It's 2016. Android is pretty great. We have access to software and hardware that were just pipe dreams a few years ago, and the mild whining that we as a community like to engage in is just that: mild. But bloated, unnecessary software from manufacturers and carriers, which restricts customer choice, adds to update delays, and sometimes even opens up vulnerabilities, remains a thorn in the side of the platform as a whole. How often have we seen otherwise interesting hardware brought down because someone thought it would be a good idea to pay for unverified mobile games with sandwiches? Read More
ES File Explorer has been on Android since time immemorial, but it has been getting a little bloated since being acquired a while back. The most recent update might be the last straw for many users. ES File Explorer is now offering to speed up charging by a whopping 20%. Wow, what a deal! It's complete bunk, of course. All you really get are ads on your lock screen. Read More
Cheetah Mobile, perhaps the least respected large-scale developer of mobile apps, is partnering with the truly world-class computer science and engineering programs at Carnegie Mellon University to show them how the pros shove ads into everything. Yep, this is not a drill, Cheetah Mobile is in fact teaching a course in mobile advertising at CMU's Silicon Valley campus to students paying over $40,000 per year in tuition to get graduate degrees in software development and related fields.
In the press announcement, Cheetah Mobile describes itself as "the leading developer of mission-critical mobile utility and security applications," which stretches the definition of more of those words than it would be worth listing. Read More
I'm pretty sure something was lost in translation between the different reviews of ASUS' more recent generations of phones and the company's software development team. Everyone has lamented the high customization of ZenUI, the software layer that ASUS has slapped on top of Android, and its endless list of pre-installed and useless apps. On our own team, different writers unanimously pointed to the software as the major drawback for the Zenfone 2, Zenfone 2E, Zenpad S 8.0, Zenfone Selfie, and Zenfone 2 Laser. So what's ASUS to do to fix that?
Add more bloat. For realsies. That's what's happening with the latest update to the Zenfone Selfie, as if the phone wasn't full of preloaded crapware already. Read More
Since Google still only reveals a tiny portion of the file system to Android end users, most intermediate and "power" users have a go-to file manager that they use on a regular basis. ES File Explorer was, at least until recently, one of the most popular options on the Play Store - it offers a simple interface, a robust set of tools, and it's been available for years. But recent changes have made long-time fans of the app wary; now ES File Explorer includes a built-in web browser, "junk cleaner" notifications, and "recommended apps" (read: advertisements), among other bells and whistles that no one really asked for in a file manager. Read More
From its announcement at Google I/O to today, we keep uncovering new information and subtle details regarding the new permission system in Android 6.0. What we weren't able to know, however, was how OEMs were going to treat (or be forced to treat) this new feature. Would they be able to remove it completely? Circumvent it for their own apps? Could they abuse it to grant permissions to bloatware? Well, we now have our answers thanks to the updated Marshmallow Compatibility Definition Document.
In it, Google explains that apps that target API level 23 will have to request permissions to access certain protected features. Read More
Even budget phones are pretty good these days, but most of them suffer from an unfortunate lack of storage. 8GB seems to be the standard (with some going as low as 4GB), and that isn't helped by manufacturers' habit of including a ton of apps you might not need or want. Sony got some negative feedback for the Xperia M4 Aqua's 8GB on the base model, but it looks like they've taken it to heart: the latest update to the phone removes quite a few previously standard apps, freeing up some much-needed storage.
Xperia Blog did a pretty great breakdown on the phone's original storage situation, which left just 1.25GB of free space for users after Android 5.0 and all the included apps. Read More
Cyanogen Inc. has forged an alliance with Playphone to bring its exciting
bloatware social game store to Cyanogen OS in multiple international markets. It's not clear when or where the Playphone store will be bundled with Cyanogen OS phones, but it should start happening before long. I'm sure no one will be annoyed by this.
The AT&T crapware on the carrier's LTE-equipped Samsung Galaxy Tab S 10.5 is playing a game of musical chairs today. An OTA update rolling out to the device moves around some icons and basically just does weird stuff, but leaves it on Android 4.4.2. Read More
Update: We've heard from a source close to Digital Turbine that the software is not supposed to re-install bloat apps after they have been removed by the user. Once they're gone, they should stay gone, barring a factory reset of the phone (at which point they will reinstall, but again, only once). Digital Turbine was also not able to reproduce this behavior in its own testing on the T-Mobile Note 4, so it's not clear what went wrong for this particular user. The source also made clear that data used by Digital Turbine does not count against user data caps.
Welcome to the latest edition of "What the hell is wrong with carriers?" In this installment, we discuss the newest carrier attempt to further monetize customers (that's us) with a service called Digital Turbine Ignite. Read More