Why I refuse to delete old, unused apps from my iPhone
When it comes to apps on my iPhone, I’m guilty as charged: I’m a hoarder.
There’s nothing wrong with being a digital hoarder so long as you don’t let it destroy your sanity. You just need to know how to manage your digital garbage and know when to just give up (like stop flagging emails and embrace search).
It’s not like I don’t have enough storage. Far from it, I always buy the largest-capacity iPhone possible (in my case, I’ve got 256GB iPhone 7). Running out of storage to sustain my app stash is the least of my worries.
My problem also isn’t that I haven’t accepted the fact that I have 179 apps on my iPhone — most of which I haven’t opened in years and probably won’t in the near future — but that I can’t bring myself to delete them because of fear.
179 apps isn’t that bad… for me a least. Last year I had well over 300 apps installed on my even smaller 128GB iPhone 6, so any cutback is an improvement.
My iPhone’s definitely not the norm when compared to most peoples’ phones. I cover technology for a living so of course I’m more tuned to what’s new in the app world.
And while I usually end up deleting most new apps (they’re almost always games that are fun for a hot second until the stupid ads get in the way and ruin everything) shortly after installing them, there are still over a hundred apps I just don’t want to delete, but really should.
Like any organized person, I’ve got a system. My first home screen is filled with apps I use every day — Instagram, Facebook, Spotify, Twitter, Outlook, Weather, etc. My second home screen has apps that I don’t use quite as much, but still want within easy reach — billing apps, shopping, and smart home apps, to name a few.
My third home screen is where things get chaotic and out of control, even though it’s home to only photo and video apps. Home screens four and five are just a mess of games, work and business-related apps, and a ton of miscellaneous crap that I keep telling myself I’ll need for that one thing on that one day that has never come and probably never will.
When Apple launched the App Store, it rolled out a marketing campaign with the now famous (and trademarked) “There’s an app for that” slogan.
Corny as the catchphrase now sounds in 2017, it’s true: There really is an app for almost everything. And that’s the problem. Most apps do a single or handful of things really well… and that’s it.
For instance, I use the app Memopad app to mark up screenshots. But I can’t even remember the last time I marked up a screenshot. I’ve probably marked up fewer than five screenshots in the last year. Do I really need this app?
Memopad is just one the many single-purpose apps that I have on my phone. Black is a photo-editing app that’s excellent for creating black-and-white photos. Camcorder is an app that makes your videos look like old low-res VHS recordings. Fasten is a ride-sharing app I downloaded in Austin while at SXSW and don’t need for at least another year. I’ve got Printer Pro for printing out files from my iPhone even though I’ve never printed anything from my iPhone, ever. The list of one-off apps goes on and on.
The simple truth is I don’t need these apps. I know I don’t need them. But fear keeps me from deleting them because when I need them, I won’t have them. Like that stupid printer app or the four “document-to-PDF” scanner apps I’ve got — I’ll be prepared when I do need to print a document, and you’ll be the fool who’s scrambling to find an app to do it.
Fear keeps me from deleting them because when I need them, I won’t have them.
Deleting these apps is legitimate fear, I think. If I delete any of them, I just know I won’t remember what they’re called. And trying to find them again in the “Purchased” section of the App Store app is a total nightmare when you’ve downloaded thousands of apps over the years (there really needs to be a way to sort previously downloaded apps).
Not only that, it’s possible apps you delete might disappear forever if a developer decides to pull it from the App Store. I almost had a heart attack when I realized Recompense, my favorite app for calculating tips and splitting bills, wasn’t in the App Store while transferring all my data from my iPhone 6 to 7 last year.
It used to be the case that if you made an iPhone backup on your computer using iTunes, you’d save a copy of your installed apps (as an IPA file), but Apple changed that with iOS 9. Instead of restoring apps locally from your computer backup to your iPhone, iTunes merely re-downloads your apps from the App Store. This change eats less of your computer’s storage, but it also means apps that are no longer available to re-download from the App Store are gone for good.
I was lucky that I had a really old backup of Recompense from pre-iOS 9 that I was able to sideload into my iPhone 7, but for new apps moving forward I won’t be so fortunate.
Worse, the great app purge is coming with iOS 11. All 32-bit apps that aren’t updated to 64-bit will not work with future versions of iOS and iOS devices. More reason to not delete some of these admittedly old, but incredibly useful apps I have installed.
I know I have a problem. I know that most of the apps on home screen 3-5 can probably go, but it’s comforting to have them. It’s nice to know that I still have Flappy Bird even though I’ll probably never even play it.