back to article Android is a mess and needs sprucing up, admits chief

Android looks unstoppable, and it's a mess. The first fact tends to eclipse the second observation, but Android's new supremo diplomatically acknowledges as much in an interview. "Here’s the challenge: without changing the open nature of Android, how do we help improve the whole world’s end-user experience?" Chrome chief …

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Re: Torn between them all

Actually you may have nailed it for me. Out of the box could be very well what I am looking for .....

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Re: Torn between them all

I have a Galaxy Note II... I never concerned myself with the disjointedness between Google's Android and Samsung's various overlays, ranging from mildly useful to just bloat.

You need need some personal power and enough will to take control of your device and banish anything you feel is disjointed or otherwise annoys you. Android allows this, unlike M$ or Apple! I recommend you download Nova Launcher for starters. Then the Iconpack Simple Text (for samsung the black version, cause using black backgrounds saves much battery on amoled displays)

Then just remove anything from your home screens you don't want or use. place widgets and icons for the stuff you do use, and you've made the device YOURS.

Now, if your complaint is too many menus, you kinda need menus anywhere you want to choose options and actions. You can't do without them on any phone or computer platform in existence. If the look of menus bothers you, I can only recommend to use widgets that allow you to set frequently accessed settings. But otherwise, you'll just have to live with it.

Personally, I find few applications have menus that are so badly done that they're worth a complaint. Those that are really that poor, just uninstall and get something else.

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Re: Torn between them all

There are some Android phone apps, that make the phone part dominant, has beautifully done large buttons for phone use and many options and styles...

Trying to remember the name maybe 'phone screen' or something like that...

Anyway, not too hard to make the surface of a flexible system less flexible (or twiddly).

The other way round is impossible, sadly

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Hagiographer

The article is worth a vote up just for the use of that word!!

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Hagiographer

The first time I came that word was in the description of a book about Aleister Crowley (his autobiography, which was described as an "auto-hagiography"). Fascinating man - thrown out of Italy by Mussolini and written up by the Sunday Express as the "wickedest man in the world". He sued the publishers of the Express but lost, although I guess that means he would have been legally entitled to use that soubriquet if he'd wanted to.

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Re: Hagiographer

> written up by the Sunday Express as the "wickedest man in the world"

I seem to recall the Express (whose sister media outlets include Television X and Red Hot TV - NSFW) was trying to say the same about Billy Connelly at one point.

I've only read a biography of Crowley, but it amused me that he thought L Ron Hubbard was a complete twat, as did, at the other end of the spectrum, Isaac Asimov.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Hagiographer

Interesting - I didn't think Crowley and L Ron Hubbard were connected, although a quick Google suggests the connection is tenuous. Hubbard was a member of a Crowley inspired group in the US, but it looks like that was in the 1950's, well after Crowley's death in 1945. They did seem to have a mutual acquaintance called Jack Parsons though.

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Manufacturers of high end Android devices need to sort out the shit pointed out in this article. It is not good enough for these manufacturers to add craplets to these devices in a bid to make another 50p. It's a shame there is sometimes good apps mixed in with the shit - why taint the good apps?

When it comes to low end devices, is Android 2.3 going to be the OS of choice for years to come? If so, Android will de facto become two different operating systems - the latest version (or thereabouts), and the ossified relic of version 2.3.

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Don't forget...

Don't forget the network providers who also get phone manufacturers to do custom images with their crapware also installed. Such a shame that unless you use a Nexus device, its pretty difficult to get an unabused image.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Don't forget...

"unless you use a Nexus device, its pretty difficult to get an unabused image."

Is that really still the case?

I had a ZTE Blade/Orange SanFran and custom images were (are?) widely available courtesy of the developer community. I sidelined the Blade because the performance as a phone wasn't as good as my (Symbian) Nokia E7x, but the Android software was quite acceptable at the time (couple of years ago??).

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Actually, I agree. I have two Android phones (because one of them is waiting for Ubuntu Phone to be ready) and a Windows Phone 7 one, and I will freely admit that the UI on Windows is the best by light years. Honestly, I just don't get why people give the new Windows Phone so much shit. Functionally the original wasn't up to scratch, but if you recall, at a functional level the original iPhone was straight-up retarded. You can slate Metro on a laptop all you like and I'll likely agree, but Windows Phone is crazy fast, great looking and easy to use.

