to kill ANY app, BE CAREFUL. I killed my kindle app this way after it tried to update every day for two weeks. App2Sd also helped a lot by reminding me to push new apps over to the sd if it was possible.

    Bonus: All of those apps have free versions that should work fine for this.

    I do understand that some people don’t want to root while in warranty, but sometimes you gotta do what you gotta do.

  16. ogremustcrush says:

    User should have researched the phone before he bought it. If the phone had a tiny internal memory he should have either not bought it or returned during the return period. I know for a fact that phone can hold dozens of apps, maybe the op wants to only use ridiculously large ones. All those apps he mentioned reside on the system partition anyway, they don’t reduce the space available for user apps.

    • who? says:

      OP should have been perfect, and done a perfect job of researching his purchase. Since OP isn’t perfect, the company has no obligation to do the right thing. Lather, rinse, repeat.

      Customers *do* have a reasonable expectation of being able to use a smartphone as a smartphone, by installing their own apps. Sprint doesn’t necessarily owe him a new phone, but if this is a real problem with this particular model of phone, it’s reasonable that Sprint should update the phone and either remove some of the crapware themselves or allow consumers to remove crapware, so that it can be used as a smartphone.

      Short of that, he should just root the damn thing.

    • RyanHoleywell123 says:

      OP here. For what it’s worth I have 44 MB of internal space on the internal drive. I have no music, no video, and maybe a dozen photos. I literally have one user-installed app on the hard drive. Everything else on the internal storage is Sprint-installed crapware, along with some contacts. World of Goo is 45.9 MB. I cannot download World of Goo since you cannot download directly to the SD card. I don’t understand why I am paying for a phone if I can’t download one of the most popular apps, even though I have expanded the storage capacity of the phone.

      I don’t know how I would have researched a phone that was relatively new since the bloatware problem only manifests itself over time, as far as I understand. I also assumed that since it has expandable storage, running out of space wasn’t a problem. Furthermore, if you look online, it’s clear this is a huge problem with this particular phone, as there are many forum posts about it.

      • 180CS says:

        I learned this lesson a coupe phones ago. I will never be an early adopter of a phone/game console/os EVER again.

        Honestly, I try to buy used now, when someone who has the attention span of a fruit fly gets bored with the gadget I want a few months into owning it. By then, the good, the bad, and the ugly is all over the internet, and I’ll know if I still even want the darn thing.

  17. fizil says:

    Music, pics [except pic mail], and videos don’t effect internal phone memory. Try a program called app 2 sd. If all else fails, sometimes stores offer an early upgrade buy up that can get you in phone that doesn’t fill up as fast s the shift. The shift isn’t a bad phone until you put too much into it.

    • RyanHoleywell123 says:

      OP here. For what it’s worth, I use App2SD. For what it’s worth, 90 percent of my internal storage is filled even though all but one of my apps is on the SD card.

      • fizil says:

        unless you have tons of apps, it’s probably time for a hard reset if you’re having memory leaks.

      • Fafaflunkie Plays His World's Smallest Violin For You says:

        In other words, you go to the Play Store, want to download an app but it won’t let you since the app installer will save to the internal storage, not the /sd/ folder. Of course there’s a way around that, if you dare. You’re using app2sd already. Why not side-load your apps to the SD card directly? Hopefully Sprint hasn’t locked you out of “allow installation of apps from unknown sources” (Settings>Security>Unknown Sources) Then start Googling for “(my favourite app here) .apk” Good luck!

  18. do-it-myself says:

    FINALLY, someone’s post about the Evo Shift gets through. Although the pre-installed app bloatware is an issue with multiple phones, there is an inherent flaw with the phone/software that eats up space over time no matter how many apps are deleted. I’ve had my phone for a year and have had to factory reset it once because the internal memory was 95% full. By this time I had deleted all apps (I backed up what I could to my SD card and computer), and I was still getting that little annoying hard drive full indicator. I have looked and looked and looked for a solution or a fix for this and I have seen nothing but pure ignorance from Sprint. Other solutions involved either rooting the phone (something I did not want to do to void the warranty) or performing a factory reset. The internal memory is only about 435 MB which is atrocious!

