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How to Clear iPhone Apps You Don’t Use

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As we use our phones year after year or move everything to a new device, many of us have accumulated a catalog of apps that we’ve downloaded at some point but haven’t really used in months (or possibly years). Whether it’s a broken social network, a smart device companion app you threw in the trash, or just Duolingo shaming you for giving up learning Spanish, all these apps can take up precious space on our phone’s memory, clutter our home screens, and, in the worst case, even drain our batteries.

In this article, I’ll share some quick and easy ways to get rid of the apps you don’t use anymore and make the apps you don’t use very often a little more efficient.

Note. The screenshots in this article were taken using iOS 16, which is currently in beta testing. The screens may be slightly different in previous versions of the OS, but the instructions will work for iOS 15 and 16.

Use the offload features of unused applications

If you’re looking for the easiest way to free up space, you can use the Unload Unused Apps feature built into iOS. Once activated, it will automatically uninstall apps you don’t use, although Apple doesn’t really provide details on how long you have to ignore an app before it’s offloaded. However, unlike deleting an app from your phone, unloaded apps will remain on your home screen or in your app library – just with a cloud icon next to their name. If you click on the downloaded app, your phone will automatically download it again and you can return more or less where you left off.

Applications that have been downloaded will be marked with a download symbol.

To have your phone automatically unload apps, you can go to Settings > App Storethen switch Offloading unused apps. (You can also disable this feature here.)

If you want to first see how much space this feature can save you, before enabling it, go to Settings > General > iPhone storage. In most cases there will be a section telling you how much space this feature can save along with turn on button to turn it on. The storage screen also provides useful information about how much space is left on your phone and how much space each app and its data is taking up. It can also be a good indication of how big an app is when you manually uninstall it, which I’ll cover in a bit.

Screenshot of the iPhone storage screen showing the

Using the iPhone Storage screen, you can see how much space the Offload Unused Apps feature will save you.

There are several drawbacks to using the offload feature for unused applications.

First, Apple’s support documentation strictly implies that you won’t be able to redownload an offloaded app if it’s been removed from the App Store. Therefore, if you are keeping some legacy applications for archival purposes, you may not want to enable automatic offloading.

It can also bite you if there is an application that you only use in areas where the coverage is uneven or non-existent. For example, it won’t be much fun if you find that your phone has unloaded your hiking map app when you get to the start of the trail.

Unload applications manually

While I haven’t been able to find a way to prevent the automatic system from unloading certain apps, you can manually unload apps instead of having your phone choose which apps to delete. To do this, go to Settings > General > iPhone storage and select the app you are trying to get rid of from the list. Then tap Download application button.

Permanently remove apps

If you want to completely get rid of unused applications, there are several ways to do it.

One of my favorite ways is to go to the App Store and then click on my profile picture in the top right corner to access a list of apps that have been recently updated. If I notice something there that I almost never use, I can swipe left on it to access the delete button. Checking this once a month or so will keep your phone clean.

Gif showing how you can remove apps from the App Store update screen

If you’re manually updating your apps, this method is even more convenient.

If you prefer to get rid of all unused applications right away, the Application Library makes this relatively easy. Scroll the home screens to the right until you see all your apps grouped into categories on one page. From there, you can browse through each category and remove apps that you no longer need. press and hold on their icons and clicking Delete app.

Keep in mind that categories can have more apps than you see on the app library home screen – tapping in the lower right corner of a category will open it and display all apps.

The last option is through the iPhone Storage screen in Settings > General. If you click on the apps in the list (which are ordered by how much space they take up on your phone), you’ll see Delete app option under the unload button. If you go through the list by deleting all unused apps, you can end up with plenty of free space and a less cluttered phone.

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