Mass Graves

October 17, 2012

One of the biggest problems I’ve had over years of owning iOS devices, is that I install a lot of apps which leads me to use very few apps. You’d think it would be the opposite — the more the merrier, right? Unfortunately that isn’t the case, what happens is the volume of apps to choose from is overwhelming and you can spend more time scanning through them than actually using them. So how can we change that?

The only solution is mass graves of apps.

Right now you might be rolling your eyes, thinking No, Montana, the clear, non-drastic solution is folders. The problem with folders on iOS is that while they’re great for organization and can save a ton of space on your home screens, they can make a massive volume of apps even more overwhelming.

The first five iPhones and the first four iPod touches can fit 20 app or folder icons on an individual home screen (Example). A single folder can hold up to 12 apps (Example), and closed folders display up to 9 miniaturized app icons to show folder contents (Example). 9 x 20 = 180, so each home screen on the first five iPhones and the first four iPod touches can display between 1 and 180 apps with folders closed. That’s potential for disaster on top of disaster.

(Then you have the iPhone 5 and fifth generation iPod touch which enables an entire additional row of icons per home screen, which adds up to 36 to the number above.)

It’s even worse on the iPad where there can be up to 26 icons per home screen, and up to 20 apps per folder, although each closed folder icon displays up to nine apps as with iPhones and iPod touches. Because 9 x 26 = 234, between one and 234 apps can be seen on each iPad homescreen. That’s potential for disaster to the nth degree.

My solution to this problem has been to reserve folders to my third home screen pages on my iPhones and iPads, with the first two home screens being my top 36 and 46 apps respectively. While that worked great for those apps on the first two home screens, the high majority of apps within folders on the third pages went unopened. Just visiting that page was so overwhelming that I outright avoided using probably more than 150 apps, even if I’d like using some of them.

In short, my solution — while great for my most important apps — prevented me from using many apps that I might’ve enjoyed using. It was far from perfect. So we revert to the nuclear option: Mass graves. Outright delete every single app that I’m either not interested in or only vaguely interested in.

Before I went nuclear, I had more than 200 apps on both my iPhone and iPad. After the mass graves, I have 88 apps installed on each device (the 88 number for each is purely coincidental, oddly). So what is the result of eliminating well over half of my installed apps? I’m now opening and using way more apps than I used to. The time spent staring at an array of app icons has massively decreased, and I also freed a ton of storage on each device, leaving room for media.

If you’re an app junkie as I was, I’m guessing that you use only a fraction of your apps as I had. The absolute best thing that I can suggest is to wipe your iOS device of as many apps as you can. Keep only the stuff that you’re absolutely interested in. Any app that you have installed because you “might use it later” can simply be re-installed if the time comes where you need it.

You owe it to the apps that you truly are ignoring by accident to remove the stuff that you purposefully ignore.

Sidenote: If you own an iOS device and don’t know how to rearrange apps, create folders, or delete apps, it’s pretty simple.

To rearrange: Tap and hold an app icon for a couple of seconds, which will cause every app and folder icon to jiggle. Then tap and hold an icon that you wish to move until it scales up, at which point continue holding it and drag it to where you want it to be on the home screen(s). If there’s another app occupying that position, drag the one that you want there slightly to the left of it to kick it out of the way.

(To exit jiggle mode, press your iOS device’s home button.)

To create folders of apps: Follow the rearranging process, only drag the app on top of another that you want it to share a folder with, then drag any other apps which you want in that folder on top of it as well.

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