Ok, you have a shiny new S21 Ultra, or a Note 21, or any of the new/old Samsung Phones. What can you do to make them more private, and remove some battery hungry apps.
You have two options when it comes to Samsung. One is the 'rooted' road with a custom ROM, if that is the way you're planning to go I highly recommend going to the XDA Developers Forum and finding the device you are looking at (or have already obtained) and find a custom ROM that fits your needs.
A less radical way, which won't break your Samsung warranty, is the removal of bloatware via ADB and then tweaking the phone to your needs. Today's chapter addresses this, and I'll dive into ADB bit first.
You have two options here, one called Packagedisabler where you can disable packages, simple and via an app. The app has Google ANALytics in the background which makes it less exciting as it advertises its services. The second option is not with an app, but actually disable/remove the apps from your user space on the phone.
Enable Developer options on the device. Open:
Settings> About phone > Software information
(on a Galaxy S21 for instance) and tap ‘Build number‘ 7 times.
Upon reaching the 'Developer mode has been enabled” message, go back and tap 'Developer options'.
Scroll down and turn on ‘USB debugging‘, tap ‘Allow‘ once prompted.
Since you have enabled USB debugging on your Galaxy S21, Note 20 or probably most other Samsung devices which work in the same way, your phone is now ready to accept commands via ADB directly from your computer.
Open your Terminal or comment prompt on your PC, connect your phone to the PC via USB-C and type:
Here you can delete bloatware with the following comment:
pm uninstall --user 0 (package name)
Replace package name with the actual name of the package you would like to remove.
Just hit enter and the programs will be uninstalled, for example:
pm uninstall --user 0 com.samsung.android.bixby.wakeup pm uninstall --user 0 com.samsung.android.bixby.service pm uninstall --user 0 com.samsung.android.app.spage pm uninstall --user 0 com.samsung.android.app.routines pm uninstall --user 0 com.samsung.android.bixby.service pm uninstall --user 0 com.samsung.android.visionintelligence pm uninstall --user 0 com.samsung.android.bixby.agent pm uninstall --user 0 com.samsung.android.bixby.agent.dummy pm uninstall --user 0 com.samsung.android.bixbyvision.framework
Samsung Pass & Samsung Pay
pm uninstall --user 0 com.samsung.android.samsungpassautofill pm uninstall --user 0 com.samsung.android.authfw pm uninstall --user 0 com.samsung.android.samsungpass pm uninstall --user 0 com.samsung.android.spay pm uninstall --user 0 com.samsung.android.spayfw
pm uninstall --user 0 com.facebook.katana pm uninstall --user 0 com.facebook.system pm uninstall --user 0 com.facebook.appmanager pm uninstall --user 0 com.facebook.services
Samsung Game Launcher
pm uninstall --user 0 com.samsung.android.game.gamehome pm uninstall --user 0 com.enhance.gameservice pm uninstall --user 0 com.samsung.android.game.gametools pm uninstall --user 0 com.samsung.android.game.gos pm uninstall --user 0 com.samsung.android.gametuner.thin
Samsung Gear VR
pm uninstall --user 0 com.samsung.android.hmt.vrsvc pm uninstall --user 0 com.samsung.android.app.vrsetupwizardstub pm uninstall --user 0 com.samsung.android.hmt.vrshell pm uninstall --user 0 com.google.vr.vrcore
Samsung DeX (useful if you like to use your phone on a TV)
pm uninstall --user 0 com.sec.android.desktopmode.uiservice pm uninstall --user 0 com.samsung.desktopsystemui pm uninstall --user 0 com.sec.android.app.desktoplauncher
Samsung’s LED Cover (useful if you use Samsung's original LED cover)
pm uninstall --user 0 com.samsung.android.app.ledbackcover pm uninstall --user 0 com.sec.android.cover.ledcover
Samsung Browser (download Bromite or Fennec first)
pm uninstall --user 0 com.sec.android.app.sbrowser pm uninstall --user 0 com.samsung.android.app.sbrowseredge
