The right way to clean up your smartphone apps

The word audit usually evokes feelings of fear. No one wants others to get involved in their business. However, when it comes to your phone, an audit might be your best path to privacy.

The process is simple. Go through each of your apps and ask yourself one question: “Do I really need this?” Tap or click here for five apps you should remove from your device right now.

But it’s not as simple as uninstalling apps you no longer use. You need to take a few essential steps to properly uninstall apps and protect your privacy. We’ll guide you through it.

Why is an app audit important?

An app audit is a good idea for a number of reasons. The most basic way is to free up space on your phone to keep it running smoothly and give you more space to store photos, videos, apps, and files.

You’ll also spend less time scrolling through a bunch of stuff to get what you need. Tap or click here for steps to free up even more space by deleting duplicate photos.

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An app audit also reduces the risk of security vulnerabilities. The more apps you have, the more risk you run. If one of them gets hacked, your data will end up in the wrong hands.

Here’s where to start

Scroll through your apps and note which ones you rarely use or don’t use at all. Do you have two or three apps that perform the same function? What about the one you downloaded five years ago to get a free drink?

In addition to picking out the apps you don’t use, you also highlight the apps you use every day. When you wake up in the morning, what are the first ones you open? In your mind or on paper, make a list of apps you want to keep and apps you can throw away.

Your iPhone can help if you’re not sure where to start. For a detailed breakdown of your app activity and what you use most, go to Settings > Screen Time. Go to Settings > Cellular to see how much data your apps are using. Go to Settings > Battery to see which apps are seriously draining your battery.

If you’re using an Android, tap Settings > Digital Wellbeing & Parental Controls > Dashboard to view screen times for each app. To view the data usage, go to Settings > Network & Internet > Data usage. View battery usage by going to Settings > Battery.

Do this before uninstalling

Once you’ve identified the time, battery, and data-hogging culprits, you’re ready for the next step. No, you are not going to delete anything yet. Many apps hold your personal information, which needs to be taken care of first.

Log in to each app and navigate to the page or menu that allows you to deactivate or delete your account. Some services make this step more difficult by requiring you to access them from a desktop browser or even contact the company via email or phone to delete your account. If you can’t find a way to take this step, you may need to get in touch.

There are ways to make your disappearing act easier. has links to the pages you need to remove yourself from a site or app. Tap or click here for steps on how to use this helpful resource.

Now it’s time to clean the house.

On an iPhone:

Tap and hold an app, then tap Uninstall app > Uninstall app > Uninstall. You can also use the App Library, introduced in iOS 14, to get a curated list of your apps, grouped by category. Swipe past the last page of your home screen to access it. Tap and hold the app, then select Uninstall app > Uninstall.

MORE IPHONE KNOW-HOW: Tap or click here for 10 of our favorite iOS 14 features.

On an Android:

Long press an app, then tap App info > Uninstall. Go to Settings > Apps & notifications to see a list of your apps and uninstall them in the same way. Or you can open the Google Play Store app and go to Menu > My apps & games. Tap the app and click Uninstall. Note: Samsung and OnePlus phones have an Uninstall option under the app quick menu.

Don’t forget to check the permissions

After the big clean, there’s one more thing you need to do to protect your privacy even better. Each of your remaining apps has certain permissions, such as access to your contact list, location, camera, microphone, and more.

In some cases, these permissions are necessary for the app to function the way you want it to, but not always. Does that table reservation app really need access to your microphone? Follow these steps to take away that privilege.

RELATED: Tap or click here for more tips on cleaning your phone inside and out.

You can restrict the permissions for any app you use.

On an iPhone:

Go to Settings > Privacy to see a list of permissions. Apps that request access are added to each tab. Go through the permissions to enable or disable each app’s access as you see fit.

On an Android:

Navigate to Settings > Apps & notifications > App permissions for a list of available permissions on your smartphone.

An abundance of unused apps makes your phone cluttered and less secure. When in doubt, take it out!

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