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Vodafone's Desire update brings unexpected apps

An over-the-air HTC Desire update on Vodafone's network brings with it a few surprises--a handful of Vodafone-branded applications that cannot be uninstalled.

HTC's Desire

HTC Desire owners on Vodafone's U.K. network received an over-the-air update early Tuesday that came with some unexpected features.

No, it wasn't Android 2.2, code-named Froyo, which brings with it considerable speed updates, home screen enhancements, and tweaks that make it easier to update and manage installed applications. Instead, it was a handful of Vodafone-branded applications, a new Vodafone-branded restart animation, and changes to the user's home screen applications and Web bookmarks.

Angry users have hopped on Vodafone's forums to voice their disapproval. Many are irate over the fact that these apps, which include a music shop, an additional Web browser (with Vodafone's Web site as its start page), a shopping application, and an app for the carrier's 360 social experience, were not mentioned in the upgrade's release notes, and that they made changes to existing user preferences without asking.

What has proven to be the bigger pain point, however, is that the newly installed applications come as part of the operating-system update, meaning that they cannot be removed from the phone without users rooting their software. This is akin to jailbreaking on the iPhone, as it voids your warranty from HTC and can get you in trouble with your carrier. On the plus side, users with rooted devices would be able to install a "vanilla" version of the Android OS that would not include Vodafone's branding.

Vodafone put out a statement on its forums, as well as many of the existing forum threads about the update, saying:

To ensure the handset is optimised for performance on Vodafone, we will sometimes add or remove certain functions. As an example, we would remove an App that only worked in America (e.g. Netflix) to avoid confusion for people trying to use it in the UK. We also remove other operators' settings from the handset to free up onboard memory.

In the case of these applications, some users are reporting that these apps, in fact, take up more memory than a previous version, and that because they cannot be deleted, it has left their devices less useful than before the update.

Because Google's Android is an open operating system, carriers, device manufacturers, and even users are able to create their own builds of the operating system that can change the way certain features function. In the case of Android this has led to considerable delays in the rollout of new updates compared to Google's own release schedule for the now-retired Nexus One. Owners of the Desire on several other carriers, including Telstra, reported that 2.2 was being pushed out to their handsets as early as Monday.

Thanks to CNET reader Graham for the tip.