It’s no secret that smartphone manufacturers in China and the rest of the world pre-install apps in their products, for offering better services or for helping developer partners reach more users. It’s also no secret that installing apps in users’ smartphones without letting them know is a lucrative business in China for not only smartphone makers but also for iOS jailbreaking/Android rooting services, or any other that has a chance to have apps installed in users’ smartphones.
Chinese mobile app developers would pay those channels from less than one yuan to several yuan for an installation or activation. It’s not that only small developers do so for users, but Chinese Internet giants spend big money there too given fierce competition in China market.
Chinese users seemed fine with those apps that unknowingly get into their phones, for either they don’t have any preferences or have little knowledge in the app ecosystem — they don’t know there are dozens of app stores for them to choose from, don’t know there are other apps of one certain category, or don’t know how to remove them.
Some apps preinstalled by Android smartphone manufacturers are uninstallable to average users who hardly know about Android rooting. Android rooting services, although having been available in China, are just for knowledgeable tech-savvy people who only make up a very small number of users that cannot materially affect the app preinstallation market.
It’s been a practice for a long time in China. But recently some saw business opportunities, or opportunities in pulling down competitors, in telling people they don’t need those Android apps and enabling uninstalling them.
Qihoo is one of them and turned out to be the most aggressive. It’s app management service introduced a feature last month that suggests users uninstall preinstalled and not regularly used apps. The feature simply guide users to root their Android devices and then uninstall apps they don’t like. It immediately enraged big names including Xiaomi, Baidu and Lenovo, for it asked users to uninstall Xiaomi’s own Android app store and Baidu Maps.
After the three announced to remove all the apps from their platforms (later Qihoo apologized and some of its apps got restored) , the topic raised much attention. Chinese media including CCTV, the state-run TV station, that featured the uninstallable apps.
Chinese Ministry of Industry and Information (MIIT) Technology then stepped in, requiring smartphone makers to report apps preinstalled and updates or changes about those apps from next month. MIIT came up with a regulation on it that prohibits them from preinstalling apps that are not willingly accepted by users, or which, without letting them know in advance, collect or modify user information, launch some functions that cost data /money or would leak user information, among others.
It’s hard to say whether it’s a good news for Qihoo, but it’s obvious that it’s a start of another battle: educating users and convincing them to install apps by competitors. And it’s not that only Qihoo is ready. Tencent has its own Android rooting and app management services. Now it has started pushing messages about how to safely root Android phones to its users.
image credit: shutterstock.com