South Korea Bans Unremovable Smartphone Applications


Lexi Weyrick
Staff Writer

Earlier this week, South Korea passed a ban on manufacturers putting unremovable applications on smartphones. The nation’s Ministry of Science, Information and Communication Technologies, and Future Planning has decided that features on smartphones that cannot be removed by the consumer are “bloatware” and should not be a permanent fixture on phones.

Bloatware is a term that refers to software that requires a high amount of random access memory (RAM) due to its many features.

The permanent applications that may still be pre-installed on smartphones are applications that enable Wi-Fi connectivity, customer service, near-field communication, and app stores. The hope is that by banning unremovable applications, consumers will be less inconvenienced by the clutter on their smartphones and their battery life will last longer. Furthermore, South Korea hopes to dissuade unfair competition within the industry.

The biggest positive that will result from the ban is the RAM that will now be available for consumer usage. Manufactures such as Samsung and LG (both South Korea based companies) will be able to remove a lot of the bloatware on the smartphones, leading to a 16 gigabyte (GB) phone having much closer to 16 GB of memory for the consumers to utilize, for example. For reference, the Samsung Galaxy S4 promises 16 GB of space, though with all of the bloatware installed on the phone, it only has about 8.6 GB of usable memory.

Samsung may decide to appeal the decision, while it is less likely that LG will follow suit.

Another question that arises from this ruling is on how this will affect Samsung and LG devices that are shipped internationally. It is most likely that the ruling only applies to those devices that are to remain in South Korea, but there is a possibility that the decision may affect the companies as a whole. This would mean that all devices shipped out to the rest of the world would have to be equipped with removable applications.

The ruling does not state, however, that the phones must not have any of the bloatware applications already installed on the device. Due to this, smartphone manufacturers can still pre-install all of the same applications, but now those companies must make sure that the applications can be deleted or removed from the device.

This ruling mostly applies to consumers of Android phones. Apple has generally always worked to keep battery-draining and space-consuming applications off of the iPhone, but Androids have been riddled with wireless companies forcing useless applications on to the smartphones.

Currently, Android uses can root their phones in order to remove the excess bloatware, but there is a fair amount of technical skill required in order to be able to do so. Now, South Korea’s decision will allow individuals of all technical backgrounds to remove pesky applications. The country’s biggest goal concerning the ruling was to decrease the inconvenience imposed on consumers and to remove what the South Korean Ministry of Science, ICT, and Future Planning described as an “abnormal practice.”

On whether the United States and other parts of the world will follow South Korea’s example, the possibility seems very unlikely.