It’s the very definition of a First World Problem: you have way more iPhone apps than you ever expected to use, and finding the one you want is becoming more and more of a chore. So much so that you’ve resorted to using the search screen to find them by name – which is clunky and doesn’t help when you can remember what the app does but not what it’s called.
I’m a pretty logical and organised kind of guy, so my first pass at organising my apps was by category. All travel-related apps on one screen, all entertainment ones on another, and so on.
That worked ok for a while, but as the apps and categories grew, it became less and less effective. That Entertainment category, for example, contained a mix of apps I used daily – like Music – with ones I used rarely, like iBooks (usually read on my iPad). Then there were those apps I could never remember how I’d categorised. Is Dropbox in Business, or in Network? Is my Meetup app in London or Social? And what about apps that span two or more logical categories?
So I recently tried a new tack …
Rather than organise my apps by logical category, I organised them by occasion. I have one homescreen containing only the (very few) apps I use frequently at home:
If you’re wondering why the Camera app belongs there when it gets used more outside the home, it’s because the phone lives on a dock at home/office, so the app is one touch away. When out & about, the phone is in my pocket, so it’s quicker to access it directly from the lockscreen. It’s thinking about usability rather than category.
Homescreen two contains the apps I use most frequently when out & about locally. Within the screen layout itself, there’s some categorisation. For example, Music and Podcasts next to each other followed by four transport-related apps together, but the apps span a whole bunch of categories.
I considered homescreens for other categories, but decided that everything else could live in folders on screen three, and be quicker to access. There are then a few miscellaneous apps that didn’t seem to fit any particular category (and were typically the ones I couldn’t find when I forced them into one) that sit beneath the folders.
And that’s it! The only other homescreen I have is this one, which is essentially just a way of storing the junk Apple apps I don’t use but can’t remove, plus the App Store.
My bottom-bar then holds the four apps I use frequently no matter where I am: Phone, Messages, Skype and Settings.
Admittedly I have far fewer apps than some people. My iPad goes pretty much everywhere with me, so that’s the device that does the heavy lifting where mobile app use is concerned. It’s the reason Safari is relegated to an ‘also ran’ on my iPhone, and why only a small subset of my travel apps are on my phone. My iPhone has the apps I want quick access to without having to pull my iPad out of its bag.
But I reckon this approach – occasion rather than category – would actually work even better with more apps. You’ll probably also find that you delete a fair number of apps you no longer use as part of the rejigging process.
I’ve been running the approach now for several weeks. In that time, accessing the app I want has been both faster and easier – and I haven’t had to resort to searching even once.
If you try it out, let me know in comments what you think. And if you have a better way to organise your apps than either category or occasion, I’d be really interested to compare!