Taking their cue from what's happening in Europe, South Korean regulators are looking to make some Google apps removable on future Android phones sold in South Korea, such as Google Search, Chrome, Maps and Gmail.
Maybe appreciated by few but reviled by most users as "bloatware" for cluttering the user interface and sucking the battery dry, many apps are pre-installed on new devices as part of contracts that South Korean manufacturers have inked with Google, as well as agreements with mobile carriers.
For example, Google requires Android OEMs that licence its services to pre-install Google Search and Chrome, among other apps.
South Korean regulators are taking their cue from events that took place a couple of weeks ago in Europe. The European Commission issued an official "Statement of Objections" that accuses Google of breaching EU antitrust regulations in the way it manages Android.
In 2014, the Korean government created a set of guidelines to make preloaded apps removable, but they are not legally binding and so most companies do not follow them.
South Korea's two main regulators covering so-called "bloatware", the Ministry of Science and Korea Communications Commission, determined new rules were needed. A science ministry official said that while the excessive number of pre-installed apps has decreased since guidelines were issued two years ago, the voluntary rulings had failed to "root out bloatware", according to local media reports.
Now users will be able to remove some installed apps by handset makers and telecom carriers, as well as giants Google and Apple. But considering the market dominance of Android phones, Google apps are considered the key target of the rules.
Apple pre-installs its own apps on iPhones, and prohibits apps by telecom carriers. But major South Korean handset makers like Samsung and LG, as well as local telecom carriers, pre-install many apps on Android phones.