True cost of Apple control: no carrier bloatware on iPhone

We often accuse Apple of being too controlling when it comes to the iPhone, but sometimes that control benefit the end user -- for example preventing the kind of carrier bloatware being foisted on the iPhone that Wired says is being foisted on the new Android devices from Samsung and HTC. Examples include trial versions of subscription services like MobiTV, GoGo Flight Internet, Where, Nascar, Football, and others.

“It’s different from phone to phone and operator to operator,” says Keith Nowak, spokesman for HTC. “But in general, the apps are put there to meet the operator’s business and revenue needs.”

[...] But bloatware isn’t a feature in all smartphones. AT&T hasn’t piled extraneous software onto Apple’s iPhone.

No, AT&T hasn't piled extraneous software onto Apple's iPhone because Apple won't let them. As Wired themselves profiled recently, any attempt by AT&T to dictate anything iPhone related to Apple would be rebuffed and -- if needed -- "escalated to Steve" who may then "scream at Ralph".

At the D8 conference Steve Jobs said many companies mistakenly believe the distributors (retailers, carriers, cable providers, etc.) are their customers. Apple believes end users are their customers and in this case they don't seem to care a wit what the carriers want.

Google's model, by contrast, is incredibly carrier-centric. Their customers are the carriers. Their prime consideration is to get more and more manufacturers and carriers to make and carry more Android devices. That's why their open source license is Apache -- a license that ironically leaves their source open to carrier control up to and including the ability to close things out. Manufacturers and carriers can do pretty much anything they feel like including adding non-removable bloatware, locking out side-loading, preventing rooting, etc. And yeah, you can hack your way around it but you can also jailbreak an iPhone. That's fine for power users. For mainstream users, not so much.

(Sadly, the single Android handset Google did control, the Nexus One, is being taken off the market.)

So we iPhone owners can get upset when Apple occasionally messes up and doesn't approve an app until there's an outcry, or sticks stock and weather apps on the iPhone we'd rather hide away, but does anyone think the iPhone user experience would be better if Apple were more open and the carrier was given complete control?

[Wired]

Rene Ritchie

Editor-in-Chief of iMore, co-host of Iterate, Debug, Review, The TV Show, Vector, ZEN & TECH, and MacBreak Weekly podcasts. Cook, grappler, photon wrangler. Follow him on Twitter and Google+.

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There are 58 comments. Add yours.

Crakka says:

Absolutely not this is the first phone I have ever had where I didn't see any "Cingular or AT&T " apps pop up like they did on my razor. I HATED apple until the release of The 3G and now I can't stop admiring them! Anyway carrier crap just kills cell phones.

Greg Foster says:

My dad bought a new Windows laptop a few weeks ago and I had forgotten about all that crap that they pile on the desktop. Apple doesn't play around with that on their computers so I'm sure they'd never allow it on the iPhone so it was no big surprise to me when it wasn't there.

JJHdz7 says:

I don't mind stocks and weather, they bring me a sense of nostalgia. I'd hate it if I had to deal with all the BS apps that Verizon and Sprint put on some of their phones. It's just plain annoying, I applaud both Apple and AT&T for their course of action as far control goes. The network is a whole different story...

Charles says:

Great write up Rene! I've always purchased unlocked Nokia devices prior to the iPhone for the same reason as to not deal with carrier tweaks that cripple devices. I dream of the day that all device makers can run the show and carriers will simply manage their networks.

MooPenguin32 says:

In my opinion, there is more right than wrong with the iPhone and not having any bloatware on it is a big right. Granted, I wish I could delete some of the out of the box apps like Stocks because I never use some of them, but I'd rather have those than trial versions of software that I cannot remove. That is one thing that I seriously disliked with the BlackBerry Bold before switching to the iPhone.
This is something I also like about the Mac. There is no trial software or junk on it. Only full version programs that you can uninstall if you wish or use to your heart's content.

