Many Android phones come packed with useless software preinstalled by the device’s manufacturer and your cellular carrier. Sprint even includes a NASCAR app with some of their phones. This bloatware takes up valuable storage space, clutters your list of installed apps, and may even run automatically at startup, draining battery power in the background.
Unlike on a Windows laptop, which also come packed with useless software, it takes a bit of work to actually uninstall these apps on Android. Android 4.0 and newer versions of Android allow you to get rick of bloatware fairly easily, but there’s a catch.
Disabling Bloatware on Android 4.0+
To disable preinstalled bloatware on a device running Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich or newer, open the Settings screen, tap Apps, and swipe over to the All category.
Scroll down until you find a preinstalled app you want to disable and tap it. If the app has an icon in your app drawer, you can also press and hold on the app’s icon and drag it to the App Info option at the top of your screen to access its details screen.
Tap the Disable button to disable a preinstalled app. You’ll see a warning, so ensure you aren’t disabling anything important. Many built-in Android system apps cannot be disabled, but some important apps can be disabled. Use your best judgment – for example, disabling a NASCAR app is fine, but disabling the Messaging app will prevent you from sending and receiving SMS messages unless you have a third-party SMS app installed on your phone.
You can find disabled apps at the bottom of the All apps list. Tap a disabled app and tap the Enable button to re-enable it.
Disabled Bloatware Still Wastes Storage Space
The above process only disables the useless software. It won’t appear in your app drawer and can’t run in the background, so this helps declutter your phone and save battery power. However, the bloatware apps remain installed in the system partition. Apps installed in this special partition are locked in read-only mode so they’ll persist after you factory reset your phone. This ensures useful apps – like Gmail, Google Play, or the Android system apps – remain installed even after a factory reset. However, bloatware abuses this mechanism, wasting your phone’s valuable storage space.
Actually Removing Bloatware
Most people will be okay with disabling the bloatware and forgetting about the wasted space. But let’s say you actually want to remove this bloatware and free up that space. There are several ways to do this, all of which will technically void your phone’s warranty – so exercise caution.
- Flash a Custom ROM: Replacing the stock ROM with a custom ROM like Cyanogenmod will overwrite the operating system that came with the device, replacing it with the custom ROM. This will free up the space currently being used for bloatware. Quite a few Android geeks buy popular phones like the Samsung Galaxy S and HTC Oneline before installing Cyanogenmod on them.
- Root and Use an App: If you root your phone, you can then use an app to forcibly delete the bloatware apps from your system area. This could cause problems, especially if you delete important apps. For example, the popular Titanium Backup app includes this function – tap the app and select Uninstall instead of Freeze — but recommends against using it.
- Use a Script Without Rooting: There’s a clever bloatware removal script on the XDA Developers forum that can delete system apps without any rooting required. However, you’ll need to edit the script by hand and know what you’re doing. Misusing the script could prevent your phone from booting until you re-flash its operating system. Android geeks may find this is the fastest way to remove bloatware on multiple devices as the script can be re-used on other devices and runs in just a few seconds, but average users should stay away from it.
Disabling Bloatware on Older Versions of Android
On an older version of Android, you can’t easily disable the bloatware with the included interface. However, you can root your Android phone and use an app like Titanium Backup (paid) or Gemini App Manager (free) to disable the app in the same way it would be disabled on Android 4.0. This is often referred to as “freezing” an app, as it blocks all access to it.
If you don’t want to root and just wish the bloatware wouldn’t clutter your app drawer, you could also try using a third-party launcher. Many of these launchers, such as Nova Launcher, have a built-in feature that allows you to hide app icons from your app drawer. If these apps are still running in the background, they’ll continue to waste some battery power – but at least you’ll reduce the clutter.
Buying Phones Without Bloatware
Not all Android devices are saddled with bloatware. Nexus devices sold straight from Google, such as the Nexus 4, come without any bloatware and feature Google’s vision of a pure Android software experience.
We wish we didn’t have to recommend a single device or single line of devices here, as diversity and choice is the strength of Android. However, other Android device manufacturers aren’t providing Android phones with clean, uncluttered operating systems. You can get that uncluttered experience by installing a third-party ROM like Cyanogenmod on a phone, but average users shouldn’t be required to do this. For an out-of-the-box Android experience, go Nexus and send a message to Android manufacturers and carriers.
What’s the worst bloatware you’ve ever seen on an Android phone? Leave a comment and share your horror stories or tips for overcoming bloatware!
Image Credit: Johan Larsson on Flickr