Uncluttering your smartphone apps

“You only really use three apps on your phone.” That was the headline on an article I read a few weeks ago, written by Dan Frommer on the Quartz website. As Frommer goes on to explain, “The average American spends 50% of their app time in their most-used app, and almost 80% in their top three apps, according to comScore.”

Reading that article made me think about my own collection of smartphone apps, so I decided to take a look. And I wound up doing a fair amount of uncluttering after I did. Here’s what I wound up deleting:

Shopping-related apps

I had a number of apps designed to help me buy from companies whose actions align with my values. Similarly, I had an app to help me select seafood that isn’t being overharvested. While this all sounds useful, I realized I never used these apps.

I tend to do any research before I go shopping, and therefore I don’t need an app on my phone. And if I buy the same things repeatedly (the same brand of toilet paper, etc.) I don’t need to research each individual purchase. Also, some of the apps were just too complex to be helpful.

Writing-related apps

Having used a smartphone for a number of years, I realized I just don’t take notes or write documents on my phone, so there’s no need to keep an assortment of apps for this purpose.

Reading-related apps

I tend to get my news from a few specific sources, and I kept the apps that I use for that purpose. But I had six apps from newspapers, magazines, and news-focused websites that I never looked at, so they are gone now. I also don’t read books on my small-screen smartphone — I save that for my tablet — so I deleted the book-reading apps, too.

Multiple apps for the same purpose

Instapaper and Pocket are both apps for saving things from the web to read later, so I didn’t need both. Since I happened to start using Pocket and was satisfied with it, I deleted Instapaper.

I also noticed I had two apps that seemed to serve a similar purpose, but when I investigated I found one was intended for California residents and one was intended for residents of a different state. Since I live in California, that’s the one I kept.

I do have two apps for the weather, but even though they are similar I use both of them at different times, so I kept both.

Outdated apps

One app I had was related to a conference I went to about nine months ago. I sure don’t need that app any more.

Mystery apps

I had two apps that I didn’t even recognize. One wound up being an exercise app and one was a news/social media app. I’m sure they sounded good at some point in time! But I’ll never use either one, so I deleted them.

The results: Once my apps were cleaned up, it was easier to organize them on my phone, just as it’s easier to organize all sorts of things in our homes and offices once the clutter is gone. I notice the difference every day, so I’m glad I took a bit of time to do the cleanup. If you do a similar uncluttering, you may see the same benefit.

I’m also saving space on my phone, which leaves me room to add things I might want — more music or podcasts, for example — in the future. Again, this is like eliminating other clutter: It makes room for new things to enter your space (if you so desire) that align with your current needs and tastes.

4 Comments for “Uncluttering your smartphone apps”

  1. posted by Elaine on

    Everytime my phone alerts me that it is updating apps, I click that link and check out which apps it is updating. In some cases I will spot one, and say “What is that?” I will check it out and realize that I have never used it. I download some apps as promotions. Half the time I never use them. So this is a good time to go into my settings and uninstall.

  2. posted by Penny Catterall on

    This is a great post. When I had limited storage on my iPhone, I went through and deleted my unused or little used apps with regularity. Now that I have 64 GBs, it’s easier to just collect apps, but I have to remember that they are still clutter if they are not used!

  3. posted by Maggie on

    Actually, in regard to your note taking comment, I do take notes on my phone. I am an avid user of my iPhone and iPad. I use over 6 apps, because I consciously chose those apps. They contribute to my life. I have a coding system based on tags.
    I use Feedly to aggregate information, then I tag the ones I want to be able to read again/share or place in my notes. And I also use Pocket to read an article at night with a cup of tea. Also organised by the same tags.
    I use the notes app from Apple for quick notes.
    I use reminders from Apple for the integration with my iPad and Macbook. I can remind myself on location that I do need to pick up that milk, bread or cat food.
    When necessary I use the code-tag system here as well. Anything longterm, like logging activities for work, I put in my evernote.

    Basically I used the technology to my advantage. Apple has a big search system in all it’s devices which I grateful abuse. This may sound like I am an Apple fan girl, maybe I am, but my point is to look at how you organise your life and *why*.

    In my opinion one needs to look at one’s way of life, because simply deleting apps is not enough. The collecting of apps will return again, your phone will fill up again.

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