No, Samsung is not preinstalling an uninstallable Facebook app on some of its phones. Well, not really. Instead, it’s preinstalling a so-called “stub app” that can later be used to install Facebook and Messenger. And it doesn’t do anything malicious, let alone steal your data.
Not familiar with the issue?
Earlier this week, Bloomberg reported that Samsung customers were “perturbed” to discover that they couldn’t delete the Facebook app that was preinstalled on their handsets. Instead, all they can do is disable the app, which hides it from the Home and All Apps screens.
“It just absolutely baffles me that if I wanted to completely get rid of Facebook that it essentially would still be on my phone, which brings up more questions,” a Samsung customer one presumes is a friend of the Bloomberg article said in an interview. “Can they still track your information, your location, or whatever else they do? We the consumer should have [a] say in what we want and don’t want on our products.”
Well, you can get off your high horse now, big guy. Because aside from the fact that your rights as a consumer extend only to the products you buy and not to the makeup of those products, what’s happening here is nowhere near as dramatic as it sounds.
Instead, the Facebook app that Samsung preinstalls on some of its phones is a “stub” or placeholder app called Facebook App Manager/Installer that is completely separate from the real Facebook app.
App researcher Jane Manchun Wong, cited by TNW, explains the difference.
“Samsung only ship the stub version of Facebook on their phones,” she writes in a series of tweets. “It’s basically a non-functional empty shell, acts as the placeholder for when the phone receives the ‘real’ Facebook app as app updates … The version of Facebook (i.e. stub) that comes with Samsung phones won’t be capable to do anything useful until it’s been updated to the real Facebook apps. As long as the app has been disabled, no need to worry, [The] Facebook app won’t somehow escape the disabled app jail.”
As for apps that can be disabled but not uninstalled, she notes that, “on Android, when a system app (in this case, Facebook app) is disabled, it’ll be reverted to the version that comes with the phone. In this case, on phones that comes with [the] Facebook app, when the app has been disabled, it’ll be reverted back to the non-functional stub anyways.”
In other words, nothing to see here. Beyond that fact that, yes, Samsung puts some weird shit on its phones. But we already knew that. And if that bothers you, feel free to shop elsewhere.