How to remove bloatware to speed up your phone and free up storage

Lynn Wright / 19 July 2016

Frustrated by unwanted apps using up your mobile phone’s free space? Banishing bloatware isn’t easy but the end result is a faster phone with more storage.

What is bloatware?

Bloatware is unwanted software that comes pre-installed on your smartphone when you buy it. It’s not harmful – you may not even realise it’s there, as you may never use it – but bloatware can hog storage space and memory (RAM), significantly slowing down your phone.

Worse still, you may be stuck with this bloatware. Removing bloatware apps from your phone can range from fiddly to downright impossible, depending on the brand of smartphone or mobile phone network.

7 ways to free up memory on your iPhone

Why does my phone have bloatware?

Bloatware has been a problem on Windows PCs for many years, but while PC makers such as Lenovo have pledged to reduce and even eliminate bloatware, many phone manufacturers still stuff their handsets with unwanted apps and services.

On Android and Windows phones, manufacturers such as Samsung, HTC and LG, and service providers such as Vodafone and O2, may install their own apps to sell services. Throw in third-party bloatware – such as music-streaming services, games and toolbars – and you could be looking at a device that’s overloaded before you even start adding your own apps.

Bloatware is a particular issue for Android phone users. The amount of bloatware varies from one Android phone to another, with Google’s Nexus phones enjoying a reputation as the most bloatware-free Android handsets.

Apple is also guilty of preloading some apps on iPhones and iPads including Maps, Weather and Stocks. These, however, are useful core apps, rather than third-party software that’s intent on hooking you into paying monthly fees for something you don't need or want.

10 of the best free apps for iPad and iPhone

Can I remove bloatware?

Successfully removing bloatware depends on your device. It’s relatively easy to get rid of bloatware on a Windows Phone – simply tap-and-hold an app and select Uninstall from the context menu.

With Android smartphones, on the other hand, the ability to delete bloatware varies from handset to handset. This because each phone maker can customise Android to in effect create their own version of the operating system, which means that different Android phone brands and models look and work differently. With newer versions of Android, you can disable bloatware apps to hide them from view, but the only way to remove them entirely involves a technical process called ‘rooting’ your phone.

Rooting means getting access to your phone’s operating system folder so you can make fundamental system-wide changes. Once your phone is rooted, you can remove all bloatware as well as choose to install a more streamlined version of Android. Many Android users root their phones, but you must be aware that doing so is likely to void the phone manufacturer’s warranty and can damage your phone.

To root your Android phone, you need to download a free app such as Kingo Android Root which makes rooting as simple as a single tap. Be sure to back up your phone before attempting to root your device.

Find out how apps can threaten your privacy

The opinions expressed are those of the author and are not held by Saga unless specifically stated.

The material is for general information only and does not constitute investment, tax, legal, medical or other form of advice. You should not rely on this information to make (or refrain from making) any decisions. Always obtain independent, professional advice for your own particular situation.