Mitigating Samsung bloat (A70)

I’ll start off on a positive note ! Someone very kindly gifted me their “old” A70 on getting a new phone, and I have to say it quite a step up from my trusty S5. The taller than normal OLED screen is amazingly clear and despite Samsungs best efforts the phone its very responsive. I’ve been isolated from Samsung bloat on the S5 as its running the rather excellent LineageOS, and for the time being the locked down bootloader won’t let me install TWRP, till I have another go at it I decided to give the stock rom a go for a while…

Oh dear Samsung, great hardware, but what a miserable UX (user experience), the worst thing is the on going interruptions to tell you what Samsung apps your missing out on, or numerous other services trying to grab your attention in order to turn you into a product.

Its not just that some of the apps are just awkward to use, or have irritating features you can’t turn off.

Time to clean house and make it MY phone !

You’ll need to install ADB (androids platform tools) and enable developer mode in settings, both of these are well documented elsewhere and shouldn’t present any trouble to someone with a modicum of common sense.

I strongly recommend that you back up any data as there is a chance if you’re too gung ho about disabling stuff you could just make something important non functional (very possibly fixable with adb) or worse still get into a boot loop…

You do this at your own risk ! I’m just telling you about a few tools that will help you take ownership of your property nothing more.

Right lets get to the fun stuff!

First of all it’s a good idea to get a list of all the package names to refer to so you can have something to copy and paste from.

adb shell pm list packages -f > packages.txt

I’m assuming Linux here as I find it a lot easier, (there’s an ocean of Windows oriented adb guides to get you going)

The -f switch gives you the apk file name which might be helpful, you can omit it if you just want a list of package names that’s easier to copy and paste from.

While it is tempting to just nuke anything with the word Samsung in the package name your phone will certainly fall over if you do that. The strategy here is to disable stuff first bit by bit, do occasional reboots and quick poke around your phone just to make sure the rest of the phones functionality hasn’t been compromised, then if needed uninstall them.

Don’t forget you can always do a factory reset by turning the phone off and then holding volume up and power down at the same time, this will get you into the stock recovery, you did do a back up right ?

To actually disable an app

adb shell pm disable-user --user 0

Where “” is the package that you want to disable. Like I said before the odd reboot now and again and poke around your phone to see everything is well is a good idea.

After a reboot and test of your phone its maybe a good idea to see what’s actually running

adb shell ps -A

Sometimes the system itself will start certain services even if they are disabled for the user, in this case we need to uninstall the package, I’ve opted to keep the majority of stuff disabled, and only uninstall one or two things.

adb shell pm uninstall -k --user 0

I would suggest the -k switch which keeps the packages data and cache intact might be a good idea, who knows what some of these packages might be expecting if they get reinstalled, at the least it should prevent having to go through some initial settings dialogue.

I’m actually happy with the results, my app draw even after installing the usual suspects from Fdroid all fit onto one screen (okay I do have a few folders for games and tools) but there’s a LOT less junk and even better I’m not being interrupted all the time by various Samsung services.

While I’m extremely grateful to be gifted this phone, I have to say in future I won’t be touching Samsung products or any other unless I can be sure that the manufacturer hasn’t gone out of their way to make it difficult to install a custom recovery. Additionally as despite having other Samsung products I’ve usually immediately installed a custom rom like LineageOS, I’ve never realised just how awful Samsung’s UX is.

What a really miserable experience, I guess a lot of people just get used to it, or don’t realise there’s an alternative.

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