When you first unbox your new phone and turn it on, it might come as a surprise to see that there are already a number of apps preinstalled on the device beyond what's part of Android. You might find the manufactuer's own app store, utilities and even games or social media apps that you've no intention of ever using.
We show you how to remove them to free up storage space or disable them if they refuse to go.
What is bloatware and why is it there?
The term bloatware has been around for a while and simply means software that is preinstalled by manufacturers after the operating system is installed. These apps can often be trials of paid versions or the manufacturer's own version of an email or calendar app.
By taking up room on your device the apps bloat your system, hence the name.
The principle of bloatware will be familiar to anyone who has bought a PC over the past, well, ever. It’s nearly always been impossible to power up a new laptop or desktop without being prompted to initialise your antivirus software trial. Windows 10 itself even comes with Candy Crush which - if you don't play it - is bloatware pure and simple.
The reason these annoyances are present is that companies pay the manufacturers to include them, which in turn means the device can be offered at a lower cost or at a higher profit.
Sadly, this behaviour has also made its way to phones, although it should be said that most of the bloatware we see these days are the duplications of standard app rather than additional ones to serve no purpose other than to cause you headaches.
This is an attempt by different brand to get you hooked on their own particular flavour of Android, in the hopes that you might sign up to their services (such as cloud storage) or stick with their devices when it’s time to upgrade.
Be sure to check out our own guide to the best cloud storage services to make sure you know what's out there before you commit to one the manufacturer recommends.
Can bloatware be deleted?
Not all of it, unfortunately. While it’s often possible to remove the trial software, many of the manufacturer’s ones are resistant to such efforts. It’s annoying to have valuable space taken up by these freeloaders, but you can at least take steps to disable them so they don’t hog other resources.
To see if you can remove the app from your system, go to Settings > Apps & notifications and select the one in question. (Your phone's settings app might look different, but look for an Apps menu.) If you see a button marked Uninstall then it means that the app can be deleted.
Be aware though, some other apps may use this particular one as part of their normal functions, so deleting it could cause a few problems. For email, calendars, and similar utility apps this usually isn’t an issue.
Tap Uninstall and the app should be removed from your device.
To stop an app from running on your phone open Settings then choose Apps & notifications and scroll until you find the one you’re looking to disable. Tap on it and you’ll be presented with a couple of options: Disable and Force Stop.
The latter will, as the name suggest, shut down an app immediately. But, this won’t prevent it from launching again. The most common use for Force Stop is when an app becomes unresponsive and you need to reboot it to get things going again.
Tap Disable and Android will prevent the app from running, plus it should also remove it from your app drawer, making it appear as if it has been deleted.
Reinstalling or Re-enabling apps
If you change your mind and want to put back or reinstate an app, then open the Google Play Store app, tap the three lines menu option, navigate to My Apps & games > Library, find the app, tap on it, and finally select either Install or Enable.
Of course, if you want to avoid bloatware of any kind then you can opt to buy a device that comes with a ‘pure’ version of Android, such as the Google Pixel 3, Google Pixel 3XL or any phone which includes Android One in its description.