6 Tips to Help You Organize Your Apps
Take command of all that digital clutter on your smartphone
More than a dozen years ago, Apple famously debuted its “there’s an app for that” commercials for the iPhone.
Ever since, iPhone owners — and Android users — have filled their mobile devices with apps that in the moment seemed genius but then rarely get used. Average users have 40 apps on their phones, according to Simform, a software development company, but fewer than 20 apps are part of the average user’s daily rotation.
Here’s how to manage your apps and eliminate those long past their prime.
1. Start with basic organization
One obvious technique: Keep the apps you use regularly on the first home screen of your device. Another option is to group the apps by category.
Andrew Mellen, a professional organizer who has offices in New York and St. Petersburg, Florida, arranges some apps in a grid. He puts all the game apps clustered together in one part of a screen, smart home apps in another cluster, and so on.
“I do have a visual sense of each screen,” he says.
To move apps around on an iPhone screen, press down on an app, then tap Edit Home Screen — all the apps will jiggle. Then drag and drop an app to the place where you want it.
Existing apps may jump around to make room, which can make the exercise a bit of a puzzle. To move an app from one screen to another, drag it to the right or left edge until the next screen appears. To move an app on an Android device, just drag and drop it.
Apple also provides a bar at the bottom of the screen with anchored apps that display no matter which home screen you’re on. Users can switch those apps by dragging and dropping.
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2. Add folders
Both iPhone and phones that run on the Android operating system let you organize your apps by placing them into folders. You might create a folder for finance apps, another for news, another for social media.
On an iPhone or Android device, gently place your finger on an icon and drag it on top of another app. The phone will automatically create a folder containing those two apps. Tap Done. To add apps into an existing folder, drag an app into that folder. To remove an app from a folder, drag it out the same way you dragged it in.
To rename a folder, press down on it, then tap Rename on the menu that appears.
Mellen suggests a granular folder strategy. Instead of a broad travel category, he created a folder with just airline apps, another for hotels, another for rental cars, and others for translation and subway maps. And he split entertainment apps into a folder for audio and another for streaming video.
For new downloads he’s unsure of, Mellen has created an “apps to be reviewed folder” and says he then “budgets time to check them out.”
3. Locate the library
Apple also added a screen that does folder organization for you. Keep swiping left until you get to the last screen; it’s called App Library, and it automatically groups similar apps together. You can also tap the App Library search bar at the top to see all your apps listed alphabetically. Tap a letter along the right edge to jump to apps beginning with that letter.
On Android, apps hang out in the “app drawer,” accessible on a Google Pixel, for example, by swiping up from the bottom of the display, though Android interfaces vary. On a Google Pixel, icons for recently used apps appear on top; icons representing the rest appear alphabetically below. Scroll to see them all.
4. Stumped? Use search
If your apps are spread out over multiple home screens, finding the one you want can be daunting. One way is through search. On an iPhone, drag your finger down from the middle of the display so a search bar is visible. Then type the app name.
Android search is similar. If the search bar is already visible on your screen, type the name of the app. If not, drag up from the bottom of the screen to show the bar.
This can be a quick way to launch an app you frequently use, but it doesn’t help if you can’t remember an app’s name. And such lack of name recall could be a sign you have too many apps.
“You wouldn’t necessarily know what an app is called to go looking for it,” Mellen says. “If you’re not using it, then it is just clutter.”
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5. Summon Siri (or Google Assistant)
Ask your phone’s personal digital assistant— that computer voice that talks back to you — to launch an app: “Hey, Siri [or Hey, Google], open YouTube,” for example.
6. Take out the trash
Get rid of apps you no longer use.
“Just as one might go through closets and kitchen drawers, the phone would be no different,” Mellen says. He recommends doing so at least once a year.
To permanently exorcise apps on the iPhone, lightly press down on the app. Tap Remove App | Delete App. If you prefer to keep the app but remove it from the home screen, tap that option instead. One thing to remember is that if even after you delete a paid app, you still own it and can reinstall it later if you need it again without having to lay out more cash. However, you may lose some or all data or settings from the app after deletion.
To delete an app on a Google Pixel phone, gently press down on the icon and tap App Info | Uninstall | OK.
Or visit the Play Store, tap your profile, tap Manage Apps & Device | Manage. Tap the box next to an app on the list so a check mark appears. Tap the trash can icon at the upper right corner of the screen.
This story, originally published Dec. 1, 2021, was updated to reflect more current information.
Edward C. Baig is a contributing writer who covers technology and other consumer topics. He previously worked for USA Today, BusinessWeek, U.S. News & World Report and Fortune and is the author of Macs for Dummies and the coauthor of iPhone for Dummies and iPad for Dummies.