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Die Apps, Die

All I want to do is kill a bunch of apps I never use off of my phone. But Apple won’t let me.

I have something of a clutter problem. On my phone. I have a bunch of apps that I want to get rid of, but I can’t. Because they’re made by Apple.

All in all, the changes to the App Store and iOS app ecosystem over the last three years or so have made things simpler (or better) but there’s one way Apple won’t allow users to simplify their own phones: deleting or hiding stock apps.

It used to be that apps better than Apple’s stock apps for things — mail, music, notes — didn’t exist. Partly because it took developers a while to make better apps, partly because App Store guidelines were architected in a way that it was hard by design to, say, build a better mail application than Mail.app. (Or simply not allowed at all.) But that’s not the case anymore: I don’t need Mail, Weather, Notes, Music, Stocks or Newsstand because I’ve got Sparrow, Shine, Simplenote, Rdio, I don’t care about stocks and WTF Newsstand. But I can’t delete them. (And I can’t even hide Newsstand inside another folder, so it’s just hanging out, being ugly.) So they just sit there, taking up space on my phone, icons littering my very neat grid of otherwise carefully curated apps.

There’s a rationale for not allowing users to hide or delete stock apps — the dad who accidentally deletes Mail.app and thinks he’ll never be able to get email EVER AGAIN. But this seems easy enough to solve: Make the ability to delete or hide stock apps a toggle buried deep down in settings, with a very explicit warning that requires a double confirmation. Then allow users to restore apps by connecting to iTunes or even putting the apps in a special section of the App Store, sort of like what Google does with core Android apps (which also allows those apps to get updates more frequently than the overall OS). The tricky part, at least with Mail, is integration with system services: If you want to mail a link from Safari or a picture from Photos, iOS pulls up Mail, so there’d need to be a way to plug in Sparrow in order to completely replace Mail. But I could live with Mail remaining as a system service, just not on my homescreen.

Same for Newsstand. Downloading magazines in the background is a super useful system service! But for the love of all things beautiful and right, there has to be a way to get rid of this. Reasonable, right? That’s all I want. (Oh, there is one other thing. A legitimate way to retrieve old versions of apps. But that’s another post.)

So, just two tiny things I want from my apps: The ability to kill them forever, and the ability to bring dead ones back to life. No bigs.

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