The EU ‘Digital Services Act’ Could Force OEMs to Make Bloatware Removable

By Bill Toulas / October 1, 2020

There are very few things more annoying than buying a brand new smartphone that comes pre-loaded with a bunch of worthless apps that you cannot delete no matter what. You go to the settings, tap uninstall, and you’re denied that action. It’s the bloatware, sitting there permanently, adding needless icons on your app drawer, capturing precious ROM space, and even trying to remind you of its existence via notifications that are re-enabled after system updates and patches.

This is absolutely infuriating, and unfortunately, it’s not something seen only on cheaper devices. Samsung, for example, a maker of premium-priced smartphones, is known for adding apps on its devices that can’t be uprooted no matter what.

The EU wants to put an end to this through the upcoming ‘Digital Service Act,’ forcing OEMs to unlock the uninstalling option on all the apps a device comes with out of the box. That would include sets of apps from the manufacturer - and also the carrier, who is another potential source of annoying bloatware. Of course, these rules would apply only to EU devices, so the same model sold on other markets could still come with the typical lockdowns.

This is undoubtedly awesome for EU users, and at the same time, destined to provoke objections from Google and Apple. The two tech giants will have to put clear boundaries to what constitutes an absolutely necessary system app set and what is there merely to help them collect user data. Moreover, their partners’ apps will now be ousted by the users upon unboxing the device, so planting them in the first place won’t do much good.

Already, Google has stated that the EU shouldn’t seek to introduce new regulatory frameworks, but rather to modernize the existing rules and make them more effective. Google is even suggesting that such “gatekeeping” acts would endanger new entrants and marginal players in the market. We’re not sure if Google has a better plan on how to deal with bloatware, but compelling the users to have several apps installed on their devices, whether they use them or not, is unacceptable and shouldn’t be the standard practice that it is.

We should point out that the Digital Services Act is still in its very early stage of development, so a lot of things may change along the way. Also, it’s reportedly going to be a large set of regulations that will dictate the internet in the region. There are also rumors about it being tuned in ways that will shut the door to massive user data collection carried out by “Big Tech” players.

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