I review plenty of Chinese smartphones, from brands like Xiaomi, Realme, Vivo, Oppo and more, and a common complaint I level at them is bloatware, or pre-installed apps.
You turn on your brand-new smartphone, and the home screen is chock-full of different functions, tools, and apps, sometimes even third-party ones, and you're left wondering "wait, is this a second-hand phone?". The lack of bloatware is one reason so many people love stock Android.
I don't review iPhones, and I haven't owned one since a second-hand iPhone 6 I inherited from my mum about a hundred years ago. I just got an iPhone 13 Pro though, to do a camera comparison with the Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra, and saw something I totally didn't expect: a horrible amount of bloatware.
I haven't installed a single app on this iPhone, and the home screen is already cluttered with loads of stuff.
The first page is super busy with stuff like FaceTime, Apple TV, Maps, Health, News, Podcasts, Wallet, Reminders, and the apps even spill onto a second home page with Books, Translate, Stocks, Tips, whatever Shortcuts is, Home, Find My, iTunes Store, and a folder with even more apps in it.
Why would Apple think that, if I was interested in stocks, I wouldn't be able to download an app for it? That I need them to pre-install it for me?
Loads of these pre-installed apps make the bold assumption that I'm already deep into the Apple ecosystem. Things like Apple TV, Home and Watch all assume I've already given the company plenty of my money.
Apple really needs to take a leaf out of Google's book by combining these apps too. Why can't TV, Podcasts, iTunes Store and Books all be combined into one, like how Google Play covers most of these functions? Having them as separate apps just results in a cluttered screen.
iOS' messy-looking user interface design doesn't exactly help with the appearance of its home screen, but there really are too many pre-installed apps here.
Are people okay with this?
The iPhone might have the worst bloatware experience I've had from any phone I've tested.
I know not everyone will agree with this - some people think that Apple can do no wrong, that everything they do is holy. But while my exclamation upon booting up the iPhone 13 Pro started with 'Holy...' it finished quite differently.
But why don't people call out Apple for its bloatware? Many people criticize Chinese phones for their pre-installed apps, but most I've tested have fewer pre-installed ones than this, and even those brands aren't cheeky enough to try and sell you more devices like Watch or Home does.
Stock Android feels like a clean meadow in comparison. Even though Google has quite a few apps, they're all hidden in one folder on the home screen, and Google doesn't pre-install all its apps either.
Knowing what iPhone users are okay with, I'm certainly going to be more lenient on Chinese manufacturers and their pre-installed apps going forward. And if you're an iPhone user who assumes that this mess of pre-installed apps is the norm for smartphones: pick up an Android, you'll be pleasantly surprised.
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Tom Bedford was deputy phones editor on TechRadar until late 2022, having worked his way up from staff writer. Though he specialized in phones and tablets, he also took on other tech like electric scooters, smartwatches, fitness, mobile gaming and more. He is based in London, UK and now works for the entertainment site What To Watch.
He graduated in American Literature and Creative Writing from the University of East Anglia. Prior to working on TechRadar, he freelanced in tech, gaming and entertainment, and also spent many years working as a mixologist. He also currently works in film as a screenwriter, director and producer.