Lorin says:

I moved from Windows Mobile to Android and finally to the iPhone in a matter of 3 years. I've experienced the most customization you can get to the least. After all these years i chose the iPhone. I'm tired of all the unfinished or untaken care of things in other OSes.
I loved Android over Windows Mobile because its a modern OS. I hated the fact that Google doesn't take care of the user experience. I was not asking for much. The Android Market is spammed like hell with lots of porn apps and that you couldn't even filter out. Is it so hard to implement filters after 2 years of development? FAIL!
So i got sick of these small issues and moved to the iPhone. I've only had it for 2 weeks but i'm so pleased! I don't care if Apple approves apps or if it has a closed environment. I feel good in this environment and it fulfills all my needs so far.
So the conclusion is that Apple should continue to do things the same way.

Martell Galloway says:

No, it wouldn't hang anything...as long as people have mouths and a voice box, they will complain, if that's removed they will do a whole lot of writing and fist shaking lol.

fastlane says:

I've never been upset when Apple didn't approve an app, and I use every Apple app regularly (except Messages). Have never used Windows on a computer, so no bloatware, pop-ups, viruses, worms or other nonsense in 23 years.
Wow... must really suck.

THETolby says:

I like that Apple does not include bloatware on the iPhone and Macs cause bloatware on PCs is just awful. I use all of the apps that come built in to the iPhone regularly and would go even as far and say some apps that do the same thing are not better such as Opera Mini with the exception of the new YouTube mobile and stock apps. I do not want bloatware on my computer and I most definately do not want that garbage on my phone.

Joe McG says:

I tried out the EVO 4G and the bloatware was terrible. Nascar, NFL, etc. I noticed the battery life was pretty bad, then downloaded a task manager, and found that these stupid crApps were actually running in the background at all times upon startup. Apparently the OS started them automatically.
What a joke...

johncblandii says:

I agree the trial products are wrong on Android but Apple puts 20 apps I can't remove on my phone. Some I probably wouldn't but they are still bloatware, IMO.
Contacts*
Calendar*
Stocks
Maps
Notes
Photos
App Store*
Mail*
Settings*
YouTube
Weather
iTunes*
Phone*
Messages*
Clock
Camera
Calculator
iPod*
Voice Memos
Safari

  • Apps you probably don't want to get rid of, or shouldn't.

Thanks Apple for Folders. They are all filed away now.

johncblandii says:

For clarity, not all Android phones have trial products. Evo has two crapps: Football and Nascar. Sprint TV might be a crapp but my kids love it. :). Everything else can be removed/replaced.
BTW, my last comment had a vertical list of apps, not horizontal. The blog messed it up somehow.

Joe McG says:

I really go back and forth with myself on whether I agree with Steve's view of the iPhone "closedness" or not. But I kind of look at it like this:
When you are driving a car, it is the law that you buckle your seatbelt. Some people would argue, "Hey, I shouldn't have to wear a seatbelt. If I die in a car accident, it's my fault." However, there is more at stake than you just killing yourself. There's the healthcare costs involved, insurance costs, etc. And, sometimes people just need to be protected from themselves.
Now, with the iPhone, Apple has put a "seatbelt" on it. Some would say, "Hey, it's my phone, I should be able to do what I want with it." However, if you install a bunch of poorly written applications and overload the phone with crap, you might say "Hey, the iPhone is junk, it's really laggy and constantly crashes." You then complain to your friends that the iPhone is garbage. Then, AT&T comes along and adds a bunch of crApps, slows the phone down even more, and you're left with a great piece of hardware and OS, but a phone that crashes constantly and you're unhappy.
And, if you think this wouldn't happen, go ahead and jailbreak your phone, install a bunch of Apps from Cydia, and watch your performance and battery life go in the toilet.
So, my point is, sometimes the user needs to be protected from themselves, even if it is for the sake of Apple's brand.

Rene Ritchie says:

It was clear in the article but I added "carrier" to the title to make it extra crystal type clear.
iTunes could be considered first party bloatware, but so could a Gmail app. I'd much rather either of those from Apple and Google than what carriers have historically shoved onto phones they've controlled.

