If you’re someone who uses a smartphone or tablet a lot, you probably love apps. They typically are bite-size, cheap or free to download and much easier to use than navigating to a website in a browser.
But do we really need six versions of “Angry Birds,” five different apps to edit the same photos and the scheduling app from a conference we attended three years ago?
Studies of what people keep on their mobile devices point to app overload. One analyst estimated that the average iOS (iPad, iPhone) device has 83 apps on it. The average Android-based device has 53.
How many do we really use with any regularity? Eight? Maybe 10?
If this sounds like you, it’s time for the Great App Purge of 2014, in which we’ll tidy things up and delete the excess.
You could go on living with a bunch of screens of loose icons — and some people want everything they own instantly accessible forever — but there are several reasons to organize and get rid of the clutter from your appventory (OK; that word is made up).
For starters, having fewer apps means you’ll spend less time thumbing for the ones you’re looking for. Yes, you could type in a search term to find them, but being able to spot them at a glance is easier and faster.
In addition, many mobile devices can’t expand the amount of digital storage they contain. Once you fill up a device with too many apps, videos, songs and photos, you run out of space.
And not all is lost. Removing an app from a mobile device — and in most cases, from a computer — doesn’t mean you lose it forever. You always can download it again later. Even if the app costs money, reinstalling the app is nearly always free.
Don’t be a digital hoarder. Let’s get started.
Folders are your friend
The first step is to figure out what you have installed. You could use computer software attached to your device to do this, or do it on the device itself.
If you don’t already use folders to organize your apps, now would be a good time to start. (Don’t know how? Google “how to create iPhone folders” or “how to create Android folders” based on what you use.) Put all similar apps together in categories such as “music,” “games,” “photos” or “social media.” Some apps may defy categorization. That’s fine, leave them be, they are special and will be dealt with later.
Observe and evaluate
Now that the apps are organized, take a look in those folders. You probably have multiple apps that do the same thing. For example, your music folder might end up including such music-streaming apps as “Pandora,” “AOL Radio,” “Spotify” and “Last.fm.” Figure out which one(s) you use the most and delete the others.
Having a hard time determining which apps to delete? If you haven’t used an app in more than a month, you probably don’t need it.
Or maybe you use it too much. If you want to be more productive, kill some of those games that waste all your free time.
Take a look at your phone’s settings, likely under “usage,” to see how much device memory each of the apps is taking. You may be surprised by which apps are hogging the most space. Apps that allow you to download files, such as songs or documents, for offline viewing can bloat up over time.
Still have loose apps that aren’t in folders? That’s OK, but if you download more apps in the future that are similar, think about pairing them up in new folders.
Close at hand or fingertip
By this point, you should have a more manageable number of apps. Now it’s time to take a look at where your apps should be placed to make them easiest to access.
If your device has a dock or a place to pin apps on the home screen, put the apps you use the most — e-mail, contacts, maybe a maps app or your calendar — in these spots.
Then put your folders in order of either importance or where your hand tends to search for the most important apps. Do you find yourself always seeking out e-mail on the bottom right corner of your home screen? Stick the app icon there. Are you lefthanded? Think about putting your most-used apps on that side of the screen.
Alas, unlike clothes that you no longer wear, there isn’t a way to sell or donate apps that you’ve quit using. They’ll be dormant in the cloud until you’re ready to use them again. But getting them off your digital devices and making those screens easier to navigate will save you time and cause fewer app-searching headaches.