Bloatware, it’s the scourge of the Android market! So what Android phone (or phones) has the least amount of bloatware? Let’s investigate…
Google creates, manages, and updates Android every single year. But most Android users never actually see Android in its purest form. Google licenses Android to its hardware partners – Samsung, OnePlus, Sony – and these manufacturers then “skin” Android with their own software UX.
This is why using a Samsung phone seems different from using a OnePlus phone, or a Sony phone. Each Android manufacturer has its own custom Android skin, a UX that sits on top of the Android software and, in most cases, adds in features and abilities unique to that brand.
And this is fine, most of the time. Because Android has been around for a while now, Google’s Android partners have gotten pretty good at creating good-looking, highly useful custom skins. Samsung’s is great, for instance, as is OnePlus’.
But one thing they ALL share is bloatware; it doesn’t matter whether you get a phone from Samsung, Xiaomi, RealMe, or Oppo, the phone will almost certainly ship with applications and software you DO NOT want. This is what we call bloatware. However, if you DO NOT want bloatware on your phone, what’re your options?
Android Phones With No Bloatware
When it comes to Android phones with no bloatware, you have a select few options. If you want a true Android experience, one with ZERO bloatware and Android running as Google intended, get a Pixel phone.
Google’s Pixel phones run Android and Google’s core Android apps – Chrome, YouTube, Drive, Gmail, etc. And that’s it. Google does not try and squeeze in additional, pointless apps. It just gives you want you need to get started. If you need more, you download them via Google Play.
So, to answer the question: if you want an Android phone with no bloatware, go with a Pixel phone. The Pixel 4a is currently the cheapest option available right now (and it is a killer phone that delivers insane value for money). If you want a flagship model, go with the Pixel 5.
I’m using the Pixel 5 now as my daily-driver and the phone is brilliant. The battery life is great, it looks smart and is perfectly sized. I love the OLED display and it was one of the first phones to get Android 11. Add in a market-leading camera and great video recording, as well as great performance in general, and you’re looking at one of the best Android phones on the market right now.
Best Pixel Phone Alternative?
If you want stock Android, meaning Android as it runs on Google’s Pixel phones, but you don’t want to buy a Pixel phone, the next best option would be one of Nokia’s Android phones.
Like Google, Nokia ships its Android phones with a stock Android configuration. And, like Google’s Pixel phones, Nokia’s Android phones – notably the more pricey ones – ship with very impressive cameras, as you’d expect from the company that invented the PureView camera.
The Nokia 9 PureView runs stock Android – version 10 – and will be getting Android 11 in the coming months. It features 6GB of RAM, runs on Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 845, and it comes with 128GB of internal storage. You also get an insane five-lens camera on the rear, as well as a 20MP front-facing camera.
And then there’s the price; Nokia sells this phone for less than £500/$500, making it a great option for users that want zero bloatware on their phone and plenty of value for money.
I’d still get the Pixel 4a or Pixel 5 over the Nokia 9 PureView. I just prefer Pixel phones. I like getting Android updates as soon as they’re ready. I also think the Pixel camera system, while not as spec-heavy has the Nokia 9 PureView’s, is actually the better shooter.
Google’s Pixel 5 is cheaper than the iPhone 12, has better battery life, and a superior camera. The phone runs Android 11 and will get updates until 2023. I love the design and the size of the phone; it’s big enough for media-viewing, but it isn’t so big that it becomes unwieldy. Add in gorgeous software and you’re looking at a truly brilliant Android phone.
Still, I wouldn’t write off Nokia just yet though; the company now makes a lot of very compelling Android phones, across a wide range of price points – and 90% of them are very cheap (think less than $300). In this respect, Nokia is applying the Xiaomi/RealMe model to gaining market share.
You can pick up Nokia’s phones via Amazon. Me personally, I’d go with a Pixel and if you’re in the USA, Verizon has some truly KILLER deals on Google’s Pixel phones right now.
Richard Goodwin has been working as a tech journalist for over 10 years. He is the editor and owner of KnowYourMobile.