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Facepalm

It's interesting, because you could also wonder how much Google pays El Reg for articles like "Microsoft splashes big bucks to blast Google Apps - Latest ad campaign smacks of desperation" and "Windows 8 'sales' barely half as good as Microsoft claims - Don't even mention the XP/Vista sales comparisons - stories which don't claim to be anyone's opinion pieces - but clearly are.

While this claims only the author's own opinion, previously stated several times.

But obviously, Google don't buy articles because they are lovely and fluffy and Android is open(ish)! No, only the DevilMicrosoft does that.

Of course.

And you're not a fanboy in any way, right?

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"Android today is like Microsoft's Windows 3.1"

Technically yes and they maybe following microsoft, have you seen the google play store recently? on my S3 it is looking a bit erm windows 8... solid green bar, big skinny fonts... i must admit it does look nice though...

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"Even Google+ is a data collection mechanism, not a social network."

Actually, like most social networks, it's both.

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Mushroom

Indeed. It's a way of making money for Google. They're a for-profit company so if they can collect data with Google+ and make money from that, they will. If they can make money from the social network part of it, they will. If they can sell third-world kidneys to fat Russians with it, they will.

The statement ( and most of the article ) was stupid, possibly just trolling, have a nuke.

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Meh

Most people will just install or use the apps they like or are most comfortable using.

I have a load of crap added by Orange on my current cheap as chips San Diego. I ignore or disable the useless stuff (Orange Wednesdays is the only Orange app that gets any regular use) and just use the features I like. Surely most people do this?

It's a much more homogeneous experience on iPhones I'm sure, but being tied into Apple's walled garden doesn't appeal.

I still don't know anyone that has a Windows phone, apart from the ones on the adverts (Holly Willoughby and that big lad out of Gavin and Stacy). I'm sure they're fantastic.

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Re: Most people will just install or use the apps they like or are most comfortable using.

>I still don't know anyone that has a Windows phone,

I know a couple of people in the pub with them, both single parents around forty years old, if that means anything. I get the impression that calling, messaging and Facebook are their main phone-based activities, and not much more. It seems that for such uses, they are perfectly reasonable phones.

(To be fair, my Android phone is mainly used for calls, messaging, a bit of internet browsing, and navigation - the latter I'm led to believe Nokia does quite well. I also use an app for tuning my guitar - a quick google suggests that an equivalent app is available for WinPho, so the smaller app store wouldn't bother me too much)

I notice that most of the people in the pub who haven't got a smartphone have Nokia 'candy bars'.... I wonder if they will stay loyal to the brand if they eventually get a touch-screen device?

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Re: Most people will just install or use the apps they like or are most comfortable using.

I have one and I'm 35, worked in IT for 10+ years and am married with no kids. If that means anything. Which it doesn't :)

But I would point out that half a million apps doesn't a small app store make.

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Re: Most people will just install or use the apps they like or are most comfortable using.

Yep, I can't understand what the article is on about. I recently received a HTC One XL. It came with a bunch of applications. Some I can uninstall. Some I don't like so I went to the app store and found a different/better one. It has lots of space. If I don't want to use an app I just remove the icons if it can't be installed. They all seem to integrate well enough where I want them to.

By the time it runs out of space it'll probably be worn out and I'll get another.

This is so much better that being told by <Big Corporation of America> that you must use the perfect blessed application that they've selected for you and which their marketing department has decided you need.

What's the big deal?

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Anonymous Coward

You what?

This entire article just doesn't correlate with the experience I've had with the Nexus 4, sat in my coat pocket right now - doing everything I want. Perhaps I'm tempting fate, but I've yet to encounter this cavalcade of 'things that don't work'. Uh?

Yes, I know it's stock Android, but that right there is the problem - the technicolour yawn of cruft and overlays endlessly layered over stock 'droid by manufacturers - even on high-end devices - can only sully the UX. Google need to seriously look at addressing this with manufacturers who are ruining UX - *why* do it?

In the interests of balance, this is my first Android. But its the 'vanilla droid' aspect that drew me to it, and the lack thereof from other models that pushed me away for so many years. So, I played along with iPhone simply because I didn't see a viable alternative for me, personally. After 5 years, not being able to do some really basic things with the handset, and feeling like Cupertino were increasingly resembling North Korea, drove me to look at alternatives come refresh time.