Bill Stebbins says:

That makes more sense. Thanks for clarifying Rene.

Angel says:

Blackberry on VZW, will do this at times also. I notice new apps that I will probably never use on my phone after an update. (Slacker, NFL, Bing, Skype). If I wanted these apps, I would have downloaded them myself.

west3man says:

I don't care about a bunch of trial apps being included on my new device unless they impair functionality in some way. I don't think extreme control is worth that exchange. I think there is a happy ,idle ground between extreme control, however one might define that, and copious volumes of bloatware that bog a system down.
Besides, the very worst annoyances that I might not want from a carrier just show up from Apple - like the blocked functionality the article says is possible with Google's open operating system(s).
Maybe Apple's level of control is partially responsible for the polarization that's taken place, since a "new" player like Android must be differentiated in some way to stand out...like being Apple's opposite number when it comes to control. Maybe more competition will move us all closer to a happy middle.
Maybe not.

JNGold says:

I'll go a step further (and call me anal) but I really loathe Carrier branding on phones. Everytime I see a big "Verizon" or "Sprint", sprawled on a phone I cringe. I don't know, I guess lack of branding on the iPhone has spoiled me. :)

deviladv says:

At the same time, I'd like a little more control myself. While AT&T is not allowed to bloat the phone, they appear to be exercising veto power too. We all believe that it's AT&T that doesn't want apps like Google voice or allow Skype to be allowed over 3G and has pushed Apple to prevent them. The only thing preventing me from jailbreaking my phone and installing Google Voice from Cydia is taking the time to learn how to do it and learning about security concerns.
I want the cell phone companies to sell me a pipe, with service for that pipe, but nothing else. The American cell phone companies want to control the experience as much as Apple. Apple is doing me a favor by telling AT&T to back off, but Apple isn't perfect about it yet, I want more control about what I can install on the device I purchased.

kayno says:

Hell!! NO! I've always been fine with Apples control.. because at the end of the day we benefit.. I dont feel really feel restricted.. I only jail broke my phone to get features that I didnt have.. now I have everything I want in 4.0 except 3G unrestrictor :-/

(Copy of) Dev says:

Apple is certainly a more benevolent dictator than carriers, but you cannot really claim "no bloatware" when the iPhone ships with apps you can neither remove nor replace, especially since many of them remain unused for the vast majority of users. Whether you can hide them or not, such extra bits are pretty much the textbook definition of bloatware, and Apple is guilty of it as well, just to a slight lesser degree.

todd says:

A related advantage of Apple control, which I love, is the lack of a "If you'd like to leave a message, please press one. For other options..." etc. that drive me crazy when I want to leave a message for other cell phone users. Like I've never left a message before. It wastes my time and my minutes, and I believe I heard that Apple insisted on this. Way to go!

sting7k says:

Is that a Tmobile branded iPhone 3GS in that pic? ;)

OrionAntares#CB says:

Hmm. The closest thing to bloatware on my Verizon Pre would be VZ Navigator and I guess Amazon MP3 which would amount to a total of 9MB of "bloatware". The Verizon Blackberry has several icons to install extra carrier services that were simple to hide but no actual bloatware programs were force installed nor pre-installed. Even VZ navigator on our blackberry needs permission to install. My iTouch has Stocks, Weather, and iTunes bloatware apps pre-installed just kind of sit there in the way. At least with iOS4 I can kind of hide them by stuffing them in folders out of the way.

Jdh117 says:

I have yet to find a single thing that I am unable to do or that would make my life better that I can't do on my Mac or my iPhone. There isn't an app that they have blocked or been slow to approve that has affected me. There isn't a thing I have discovered that I could do if I jail broke my phone that would make it worth jail breaking.
Bottom line in my opinion, people complain just because they don't like to be told "no", not because they have a valid complaint about impaired capability.

anathema says:

Yeah, there's no bloatware. Except for the operating system itself.

