Ask LH: How Can I Beat My App Addiction And Clean Up My Smartphone?

Ask LH: How Can I Beat My App Addiction And Clean Up My Smartphone?

Dear Lifehacker, I have too many apps on my smartphone and I can never find what I’m looking for. I know I can just delete them, but I don’t want to get rid of an app I might use. How can I reduce the number of apps on my phone and keep them organised without getting rid of something important? Sincerely, App Addicted

Title image remixed from an original by Kamenetskiy Konstantin (Shutterstock).

Dear AA,

With the sheer number of apps available, and so many coming, recommended by us and other sources, it’s easy to wind up with so many that your smartphone (or tablet) becomes a cluttered mess. However, if you can set aside 15-30 minutes during your day, you can tidy up pretty quickly and maintain an organised mobile device. Here’s how to do it in four steps.

Step One: Declare App Bankruptcy


If you have so many apps that the prospect of cleaning them all up seems too daunting, wipe them all out and start from scratch. It’ll be much easier for you to take your mobile device and add what you think is important than to try and figure out which apps you can part with. Both options will take you some time, as you’re dealing with many, many apps, but if you have to make many decisions it’s better to apply your critical eye to which apps not to add rather than which apps you can bear to delete. Once your mobile device only has the essential apps you’ve chosen, you can start getting organised. [imgclear]

Step Two: Put Your 12 Most-Used Apps on One Page


Your home screen can likely fit more than 12 apps, but you’re going to limit yourself to that number. Pick the ones you use the most and put them on your main page. (Note: This doesn’t include anything in a persistant dock at the bottom of the screen, if you have one on your device.) You can always change the 12 you choose if you find that you use another app more, but it’s important to limit yourself. Keeping a little less on the screen will make it easier to find things and will get you in the habit of keeping fewer apps on your phone.

Step Three: Make Your Secondary Page

With your first page of essentials created, it’s time to create your second and final page. This is where you can keep all the other apps you want to use but don’t use too frequently. Store them in folders or place them on the home screen directly — it’s up to you. You simply have to limit yourself to 11 spaces. Once you’ve got your 11 spots defined, move on to the next step to fill in the 12th.

Step Four: Impose a Holding Period on New Apps

If you’ve got an “app addiction”, the problem is that you acquire new apps and don’t delete them so you need to get in the habit of cleaning house regularly. Start by creating a new folder for new apps called “Holding Bin” (or “Temporary” or “This Week” — whatever you prefer). Whenever you get a new app, put it in this folder. Then, pick a day of the week to clean this folder. (We’ll use Sunday as an example.) Every Sunday, go through this folder and delete any apps you haven’t really used. If you added one the day before and need a little more time, it’s OK to let it stick around for the next week, but never let an app sit in this folder for more than 10 days. If you haven’t used it in 10 days, it gets deleted — end of story. You need to be brutal about your selection and remember that if you find that you actually do want to use the app again, you can always re-download it. It’s not like a deleted app disappears forever. As for apps you do decide to keep, simply remove them from the holding bin and add them to their appropriate location on your home screen. Remember, never exceed the 12 spots on either page.

This process is strict and might feel a little limiting if you’re used to having tons of apps on your mobile device, but you should find that you’ll have quite a bit of room to store what you need without ending up with an unmanageable quantity.


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  • What about Folders? Since iOS 4.0 and with most Android phones, you can drag your apps into a folder.. just like on your home computer. Drag all your games into a “Games” folder, all your productivity apps into a “Productivity” folder and so on. Definitely grab your most used apps and put on the first screen (or home screen if you are on Android) but use folders as well.. that’s what they are there for..

    • Depends. I find that if there’s an app I don’t use at least once a week or so – it’s better off being uninstalled. Yes I know Android handles memory well; but if it’s not on my phone at all it’s impossible to consume system resources, and consume background data.

      Having apps installed that you use once every blue moon doesn’t make sense, you’re better off using mobile web instead.

    • agreed just dump everything in a folder.

      Though to be fair, iOS folders are by default,limited to 12 apps per directory. So you can do what I did and jailbreak and add a folder extender.

      It is convienent as I can have all of the games I actually play in a folder as opposed to over several.

  • Not always possible, I have pages of apps and one page full of folders, reference, remotes, file browsers(ftp, webdav, etc) and couldn’t delete anything out of them because occasionally i’ll need one, all of them at different stages. then games, I may not play them often but I like to have a selection to choose from.

  • I think I fall under the App Addiction category,

    According to my phone I have 136 apps on my device

    However, I do have them organised pretty well so I can find things easily

    Page 1 – iOS only apps – i.e What comes with the phone, Messages, Photos, Camera, Settings etc
    Page 2 – Apps – Alphabetically Sorted A-Z
    Page 3 – Apps con’t
    Page 4 – Folder – Started creating folders for Games, More Games, Social Networking, Travel, Utils

    I see the logic in deleting what doesn’t get used at least once a week but sometimes you might have an app for e.g A particular store. That app isn’t used until you visit that store, which might not be that often e.g Once a fortnight/month on payday or e.g Only when in the city and not in the suburbs

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