As a recent iOS refugee, I haven't found anything like the 'sub-optimal' experience described above from Jelly Bean. I just can't see that. It lets me get on with things how I say I want them done, not how the OS wants you to do things - is that functionality not the point of owning a smartphone in the first place? To help and assist you on a daily basis? Otherwise, it becomes a pointless cycle of owning a phone for sake of it...wait a minute, that sounds familiar. It's the sound of pointless upgrades ringing through Apple tills.

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Re: You what?

Ditto the Nexus 7.

My HTC Sensation, however, with its HTC and Vodafone "improvements" is a different matter.

Android, particularly in its 4.2 guise, if perfectly fine. It is the handset manufacturers and network operators that ruin it.

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Boffin

Re: You what?

No excuse. The Sensation has one-click rooting and a plethora of excellent ROMs from pure AOSP to CM 10.1.

I'm not suggesting that everyone can/should root their phones, but I'm sure a silver-badged commentard knows what they're doing ;)

Personally, I buy a phone based on it's hardware and current ROM status; not interested in the manufacturer guff.

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Meh

Re: You what?

"I'm not suggesting that everyone can/should root their phones, but I'm sure a silver-badged commentard knows what they're doing ;)"

I do, indeed "know what I am doing", I was commenting on the stock Sensation as almost all users will use stock firmware.

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Big Brother

Re: You what?

> Google need to seriously look at addressing this with manufacturers who are ruining UX - *why* do it?

Google have no need to stop this - as has been pointed out, so long as G keep harvesting data from handsets they're happy. They don't really need any manufacturer to profit or users to be satisfied, just for handsets to keep finding their way into our pockets.

Likewise, for handset makers, they absolutely *have* to apply crapware. If they all rolled out stock android on their largely sleek, largely black largely rectangular phones how else do they differentiate at point of sale?

Apple and BlackBerry have an OS they control and can use to drive sales. If you choose to produce stock Android or are in some way leaned on to go stock by Google then surely you have nothing to compete on but price. So margins suffer and the handset makers become busy fools sweating like navvies just to break even.

Android was that "first hit that's free" to Sammy/HTC and all and now they're hooked they're not about to move away from it. They're most dependent on the back end services and now they can't do without them because consumers expect them.

Take Apple, sitting on that huge cash pile and trying to become self sufficient from Google Maps. It'll take them 2-3 years *minimum* before their Maps are approaching the standard of Google Maps today. Even with that cash reserve and history of R&D it's still *that* hard to do. Can say, HTC, afford to develop their own back end solutions? No? Virtually no-one can, as Apple are proving.

So Samsung, HTC and dozens of others have to make the best of a bad situation, and one they've walked blindly in to in scrambling to compete with IOS when it launched - of providers of utlity handsets (even expensive ones are still Droids - which I don't mean as a criticism) - if they don't differentiate by overlaying and branding the UI layer and Apps set they'll be killed in sales terms.

Which as far as I can see is exactly what happened to hardware vendors licencing Windows:

Non-Exclusive OS > Commoditisation > Crapware

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Re: You what?

Google need to seriously look at addressing this with manufacturers who are ruining UX - *why* do it?

There are two main benefits for them. First, they need to have an identifiable brand to promote. If they don't do this then there is no reason for you to buy from them instead of their competitor in the first place. Secondly, once you have bought from them before, they want lock-in, even if it's soft. There has to be some kind of inertia that makes it easier for you to buy a new product from them instead of from their competitor. Being used to a UI that works in a certain way, rather than an unfamiliar or unknown one, helps to achieve that goal.

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Re: You what?

Couldn't agree more but that's the point of the article. Stock Android is nice, slick and well thought out. I had the HTC Sensation and the HTC One S, both beautiful phones but both piss poor with Sense on top. Rooted, booted and running Cyanogenmod though they were excellent. It's the forks, overlays and fannying about that OEMs and providers do that sully the experience. I just couldn't be arsed with the constant wiping, updating, reflashing and changing all the bloody time. Went to Windows Phone 8 and after the initial pain and figuring out how to work it I'm very happy. My next phone will be another Windows Phone at this rate.

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You just proved that you agree with the article. Unadulterated android on a nexus good hw, clean sw. Adulterated android with OEM bloatware on a low specced device bad.

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99% of users are not going to root their device they will use as is. Stop thinking about you and think about someone's old man or mum trying to use it.

