Monday, May 9, 2016

Verizon Samsung S7 and S7 Edge update puts more bloatware on your phone

Verizon has decided that the Galaxy S7 doesn't have enough unwanted apps on it, so it installed another unwanted app that'll let it install even more unwanted apps in the future. A number of people are reporting on Reddit that a recent update for the Galaxy S7 and S7 Edge installs an app called DT Ignite. Ignite is described as a "preload platform for mobile operators to seamlessly manage applications installed at first boot and over the life of the device" — or, in simpler terms, a tool that lets Verizon install new apps on a phone, even when it's in the customer's hands.

This isn't the first time that Ignite has popped up. In 2014, both Verizon and T-Mobile were criticized for using it, though concern seems to have died down immediately thereafter. Use of the app doesn't seem to have gone away though — a quick search turns up complaints of Ignite appearing on the Galaxy Note 5 last year.

It's not clear precisely how annoying DT Ignite is. In 2014, Verizon said that Ignite would only download and install apps when the phone is being activated and set up. That means most people wouldn't notice it installing more apps; instead, new apps might pop up when the device is resold or if a problem requires it to be reset. That said, Ignite's creator, Digital Turbine, refers to installing apps "over the life of the device" and delivering them "at the right time," which suggests it may be able to install unwanted apps more often or wait to deploy them. Verizon did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

There's one other reason to take issue with Ignite: when it downloads apps, that data doesn't count against your data plan. Now that's fair given that you really didn't want to download these apps in the first place, but it's also concerning for the same reason that free data — called zero-rating — is always concerning. It gives a huge advantage to the companies that can pay for it, and that's particularly true here, where those companies are explicitly paying to have their apps abruptly installed on your device and to then notify you of their installation.

The good news is that apps installed by Ignite can be uninstalled, unlike some carrier bloatware. And Ignite itself can be disabled, too, by locating it in the app list inside of Android's settings. Still, it's a frustrating move by Verizon that's little more than a brazen attempt to keep making money on a device that is already sold you. Given that my biggest complaint with the Galaxy S7 is its ridiculous number of carrier-installed apps, the addition of Ignite certainly isn't doing the phone any favors.

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