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.
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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 owl Pixel series of phones enjoying a reputation as the most bloatware-free Android handsets. If you're looking for an Android phone without bloatware look for phones running Stock Android or Android One, which is the basic OS as made by Google without the added user interface elements that other phone manufacturers and service providers might add on top.
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. Apple also famously downloaded the U2 album Songs of Innocence onto the devices of all iTunes users without their permission.
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Can I remove bloatware?
Successfully removing bloatware depends on your device.
Removing bloatware from Windows phones
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, or click Start > Settings > Apps to bring up a list of apps. Choose the app you want to get rid of and click Uninstall.
Removing bloatware from Android phones
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 and stop them running in the background, 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 and proceed with caution.
If you don't want to risk rooting you can disable the apps by going to Settings > Apps and navigating to the app you wish to disable, then tapping the disable button. You can also do it from the main screen by holding down your finger on the app's logo to bring up a menu which will give you the disable option.
A third option is to connect your phone to a laptop via USB and use software to remove the apps. For a detailed guide on how to do this see instructions on Android Guys.
Removing bloatware from Apple phones
Apple do say they don't include bloatware on their phones, but there might still be preinstalled apps you aren't using, such as Weather, Compass and others. These can be removed by pressing down on the app icon until it jiggles, then tap X and select remove. For an up-to-date list of preinstalled apps that can be removed see Apple's support website.
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