Fake News: Samsung’s Uninstallable Facebook App

Posted on January 9, 2019 by Paul Thurrott in Android, Mobile, Social with 43 Comments

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.

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Comments (43)

43 responses to “Fake News: Samsung’s Uninstallable Facebook App”

  1. Avatar

    wosully

    I love this, "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." Excellent executive summary: concise and correct.

  2. Avatar

    brettscoast

    Thanks Paul for clarifying the issue, we live in a world of choices people if you don't like a product you know what to do.

  3. Avatar

    obarthelemy

    Also, and perhaps more importantly, a disabled app

    1- has absolutely 0 data, not even an account to link to

    2- isn't launched/run at all

    3- so basically it just eats up a bit of storage space, does not eat up RAM, cannot get data, cannot send data, does not get CPU cycles...

    Even if the "Facebook app" on Samsung's phones were the full app, it wouldn't be doing anything once disabled. It wouldn't launch at all.

  4. Avatar

    bart

    Worrying about privacy when it comes to FB on a Samsung phone running Google services. Lol!

  5. Avatar

    red.radar

    I guess this one way in which iOS is superior. You don't have to consider this as an issue when buying your phone.

  6. Avatar

    Jim Lewis

    What I find interesting about the Facebook app preinstalled on my Samsung Galaxy Note 8, which I've never used (or perhaps used once > 1 year ago?), is that when an update for it appears in the Google Play Store, I never myself download the update. I have all updates set to manual download. Yet after a day or two has passed, the Facebook update is "automagically" downloaded and installed on my Note 8 (and I get a notification to that effect). In contrast, I have installed Bed, Bath & Beyond and actually used the app a bit in the past. If I get an update for that, it just sits, and sits, and sits in the Play Store list of apps with available updates and never updates itself. According to my app report, I have Facebook (311 Mb), Facebook App Installer (778 kb), and Facebook App Manager (8.93 Mb).


    So there is more than just having a "stub" of an app going on here. If it were Microsoft, Paul would be ranting about how Microsoft is abusing people's trust, can't communicate, etc. But, hey, you bought the phone (and tacitly agreed to the crap on it), what's the problem? When I've changed system settings to require manual app updates, I expect ALL apps to follow those rules and in particular, Facebook is an elective app. Samsung should not be trying to make a few extra bucks by allowing the Facebook app to run under special rules and force-feed us whatever. Paul has ranted about Windows that Microsoft should not install all the apps that Microsoft does, should allow Microsoft apps to be uninstalled, and let users install only apps that they want. So once again, Paul is a journalist working for the $$$, and sings a strangely different tune for an app that many users (like myself) might not want to run in any shape or form on their phones - no app updates that I can't block, for example.

    • Avatar

      pargon

      Paul loves to claim he holds Microsoft to a higher standard. I find fault with that logic, he should hold all these companies to the same high standard. His opinion of "you're a moron for trusting samsung, you know they do shady stuff" doesn't help anyone.
      He rails against Microsoft for doing far less than Facebook, Google, Samsung or Amazon. He's very trusting of anything those companies say but not Microsoft, oddly enough. I just find it odd, since Microsoft is the only one that's been severely roughed up by the Government investigations and media for 2 decades....and has the most to lose by putting a toe over the line.
  7. Avatar

    prjman

    Samsung makes wonderful hardware. My Galaxy S8 was the prettiest phone I have ever owned. It also had WAY too much bloat installed on it when I got it, including redundant 'Galaxy' garbage all over the place. In the end, I was super happy to get a phone that comes with a clean version of Android, even if the hardware wasn't as nice. I suggest that others do the same.

  8. Avatar

    SvenJ

    Shouldn't it be "No, Samsung is not preinstalling an un-uninstallable Facebook app." An uninstallable Facebook app is a Facebook app that you can uninstall.

  9. Avatar

    lordbaal1

    Microsoft does the same this on Windows 10, and Paul bnw about it.

  10. Avatar

    JerryH

    Any of this stuff that you cannot uninstall takes up space on the Android system partition. Which has to be larger on Samsung phones to hold all of this crap. So you end up with less usable space on the user partition for the same size storage module. I can't see why people SHOULDN'T be ticked off about having less available space.

  11. Avatar

    BruceR

    "Fake News: Samsung’s Uninstallable Facebook App"


    If it's uninstallable, there's no problem.


    Or is it un-uninstallable?

  12. Avatar

    weamish

    Pretty condescending article, considering that Samsung makes no attempt to inform its users of this situation. To any layperson, it looks like the FB app cannot be uninstalled. The assumption would of course be that Samsung has been paid by FB for this privilege.

  13. Avatar

    madthinus

    Still a terrible customer experience.

  14. Avatar

    provision l-3

    “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.”


    That sentence is either incredibly poorly worded or it clearly says that the app comes installed on some phones and cannot be removed.



