Delete Most of Your Apps

Delete Most of Your Apps
Screenshot: Andrew Couts/Gizmodo
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The arrival of iOS 14 last year came with a new feature that, at first glance, seems handy but is actually a symptom of a deeper sickness: We all have far too many apps — many of which are violating your privacy on a regular basis.

The App Library in iOS lets me clean up my home screens by relegating most of these apps to what is effectively a storage closet I rarely look into while allowing me to easily access these lesser apps should I need them for some reason. Great! Except… why do I have 135 apps on my phone, most of which I never use, and most of which are likely sending my data to some sketchy data broker? I don’t need all these apps — and you probably don’t need all your apps either.

Now is the perfect time to go full Marie Kondo on your phone: delete every app that doesn’t help you on a regular basis or allow you to remain employed.

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Of course, if maximising storage isn’t a concern, why would anyone bother with deleting apps they rarely or ever use? What’s the harm in having them just sit there? The most obvious argument here is privacy.

While Apple recently began requiring app developers to include privacy labels in the App Store — details about what data they collect about you and how that data is used — that doesn’t mean apps aren’t still collecting that data, even if they have to tell you about it. An analysis of app data collection practices by cloud storage company pCloud released earlier this month found that 52% of apps share your data with third parties, while 80% use your data to “market their own products in the app and beyond,” pCloud wrote. “This includes things like apps serving you their own ads on other platforms, as well as in-app promotions for their own benefit, or for third parties who pay for the service.”

Know a good way to limit the number of apps and third-party partners from collecting data about you? Delete the apps off your device.

The other reason is even more ambiguous than “privacy concerns” — mental space. The reason Marie Kondo and her KonMari organising philosophy is a thing is because ridding the necessary things in our lives gives us a feeling of greater control over our time, energy, and focus. Cleaning up your app library just feels good — and might actually help you stop doomscrolling, answering emails at weird hours, or simply spending too much time staring at a screen.

Statistics about how many apps the average person has on their phone are, as far as I can tell, mostly garbage. But based on the limited data I could find that doesn’t seem completely made up, around 75% of U.S. adults have more than 10 apps on their phone, while 25% have more than 30. That sounds like, if anything, a conservative estimate. Regardless, enough of us are drowning in apps to the point that Apple spent expensive engineering time on figuring out ways for us to manage it all. The simpler solution is to just delete every app you can live without.

Based on my own experience — which may vary drastically from yours — here are the only apps I need on my phone:

  • A texting and phone app
  • A camera app
  • An email app
  • A browser
  • A navigation app
  • An entertainment app
  • A game
  • A social media app
  • A payment app
  • Whatever apps I need for work

Even limiting my app catalogue to just those categories means having more than a dozen apps on my phone. But that’s just 10% of the apps sitting on my phone right now, so I’m giving this advice as much for myself as anyone because let’s face it, I have an app problem. My iPhone currently houses four different browsers, three podcast apps, 10 games (only one of which I actually play), nine social media apps (three of which, Twitter, Instagram, and TikTok, I regularly use), and two separate Craigslist apps for some inexplicable reason. There are at least a dozen apps that I not only never use, I can’t even remember what they do. These are the first ones I’m removing.

Of course, deleting apps you don’t even remember downloading or duplicate apps is easy. The hard part is the edge cases — the apps you use frequently enough that deleting it feels wrong, but not frequently enough to articulate why it’s taking up space in your life, even if it’s just a few megabytes. For these, I’m basing it largely on the cost/benefit of deleting: Will deleting an app cause inconvenience down the road? If so, keep it. If keeping it makes you feel gross, delete it.

If the idea of deleting unwanted apps seems like a good idea, the last bit of advice I have is to take your time — you don’t need to waste a whole day trying to figure out which apps you need to keep. For me, the app purge is an ongoing process — a bit of regular maintenance I’ve added to my life, like vacuuming or brushing the dogs. There may be a few truly toxic apps you want to delete immediately. Others you might want to chew on for a while before making a call. And remember, it’s fine to just do nothing. Nobody’s judging you here except yourself.