What AT&T will likely do to the Dell Streak and how to undo it
When the Dell Streak is released in the US this week, it will be AT&T's fourth Android phone (Motorola Backflip, HTC Aria, and Samsung Captivate are the other three; Sony Ericsson Xperia X10 goes on sale next week). And if the carrier's previous Android releases are any indication, then we can expect to see two things on the Streak: lots of unremovable bloatware and the absence of the "Unknown sources" option in the Applications setting that allows the installation of apps obtained outside of Android Market (otherwise known as sideloading).
Unless you're affiliated with AT&T, these are not good things. But as I've already given away in the title of this post, there are workarounds.
Problem: All US carriers preinstall apps on their phones that can't be uninstalled, but AT&T seems to be the worst offender. I don't know what will come preloaded on the Streak yet, but these are some of the apps preloaded on the Samsung Captivate: AT&T Family Map, AT&T Hot Spots, AT&T Maps, AT&T Music, AT&T Navigation, AT&T Radio, Daily Briefing, Instant Messaging, Memo, Mini Diary, Mobile Banking, Mobile Video, MobiTV, Where, Write and Go, YPmobile. A few of them are useful, but most of them do nothing but take up space. You can't delete them the way you uninstall other apps because they don't show up in the "Manage Applications" list.
- Root the Streak. The current method may not work with the AT&T version, but it will only be a matter of time before root is achieved. Rooting will open up a number of possibilities such as flashing a custom ROM that doesn't include the crapware or just using a combination of apps (e.g., BusyBox and Titanium Backup) to allow removal of the unwanted apps.
- After the Streak is updated to 2.1 or higher: Install LauncherPro (alternative to ADW.Launcher that will also rotate the Streak's home screen) and hide the apps you don't want to see in the drawer/menu by going to Preferences -> General Settings -> Hidden apps. This doesn't actually remove the apps, of course, but it doesn't require root and will give you a chance to see if there's any truth to the old "out of sight, out of mind" saying.
Problem: AT&T does not allow users to install apps that are not available in Android Market. The carrier has come under heavy fire for this but maintains its position that blocking sideloading "minimizes the risk of malicious apps harming customers and provides more protection to the customer's private data stored on the phone." Although the Market offers a great selection of apps, there are equally great (if not better) apps outside the Market from hackers/devs and established companies.
Best solution: You could root or use the SDK on your computer to get non-Market apps on the Streak, but the easiest and best solution is to use Android Central's amazing Sideload Wonder Machine (also available for Mac and Linux). On a PC, all you do is put the Streak in USB debugging mode (Settings -> Applications -> Development -> USB debugging), plug it into your computer, launch Sideload Wonder Machine, choose an .apk you've already downloaded, and click "Go." Amazingly easy and effective! No root required.
Whether AT&T will really do this to the Streak remains to be seen (although I see no reason why it wouldn't), but at least you'll be prepared if it does.
UPDATE: No bloatware!