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No more Google+

A recent policy change by Google is banishing bloatware on some of our favourite devices

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The Samsung Galaxy Note 5 does not have Google+ installed. This isn’t because Google+ is finished (not yet at least), but because it’s relaxing its own rules on which of its apps must be installed as standard on Android devices.
The full list of apps that were once mandatory, but are now optional, reads: Google+, Google Play Games, Google Play Books, Google Play Newsstand, Google Earth and Google Keep. Don’t worry, they will all still be freely available for download through the Play store.
The requirement for having certain apps pre-installed is not widely known and it highlights the conflict in the ownership of Android. Android, the operating system, is free and open source to all. This means that any manufacturer who wishes to build an Android device can simply download it and get started. Yet so much of what we think of as the Android experience actually comes from Google: Chrome, Google Maps, Gmail, YouTube, and Google Play services tying it all together. If a manufacturer wants these apps, it must conform to certain guidelines set by Google. This includes the insistence that if you want one Google app, then of course you must have them all.
While there are a few outliers, such as Amazon’s Fire OS, for most manufacturers the prospect of going Google-less isn’t an option because Google also owns the Play store. Although you can find third-party alternatives for the browser and maps, if you don’t have a fully stocked app store then you don’t stand much of a chance. Just ask Microsoft.
Which is where the bloatware comes in. You want the Google Play store? Then you’ve got to have Google Newsstand too.
Google’s change of mind on this policy is a good thing for everyone. It’s less restrictive for manufacturers and there is less clutter for users too. Plus – and this may be part of the motivation behind the move – it’s less likely to draw attention from competition watchdogs.

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