There seems to be a bit less of the completely egregious crapware on phones - e.g. it’s been several versions since I’ve had a non-deletable NFL Football game on my phone. I once rooted a phone (probably my S5, come to think of it) partly because of that. Later ones (S7, then my current S9) are difficult or impossible to root and since I use it for business purposes, I’m not allowed to do so anyway (due to security issues / inability to patch etc.).
I suspect that even with an unlocked phone you’ll run into stuff you cannot delete. Looking at mine, there doesn’t seem to be all that much any more. Some of them include
- AR Zone
- Galaxy Store
- Digital Secure (a Verizon app; a couple other Verizon apps also)
- Internet (built-in browser)
There are probably a few others; I mostly looked at things I don’t typically use. There were a few I looked at that seemed unfamiliar, but that were installed due to my use of the phone for company purposes.
You can disable them, which means they’ll waste less space and use less battery power / data.
Honestly I’d say go for the biggest memory you can afford. Some apps can run off the SD card, but even if not, you’ll have more space for photos etc. which is important if you keep the phones that long. Plus, more RAM may make it more robust and less likely to slow down as ongoing “improvements” to the OS bog things down.
I’ve had my S9 for about 3 years and it has 6G of memory (of which it’s using half) and 128 GB of storage (it’s using about 75% of that - time to do some cleanup!).
The phones really do slow down as time goes by. My first smartphone was a Droid, bought in 2012. 2 years later it was so incredibly slow to respond that at times I literally could not answer the phone if I’d been using any other app at the time. I missed photo opportunities for the same reason. I did factory resets several times, which would help for a few weeks, but ultimately I truly HAD to upgrade (as opposed to later swaps, which were more for convenience / new toy reasons). My S9 is still working pretty well, nearly 3 years after I bought it.