Getting Rid of Android Bloatware

by Sandra Henshaw - , Last Updated on April 17, 2016, Android

If you’ve just picked up a new Android phone, then you might have noticed that there are already a fair few apps on it. Since you haven’t had a chance to connect to the Google Play Store to download your faves yet, you might be a little confused about these instant apps. This is what we call bloatware, and we’re going to be taking a look at what it is, why you might not want it, and how to get rid of it. So if you’re looking to improve your phone’s performance and free up some memory space, keep reading!

What is Bloatware and Why Don’t I Want It?

Alrighty, let’s start at the very beginning. One of the things that most of us love about Android is that it’s so customisable. However, this is something that manufacturers, and sometimes also mobile operators, like about Android too. When you buy a new phone the chances are that the manufacturer has already added in a bunch of apps, what’s called bloatware. Generally, bloatware apps have the manufacturer name in them, so Motorola Spotlight player, for example, though Samsung bloatware usually just has an S, such as S Health. In some cases this is no big deal, particularly if it’s an app that you like, want to use, or were going to download anyway. In other cases you might want to get rid of those apps.

Why? Well, for a couple of reasons. Firstly, those apps take up precious memory space on your phone, space that might be better used for storing your own pictures, music, or chosen apps. Secondly, many of these apps run in the background and can help drain your battery. In both instances, removing the bloatware should improve your phone’s performance. So how do we go about getting rid of these pesky apps?

Remove vs. Freeze

Before we actually remove anything, let’s discuss the dangers of messing around with your phone, and there are some (but don’t worry, we have solutions to them). Uninstalling an app is exactly what it sounds like, you hit uninstall and the app is gone for good. If you download Candy Crush from the Play Store, decide you don’t like it and then uninstall it, it’s gone. If you change your mind later, you’ll need to go back to the Play Store and download it all over again. That’s all well and good, but many of these manufacturer bloatware apps are not available through the Play Store, which means if you uninstall them, they’re gone forever.

Which brings us to another point. Bloatware apps are sort of “built in” to your phone. That means that removing them completely can result in instability and performance issues. Uninstall a bloatware app and suddenly your phone starts freezing randomly? Yeah, that’s probably because you uninstalled the app, and if you can’t get it back again because it’s not at the Play Store, you might be in trouble. Of course, you can always factory reset your phone and get all those bloatware apps back again, but that means losing a bunch of your data that’s already on the phone, and besides, there’s an easier way.

Freezing an app means that the app is technically still on your phone, but it won’t appear in your app drawer and it won’t be allowed to do anything (such as sneakily run in the background) until you unfreeze it. If your phone starts to act up, all you need to do is go into settings and unfreeze the app you think is to blame and problem solved. Obviously, that makes freezing a much better solution to your bloatware removal problem. But how to do it?

Freezing Apps with Android

Fortunately, freezing apps is dead simple. Go into your settings app, select “apps,” slide the screen over until you’re at the tab that says “all,” then find the app that you want to freeze. Click on the app name and then click on the button underneath it that says “disable.” That’s it, you’re done. Should you need to bring that app back to life, all you need to do is repeat the process, this time clicking the button that says “enable.” Done and dusted.

But wait, there’s no “disable” button? Ah, then you might have a problem. If the app doesn’t have an option to disable the chances are that you’re just going to have to keep it. In fact, that’s probably your easiest solution, though you can disable or remove it if you really want to…

When It Doesn’t Work!

Okay, so, there’s no disable option next to the app you want to freeze? Or maybe you’re on an old version of Android and the above process doesn’t work for you. Or maybe you want to ignore our advice and uninstall apps completely (it’s okay, we don’t take it personally, but remember, you have been warned about this!). If you fall into any of the above categories then there is a solution, but it’s not an easy one. Firstly, you’re going to need to “root” your phone. Rooting differs by phone model, so you’ll need to Google for some instructions on that one. Rooting may invalidate your warranty, and it might also go wrong, leaving you with a mobile that doesn’t work at all, plus, it does require a little technical know how (not a lot though). Again, you’ve been warned, proceed with this at your own risk.

Once your phone is rooted, you’ll need to head into your settings menu, choose “applications,” then “developer options,” then “enable USB debugging.” Once that’s done, you’ll need to download an app that’s going to do all the work for you. Titanium Backup is the best app for this, though you’ll pay a few pounds for it. If you’re looking for a free option, then check out App Quarantine or NoBloat. Then just follow the instructions on your chosen app. Done.

The Bottom Line

We’re not going to lie to you, your best option here is always going to be freezing apps using Android’s built in system for doing so. The rooting and uninstalling options are slightly complicated, and much more risky. Should you not have the option to disable an app, then it’s best just to live with it rather than risking your expensive smart phone!

In general though, it’s pretty easy to freeze your bloatware, leaving you with more memory space and better battery life, and meaning that you can fill up your phone with the apps you actually want to have.