Android has proved popular with carrier manufacturers over the past few years in part because of its capacity for modification. Any carrier or OEM can take Android and adjust it to their specifications. They can add custom skins, extra apps and whatever adjustments they feel necessary. It’s a way to help differentiate their products from competitors.
Or, at least that was the idea when Google released Android. The result is that every device manufacturer feels the need to add their crappy, half-baked first-party apps to Android. More often than not, OEMs add crappy apps and skins that slow down Android and make it worse. While skins have gotten better in the last year, many people still have devices from the bad old days of TouchWiz and Sense on Gingerbread.
Thankfully, this is Android. You can remove the carrier bloatware with some effort and creative modifications.
Change the default apps
One of the highlights of Android is that you can change out what apps are used for what. A quick trip to the Play Store will reveal third-party equivalents to anything and everything in the system.
Now, apply that ability to solving the bloatware problem. Don’t like the weird keyboard that HTC packaged with Sense 3? Download a new one from the Play Store and use that instead.
For reference, check out our Beat the Stock series. We’ve collected the best alternatives to the stock apps.
Freeze the offenders with Titanium Backup
We’ve covered Titanium Backup before. It is one of the most helpful apps on Android for rooted users. It can backup and restore your apps and their data.
However, Titanium Backup can also freeze certain apps. TB locks them from the other parts of the system and prevents them from running.
Frozen apps still require storage but can’t use any RAM or active memory. For all intents and purposes, a frozen app is gone.
This is better than deleting a system app because of stability issues. Certain apps are required for the system to run at all. Don’t go deleting stuff willy-nilly.
You can freeze apps by going into the app list in Titanium Backup. There is also the batch option in the upper right corner under the checkmark.
Be careful what you freeze. We managed to lock our phone into a vicious cycle of forced reboots that we couldn’t fix without a factory reset. Some phones have a list of delete-able apps.
Install a custom ROM
The last option is the most complete and the most time-consuming. If you’re up for it, using a custom ROM can completely remove all bloatware from your phone.
For those who might not have heard the term, a custom ROM is a complete redesign of Android. It replaces the software in your phone with a new version of Android custom-built by a member of the Android developer community.
If you want a bloatware-free ROM, you need one based on AOSP. Those ROMs are built like the stock Google versions and contain no extra apps, skins or themes.
We would highly recommend an AOSP ROM. The Google design scheme, Holo, is well-designed and looks excellent.
If you’re up for it, custom ROMs can be a useful way to remove the carrier crap from your phone. If nothing else, Holo ROMs look stylish.