pm uninstall --user 0 com.samsung.android.email.provider pm uninstall --user 0 com.wsomacp
pm uninstall --user 0 com.android.bips pm uninstall --user 0 com.google.android.printservice.recommendation pm uninstall --user 0 com.android.printspooler
Samsung Edge (useful if you use the Edge)
pm uninstall --user 0 com.samsung.android.service.peoplestripe
pm uninstall --user 0 com.samsung.android.kidsinstaller pm uninstall --user 0 com.samsung.android.app.camera.sticker.facearavatar.preload
pm uninstall --user 0 com.dsi.ant.sample.acquirechannels pm uninstall --user 0 com.dsi.ant.service.socket pm uninstall --user 0 com.dsi.ant.server pm uninstall --user 0 com.dsi.ant.plugins.antplus pm uninstall --user 0 com.android.egg pm uninstall --user 0 com.sec.android.easyonehand pm uninstall --user 0 com.sec.android.widgetapp.samsungapps pm uninstall --user 0 com.samsung.android.mateagent pm uninstall --user 0 com.sec.android.easyMover.Agent pm uninstall --user 0 com.samsung.android.app.watchmanagerstub pm uninstall --user 0 com.sec.android.daemonapp pm uninstall --user 0 com.samsung.android.app.social pm uninstall --user 0 com.samsung.android.aremoji pm uninstall --user 0 com.google.ar.core pm uninstall --user 0 flipboard.boxer.app pm uninstall --user 0 com.samsung.android.wellbeing pm uninstall --user 0 com.samsung.android.da.daagent pm uninstall --user 0 com.samsung.android.service.livedrawing pm uninstall --user 0 com.sec.android.mimage.avatarstickers pm uninstall --user 0 com.hiya.star pm uninstall --user 0 com.microsoft.appmanager pm uninstall --user 0 com.touchtype.swiftkey pm uninstall --user 0 com.netflix.partner.activation pm uninstall --user 0 com.microsoft.skydrive pm uninstall --user 0 com.google.android.apps.tachyon
Launcher (if you don't have another launcher installed do not remove!)
pm uninstall --user 0 com.sec.android.app.launcher
pm uninstall --user 0 com.google.android.youtube pm uninstall --user 0 com.google.android.googlequicksearchbox pm uninstall --user 0 com.android.hotwordenrollment.xgoogle pm uninstall --user 0 com.google.android.apps.docs pm uninstall --user 0 com.google.android.apps.maps pm uninstall --user 0 com.android.chrome pm uninstall --user 0 com.google.android.apps.photos pm uninstall --user 0 com.google.android.tts pm uninstall --user 0 com.google.android.videos pm uninstall --user 0 com.google.android.gms.location.history pm uninstall --user 0 com.sec.android.app.chromecustomizations
If you want to remove even more Google, this removes the Google Framework and the Google Playstore but use with caution!
pm uninstall --user 0 com.google.android.onetimeinitializer pm uninstall --user 0 com.google.android.as pm uninstall --user 0 com.google.android.gm pm uninstall --user 0 com.google.android.setupwizard pm uninstall --user 0 com.android.sharedstoragebackup pm uninstall --user 0 com.google.android.gsf pm uninstall --user 0 com.google.android.partnersetup pm uninstall --user 0 com.android.vending pm uninstall --user 0 com.google.android.gms
Please note that ADB does not really remove the applications, but uninstalls them in the user's account. In other words, these applications can easily be reinstalled with a factory reset or also with this simple comment:
cmd package install-existing [package name]
Removing these apps via ADB is the first step, now let's get you more private. The main problem on Android is you are using Google's DNS request 'out of the box', sadly not even encrypted. Considering google gas google.dns as an encrypted DNS option.
DNS Go to Settings -> Network & Internet -> Advanced -> Private DNS
Enter an DNS server, this can be any, for example:
which is a German provider who directly blocks a lot of Ad-, Trackers and Malware domains You can also jump over to NextDNS and have a look at their service as you can select your own blockers, which could include a Samsung list.
This not only gets your DNS requested as encrypted, but also makes sure all your DNS requests are not redirected as your ISP might not approve!