  15. Avatar

    beckerrt

    I actually just bought an unlocked Galaxy J3 from Samsung. Was surprised to see the FB app there, but yeah I disabled it and went on with my life. Was also surprised to find out that several Google apps were able to be fully uninstalled, like Play Movies and Play Music. I feel like that's new, not sure though. I am sure that buying unlocked is absolutely the way to go, however. I'm so done with dealing with carriers.

  16. Avatar

    solomonrex

    This is the worst part of Samsung phones, easily. Just got shouted when it announced that it was installing 'Yahoo finance edge display' or such nonsense. These companies, esp Verizon owned Yahoo, cannot be trusted and this will probably be my last Samsung. Apple doesn't do this nearly as much, and is far better with updates. Bixby, Samsung duplicate apps, a million extra settings, a theme store? It's a terrible experience, and both Samsung and Google can be blamed for this uncompetitive mess.

  17. Avatar

    pargon

    Would you say the same thing about Windows, Paul? I bet not, you bitch endlessly about candy crush saga and the other things you can uninstall on windows. Yet it's just "shop elsewhere" for samsung. And yes, I know that windows is huge with not a lot of choice to shop....but Samsung IS Android to a lot of people.


    No problem with the idea of shopping elsewhere, but your tone in the article is rather degrading and dismissive of really a legitimate complaint that a huge percent of consumers share. The more I read this site it seems that you so often look the other way when it's anyone other than Microsoft.


    "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." That's something I would expect from a far less trusted outlet than you, Paul. In fact I was sure this was written by Mehedi at first, his views don't seem to line up with yours or Brad's very often, his articles are "dope" as he says.


    Our rights as consumers are being subverted all over the place. You thought everyone was justified asking Microsoft all about their telemetry for years and they were forthcoming, why do we not expect the same level of transparency regarding privacy for other companies?

    • Avatar

      bennett_cg

      In reply to Pargon:

      There is a material difference between the Samsung-Facebook situation and the pre-installed Windows apps that your comments seem to minimize: Samsung is only installing a shortcut to the installer for the Facebook and Messenger apps, which is easily disabled and remains disabled; Microsoft overrides user behavior to re-install certain apps - in their entirety - during updates. It's a small difference, but it is an important one.

      I was a bit ruffled when my employer-issued Galaxy S8 had a Facebook icon on the default home screen - but looking through the storage details I found out very easily that it was functionally little more than a hyperlink to the real installer. I don't like it, but at least it has stayed disabled through a few system updates and doesn't keep re-asserting itself.

    • Avatar

      bart

      In reply to Pargon:

      Not sure why you get wound up by a place holder, when Samsung phones are littered with (arguably) crapware, which you seem to accept without reservations. The FB place holder is just one more.

      • Avatar

        pargon

        In reply to Bart:

        I'm not wound up by any of it personally. My point is that the article has legitimate questions, whether very technical users or not. Someone was concerned about privacy, as they should with Facebook....and Paul belittles them and says consumers don't have rights. I advocate for people to be informed about their tech decisions and purchases.


        My main point is maybe Paul should explain it to the audience clearly without the condescending tone instead of saying you should've known better, most people probably don't know how bad Samsung's Android image is, but yet he harps on Microsoft for everything.


        I guess I disagree with his assessment that he expects more from Microsoft than Google or Amazon....he gives them a pass repeatedly, and now Samsung too.


        We should expect more from all of these companies that people blindly sign away their data to.

      • Avatar

        pargon

        In reply to Bart:

        Also, I have Google phones, no crapware is important to me, though Google's reach is a bit concerning. My pixel 3 and pixel 2 work flawlessly and got them half price on Black Friday. Highlg recommend.

  18. Avatar

    FalseAgent

    lol so why do people get mad instead of applying this same logic to the Candy Crush stub that is on fresh Windows installations? This is easily the worst part of this industry.

  19. Avatar

    waethorn

    Fake News: your article.


    Here's what TNW said:


    "A Facebook spokesperson told Bloomberg that the disabled version of the app acts like it’s been deleted"


    A Facebook spokesperson. And they said your private information is private too.


    Also, the person quoted in the Bloomberg article said it was on a Samsung Galaxy S8 - a flagship phone.


    TNW said this:


    "TNW tested this on a Samsung Galaxy A9" (a budget, space-confined phone)


    You can't even trust that WiFi is turned off, because the NY Times security researcher that did a whole bunch of studies on data collection on Android a while back stated that when WiFi is off, it's not actually off - you just can't use WiFi yourself, but your phone still tracks location information from it. So how can you can't trust that apps are even "disabled" when you click that option.

  20. Avatar

    oaito

    About two years ago I purchased three Sony Xperia Compact X for family use. I tried to deinstall the FB app, but was only able to disable it. At the time I never would have thought this was newsworthy... perhaps it is new on a Samsung?


    Would be interesting since how many years and on how many devices e.g. FB was and is preinstalled as a stub, just to point out that apparantly the current attraction is out of proportion.

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