Even if you've just pulled the protective film off the screen of a brand new phone, the pride in owning a shiny new device can feel a little diminished once you discover it's been packed full of software crap long before you've even fired it up for the first time. It's a seemingly inescapable part of owning a new phone (or tablet or laptop, for that matter), and one that's universally loathed. So who really benefits from the bloatware?
At the recent launch of RealNetwork's Listen ringback app, I asked Richard Jackson (the company's Head of Global Business Development) about the chances of seeing Listen pre-loaded onto devices. Considering the volume of bloatware I see on review handsets, his response surprised me:
"There's no real benefit to being pre-loaded onto a device," he stated. "Most people, the first thing they do, is download the things they want and either totally ignore or delete the things that come with the device. You personalise it."
So is having your app pre-loaded onto a device pointless then?
"[As an app marketer], you pay an awful lot of money to get an app onto a device, and you actually have to be about nine months ahead of the curve," Jackson continued.
"[Phone manufacturers and shops] are already looking today at what goes in the box and promotion packs for Christmas. And if you're not in the running by the end of June you've missed this year. Getting any app pre-loaded on a device today is very hard, and there are so many devices -- about ten launching every month -- it's like chasing the wind."
Despite his business-orientated perspective, Jackson seems to speak for us all. Pre-loaded software on mobiles often feels like junk mail -- just because it's delivered to you for free doesn't make it any less of a nuisance, and you're no more likely to pay it any attention. With smartphone manufacturers (and Android kings Google themselves) often having a vested interest in pushing their own software to the fore of a device, it's an issue exacerbated for third-party app makers. There's no guarantee it will result in increased user numbers, which makes it all the more surprising that so many will still foot the expense of being pre-loaded on a handset.
If there's one benefit to the end user, it's potentially in added value -- and I'm not talking about a free app bundle. With third-party app developers often charged a fee by manufacturers for a pre-loaded appearance, it's possible that the sky-high price of some top-tier smartphones could be even more extortionate were they not being underwritten by pre-loaded app developers. Clouds and silver linings, right? If taking the time to delete a couple of apps from my new phone saves me £20 or so, it's an annoyance I'll begrudgingly bear.