Smartphone and tablet manufacturers just love freebies. They might not be the sort of freebies you or I want (you know, free hardware, free games, free cloud storage, etc.) but they include them on devices so that you have something to complain about.
After all, pre-installed bloatware is almost always completely useless, making strange assumptions about the user’s intentions and slowing performance. While it may not be as bad as the Lenovo Superfish malware debacle, Android bloatware is an issue.
We already know that it is possible to remove bloatware from rooted Android devices, but what about those of us who haven’t rooted? (If you’re looking for ways to clean up all your devices, check out this list of Windows 10 bloatware you can remove.)
No Root? Don’t Worry!
Regular readers may know that I run an Android device with the secure OmniROM ROM and have been installing custom ROMs since the days of Android 1.6 (and before that on Windows Mobile 5 and 6). I’ve recently bought my first real Android tablet (having been quite happy with a HP Touchpad with Android installed for some time), a Samsung Galaxy Tab 4, and was astonished by the volume of pre-installed bloatware.
As the device is really for books and comics, and a bit of social networking, I haven’t put time aside to install a recovery and flash a custom ROM just yet, and while rooting this device is apparently straightforward, I’ve also skipped that so far.
Amazingly, however, there is a method that can be used on this and other Android 4.4 KitKat devices. This is thanks to a Debloater tool, developed by XDA Developer regular gatesjunior.
Using this Debloater, you can block any preinstalled apps on your device, reducing the impact of bloatware. Should you need to remove them completely, however, the device will need to be rooted. Note that devices running versions of Android prior to and since KitKat must be rooted for this method to work.
Let’s see how it works.
Using Debloater to Kill Android Bloatware
Note that this is a Windows application, and requires that you first connect your Android device to your PC via USB and install the drivers. Once you’ve done this, install the Debloater.
Next activate USB debugging on Android, by opening Settings > Developer Options. Check the box and take the time to read the resulting message and confirm the action. Wait a moment, and then confirm the RSA key fingerprint from your PC too, checking the Always allow from this computer box to keep things stable.
If Developer Options isn’t available, tap About device, then tap Build number eight times in order to activate “developer mode” which will add the Developer Options menu item.
Debloater should then be launched on your computer, and you may see a notice about what sort of app deletion your device supports. With this confirmed and Debloater running, look in the lower left corner to confirm Device Connected and Sync are both active. This is indicated with a green disc against each label.
Under Activity Status in the top left, click Read Device Packages to display a list of all the APK files on the tablet. You’ll need to distinguish between the apps you’ve installed and those that were preinstalled, so take your time before you delete anything.
When you have found the files you want to block, select them using the checkbox on the left and then Apply. The app will begin blocking the APK files you no longer want, debloating your device in the process.
To repeat the process with other files, simply click Read Device Packages again to repeat the process. Remember to check your device to confirm that the bloatware has been blocked. You’ll know this has happened as it will not be visible in your app drawer.
Meanwhile, if you have difficulty finding the APK file or package name that you wish to delete, use the filter search box. For instance, if I wanted to find the Amazon Kindle APK, I’d enter “kindle”, and Debloater will quickly filter out all APK files except the one with “kindle” in the name.
If you make a mistake blocking bloatware packages, click the UnBlock All Packages option.
Check the video below for further details, including how to use Debloater on a rooted device.
Problems You May Face
Connecting your phone or tablet to your computer successfully will enable the Debloater tool to work as intended, but in the event that your device isn’t correctly identified, then the app will probably crash; it will certainly fail to display any apps on your computer.
To avoid this, ensure that you have Unknown Sources checked under Settings > Security, and that the correct drivers for your device are installed on your computer. Use a USB 2.0 port rather than USB 3.0, and on rooted devices, you may find that disabling Fastboot in recovery can aid with the detection of your phone.
How Did This Tool Work for You?
We’ve established that this app is ideal for Android 4.4 KitKat devices as no root is required. This means that anyone can debloat their smartphone or tablet without the prerequisite steps of rooting!
While it is suitable for other versions of Android, those devices will need to have been rooted already, but you’ll also be able to complete remove the offending apps.
Have you tried the Debloater? Do you have any questions? Let me know in the comments.