Another great option would be using a Firewall
With Netguard, get the one from GitHub, pay in bitcoin and set it up with a total lockdown on apps then only allow apps that you totally trust! You can even allow some apps that only work when the screen is on! On Netguard you can add your own domain blocklists via an txt file and block them locally, Netguard also allows the combination with the build in DNS service mentioned earlier. What make the setup encrypted and combines a firewall to the setup. Consider checking each app, do they really need network access? Like your calculator? Your Gallery... block what you don't need online. You can even choose if you have apps only working when the screen is on, only on WiFi or only on Mobile etc. A great setup worth paying and using.
2) AdGuard https://adguard.com/en/welcome.html
AdGuard can do basically the same as Netguard, but has DNS built in. It also let you choose on websites you open in your browser to block elements of the site.
We've tested both apps and both work really well. Netguard is open-source, super easy to use and setup in lockdown mode but then so is AdGuard, However, it has a few great, additional features:
Personalized DNS services via DNS-over-HTTPS and DNS-over-TLS which are two great, first steps to privacy, as you can read here.
There is more though, for example, the Blocklist feature which both blocks an already impressive, pre-offered list but which also allows you to add your own suggestions or lists!
You can even block directly at a DNS level
Click on AdGuard -> Settings -> DNS Filter
Select the DNS server you like, or add your own
Use the same lists on AdGuard -> Settings -> Content Blocking -> Filters -> Custom Filters
Go to Settings -> Content Blocking -> Filters -> User rules and enter
Please remember if you use AdGuard or Netguard (we strongly recommend you do!)
AdGuard -> Settings -> Apps Management
Go over every app and choose if you want that app to go online on WiFi, Cellphone or not when the screen is off! This is an incredible feature to have, and it is also a super spy saver as Samsung routinely connects in apps like Camera, Calculator and Gallery Samsung servers.
It should go unquestionably, if you want privacy, do not use any Google services or the Playstore. The best open-source store for Android is called f-droid, and you should find most of the apps you need in there. If not, you can download Aurora Store on F-droid, don't use your Google login but click anonymous.
Disable Google Maps and replace it with OsmAnd~!
For email program use FairEmail or perhaps go Protonmail or Tutanota for maximum privacy.
FreeOTP+ is a great applications for 2FA and you are able to backup or restore your 2FA from another phone (as long as it also has FreeOTP+.).
I strongly recommend getting Scrambled Exif which removes Metadata from your photos. Every time you share a picture to any app, just select Scrambled Exif first and then the app with which you want to share the picture with, it then removes all metadata and makes your life a little more private.
The 'out of the box' weather app tracks you and you don't really want or need this so another great weather app that respects your privacy is called Forecastie
CalDAV/CardDAV Synchronization and Client, which allows you to sync your contacts and calendar with Nextcloud and other services.
You do like Twitter? Do you tweet? Perhaps check Mastodon and dump Twitter for good, you can always follow the people you need to follow with an app called Fritter or use Nitter to do the same on a browser.
Replace your Internet Browser (Samsungs and Chrome) with something more friendly like Fennec F-droid and as a second option, what protects your privacy consider the Tor Browser
Download NewPipe, you won't regret it, its better then YouTube's own app, has no ads and you can even download MP3 or Movie files. Awesome also for your privacy. NewPipe also has PeerTube built in!
Do you really need the speediest app? If so, go with Librespeed
Use Barinsta to follow people.
UntrackMe is my favorite app, it redirects twitter to nitter, youtube to invidious or Newpipe, Instagram to Bibliogram, Reddit to teddit and it keeps you private on any link someone sends you! A must have
Well, don't get me started, a good messenger would be SchildiChat which connects to Matrix so it is compatible with FluffyChat, Element and everything Matrix. If you need to go more mainstream, use Threema (download over shop.threema.ch) or if you really must have your Pohne number involved use Signal (use the APK from Signals website.
Now the question I get a lot is like "but if I am not logged in to Google or Samsung and I use an VPN, no one could track me to my real location.!", well... I recommend a firewall like Netguard or AdGuard over a VPN. Simply because you can block apps from having access to the internet. The next question about your VPN idea is can you trust your VPN? Do they log? Only saying "we don't log" doesn't really mean they don't log.
Finally, ask yourself, do I need all the apps I have installed? Or could I access a website to archive the same?
Stay safe, and start taking power away from Google and the like! It starts on your phone. The 'ankle monitor' you carry around with you most of the day.