Just the sound of the word bloatware is enough to annoy, and for many smartphone users, having preinstalled apps they don’t want or need cluttering up their shiny new smartphones can be enough to inspire rage. For enterprises, bloatware can cause even bigger problems, so knowing how to remove or disable bloatware effectively is a vital tool for any IT administrator.
Here’s a guide on how to identify and eradicate those unwanted apps from your user’s mobile phones — and your life.
What Is Bloatware?
Bloatware is commonly defined as preloaded software on the device which is extraneous to your daily needs. Of course, deciding what constitutes bloatware is subjective, given that one person’s annoyance is another person’s vital tool, or perhaps guilty pleasure. Carriers and manufacturers preload these apps because they think they will be useful or add to the experience for at least a portion of their customer base.
Why Should Bloatware Be Disabled?
While bloatware will typically not harm a device, it can slow it down, with some apps operating in the background taking up valuable computing resources.
However, in certain cases, these preloaded apps cannot be uninstalled by the user. For consumers, this may be a nuisance, but for businesses deploying thousands of devices, it can be a more serious problem. If your corporate device usage policy precludes employees from playing games on their phones, it hardly makes sense for you to issue devices with the latest mobile arcade hits preloaded. For enterprise IT, it’s a good practice to review the preloaded apps and determine which of them should be disabled or removed from your corporate mobile fleet.
A note of caution, however. Some apps which you think are unnecessary today could become important in the future or may even undermine the functioning of the device. While many of these apps are available to download, not all are, and deleting them should be done with that in mind.
How to Disable Bloatware
With Samsung’s Knox Configure, a cloud-based service that lets IT admins remotely configure Samsung Galaxy smartphones such as the Galaxy S9 and S9+, as well as tablets and wearables, bloatware removal can be automated to take it out of the hands of end users and ensure any extraneous apps are disabled.
Leveraging the Knox Configure Dynamic Edition, mobility managers can create a gold standard image for all users that is automatically applied to devices as they boot. This includes everything from setting a default home screen wallpaper, to disabling Wi-Fi, or adding a set of corporate contacts to the device. Almost any device setting can be configured remotely through the Knox Configure console, providing significant time savings when compared with a manual configuration process.
Bloatware removal or disabling is part of the robust applications and content configuration feature set. After creating a profile, the mobile admin can simply enter the package name/s of the applications they wish to disable into the console. When the user boots up a device registered to that profile, the application will be uninstalled. Note that some preloaded apps are “baked” into the OS so cannot be completely removed, but they can still be disabled and hidden from the user’s view using Knox Configure.
Mobile admins can implement a range of other application-related configurations, many of which cater to enterprises concerned about device security. These configurations include blocking applications from unknown sources, disabling pre-installed browsers, blacklisting or whitelisting specific apps, or disabling the Google Play store. Knox Configure also allows an admin to create customized devices that are locked into a single application which opens automatically when the device is turned on.
What About Security?
Properly handing mobile security is always important. By implementing appropriate controls over a user’s ability to install updates, change settings and add unnecessary apps, enterprises make it much more difficult for attackers to breach their systems.
While bloatware removal can allow administrators to remove apps which could potentially cause security issues, it should be noted that deleting certain apps could cause issues with security.
In some cases, certain apps like the firmware-over-the-air client are important in order to receive regular software updates from your carrier and/or manufacturer, and if these have been disabled, they may prevent the updates. IT professionals should evaluate which apps should be an essential part of a phone update to ensure all-around security.
Keeping software up-to-date is one of the key ways to ensure your devices and information is protected. Admins will need to ensure that any bloatware they are removing won’t delay the rollout of new versions of the operating system.
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