Few things piss me off more these days than the carriers taking advantage of Google’s openness to load up Android phones with crapware and their own proprietary garbage. But you know, a big part of the problem is us.
When Google CEO Eric Schmidt was on stage during our TechCrunch Disrupt conference this past week, he spoke briefly about Google’s thinking with regard to this issue with the carriers. He acknowledged that while yes, some carriers are loading Android phones up with their own software before you buy them, you have the choice not to buy those phones. Clearly, his mentality is that it’s on us, the consumers, to vote with our wallets to show the carriers what we do and do not want. I have a bit of an issue with this line of thinking, but that’s for another post. For now, let’s focus on this — are we to blame for bloat?
There are plenty of signs that point to “yes”. The Android phones from Verizon and Sprint that are the most loaded with bloat, the Droid phones and the EVO, are also the best-selling Android phones. The one Android phone that was fresh and clean, the Nexus One, sold so poorly that Google pulled it from the consumer market only a few months after it went on sale. Part of that is the carriers fault (they never wanted to fully support such a phone that, if popular, would eventually lead to them having less control over the industry), but consumers are still voting with their wallets for these bloat phones.
The fact of the matter is that most people get infatuated with the idea of “more”. Right or wrong, most people will not believe that a new device or piece of software is better than an old version unless it has more features. In the case of some of these Android phones, part of that means shiny new apps included on the device by the likes of Sprint and Verizon. People walk into a store and are sold on the fact that the EVO has some bullshit NASCAR app on it. Nevermind the fact that most people probably won’t use it. It’s the idea of it being there just in case as a “perk” that entices people.
Another great example is this thread in the Chromium forums. Since 2008, there have been over 500 comments begging Google to add the “Set image as wallpaper” feature to their Chrome web browser. This was a feature made popular by Microsoft’s Internet Explorer way back in the day (Microsoft may be the the king of bloat), and some people can’t seem to live without it. Never mind the fact that it sucks — that it takes an often low resolution web image that is in no way meant to be a desktop background and converts it into one either by humorously centering it or tiling it or best of all, stretching it.
It doesn’t matter that the feature is a crime against aesthetics. THE MOB WANTS IT GOOGLE — ADD IT OR DIE!
With the vast majority of products, I would argue that more isn’t better, it’s just more. There’s something beautiful about keeping something simple. But consumer pressure won’t let most companies do this. Naturally, I think Apple is the best at it, but even they give into bloat sometimes — for example, does anyone use the iPhone’s Voice Control feature? What about half of the features in iTunes?
My point is just that if we truly do want to change something like carrier bloatware, it is going to be up to us. We need to stop buying crap. Google has proven that they aren’t going to put their foot down — it’s simply not in their best business interest. And they probably know that even if they did, we’d likely yell at them for it. We’ll get pissed off when our Android phone only comes with 10 apps pre-installed. We’ll wonder where the other 30 apps are that we’re never going to use. More. More. More.