Bloatware doesn't sound pleasant, but it's a fairly mild condition: It's those apps that come preinstalled on your smartphone that you definitely didn't ask for and probably don't want. They're often used by manufacturers to push their own apps and services on top of (or instead of) what the smartphone offers by default.
The term was originally used to refer to Windows computers, which could come with a long list of third-party utilities and software suites on top of Windows itself, depending on who you bought the computer from. The situation has improved in recent years, but even today you can open up a brand-new Windows laptop and find yourself running trial versions of a half-dozen different apps, utilities, antivirus, and office tools.
While the vast majority of bloatware won't actually do anything harmful, these unwanted apps take up storage space and system resources that could be used by apps that you actually do want to use. They can also be confusing, leaving you with multiple apps on your phone that all do the same job.
From a security and privacy standpoint, it's a good idea to remove bloatware apps that you're not using. How you go about this will depend on the phone you're using.
How to Remove Bloatware on Android
Bloatware is a much more common problem on Android phones because there are so many more phonemakers putting out Android devices. In some cases, you can find yourself with a dozen apps or more that you don't really want or need (though the manufacturers themselves will be keen for you to give them a try).
To get rid of any app from your Android phone, bloatware or otherwise, open up Settings and choose Apps and notifications, then See all apps. If you're sure you can do without something, select the app then choose Uninstall to have it removed.
In some cases, you won't be able to completely remove an app because of the way the manufacturer has integrated it into its own version of Android. If this is the case, look for an option labeled Disable instead of Uninstall—this will at least prevent the app from running, using up vital system resources, and getting in your way.
The process may differ slightly depending on the make and model of your phone and the version of Android that you're running, but if you head to the main Settings app you should be able to remove or disable apps easily enough, leaving you with a phone that's a little less weighed down by unwanted junk.
As we've said, some Android phone makers will preinstall apps that can't be removed through the usual method. If you want to completely remove apps rather than disabling them, or you come across bloatware that can't even be disabled, then a couple of more advanced and involved options are open to you.
The first is to install the Android Studio developer tool on a Windows or macOS computer—you'll find the downloads on this page. Your phone also needs to be put into developer mode, which you can do by going to About Phone in Settings and tapping Build Number seven times: This will reveal a new Developer Options menu in the System section of Settings, in which you need to enable USB debugging. (There's no harm in doing this, but it does open up a number of new options you should take care using, if you experiment with them.)
You're now ready to connect your phone up to your computer via USB and get to work. Once the connection is physically in place, you need to open a PowerShell (Windows) or Terminal (macOS) window from the Android Studio folder where the Android Debug Bridge (ADB) is installed—on Windows you would head to C:\ Users\ <user>\ AppData\ Local\ Android\ Sdk\ platform-tools (where "<user>" is your Windows user account name), Shift+right-click inside the folder and choose Open PowerShell window here.
With the PowerShell or terminal window open, run the command ".\adb devices" to initiate the link and then "adb shell" to get control of the connected Android device (on a Mac you don't need the preceding ".\"). The final command you need is "pm uninstall -k –user 0 <appname>", with "<appname> the package name of the app you want to get rid of: You can use the free App Inspector on your phone to find these package names.
That's a brief, whistle-stop tour of what is quite a complicated and technical process. If you're serious enough about removing bloatware in this way, we'd recommend researching details for your particular phone model and reading more about ADB first, as well as consulting the excellent XDA Developers guide to the process (you might also find guides customized to your specific phone).
The second way to comprehensively pull out bloatware is to root your phone. As with ADB, this requires a little bit of technical know-how, but it'll also void your handset's warranty and introduce a (small) risk of bricking your device. It's a lot of trouble to go to to remove some unwanted apps, but the option is there if you need it.
If you think rooting is for you, it will give you full control over your phone and it's software. Again, XDA Developers has a detailed and comprehensive guide for all kinds of Android phones, and once you've modified your phone in this way you'll be able to make use of apps like Root App Deleter or System App Remover to get rid of unwanted apps.
How to Remove Bloatware on iPhones
iPhones have much less of a problem with bloatware, because it's only Apple that makes it (Yes, the iPhone, and all the pre-installed apps that come with one.) You could argue that some of Apple's less necessary apps match the definition of bloatware, but you definitely don't get any third-party, largely useless apps that you weren't expecting in advance.
Some of those pre-installed, stock apps—like Safari and Messages—can't be removed, but since iOS 10 launched in 2016, Apple has allowed users to remove a lot of the stock apps if they don't need them. The apps you can get rid of include Calculator, Calendar, Compass, Contacts, FaceTime, Home, iBooks, iCloud Drive, iTunes Store, Mail, Maps, Music, News, Notes, Podcasts, Reminders, Stocks, Tips, Videos, Voice Memos, Watch and Weather.
To remove any of these apps, do the same as you would with a third-party app: Long press on the icon, then choose Delete App from the menu that appears. You'll then be shown a confirmation window, so hit Delete to finish the process. If you need any of these apps again in the future, you can find them in the App Store.
In some cases removing the app won't remove the associated functionality, which is actually built into iOS itself. Delete FaceTime, for example, and you can still make and receive FaceTime calls through the Phone app. The Phone app also keeps hold of your contact list even if you delete the actual Contacts app.