How to Manage Bloatware on Your Android Device

Samsung Galaxy S6
Kārlis Dambrāns/Flickr/CC BY 2.0

Bloatware—apps pre-installed in your phone by the operating system, hardware manufacturer, or carrier, which you can't uninstall—is a major pain in the you-know-what. It's frustrating to be stuck with apps you don't ever use, that take up space on your phone, and even run in the background, stealing your battery life and slowing down your smartphone. So is there anything to be done about this? Thankfully, there are ways that you can remove or disable bloatware, some more difficult than others.

Rooting Your Phone

I've talked about this before: removing bloatware is a huge benefit of rooting your phone. When you root your phone, you get full control over it, so you can install and remove apps with relative ease. You just have to be comfortable with the rooting process, which is somewhat complicated, and has some drawbacks, such as voiding your smartphone's warranty. As I've recommended before, it's important to weigh the benefits of rooting against the drawbacks. If you decide to root your smartphone, while it's complex, it isn't very hard to do. Once your smartphone is rooted, you can remove any app you want, making space for the apps you enjoy using.

Disabling Unwanted Apps

So maybe you don't want to root your smartphone. Fair enough. In many cases, you can disable bloatware apps. I was happy to discover this option recently, when I started receiving notifications from a pre-installed NFL app on my Samsung Galaxy S6 from Verizon Wireless.

Having no interest in football, I quickly went to the app's setting so I could disable these settings. There, I found a disable button, which does just what it says, disables the app, preventing it from updating, running in the background, and generating notifications. Success! (Sorry NFL, I'm just not that into you.) It's worth also rolling any unwanted apps back to its original version, as any updates may have increased the app's size.

 

To disable an app, go to Settings > Applications > Application manager > ALL, choose the app, and click the disable button. Unfortunately, this option isn't always available, sometimes the button is greyed out. Not all is lost, though. 

When There Are No Other Options

In that case, unless you want to root your phone, you'll have to settle for turning off notifications. You can also uninstall any updates that have occurred since you purchased the smartphone, so at least the app will take up less space. In my case, I was unable to disable some of the pre-installed Samsung apps. For instance, I could choose to disable apps called Samsung Billing and Samsung Galaxy, but not the Samsung account or Samsung keyboard app. You'll see an option to do this when uninstalling is not an option.

A Future With Less Bloatware?

Much of the bloatware you find on your phone is from either your carrier or the manufacturer of your phone. However, Google also puts bloatware on its Android smartphones and tablets. This is due to agreements in which Google requires carriers to pre-install their apps in exchange for access to the Google Play Store. So while you may use Google Maps and Google Hangouts, you may not want Google Play Games or Google+ (stop trying to make Google+ happen!).

It's possible we'll see less Google bloatware in the future though. According to Forbes.com, there are a few reasons why, one related to the launch of the Android One, the other because the European Commission recently opened an antitrust investigation into Android, partly because Google requires hardware manufacturers to pre-install a set of Google apps. Now, with Google launching its own smartphones, such as the Pixel, which is available unlocked, it's possible that a bloat-free future is in store for Android users, at least.

Let's hope this brings us closer to a world without bloatware. A geek can dream, right?

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