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Fact: Computers get cluttered. Smartphones, even more so. If you have a smartphone, I’d like to to reach for it, flick it on, and check out your app drawer. How messy is it? Be honest, I won’t judge. I will, however, propose a simple solution — maybe one you’ll feel is too simple.

A Selection Dialog Or an Error Message?

Your phone is cluttered because you have many apps that can do the same thing. How many camera apps do you have? How many calendar apps? How many browsers? If you’re using a Samsung phone, you have at least two of each: Samsung’s version, and Google’s version. But chances are you actually have more.

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For most people, this innocent dialog means choice. It means you have more than one app that can do something. I say, let’s think of it as an error message: A reminder that says “You have at least one app you can remove.”

Link Bubble is a truly unique browser Stop Waiting For Links to Load: Link Bubble For Android Saves You Time Stop Waiting For Links to Load: Link Bubble For Android Saves You Time Some first-world annoyances are so subtle that we hardly notice them. But once you see one, it's hard to ignore it. Read More , so to me, it doesn’t do the same thing as Chrome. But Lightning Browser (one of 4 browsers you haven’t heard about 4 Of The Fastest Tablet-Optimized Browsers You've Never Heard Of [Android] 4 Of The Fastest Tablet-Optimized Browsers You've Never Heard Of [Android] Android tablet browsers, generally speaking, are not that great. Most of the big four browsers suffer from poorly sized buttons and sluggish performance. The tablet-optimized alternatives mentioned in this article, which you may not know... Read More ) does exactly the same thing as Chrome. So in most cases, rather than choose a default action, I propose you take this as a hint that you should remove an app.

Some Things Should Not Be Automated

Yes, there are some app usage trackers around — these will tell you how often you use an app. Allow me to suggest another usage tracker: Your brain. Every week, pop open your app list for a moment, and just stare at it:

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“Why do I have two camera apps,” ask yourself. If no clear answer presents itself, well, that’s one app for you to remove.

This sounds boring and tedious — but I say, it’s unavoidable if you want to keep a clean device. I have yet to see an app that’s intelligent enough to decide which apps I actually want to use.

Android Lets You Disable Apps

Many times, the app you don’t want is going to be one you’re stuck with — an app from your phone maker, or maybe even from Google. Good news: Android ICS and up lets you disable apps. No root needed, no app-freezing tricks How To Freeze Or Uninstall Apps That Came With Your Phone [Android] How To Freeze Or Uninstall Apps That Came With Your Phone [Android] One of the biggest problems Android has is that vendors are obsessed with the concept of somehow “adding value” to their devices. Instead of just shipping Android as it was meant to be used, Samsung,... Read More necessary.

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Simply go to Settings > Apps > All, find the app in question, and go into its App Info screen. Tap Disable, confirm, and you’re done. The app will no longer be visible — you’ve banished it. Alternatively, if you use the excellent Nova Launcher Nova Launcher - Even Better Than The Default Android 4.0 Launcher Nova Launcher - Even Better Than The Default Android 4.0 Launcher Up until Ice Cream Sandwich (Android 4.0) came along, Android’s interface felt somewhat less polished than iOS’s. But with Android 4.0, Google made a clean break with the previous visual style for Android, introducing Holo... Read More , there is a shorter way to get to the same screen: Just drag the app icon from your drawer and drop it onto App Info.

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Hide What You Can’t Disable

Finally, if there are apps you absolutely can’t disable (and you’re not rooted), most launchers let you hide them away. In Nova, you’ll find this under Settings > Drawer > Hide Apps:

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Just Like Diet: There’s No Magic Cure

The takeaway here is that fighting phone clutter is just like dieting: There’s no magic pill you can take. It’s just a matter of keeping your phone from bulging over with apps using steady determination. It’s worth it: You’ll find the apps you’re after more quickly, your phone will be more responsive, and you’ll have lots of room for your photos, videos, and music. Obvious? Sure. Effective? You bet.

  1. drb
    September 1, 2015 at 1:43 am

    Does this article apply to tablets? If so, why are phones always emphasized over tablets?

    • Mihir Patkar
      September 1, 2015 at 7:16 am

      Don't read so much into it, drb :) There is no phone-tablet hierarchy happening here, it's just a tip about Android, enjoy it rather than turning it into an issue.

      • drb
        September 3, 2015 at 5:25 am

        Mihir,
        I hear you - just wish authors would emphasize an "Android device" rather than phone - just in case there ever is a specific distinction. Even though it probably would rarely happen, I'd hate to go through all the bother of a download and install only to find out a piece of software was only intended for an Android phone.
        Dan

        • Mihir Patkar
          September 3, 2015 at 7:27 am

          That's a fair point. I think in our reviews and articles, you will find that we do usually make the distinction. Our Android editor, Justin Dennis, is quiet eagle-eyed about these things :) But if you ever have a query, leave a comment like you did here and someone will respond soon enough :) I know it's not the best case scenario, but we're humans too, and things slip by. We do our best to address it in the comments for our readers. I hope you understand!

        • drb
          September 4, 2015 at 4:14 am

          Thanks - your support has been outstanding!
          Dan

  2. kojak edwards
    May 19, 2014 at 3:11 pm

    In your Disable App section, the maker says this MAY make other things crash and burn. They don't say what those other things are. How does one make an informed decision? For example, I disable App A, three weeks later I try to launch App B. It doesn't work. Trust me when I say after three weeks I will not be able to string the two actions together. It will just be App B stopped for some unknown reason.

    • clive
      May 19, 2014 at 5:26 pm

      In most cases this kind of cross app dependency is rare and if it exists at all it will with apps produced by the same company - some apps have additional apps that you can but which only work with the original app it was designed for. I would say don't worry about this warning too much - android is full of dire warnings because the manufactures don't want you disabling their apps!

  3. LF
    May 19, 2014 at 2:12 pm

    Great article and I'll put this information to use. Thanks for the comments on why you'd use multiple apps too.

  4. Ben S
    May 17, 2014 at 9:25 pm

    I'm glad that disabling native apps is an option now. One example of I always think of is SMS apps. If you're on a non-Nexus phone, you likely have the default Messages app, an alternative app of your choice, and Hangouts, which now wants to be your main SMS app. All that can get a bit confusing and cluttered, so cleaning out once in a while is a must.

    Great how-to on something that's easy to forget about!

  5. jerome
    May 17, 2014 at 9:16 am

    good article!
    What app can track how frequently i use such an app more than an other one?

  6. likefunbutnot
    May 16, 2014 at 9:18 pm

    I keep multiple music players on my devices to use different playlists without disruption, different Email clients to segregate identities between personal and business life, different web browsers both to maintain separate cookies and bookmarks and different photo viewers so any "private" photos I might have don't show up if I hand my phone to someone so they can see a cute picture of my cat.
    Duplicated function does not necessarily mean clutter.

    • Erez Z
      May 18, 2014 at 7:59 am

      Could not agree more -- if you know exactly why you have more than one app, that's fine. The clutter begins when apps just lie there unused.

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