You know the rumors about how the Galaxy S6 would have dramatically less bloatware? How a bunch of the Samsung apps would be deletable if not completely optional? Yeah, not true. It's a bummer, but the Galaxy S6 has as much bloatware as ever.
At first glance, the new S6 and S6 Edge appear to be less cluttered, but you'll actually find some 56 applications pre-installed. That's 6 more than the 50 you'll find on the Galaxy Note 4! Between the Google Apps you'll find on every phone (Play Newstand? Come on), Samsung's apps like S Voice and S Health, the new Microsoft apps like OneDrive (intended to soften the blow of no microSD slot), assorted social apps like Whatsapp and Instagram, and carrier apps (6 on T-Mobile), there's a ton of cruft. A Moto G I have hanging around—which runs near stock Android—starts with just 33.
And despite statements from Samsung that "Samsung has allowed users to remove the pre-installed applications on Galaxy S6 and S6 Edge," the most severe action you can take is "disabling" them. This removes them from the app drawer and the homescreen, but not from the phone entirely. You're basically opting instead to put them in a sort of stasis, out of sight but not out of storage.
So what is different from last time around, software-wise? Not much. The new Lollipop version of Samsung's TouchWiz Android skin makes it slightly less painful to disable apps in rapid succession. You can disable the calculator on the S6, which you couldn't on the Note 4. But that's about it. Minor, minor stuff. This is, for the most part, the same old bloat despite all our wild hopes.
Samsung made the following tweaks to its statement when I asked for a little clarification:
Simplicity is critical for usability and functionality, so Galaxy S6 and Galaxy S6 Edge offer a refined and optimized user experience and the offering of core and preloaded apps has been streamlined. Some apps can be uninstalled while some can be disabled, and this varies by region and carrier. Further, 40% of the features and steps have been deleted compared to previous models.
That's not to say there aren't improvements, though. The newest version of TouchWiz is slimmer and slicker and prettier than it's ever been. The extras Samsung puts around the actual operating system are less intrusive than ever, and in some ways actually make Android better. Samsung surfaces things like a media volume slider, which stock Android inexplicably buries.
The annoying new-phone chore of disabling all the bloatware apps is also at least slightly simpler than it has been in the past. The new UI makes it a four or five minute task as opposed to a seven or eight minute one if you're going so far as to disable the apps and dive into settings to delete all their stored data. Even if you don't, the bloatware doesn't take up that much room; not more than 100 MB or so as far as I can tell. That's a whole ton in the 32GB-at-minimum (but-more-like-24GB-once-you account-for-system-files-and-whatnot) scheme of things.
But we were hoping the S6 might be a close-to-stock dream come true, and having to deal with any of this cruft at all is a pain in the ass that makes Samsung's sweet new redesigned phone seem like a budget offering, crammed with excess software to help keep the price down. That's a terrific way to make a great phone feel gross right out of the box.