Life hack: how to best arrange your iPhone apps, one icon at a time – The Guardian

In the 10 years since the iPhone launched, I’ve never really settled on a way to arrange my home screen that I actually like. Folders seem clunky but no folders leaves me with too many things multiple swipes away. Organising by what I use most leaves me with the rarely but rapidly needed apps buried, while organising by speed of access leaves me tapping through multiple times a day.

And then there’s aesthetics. Some apps simply don’t deserve to be on my first home screen no matter how much I use them. Mostly games. Game designers can’t make an attractive icon for the life of them, it seems.

I was trapped on the horns of dilemma. So for the past couple of years, I’ve abdicated all responsibility for the decision making, and instead instituted A System: every time I tap on an app to open it, I move it one square closer to the front.

That’s it. Of course, there are quirks to this system. For one thing, searching for an app in spotlight, or switching to it through multitasking, doesn’t count – because if you don’t tap on the icon, you don’t need the icon to be accessible, right?

Two years down the line I’ve reached a home screen that vaguely resembles a nice mixture of my most used, most tapped on and most persistent apps:

Composite of iPhone Apps on home screen



Alex’s first home screen shows all his most-used apps. On the second screen, games appear. By page three, the folders arrive. Photograph: Alex Hern’s iPhone

As well as being quite a good array of apps, I also like what it tells me about my iPhone usage.

The dock barely changes at this point, although WhatsApp occasionally fights Spotify for dominance. Duolingo has the advantage of being opened every single day without fail, RSS app Reeder gets opened at least twice on weekdays, and Twitter is … well, Twitter is Twitter. I don’t even bother to put Duolingo past it anymore.

The rest of the first page is largely understandable. I’m surprised I still use Snapchat enough for it to be so high up, and Health is slowly falling down the list now I stopped manually logging my weight – who has time for that – but the screen is a fairly accurate cross-section of what I use my phone for.

The second page follows the same system. There, you’ll find a few of the apps I use regularly, but not by any means daily, as well as some, such as secure chat app Wire, which I’ve only started using recently but are climbing up the charts.

By the third page, I break my rules. Here everything goes in folders, and moves one folder forward each time I tap on it. It’s the only way to avoid having 40 pages of apps, and it works fairly well. It also reveals quite how many apps I have that I have never clicked on. Some, such as Swiftkey or the Wallet app, are still useful but just opened in other ways. Others, such as the World of Warcraft companion app (I don’t play the game anymore) or taxi app Gett (I don’t take many taxis) I think I should probably delete.

There’s also the only other rule-breaking I have: a folder for “old games”. Sometimes you just know when you’re done with a game, but you don’t want to remove it from your phone, you know? That’s where these games go to hibernate. Maybe I’ll bust out Reigns or Corrypt again, one day.

I’m pretty sure my way’s the only sensible way to arrange icons. But I’m willing to be convinced otherwise. Anyone got any better ideas?

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