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WTF?

Someone downvoted you for expressing the first law of consumer software design.

Our industry still has a long way to go...

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To the author

"Whatever the case may be, I can't see Google transforming Android into the kind of slick experience you get on Windows Phone today."

Whatever the case may be, I can't see Google transforming Android into the kind of sick experience you get on Windows Phone today.

There, fixed it for you.

No I'm not an Android fan, I'm not even a Microsoft hater. but having played with both Android and Windows phone I'd rather have the "mess" than all the restrictiveness.

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Facepalm

Re: To the author

What restrictiveness, specifically, are you referring to? Do you regularly write your own apps and want to install them? Because if that's the case you can get keys from MS that allow you to do that. I think you have a fruity based phone in your pocket and you're just trolling. There is the vague possibility that you just don't have a clue what you're talking about but I'm going to give you the benefit of the doubt.

How very clever of you to replace 'slick' with 'sick'. Genius.

Bear in mind that the article is based on the words of the guy who runs Android and the reviewer writes for The Register so they are hardly likely to love anything Microsoft :)

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Re: To the author

Whatever the case may be, I can't see Google transforming Android into the kind of sick experience you get on Windows Phone today.

No I'm not an Android fan, I'm not even a Microsoft hater. but having played with both Android and Windows phone I'd rather have the "mess" than all the restrictiveness.

Aren't those 2 comments a bit mutually exclusive? It's certainly sounding a bit fanboyish.

Not that either OS is perfect. It's horses for course. Sure Windows is locked down. As is iOS. And if you want something that Apple/MS don't approve of then tough luck. Not sure I'd call that sick though. Just you pays your money and you takes your choice. Android is much more free, and therefore can be a bit of a mess. If you know what you're doing, then that's no problem.

I wouldn't recommend Android to my Mum, if she ever wanted a smartphone. But anyone with a small amount of confidence in computers will be perfectly fine. Then it's just a matter of which you prefer.

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Re: To the author

"What restrictiveness, specifically, are you referring to?"

Seriously?

Try a simple experiment..

Email or otherwise try to share an .epub file with a friend who has a Windows phone.

I installed on my sister's WP7.5 device the ebook reader "Frieda" which was available free at that time in the MS store.

Emailed her an .epub file I had picked up several years ago.

From her email application got a lengthy "downloading" animation after clicking on the attachment, then nothing.

No book appeared on-screen.

Switched over to Frieda to see if a book had appeared. No.

Windows phone (like the iPhone) does not have an open filesystem. Applications can't share things between them unless provisions are explicitly coded in.

The idea is to create a security boundary between any two entities in the device so you can prevent *wrongful* information sharing.

What is not permitted is forbidden.

I could also not download an ebook from a web site (I might recommend this as a particularly fine example for a good demonstration: http://craphound.com/littlebrother/download/ )

At least the browser claimed it couldn't download the file straight up.

I eventually did work out a way of getting the file into the phone but it required Calibre on a computer with some additional wizardry and a plug-in. It was very complicated and required some googling to see if it was even possible.

Thinking there had to be a simpler solution I went to a Microsoft store and pestered their "Genius Bar" (or whatever they call it) and after presenting my case was informed that it was this way to probably prevent piracy.

Sigh.

Right. Loading your own content onto "your own device" <tongue in cheek> is piracy.

At least on an iPhone the same web download immediately opened up into the ebook reader installed on the demo unit at the Apple store.

Apple is almost neck and neck here because any ebook reader I could find in the Apple marketplace would not let be browse Project Gutenberg (for example) even though the web site has its contents listed in a "library format" (some kind of open api

framework which allows direct machine access directly to their shelves.)

So yes. The system is very closed for both the Apple *and* MS platforms.

Meanwhile over here on my android I can scan a multipage document through Camscanner, then Export it as a pdf. Open the pdf for viewing, perhaps add some annotations with ezPdf Reader. And then fax it out with Faxfile.

All without any of these programs not knowing anything about each other. Just using standard file formats.

In that way is it limited.

It is limited so that all information transfer can be monetized and the controlling corporation can take a percentage of the purchase price because goodness knows there's no money to be had in manufacturing anything anymore..

With either a Windows phone or an iPhone you don't truly own your device.

You rent access to it. They are very similar.

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Android capturing the spoils?

