There’s an App for That… but Do You Really Need It?

Working in IT, it’s easy to get caught up in the deluge of apps you’re bombarded with every day. I started wondering how many apps I’ve downloaded over the past 6 years since I got my first iPhone. Apple doesnt’ make this number easy to find, so I started counting them manually. I figured it was time to stop when I had reached 300 and still hadn’t made it 1/6 of the way through the list. That’s A LOT of apps!

Over the past few months, I’ve drastically reduced the number of apps on my phone (49 at the present moment). In doing so, I’ve come to really question whether I need “an app for that” in the first place. Some things I consider are:

Does this app offer a function I actually do on my phone?

Sure, I can download an app for every credit card or bank card on my phone, but if I manage my finances from my computer, why does it need to be on my phone? Browsing Reddit is fun on my phone too, but wouldn’t that time be better spent elsewhere? Unless it’s something I trulls need to do on my phone, the app can go.

Does this app offer an improved interface or additional features over the web version?

Here’s a case where maybe I don’t use an app frequently, but having it installed on my phone adds additional features. A great example of this would be Pinterest. While I don’t use Pinterest all that frequently, browsing through the app is a much more pleasant than browsing through Safari, and the app also includes a Share extension. Tweetbot is a similar example.

Do I already have an app for this?

If you’re not careful, you can end up with information silos. For me, a great example was lists. At one point I had an app for my reading list, another for my grocery list, an app for my wishlist, and of course Omnifocus for my to do list. Not everyone loves to throw anything and everything at Omnifocus, but for me, having multiple apps for tracking lists of things I need to do added overhead to my systems. With everything in Omnifocus, it’s comforting to know that lists of tasks or things that need to be tracked all live in one place.

Does this app add additional fiddliness to my life?

A recent revelation was that many of my apps were causing undue stress and added fiddliness that just wasn’t worth worrying about. My habit tracker app was the most recent app to get chopped. I was tracking things like “Walk 6000 steps a day” (which my FitBit does automatically) just to pat myself on the back with a checkmark when I remembered to check it off at the end of the day. The problem is, even when I did hit 6000 steps, I didn’t remember to check it off. Every time I opened my phone, I had a glaring reminder of something I failed to do instead. At the end of the day, most of the things I was tracking were trivial and knowing whether or not I did them didn’t add value to my life.

With fewer apps on my phone, I’m now more intentional about how I use my phone. I not only have a tidier homescreen, but I know that when I open my phone, I will only be presented with information and tools that are useful to access from the palm of my hand. Apps to let me know where I need to be, what I need to do, and how my day is going. Apps to help me do the things I need to do in life, and a few to take advantage of any spare moments during the day.

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