Dear Ms. Smartphone: I am going to get a new phone and am wondering whether I should transfer all the apps on it, or just keep the ones I use. My wife says I have too many apps and it’s time to houseclean. I don’t see the need. I promised her I would let you make the decision. Joe S., Fairfax
Dear Joe: Housecleaning never seems like fun, but if you do it with intention you could find yourself in a better place with your new phone. A couple of years ago, say 2015, it was popular to ‘app up’ our phones. It was a mark of coolness. In fact, the Sunday papers had a weekend feature in which they named a celebrity and then displayed all the cherished apps on his/her home screen.
We’ve moved on. There is greater awareness that apps are like calories- some of them are good, but too many make us bloated. Apps can chew up the phone’s memory and battery resources. They also run background processes that you don’t see. Most of all they introduce security risks as the app code and operating system fall out of synch. Time to housekeep? Simform, a U.S. tech company, says the average person has 40 apps installed on his phone. Of those 40 apps, only about 18 are regularly used. And, it’s usually five apps (mostly social media) that get used all the time.
Not So Free:
Apps are usually free to download, but they have a cost for owners. If you are using location services, and/or have not enabled ‘do not track’ they might send your phone’s identifier to a third party.
But, judging from an aesthetic point of view, like the celebrity apps in the Sunday paper, they do have charm. They present themselves like a picture gallery of games we play or memories we keep. Some apps are aspirational, for example, the download that promises to imbue new language skills. Likewise, travel apps empower road warriors but are surely getting dusty nowadays . Others are one-night standslike Lugg, the moving service. Helpful to get that new sofa to the home, and the old one to the consignment store. When necessary, reinstall.
While Westerners use dedicated apps for access there is a different paradigm in some of the Asian countries. There, platforms like WeChat are the entry point. Every serious Chinese business has a WeChat official account, and users can access interactive services and transactions. Suppose you were ordering Didi Chuxing (like Uber)- you would never leave WeChat to get your ride and pay for it. In Indonesia ‘Go-Jek’ provides a similar service.
For the time being, keep Uber and Lyft on your phone, but for other needs just go directly to the web site and do your business. In my opinion, setting up your new phone is good reason to do a clean sweep. When you download and install your new apps, make sure to ‘check the boxes’ (settings) as I explain in this older review of Clubhouse. Going forward, think of the apps you install on your phone as a two-way relationship. What are you going to get out of it, for how long, and do you share trust?