    Never mind the fact that I rarely get real 3G speeds (let alone the existence of 4G!). This is a separate issue, but before they start putting up 4G LTE towers in place, they need to address the CURRENT issues with their network!

    I would be tempted to get a refurbished iPhone 4S for $50 w/o extending my contract, however the 4S’s signal is even WEAKER on the Sprint Network. So when my partner is SOL on getting any signal (talk and data), I at least get breadcrumbs on my Evo Shift.

    Apparently I learned that the Evo Shift’s specs are weaker that the original Evo. The only reason I wanted the shift was because of it’s smaller size and actual keyboard. As soon as I’m out of contract, I’m going with AT&T or Verizon! I know they have customer service issues just as much as anyone else, but at least their Talk/3G/4G/4G LTE signals actually work like they are supposed to!

  19. kethryvis says:

    A larger SD card won’t solve the problem; i have an EVO 4G on Sprint. The problem is, all that bloatware sits on the phone’s *internal* storage, which is pretty small. i am constantly having to delete and move stuff around so i can use my phone decently, and even then it’s a struggle. Finally what i did was uninstalled all the updates to all the bloatware apps, and don’t allow those to auto update themselves. It’s helping, but it’s only a matter of time before i have trouble again.

    This is a problem that is partly Sprint (for the bloatware) and partly Android (For the terrible app and storage management.) It’s why i’m jumping to iPhone as soon as i can. i’ll be dumping Sprint too but not because of bloatware… but because their data, while unlimited, is so damned slow it’s pointless to even have it.

    As for the “root it” “solutions”… i’m sorry, i’m not comfortable rooting my phone, and i don’t want to totally void the warranty. It should not be too much to ask to have decent management over my own aps, and be able to remove anything i want. The apps i can’t uninstall aren’t being used at all, and aren’t doing anyone any good, not me, not Sprint, not the companies who made the apps. In fact, it’s doing Sprint and those companies harm because i’m so fscking annoyed at the apps. They really should let us uninstall the damned things and be done with it.

  20. Fafaflunkie Plays His World's Smallest Violin For You says:

    Two words: ROOT IT. Then you’d get those pesky crapware apps off it, even if it meant downloading rogue firmware (Paranoid Android comes to mind.) A little Googling will do the trick: try “root sprint evo shift” and start reading.

  21. jonnnyfour says:

    At this point he should root his phone. It is passed the 1 year warranty so Sprint won’t replace it and if it breaks or gets bricked it doesn’t matter. Sprint doesn’t give a crap if it is full of their crap they put on it, they will just try and sell you a new one. I personally rooted a Evo 4g and put a custom rom on it and my battery went from 1 day to 4 days.

  22. JonBoy470 says:

    I’ll admit I use an iPhone, and thus avoid this sort of mess (unified internal storage, no un-uninstallable bloatware). That said, were I to jump ship to Android, I think I’d go with a Nexus device for the purest Google user experience (and no bloatware). Failing that, I’d get a device currently supported by Cyanogenmod (e.g. Samsung Galaxy S II, most of HTC’s product line) or at least likely to be supported in the near future (cough, Galaxy S III).

    In the short-term, flash your current Evo Shift to Cyanogenmod and call it a day (pun intended).

  23. ericfate says:

    It took two app downloads, 1 instructional youtube video, and one line of code to give myself the ability to purge all the crap I didn’t want from my phone. The company gets more money from the people that want the bloatware on there than they get from you. Don’t expect them to bend over and help, just do a quick google search and cut all ties with their tech support folks entirely.

  24. TravistyRobertoson says:

    My wife has the same phone and the internal memory sucks. Always have a low storage error and can not remove the pre- nstalled CRapps.

  25. Al Madison loves Dinosaurs says:

    It’s also frustrating when those apps try to automatically update. I turned off auto-update. Now I’m just constantly reminded that the apps I don’t want or need want to update.