Time to delete your smartphone apps and start over

Declare bankruptcy and cut the clutter.

135 apps. That’s how many I had on my old iPhone 4S (which these days doubles as a pretty heavy iPod Touch). 

One hundred and thirty five. Seven screens’ worth, a handful of folders, and some deleted because I simply ran out of space.

Apple (and iTunes) makes it so easy to switch between iPhones. You backup your old phone (tick encrypted so it backs up all your passwords too), and when you plug your new device into your computer, iTunes asks if you want to restore from your old device. Everything moves across. It’s that simple. 

But in that simplicity, lies a curse too. This means you move across all the thousands of SMSs, emails, notes, photos that you haven’t bothered to delete, and all the apps too.

This means your new phone is full and labouring under the load of all this ancient history before you even start using it. 

With iCloud, Apple’s not only solved the cable problem (having to sync with iTunes continuously), but also the setup dilemma. Assuming you’ve set up iCloud on your old phone, when you sign in with your Apple ID on your new phone (sans the syncing with iTunes), and everything’s there.

Mail, contacts, calendars, reminders, Safari history and bookmarks, notes, documents, data… everything. 

Except apps. And that’s a good thing.

I took this route with my new iPhone 5 in December. Not deliberately (I was juggling two phones for a while), but restarting almost from scratch is liberating. 

The iTunes App Store has a useful ‘purchased’ tab which lists all the apps you’ve ever purchased, with shortcuts to install each of them.

The end result: not even two pages of apps on my new phone… 22, to be exact (over and above all the preinstalled iOS system stuff like Mail and Weather that you can’t remove).

I now have apps that I actually use: Tweetbot, WhatsApp, Facebook, Instagram, Podcasts, Camera+, iA Writer, FNB, YouTube, Nike Running, Podcasts.

My phone’s snappier, and way less cluttered. (And I have tons of free space!)

Only when you wade through the list in the App Store or in iTunes do you realise how much trash you’ve accumulated. 

I’ve also become disciplined enough to delete any new apps I download if I try them once or twice and end up not using them.

The one downside: no games. That means far more productivity. Though I might yet cave and (re)install Plants vs Zombies, Letterpress and every Angry Birds I can get my hands on.

If you are upgrading or switching smartphones, try starting from scratch. If you’re not, prune your list of apps. Be brutal, especially if you’ve been downloading apps like there’s no tomorrow. You don’t need even three quarters of the apps on your phone.

You can also declare e-mail bankruptcy (maybe a topic worth exploring in this column in the weeks ahead…).

Start over with apps.

*Hilton Tarrant contributes to ‘Broadband’, a column on Moneyweb covering the ICT sector in South Africa. He desperately needs to start over on his iPad… That’s in even worse shape than his old iPhone…


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