I can remember sitting in more than one briefing for the latest Next Big Thing and being fairly overwhelmed by all the software features Samsung packs into its Galaxy S line. I'm pretty good at this smartphone stuff, but it was daunting. And has been so more than once So when we learned that Samsung was scaling back the software on the Galaxy S6, it was pretty much universally heralded as a good thing. Sometimes less is more.
But as we started to pore over the software, we started to notice a few things. And a couple press releases confirmed it. Samsung has teamed up with McAfee (erm, Intel Security) and Cheetah Mobile to make your phone safer. And faster. Or something.
Here's what's up with that.
McAfee, of course, is the maker of world-class antivirus software, and it looks out for malware as well. That's not a bad thing. Some folks maybe need a little extra help in looking out for their own well-being. A little extra malware protection probably won't hurt anything, even if as Google security engineer Adrian Ludwig explained to Android Central, you probably don't need it.
In 2014 ... fewer than 0.15 percent of Applications installed from outside of Google Play to U.S. English devices were classified as Potentially Harmful Applications. ... The potential security benefit of an additional security solution is very small. — Google security engineer Adrian Ludwig
But whatever. Making Mom and Dad feel that their phone is more secure is a great bullet point for the feature sheet. And who wants one of those other, less secure phones, right? So long as it's not slowing down your phone or anything, it's no harm, no foul, we suppose.
The inclusion of anything from Cheetah Mobile is the bigger head-scratcher.
No, I do not want to to end the Android System or Security Policy Updates. They sound important. (And will start right back up anyway.)
Cheetah Mobile makes Clean Master, an app that is heavily advertised on the likes of Facebook and Twitter, and its ads often are tailored for the device that you're using. "Your Moto X is slow!" Or "Your LG G2 is running too hot!" Something to that effect. Some scary-sounding thing, and it knows what phone you're using! Clean Master is uber popular, too. The main "Speed Booster" app on Google Play is in the 100 million to 500 million-downloads category. And you've gotta love the name. Clean Master (Speed Booster). As if your phone is inherently dirty and slow.
Now that's not to say that your phone might not slow down at some point. Or maybe it gets hot. Or maybe it doesn't seem to last as long on a single charge as it used to. But all Clean Master does is use tools already built into Android to offer some temporary respite. You don't need it to clear cached files. You don't need it to clear an app process that's making your phone hot. In fact, caching files isn't a bad thing! And using another app to clear files and processes uses more files and processes and space on your phone and just seems a little silly and ...
You get the point.
So what's it doing on the Galaxy S6 and Galaxy S6 edge?
Samsung has a "Smart Tools" app that has four categories — battery, storage, RAM and device security. It'll kill app processes if for some reason you want to. (And occasionally you might actually need to. But you can do that from the main app manager.) And it'll clear out cached files if you'd like. (But you also can do that from the app manager, or maybe from the app itself.) And it'll dump apps out of RAM, if you'd like it to. (Or, ya know, you could do that in the app manager. Or you could just let Android handle the RAM itself, seeing as how it's pretty good at it, and it's not like actually using RAM is a bad thing on these devices.)
For most people, it's superfluous, and apps like Clean Master prey on those ignorant of how Android works.
On the other hand, it's a selling point. It gives normal users a sense of security and shows that Samsung cares about them, giving them this ridiculously powerful tool. As a business decision, it makes sense.
But me? I'd ask why a phone as good as the Galaxy S6 is (and I think it's a damned good one), a phone that Samsung says is the most powerful and technologically marvelous device it's made yet, needs this sort of app. (And to be fair, Clean Master has been spotted as a "recommended" app for the new HTC One M9.) And I think it tarnishes the Samsung brand just a little bit by associating itself with an app that makes its money by scaring its users and in the long term doesn't even do that much.
The Galaxy S6 is better than that. Samsung is better than that.