Norton UK Blog
How to Declutter Your Smartphone
My beloved iPhone5 used to be chockfull of digital detritus: apps I’d used once or twice, gazillions of family photos that I’d already copied over to my laptop and to Google drive, fuzzy videos, unopened emails, unplayed games and a virtual library of forgotten files saved to my home screen. They were all gobbling up memory, draining the battery and putting the brakes on my phone’s performance.
Familiar tale? If so, don’t despair – it’s easy to fix.
Whether you have an Android, iOS or Windows device, don’t delay – do yourself and your phone a favour and start uncluttering right now. In a few simple steps, you’ll have a better and faster phone.
First, check your appiness level
We’re an app-happy lot. According to Statistica, 277 million apps were downloaded in the UK in 2014.
And we’re spending longer on them. Figures from Nielsen show that in 2013, US iPhone and Android users aged 18+ spent 65 per cent longer per month using apps than in 2011: 30 hours, 15 minutes, up from 18 hours, 18 minutes. Not surprisingly, social networking and search apps were used the most, followed by entertainment apps – music, games and video. Photography apps showed a huge leap in use too.
There are some great free and inexpensive apps about that can make our busy lives easier, help us connect with friends and family, and keep us (never mind the kids) entertained, but it’s easy to overload our devices with apps we hardly use.
Each app you download swallows a portion of your phone’s storage space and may run processes behind the scenes. More apps mean less free memory space, more background processes and thus a slower phone.
So here’s what you can do to make sure apps don’t overtake your smartphone:
1. Delete apps that you don’t use
Dump all those apps you no longer need.
If you change your mind, you can always reinstall apps for free from the Google Play Store or App Store, Windows Marketplace or windowsphone.com. However, be aware that deleting an app will also delete all of its associated data. Bear in mind too that pre-installed system apps like the iTunes Store and Google Maps usually can't be uninstalled.
- On iOS devices: hold your finger on the app icon until it wobbles and an X appears at the icon’s top left-hand corner. Tap the X. You’ll be prompted to confirm that you want to delete the app. Select Delete.
- On Windows phones: from the start screen, swipe left to access the app list. Press and hold the app you want to delete, and select Uninstall. When prompted to confirm, select Yes.
To delete games on Windows phones, select Games from the Start screen, press Games. In Collection, select and hold the game you want to delete. Then select Uninstall.
- For Android, to delete apps that were downloaded from Google Play you can either delete via the phone’s Settings menu or from the Google Play Store.
From Google Play: open the Google Play Store app, and select My Apps from the Menu icon. Touch the app you want to delete and select Uninstall.
From your phone’s Settings menu: select Apps or Application Manager (depending on your device) and touch the app you want to get rid of. Touch Uninstall.
2. Consider a multi-function app
Although single-purpose apps tend to provide an optimised service for the task at hand, there are some pretty good multi-function applications that can manage several different tasks and reduce the need for lots of one-job apps.
Google Now’s digital assistant service has recently been opened up to 40 third-party apps, aiming to give you ‘the right information at just the right time, whether it’s planning your route to avoid gridlock or making relevant suggestions for restaurants, hotels, places to visit or events happening nearby.
3. Keep your most-used apps on your home screen
Your phone’s home screen should contain only those apps you use the most. Keep your home screen uncluttered so that you can easily find the app you need, when you need it.
4. Sort your apps into folders
Using folders can help keep your apps organised. Give folders clear names that describe their contents, and keep the names short. Remember that you won’t be able to drag widgets (shortcut icons) into folders – so if an app won’t wobble or slide, it’s probably a widget.
- For iOS devices: Tap the app you want to put into a folder. When it starts to wobble, drag it across on top of another app you want to keep in the same folder. A box will appear around it. Drop the app into the box.
Your phone will automatically give the folder a name. To change it, open the folder, click on the name field and type in the new name. Then touch Done.
- Folder creation on an Android phone varies slightly depending on the version of operating system it’s running on, but it’s still a case of sliding one app over another and dropping it into a folder. On some Android phones you can create a folder from the Menu button on your home screen.
- Windows: you’ll need to have the Windows Phone 8.1 Update installed on your phone in order to create folders on your Start screen.
On your Start screen, tap and hold the tile you want to put into a folder, and slide it over another that you want to keep in the same folder. The folder will pop into the foreground. To give it a name, select Name Folder, type in the name and select Enter. The folder can be renamed at any time by tapping and holding the top bar of the folder, entering a new name in the text box that pops up, and tapping Enter.
5. Check what your apps are up to
Some apps take up more memory space than others. To find out which ones are more demanding, check your phone’s storage consumption in Settings.
- iOS: Go into Settings, then General. Select Usage. This will bring up a list of your apps and show how much memory each one is using.
- Android: Select Settings, then Storage. Tap Apps.
6. Keep your apps updated
Make sure to install updates as they become available to get the best features and bug fixes in new versions. This should keep apps working better and lower the risk of malware infection.
OK, apps sorted. Now what?
Here are more easy actions you can take to declutter your phone:
- Move data off your phone and on to another device
One way to free up space on your phone is to move music, movies, photos and other files on to a storage device or your computer. Or you can synch your phone with a file-hosting service like Dropbox, Google Drive or One Drive, and quickly upload its contents to the cloud.
- Update the device Operating System when prompted
To keep your smartphone operating optimally and securely, always keep your OS up to date. Software updates offer new features or fix program bugs and security vulnerabilities.
- Delete unwanted content
Delve into your photo gallery and delete any photos or videos that you don’t need. Do this every now and again to keep your self-created content to a manageable level.
Dump saved voicemails, get rid of unused games and give unwanted contacts the boot. Go through your music and movie downloads and get rid of anything you no longer want to keep.
- Eliminate excess email
Spend a few minutes going through your emails – especially those you’ve marked Unread, with the intention of coming back to them later. How many of us ever get around to that?
Review your email newsletter subscriptions and unsubscribe from those you no longer want to receive. If you’ve got a heap of unopened email newsletters from the same source, you probably won’t miss them – and what’s more, you’re likely to feel less overwhelmed and stressed after slimming down your inbox.
Be firm with yourself – do you really and truly need to read the mail revealing 10 surprising uses for hubcaps or the secret to fluffier pancakes, or those copious promotions for bargain goods and services? No? Hit the ‘unsubscribe’ link, which is usually at the end of the email.
A little time, a lot of benefits
It’s well worth spending a bit of time on smartphone housekeeping. Follow these simple steps above to dispose of that digital litter, and you’ll save battery life, free up memory and speed up your phone.
But if you’re really rubbish at getting rid of anything, you can always invest in a memory card!
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