Standardization of Pre-Installed Mobile Applications Urged by Central Media in China

As soon as a mobile phone is activated, users are often met with a full screen of pre-installed application software, many of which cannot be uninstalled. This issue has become increasingly prevalent in recent years, prompting the Economic Daily to call for the standardization of pre-installed application software on mobile phones. In this article, we explore the reasons behind the prevalence of pre-installed applications, the impact they have on consumers, and the measures taken by regulatory bodies to address the issue.

The Prevalence of Pre-Installed Mobile Applications

In recent years, pre-installed application software has become a standard practice for major mobile phone manufacturers. Pre-installed applications typically include browsers, input methods, audio-visual software, shopping malls, finance, information, and games. These applications come from three main sources: the mobile phone manufacturer's own applications, which aim to build an ecosystem of mobile phone brands; applications bundled and installed by mobile phone operators on customized phones; and applications that are "distributed" in advance by developers for marketing and promotion purposes.

The Impact of Pre-Installed Mobile Applications on Consumers

Pre-installed applications have negative effects on consumers. They take up a considerable amount of storage space on mobile phones, and many of them cannot be uninstalled. Some pre-installed applications may also push advertisements, excessively request permissions, and collect user information without the user's knowledge, which infringes on users' privacy rights. The inability to delete pre-installed applications is a major point of frustration for consumers, as it hinders their ability to customize their mobile phone to their liking.

Measures Taken to Address the Issue

In response to the prevalence of pre-installed applications, relevant departments in China have introduced a number of measures to standardize their behavior. In 2013, the pre-installed application declaration system was implemented and included in supervision. In 2017, it was stipulated that software with non-basic functions should be uninstalled. In 2022, the type, scope, and quantity of "basic functions" were further clarified, and convenient unloading methods were provided for users to choose. However, some vendors play with words on "basic features," and others try to promote applications in more subtle ways.

Challenges to Standardizing Pre-Installed Mobile Applications

Standardizing pre-installed mobile applications is challenging due to the powerful interests behind them. As China's mobile phone hardware industry chain matures, the gross profit margin of mobile phone hardware is getting lower and lower. The competition for smartphones is gradually shifting to software and services. Major mobile phone manufacturers are increasingly building application software ecosystems, which not only bring in substantial revenue but also achieve the goals of binding customers, seizing the market, and promoting the industrial chain. This has led to the phenomenon that "the mobile phone has already paid back before it is sold."

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