Last time I looked Apple was making the most money in mobile by far, with Samsung in second place. Everybody else is posting losses or tiny profits.

So the situation is very different from the Windows 3.1 age, where Microsoft and Intel were capturing the spoils.

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Re: Android capturing the spoils?

But Google aren't in it for the money. At least not directly. They're capturing the data, which is what they wanted. Although as you say, other than Samsung no-one else seems to be doing too well with Android.

I find Google's data gathering rather worrying. But you have to be impressed with the long-term planning that they've put in place. Even assuming only some of their moves were thought out long in advance. The sheer power of the massive network of mobile data recorders that they now control (or customers' Android handsets as everyone else calls them) is astonishing.

They won't need to go WiFi sniffing again, because they've got a network of phones with WiFi and GPS chips that upload all that data to their servers. The same thing helps them with mapping, traffic data for sat-nav, plus usage/location/search data that could give them a hugely valuable mobile marketing resource.

It better be worth it, because it hasn't come cheap. When you think they've bought patents as well as Motorola (possibly to get more), plus Android itself and spend a fortune on R&D and marketing. And yet they don't make a huge amount selling their add-ons to the OEMs, and I don't think they make a huge amount through the Play store either (at least so far).

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duplication

I have only used Samsung Androids and suspect I would like a Nexus, but I have found that if you replace the browser, launcher, messaging app, email app and maps app it is a pretty decent experience. I suppose it is good I could, but bad I had to. I remain undecided about my next phone, but it will definitely not be Samsung.

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Re: duplication

I might be one of the few people who likes that my phone came with two web browsers installed and I have a choice of music apps/video apps etc... although the default ones on my SGS4 are pretty good, and if you were a novice, they make it easy to download music/films etc...

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Silver badge
Linux

Re: duplication

The problem with the iTunes mentality is that if you don't like iTunes you're screwed.

A closed system is hell for a discriminating consumer. You're stuck eating nothing but Taco Bell.

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Well Google don't make their money from licensing (as Microsoft do) but from advertising.

As for the Intel comparison, how are ARM and Qualcomm doing out of Android? I suspect not too badly.

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Windows

Me I'm just weird.......

Have tried iOS and didn't like it much and with the faffing about with iTunes got really bored fast.

So I have tried a series of Android phones, Nexus 4, Note II, HTC One X, Motorola Defy, plus a couple of others.

The only one I liked was the Nexus 4 but I then tried a Nokia Lumia 820 and was converted as far as a phone was concerned, it is just so nice and smooth and easy.....

Due to heart problems I also need a backup on another network just in case so have gone for the best possible option to combine with a windows phone. An Asus Fonepad, as a tablet its really nice, the extra stuff on it is nice also as is the UI. It is also a phone so my backup if needed.

So yes I'm weird, I got bored with iOS and hated all the bloat on Android on a phone, windows has sorted that as it has the apps I want and need. For all the rest my 7 inch tablet with built in 3G does it all the best of all options for me.

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Go

Android 4 works - it is bad overlays which cause the problem

I have a Nexus 4 and switched from iPhone.

The Nexus 4 is Miles better - much more intuitive, faster, easier to find stuff and easier to customise.

Now is awesome too.

I did have a short experience with a Droid Razr on 3.2, however, and that was awful.

Android took a massive step with the 4 upgrade.

Once the old ones work their way through the system (Motorola was terribly slow with updates) Android will provide the best user interface.

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Flame

"""Android into the kind of slick experience you get on Windows Phone today."""

TROLLOLOLOLOLOL!!!!

Well, one thing is for certain, you really like your Winmo, (or just get money to look like.)

Android is not the mess you think it is, unless you call having freedom to change, mix+match any component on the system a "mess".

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Anonymous Coward

I think the point the platform agnostics and WinPho types seem to be getting at is that If manufacturer's crap duplicates all or even some of the core functionality of the OS, its a problem from a variety of perspectives and usability is the one that matters most to the consumer.

The author of the article's point is that Google might not care, and if they do, they might not be able to do anything about it. Either way they will not dare admit it.

The nature of Android is such that a writer focusing on Security on mobile platforms could write much the same thing. For instance if you've ever looked at your app permissions you'll have probably noticed that some of the Manufacturer and Carrier apps have vastly different permissions than the Google-provided equivalents and there's no way to get rid of them without rooting the handset in most cases.

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