How to clean iPhone apps you don’t use

As we use our phones year after year or move everything to a new device, many of us have put together a catalog of apps that we’ve downloaded at some point but haven’t actually used In months (or maybe years). Whether it’s a failing social network, the companion app for a smart device you threw in the trash or just Duolingo faulting you for giving up on learning Spanish, all of these apps can take up valuable space on our phone storage, clutter our home screens, and in the worst case scenario, even draining our batteries.

In this article, I’ll go over some quick and easy ways to get rid of the apps you no longer use and to make the ones you don’t use often more effective.

Note: The screenshots in this article were taken with iOS 16, which is currently in beta. The screens may look slightly different from previous versions of the operating system, but the instructions will work with iOS 15 and 16.

Use the Offload Features of Unused Apps

If you are looking for the easiest way to free up some space, you can use the Offload Unused Apps feature built into iOS. Once activated, it will automatically uninstall apps you don’t use, although Apple doesn’t actually provide details on how long you have to uninstall them before you unload them. Unlike when you delete an app from your phone, the downloaded apps will still be there on your home screen or in your app library – just with a cloud icon next to their name. If you tap an app that is offloaded, your phone will automatically download it again, and you can go back more or less where you left off.

Unloaded apps will be marked with a download icon.

To make your phone automatically offload apps, you can go to Settings > App Storethen switch Unload unused apps. (You can turn the feature off here, too.)

If you first want to see how much space the feature can save you, before you turn it on, go to Settings > general > iPhone storage. In most cases, there will be a section that tells you how much space the feature can save you along with a file Can button that will be turned on. The Storage screen also provides some great information about how much space your phone has left and how much space each app and its data take up. It can also be a good measure of how big an app is when you delete it manually, which I’ll touch on shortly.

Screenshot showing the iPhone storage screen, with the recommendation of Offload Unused Apps

With the iPhone storage screen, you can see how much space the Offload Unused Apps feature saves you.

There are some downsides to using the Offload Unused Apps feature.

First, Apple Support documentation strongly states that you won’t be able to redownload an offloaded app if it’s been removed from the App Store. So if you keep some deprecated apps for archiving purposes, you may not want to turn on auto offload.

It can also bite you if there is an app that you only use in areas where coverage is spotty or non-existent. For example, it wouldn’t be much fun if you found out that your phone had offloaded the hiking map app when you hit the road.

Unload apps manually

While I couldn’t find a way to prevent certain apps from being offloaded by the automatic system, you can offload apps manually instead of having your phone pick the apps you want to delete. To do this, go to Settings > general > iPhone storage And choose the app you’re trying to get rid of from the list. Then press Unload the app button.

Permanently delete apps

If you are looking to get rid of unused apps completely, there are several ways to do so.

One of my personal favorites includes going to the App Store and then clicking on my profile picture in the top right to access the list of recently updated apps. If I notice one in there that I never use, I can swipe left on it to access the delete button. Checking this once a month or so will keep your phone perfectly clean.

Gif shows how you can delete apps from the App Store update screen

If you update your apps manually, this technique will be more useful.

If you’d rather do one big scan to get rid of all the apps you don’t use at once, the App Library makes it relatively easy. Scroll right through your home screens until you see all your apps categorized on one page. From there, you can search each category and delete the apps you no longer need pressure and knot on their icons and tapping Delete the app.

Don’t forget that categories may contain more apps than you can see from the main App Library screen – clicking on the bottom right corner of a category will open it up and display all the apps.

One last option is through the iPhone’s storage screen Settings > general. If you click on the apps in the list (which are arranged by how much space they take up on your phone), you’ll see Delete the app The option is under the unload button. If you go through the list and delete every app you don’t use, you may end up with a lot of space and a less cluttered phone.

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