Bloatware on Android phones has been around for so long — especially on Samsung and Huawei phones — that it's hardly even news anymore. Even so, it was a huge surprise when we found out that OnePlus has involved itself in this dubious practice. The OxygenOS bloatware in question comes from probably the shadiest company of them all — Facebook. Starting with the OnePlus 8 series and continuing with the Nord, users have had to put up with a bunch of Facebook-owned apps and a few background services on their brand-new handsets, some of which cannot be uninstalled.
This came to our attention when Max Weinbach of XDA tweeted a couple of screenshots of the Instagram app updating via the Facebook App Manager service instead of through Play Store as you'd expect. A number of people on Reddit pointed out that this has been the case for some time. We checked several OnePlus phones, and sure enough, the company's three most recent models come with system apps and services from Facebook preinstalled as part of the OS. It seems you'll find them in all regions where OnePlus phones ship with OxygenOS — so, pretty much everywhere but China.
I hate this so much pic.twitter.com/0cViyKaMGV
— Max Weinbach (@MaxWinebach) August 1, 2020
We reached out to OnePlus for comment and they confirmed to us that the OnePlus 8, 8 Pro, and Nord all include the Facebook App Installer, Facebook App Manager, and Facebook Services as system apps. The main Facebook app, Messenger, and Instagram are also present, as well as Netflix. In response to a feature suggestion under its Ideas campaign, OnePlus reasoned that the pre-installation of these apps ensures better battery efficiency on Facebook and enhances HDR playback on Netflix — make of that what you will.
As Max points out, if you’ve got these services on your phone, Facebook-owned apps may pull updates via these services instead of the Play Store. These system services have been spotted using data in the background, too, albeit in small quantities. That's potentially alarming considering there’s absolutely no clarity on the kind of information being shared with Facebook.
You can uninstall the user-facing Facebook, Messenger, and Instagram apps, but not the background services. It is possible to disable them, however, and doing so won't break anything on your phone. OnePlus says it will continue to install these Facebook apps and services on phones sold in Europe, India, and North America. Thankfully, older phones (OnePlus 7T and before) won't have these apps forced on them as part of an OS update. Though not as blatant as Samsung placing ads all over One UI, OnePlus’s partnership with a company like Facebook does raise more than a few eyebrows, and owners of OnePlus phones are understandably upset by this.