Saturday, July 27, 2013

Remove Android Bloatware: How to Uninstall or Disable Unwanted Software from your Mobile Device

The first time I received my Samsung Galaxy Note 2 from my cellular carrier, Globe Telecom (Philippines), I was greeted by not only the impressive hardware design of the phone and the latest Android operating system at the time (Jelly Bean 4.1), but also many bundled apps that I found no particular use and benefit for my lifestyle. In other words, I saw them as bloatware, which were insisting their presence on my device even if they were useless to me. The appropriate thing for me to do next was clear: to get rid of the apps guilty of loitering in my phablet.

How to remove Android bloatware

Uninstalling unnecessary software from an Android device is not exactly hard or impossible, but it is also not as easy as how you remove preinstalled applications in your Microsoft Windows-based computer. The later versions of Google’s mobile operating system have been given some easier ways to do the task, but limitations still apply.

Why Do Bloatware Exist?

Before heading to the proper guide, one might be interested on how apps—the ones that many purchasers didn’t ask for—happen to be in their gadgets right out of the box. Most of the time, they eat away your device’s resources: slowing down CPU performance and reducing usable storage space. They bring a negative impact to your mobile experience. So why did someone bother to include them? Is it merely a screw-you gesture by your cellphone carrier? Globe was polite enough to only add its company logo as one of the stock background images in my NotBloated Androide 2, but Samsung did the liberty of adding its own trash. I also know that other networks aren’t as kind, adding more worthless crap and ruining overall customer satisfaction.

As much as you hate it, they add these junk software because cellular networks or manufacturers—whichever responsible for preinstalling said crap—get paid for doing so. They obviously already gain profit from selling the devices, but their insatiable hunger for money drives them to exploit the users more. Poor us, the consumers…

Benefits of Removing Android Bloatware

Being the victims of capitalistic exploitation, it is then up to us the consumers to eradicate unwanted applications in our mobile devices. Successfully doing so frees up extra storage space that we can use for other apps that we actually want. Perhaps some of you are minimalistic in nature, and their imposing presence just irks you all the time. Naturally, they’re out of your mind when they’re out of sight. Even if some bloatware are designed to run in the background, their existence is still felt as they drag down the processing speed and consume mobile data, two things that are much better used for the apps you really need.

Risks, Scope, and Limitations

By reading and applying the steps in the proper guide below, you acknowledge the possible risks that you may accrue. Harmful consequences include system instability, crashes and sporadic reboots, and even totally bricking of your phone. You have been warned. Tinkering with your phone’s system settings, ROM, etc. may also void your phone’s warranty.

Bricked smartphone

Also note that I made this guide using my Samsung Galaxy Note 2 that ran on Android 4.1.2 Jelly Bean. Other devices, especially ones under different brands and with other Android versions may have different yet similar steps to disabling bloatware, if not totally incompatible with the guide.

How to Remove Android Bloatware

Let’s start with the safest method: disabling apps. Yes, it’s not exactly getting rid of undesirable applications from your mobile device, so storage space is still wasted. Since they still persist within the system, the bloatware remain there even when you perform a factory reset. On the other hand, any offending apps you disable will no longer appear in the app list. They also stop running in the background and affecting CPU performance and battery life.

To disable a mobile application, simply go to your device’s Settings. Once you’re there, head to the Application manager. Switch tabs to list all apps, not just the ones that you downloaded and ones that are currently running. Scroll through the list and find the software that you want disabled. Tap on it to proceed to its App info page. If the version of your Android OS allows it, the Disable button is available and not grayed out. Tap the button and confirm your decision in the warning pop-up dialog box. The app is now disabled. All disabled apps are located at the bottom of the All apps list tab, in case you want to re-enable them.

All Apps listDisable on App info page

Note that your OS may not allow you to disable certain apps. Other software, on the other hand, is up to your discretion on whether you want them deactivated or not. But as the warning states, disabling built-in apps may cause errors in other apps and your device’s system. When you put the Messaging apps out of action, for instance, you won’t be able to send and receive text messages unless you enable it back or install another SMS app.

If disabling is not enough, you can opt for completely replacing your stock ROM with a custom one, such as CyanogenMod, AOKP, Paranoid Android, and SlimBean. These 3rd-party modifications of the Android OS are most likely bundled with the fewest extra software along with the essentials. End result? More free space, less clutter, less performance impact. However, the process required to flash a custom ROM is not something an average mobile user can easily do. Chances of bricking the device also exist.

An easier alternative to flashing is using apps, such as Titanium Backup and Gemini App Manager, that removes bloatware for you. By approving their request for root or superuser access to your device, they have full privilege to uninstalling any software. Just like with disabling apps, complete removal also runs the risk of making your device unstable. Reverting your device back to its stable state will be even harder since you can’t simply re-enable the permanently deleted apps, whose absence has caused the aforementioned instability. Be careful.

Gemini App ManagerGemini App Manager available actions

Yet another risky method is available for any Android daredevils out there: a nifty bloatware removal script built by the folks at XDA Developers. If you have the right knowledge, the devs claim that you can even get rid of more than 20 apps in just 3 seconds or less. Use the script improperly and your smartphone might end up unable to boot up.

If the thought of getting bloatware from a newly bought phone is downright annoying to you, perhaps you should just opt for the purist Android path. Just buy any Nexus device, the software innards of which are the default experiences that Google intended for its Android users. No extras, no frills, no annoyance.

My List of Disabled Apps

To be honest, I only used the disable method since I just cannot go on experimenting with my one and only smartphone. Anyway, here are some of the apps that I disabled and so far haven’t caused any negative performance and stability impact to my handset:

  • ChatON – a mobile communication service by Samsung.
  • Popup Browser – an extension to Samsung’s default Internet browser that overlaps the current app screen with an adjustable window. This may be useful to some, but I still prefer the speedy Google Chrome.
  • Readers Hub Store – an online digital newsstand. I’ve chosen Kindle, so no thank you.
  • S Suggest – an app discovery tool that recommends software for you. Google’s Play Store already has its own suggestions that works for me.
  • S Voice – Samsung’s take on Apple Siri voice assistant. Until they’ve perfected voice recognition, these features are just gimmicks to most people.