Updated on November 15th, 2016 by Riley J. Dennis.
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. Most versions of Android allow you to get rid of bloatware fairly easily, but there’s a catch.
If you’re sick of bloatware, disabling it should be your first step. Open the Settings screen, tap Apps, and swipe over to the All category.
Scroll down until you find a preinstalled app that you want to disable and tap it. Alternatively, you could start at your home screen, press and hold on the app’s icon, and drag it to the App Info option that will appear at the top of your screen. Both of these methods get you to the same place in the end.
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 we wouldn’t recommend disabling the Messenger app if you want to continue to send and receive text messages.
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.
Unfortunately, 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 on the device, taking up precious storage space.
The reason they can’t be uninstalled is that the manufacturer wants certain apps to stick around after you factory reset your phone. This ensures useful apps — like Gmail, the Google Play Store, or the Phone app — remain installed even after a factory reset. So what if you really want to fully uninstall an app?
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 more technical ways to do this, most of which will void your phone’s warranty — so exercise caution.
- Flash a Custom ROM: Rooting your device and then installing 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 S7 or HTC 10 only to install custom ROMs on them, ensuring a vibrant ROM-creating community.
- Root and Use an App: If you root your phone, you can then use an app like Titanium Backup to forcibly delete the bloatware apps from your system area. This could cause problems, especially if you accidentally delete important apps — so be sure to have a backup if you go this route.
- Use a Script Without Rooting: There are a couple clever bloatware removal scripts on the XDA Developers forum that can delete system apps without any rooting required. These are only for advanced users, though, since you could really damage your device this way. But if you’re willing to learn about one of them and accept the risks, it could be an efficient and root-free method.
Buy Phones Without Bloatware
Not all Android devices are saddled with bloatware. If you buy an unlocked device without a SIM card directly from a manufacturer, it will have very limited bloatware. It’s generally just carriers who load up their devices with bloat.
For example, if you buy a Moto Z or Moto Z Play directly from Motorola, it will come unlocked for all GSM networks and free of bloatware. That means you can then take it to AT&T or T-Mobile in the US (or any GSM carrier globally) and activate it on their network. However, if you buy a Moto Z Droid or Moto Z Play Droid (there’s even bloat in the names) directly from Verizon, you’ll get a bunch of preloaded Verizon apps.
Unlocked devices can often be found on Amazon or on the manufacturer’s website — but if you’re own a wireless carrier’s website, you can bet you’ll get bloatware.
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!