Android crapware to be curated, monetized by Google, new patent filing reveals

August 3, 2012
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One of the problems with Android’s openness is the fact that most Android handsets come pre-loaded with crapware apps from carriers, manufacturers and third-parties willing to pay the price for a proper placement. And not all apps are useful, and not all Android users want them on their devices to begin with.

Advanced users will surely go ahead and root their Android handset or tablet of choice to remove unwanted content, but the fact remains is that these apps are there to stay for most Android device owners.

Crapware “legalized”

But what if Google would find a way to somewhat fix the crapware problem for most users? The Search giant can’t tell OEMs and carriers not to install those unwanted apps on the phones, but it could try to control what apps make it to your home screens.

Unwired View reveales a new patent application titled “Auction-Based Application Launching” that describes an auction-based system that would allow app developers to bid for proper placement on the home screen. Google’s system would handle all the cash transactions and everyone would get a piece of the pie.

While patents sometimes describe technologies that won’t necessarily be found on future devices, this particular filing seems to legalize crapware. Also worth noting is that the patent has just been filed last week, and it’s yet to be awarded to Google. But since Google is offering a way to curate the content on future Android devices and to monetize crapware placement, Android users may end up appreciating some of the apps they find on the devices.

Here’s how Google describes the “problem” with the way current Android devices handle pre-installed applications:

Computers, netbooks, smartphones and other consumer electronics devices provide users various software applications. An operating system may utilize an application launcher to provide a starting point for the services or applications that are available to the end user on each device. For example, in some operating systems, the application launcher is a start menu. On many cell phones and smartphones, the initial “start deck” shows icons for launching the applications that complement the basic telephony functions. Even within many service-oriented websites, there is a home page or navigation bar that helps guide end users to the applications and services available from that site. On smartphones or computers, an application launcher might also be an application store from which applications are purchased for installation and later use.

Device manufacturers and service providers have historically negotiated bundling arrangements with software vendors who would be willing to pay for placement of their applications on the application launchers of devices. For example, computer manufacturers get paid by security software vendors to bundle a trial version of security software on a computer, and wireless carriers get paid by interne search providers for placement on the start deck.

Howeer, these ways of placing applications are sub-optimal because device manufacturers must negotiate with each software and service vendor directly. The bundling arrangements are inefficient–a fixed price is locked in for a long period of time (often 12-36 months). Smaller device vendors have a weaker negotiating position and cannot command the “market clearing price” for helping the software vendor acquire a new customer. As a result, the end user experience suffers because the choice of bundled options is not necessarily driven by what provides the best end-user experience. Also, as software evolves and end-user needs change over time, the bundled options and the bounties paid do not change. New entrants are unable to win placement on the start decks of devices that are in service, even if they are willing to pay a bounty for acquiring customers.

Imagine a world in which carriers and OEMs will have a tougher time installing their own apps on various Android devices because other parties, including the little guy, would bid against them for particular placements on the home screens. Sure, the little guy will have a tough job trying to beat huge corporations with large pockets when it comes to prime app placement on an Android devices, but at least there would be a more transparent way to decide whose apps make it to a certain phone.

Google makes money

What’s also important to note is that his patent describes a way for Google to make money off Android OS. The company does not charge a licensing fee to OEMs for Android use and it doesn’t really make money of Android device sales (yet). Sure, Google takes a large piece of the mobile advertising pie, but that may not be enough for the company in the future.

With an auction-based system in place for crapware apps on mobile devices, Google would take in some of the profits, sharing them with Android device makers. This could lead to OEMs launching even cheaper devices, provided they could leverage the popularity of upcoming releases to get such revenues from app developers.

The grass isn’t necessarily greener for end-users

While such a system could improve the quality of crapware apps on the device, end-users will certainly not appreciate having the phone’s homescreen populated with apps they don’t want to, or can’t use.

And who’s to say where Google and OEMs will stop when it comes to occupying available storage space with more and more pre-loaded apps? Since we have already established that the little guy will have a tough job getting his/her app out there, we may see even more apps from giant corporations installed on Android devices.

Is this the future of advertising on handsets and tablets?

Not to mention that, since Android is open and such, users will still have to be able to delete some of those pre-loaded apps especially when purchasing devices for full retail price. But would app developers that paid for certain app placement approve of such user actions?

Comments

  • http://www.androidradar.de/ Leif

    Could be a good option for subsidized SmartPhones or free data plans if Google might buy a carrier one day.

  • Quryous

    Why not just be sensible and allow easy uninstalls of the crap? It IS our phone, after all.

  • TommyNYC

    1. Unbox phone.
    2. Turn on and do initial setup.
    3. Root.
    4. Remove crapware and/or install a custom rom.
    5. Profit.

  • George

    Another reason to root.