'Tis the season to delete all those apps you don't use

If you have an Android phone, you have something in common with everyone else who has an Android phone, no matter how different you might be — you have at least a handful of apps installed. Google Play is filled with well over a million apps and there are some that you like and use every day. Others you thought you might like but for one reason or another didn't use them. Everyone here at AC does the same thing. Super-cool-fun-time app looks freaking amazing and we all install it, then some of us realize we just aren't into its super-cool-fun-stuff. No biggie, since most of them are free.

Except, nothing in life is ever really free. You're trading a bit of personal information about yourself instead of currency to get those free apps.

You might have read folks saying that it's often not a great thing to have apps that collect your data. Sometimes that's true and there are apps that are just a front for some malicious data collection designed to get the information you would never freely give. But most of the time, you're trading things like where and how often you buy coffee, the length of your daily commute, what music or video services you use, and other relatively mundane data, for a "free" app. Only you can decide if the trade is worth it, and I like to think that for most people it is and they read what an app can when they install and grant permissions.

In any case, all that goes out of the window when it's an app that sits on your phone and you don't use but it's still gathering that data about you. Maybe you still don't care if it knows you went to the barber on Saturday or that you shop at Target. But do you care that you're paying for something you aren't using? I'm guessing the for most people, the answer is yes.

I know that plenty of people never think about their online privacy and that despite all the horror stories you might read (true or otherwise), companies like Google, Samsung, and the small independent developer that made your favorite app aren't trying to steal your identity or funnel money from your bank into theirs by tricking you. (The jury is still out on Facebook.) Data collection is a legitimate business and as long as both parties know what is changing hands — your giving data and getting something in exchange — it's not much different than any other sort of transaction. Read the terms, make the decision, and enjoy the service.

Exceptions happen, though. There will always be people who leverage the promise of some great tool or game or any other sort of app you want but are really only trying to get your information and sell it off to the highest bidder, or even use it themselves to do something horrible. Hopefully, you haven't been unfortunate enough to stumble across any of these developers during your hunt for the best apps. But if you did, you definitely don't want their apps hanging around when you're not using them. You also don't want an app you forgot about being installed if there happens to be some sort of data breach inside the company that developed it. Even better — if you know you'll never use an app again, before deleting it go into the settings and see if there's a way to close your account and purge your data.

I don't want to inject any doom and gloom into your holiday times, but it's always better to be safe than sorry. Take a few minutes to look through your app drawer and uninstall everything that you don't use, or disable everything you don't use if you can't uninstall it. And if you happen to get a new Android phone as a gift, be extra mindful about the apps you reinstall. You never know when you'll read something that makes you really glad you did.

Here's wishing you a happy holidays, and good times all around!

Jerry Hildenbrand
Senior Editor — Google Ecosystem

Jerry is an amateur woodworker and struggling shade tree mechanic. There's nothing he can't take apart, but many things he can't reassemble. You'll find him writing and speaking his loud opinion on Android Central and occasionally on Twitter.

12 Comments
  • I have no apps that I do not use except the ones that can't be uninstalled. Ive thought about disabling some but every time I take the plunge that pop-up that says disabling system apps may cause other apps to misbehave makes me say aw forget it.
  • Why not disable the app and see what happens? If it happens that something really does misbehave due to a disabled app, get it running again. No harm, no foul.
  • I've seen that same pop-up and went ahead and disabled them and never have had a problem. I think they do that just to keep you from turning their app off.
  • On occasion I get the same warning, and guess what! No problems, At Least So Far. But it's your choice. Another warning that is about as bogus as can be is the " This app won't work properly unless you allow Google Play Services...…." Guess what I got that one once on my BofA app clicked cancel and the app works just fine. I also get it on a game (Magnet Balls) every time I play it. I do the same cancel it and it too works just fine. YMMVT so do be cautious! Happy New Year
  • It's a default message, but it's only relevant when you disable and app that's tied to it. An example would be disabling the Facebook App Manager, but leaving Facebook enabled. 99% of the time you will be fine, and if it does cause a problem, you can re-enable or reinstall.
  • Absolutely great advice! Thanks! Happy New Year to you and yours as well!
  • Cheers Jer, another excellent write up.
  • But, but, but I might use them sometime!
  • I delete or disable apps I don't use and only install them when I need them. Apps I use once in a while I force close until needed.
  • Unfortunately, manufacturers and carriers include bloatware, some of which cannot be uninstalled. You may have to disable them.
  • I never thought of unused apps as a security concern, but I'll have to take that into consideration now. I have a lot of apps that are necessary once in a while, but because they are paid and critical when I DO need them, I keep them around. I had to respond to an electrical emergency at a hospital on Thanksgiving eve this year, and I had everything I needed at my fingertips, including full blueprints for the entire building and the technical info on every network closet. I'm currently at 141 apps on my HTC U11, but it's still faster than an empty S9 or iPhone 10, so it does not bother me from a performance standpoint.
  • will try this