Webvex says:

Sure, we all want the carriers to become "dumb pipes," but that isn't what they want. Likewise, most of us would prefer Apple only sold hardware and an OS. That isn't how business works. They'll always push for additional revenue streams. iTunes, then iBooks and iAds. I think there's a trend, and it isn't toward simplification. Apple has shown some restraint so far, but only due to Steve's control. As they grow, and once Steve leaves, who knows?

BootsMcGavin says:

I have an iPhone 4, and also bought a Droid X. Even using a task killer, the apps that Verizon loaded on there open right back up and hog up memory. You CAN'T EVEN UNINSTALL them!!

Mom of Naax2 says:

Well put Rene. I just bought a new laptop for grad school and keep getting these software pop ups begging me to use the free trial. I don't know how to uninstall them, but as soon as I figure it out I will. Then I got to thinking why do I have to opt-out rather than opt in if I so choose? If I want that software, I'll find and buy it myself. It's annoying that they install it and make me opt out!

Jan says:

No, I think it would be worse. Apple likes to make their products in a non-open way, but with a very great user experience. Android is open-source, but might not be as good in many ways. I think it's nice that we have the choice to choose between them.

Shrike says:

Yeah, just bought an Inspiron for a sister-in-law, and it's loaded with weird Dell exclusive crapware. We were testing out the webcam and a Dell "webcam" software panel keeps on popping up. Close the window, it'll pop up again! It'll be worth it if to have the full windows install disk so that virgin Windows could be installed.
What I'm waiting for in the Android universe is a fork from a big OEM/carrier. AndroidOS is basically completely dominated by Google. They fund the people. They determine the schedules. They are building out Android, then releasing source code. At some point in time, an OEM or carrier or both may feel that Google is taking Android in the "wrong" direction for them, and they'll fork Android, which will result in incompatibilities for applications.
Say that HTC and Verizon fork Android for their exclusive purposes. Then Samsung does the same thing. Then Motorola does it. Hmm, interesting if it happens.

Webvex says:

Bloatware is marketing, plain and simple. It will be with us as long as people fall continue to fall for the "free" lure. Carriers aren't forcing it on people. If it didn't work it wouldn't exist. This fine TiPb site wouldn't exist without the ads and store either.

MojoVersion8 says:

would love to be able to remove YouTube, Stocks, and Voice Memo apps.. maybe a few others if I had suitable alternatives

OrionAntares#CB says:

For those that posted about PC bloatwar, my favorite way to deal with that is PC Decrapifier. It's free for personal use and has dealt with all the bloatware issues I've had to date.

CJ says:

Rarely do I find an article that can sum up the VERY reason why I own an iPhone. Thanks for the post Rene.

justincirello says:

I completely agree. Apple's way of approving apps is controversial yet it still provides the user with an awesome experience.
I still wish they didn't ban the iChatr app though! I was looking forward to using my FaceTime!

Eisforme says:

I think that bloatware kills the user experience. It really DOES feel like I bought the product, not for me, but for some company to soley market their product for profit and the hell with me and my user experience.
As far as Apple having stricter control over apps...Did you watch the 2010 keynote? Some apps that are submitted don't function as advertised or don't use supported api's, so when there's updates, things get messed up.
Would you rather have a Wild West type of app store, or one that you can go to and be assured that the experience is smooth? I never thought of Apple as being too controlling with apps, etc. I truely believe that they want the user experience to be superb.

Evan_Beezy says:

If a CDMA iphone ever came to sprint will it get Sprint Navigation. Because thats wouldnt be crapware it would be BOSSWARE (maybe in the app store)

Cubus says:

What about Apple's own bloatware?!
iTunes for starter. I can't remove that crap from my phone and it now infested my PC, because Apple doesn't support OTA.
A few more? You tube, crapy weather and stock app.
How to remove those Rene?

Joe McG says:

@Cubus
I do agree with you. The fact that you HAVE TO use iTunes in order to use your iPhone is complete garbage, especially because iTunes on Windows XP is HORRIBLE...

