Bloatware has always been, and probably always will be a problem with smartphones, partly because it’s such a broad term. One man’s bloatware is another man’s useful function, so phone manufacturers never really know how to go about solving that issue. In the recent years, a welcome trend has started to appear where a lot of the pre-installed applications can be disabled or even completely removed if needed. Unfortunately, there will always be something poking someone’s eye, an app that you can’t remove but is continually working in the background and maybe even using up your data.
At this point, NetGuard steps in, allowing you to control which apps get access to the internet and which ones don’t. Made by a dutch developer Marcel Bokhorst, this is a free and open source firewall solution which makes it a lot easier for you to keep some naughty apps at bay. It even comes in useful in case of installing shady applications, preventing them from phoning home and compromising your privacy. It does have the option of paying and unlocking extra functionality, but the free version works as advertised and without any wonky time and usage limitations.
Usually, firewalls for Android require root permission for accessing the iptables binaries and controlling your phone’s network. Thankfully, NetGuard makes use of a well known and often used function in stock Android – it’s ability to create Virtual Private Networks. What NetGuard does is creates it’s own VPN which is under it’s control, and Android routes all traffic through it, just as it would through any other VPN. Since the VPN created is under NetGuard’s control, it is able to manipulate the flow of data and allow/prevent selected apps from going on the wider web. Quite a smart solution, especially given how it consumes practically no battery unless you turn on advanced data analysis features. Time to take control back into your own hands!