Chris says:

I own a Droid Incredible with not a single Verizon app preloaded... However there is a section in the Market for Verizon specific apps. My Blackberry Tour on the other hand is a different story. Sprint I can not speak on because I'm not on Sprint. Bottom line it's really not that big of a deal. Nor does it make one OS superior to the other.

iJake says:

AT&T should never be allowed to load their crap on iPhones or any Apple product the may sell in the future. Just like their computers Apple doesn't load trialare or other useless programs that take up space.
Apple should keep the things the way they are for optimum end user experience on a solid and great perfuming device. Don't try n fix or mess with something that's not broken!

Scott says:

This was one of the reasons I got the iPhone (and didn't get the Backflip aside from a slow processor). And its the reason I had an unlocked Nokia E71 before this. I can't stand AT&T's bloatware and its limitations of platforms (like Android) whose app stores aren't large enough to satisfy.

Fraydog says:

The original Droid and the Droid Incredible are not saddled with Verizon bloatware, but the Droid X is.

MojoVersion8 says:

funny seeing people complain about iTunes on PC still, I haven't had issues with it since like 2004 when it was uber-slow

iDavey says:

Luckily only phone I have owned in the past 5yrs that was carrier controlled was the G1 (most of my purchases have been unlocked). So I never have to deal with that.
And the G1 was not bloated like that. Only T-Mobile app was the MyFaves...which is kinda beneficial to having.
Now I have the Nexus One...so good thing I'm in the camp with Apple...I'll never have to worry about a carrier putting crapware on my phone. :)

S. Casey says:

Certainly not, in my opinion. I really enjoy the way Apple controls what is made available or isn't on the iPhone. I used to think otherwise, but that was before I had the pleasure of owning an Apple device. In other words, it was just a theoretical perspective based solely on ideation, but none on actual end user experience. The end user experience, for me, is excellent; it's clean, sleek, and smooth.

west3man says:

Jdh117, so since your needs are met, you assume everyone else's needs are met, but they just enjoy whining and complaining? That's among the most stereotyping and annoying outlooks that taint Internet forums.

UberGeek says:

Ah... The PC vs. Mac cough I mean iOS vs Android arguments... Brings back memories.
I have no bloatware on any of my devices (Phone, PC, TV, DVD player, etc). I like being intelligent enough to take control of my devices.

  • On my brand-new PC from Dell, I wipe the drive and install an OEM copy of Windows. Or, I wipe the drive, and install Linux. No bloatware there.
  • On my Android Phone, I get a slightly older unit that I know can be rooted, install a new bootloader/recovery, and install the De-crapified ROM.
  • My DVD player is a $29 DVD player that doesn't connect to the internet. It's a DVD player.
  • My Wii gets modded so I can load what I want.

So, go ahead carriers. Keep installing the crap on there. I'll just remove it. And, if I need warranty service, I'll just set it back to stock.

nick says:

What moron wrote this: Google’s model, by contrast, is incredibly carrier-centric. Their customers are the carriers.
How is that Google's model? You are immensely retarded. Google's phones (Nexus One and Nexus S) do not come with bloatware that can't be removed. Do some research before you start writing next time.

Youma says:

F* no.
carrier control only means bloatware and adds. Imagine everyday your cellphone (for exanple, the iphone) right under the statusbar there'd be a changing add, It's ridiculous. I think carriers shouldn't be given control, and users be given total controll

Cmdf09 says:

personally, I'm jailbroken and HATE apple, just love iphone, this sheds new light because I didn't know of it.... but this is just collateral damage from Apple's technological totalitarianism that just happens to inadvertantly benefit the customer.

Amit says:

And a side-effect of autocracy is quick decision-making.

Reverend_funk says:

pfft he's not thinking of the end user here, he just don't want any distributors putting any of their trash on Apple's iPhone

Kenman884 says:

People like to make this out to be some sort of huge sudo-ethical issue, but there really aren't ethical issues about what a company does with their phone that you are not forced to purchase as long as it isn't outright illegal. The true issue is only the effect on the end user. Apple's "totalitarian" policies result in excellent experiences for the users, so honestly who cares if they're control happy? You don't have to buy an iPhone.