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Security tip: The right way to clean out your smartphone apps

The word “audit” usually drums up feelings of anxiety. Nobody wants others poking in their business. When it comes to your phone, however, an audit might be your best path to privacy.

The process is simple. Go through each of your apps and ask yourself one question: “Do I really need this?” Tap or click here for five apps you should delete from your device right now.

It’s not as simple as just uninstalling the apps you don’t use anymore. You need to take a few vital steps to delete apps the right way and protect your privacy. We’ll walk you through it.

Why is an app audit important?

An app audit is a good idea for a few reasons. The most basic being to free up space on your phone, which will keep it running smoothly and give you more space to store photos, videos, apps and files. 

You’ll also spend less time scrolling through a bunch of stuff to get to what you need. Tap or click here for steps on freeing up even more space by deleting duplicate photos.

An app audit also reduces the risk of security issues. The more apps you have, the more at risk you are. If one of them gets hacked, your personal data ends up in the wrong hands.

Here’s where to start

Scroll through your apps and note which ones you rarely use or don’t use at all. Do you have two or three apps that perform the same function? What about the one you downloaded to get a free drink 5 years ago?

Aside from picking out the apps you don’t use, highlight the ones you use every day. When you wake up in the morning, what are the first ones you open? Make a list, in your head or on paper, of the apps you would like to keep and those that can be tossed.

Your iPhone can help if you’re not sure where to start. To get a detailed view of your app activity and what you use most, go to Settings > Screen Time. To see how much data your apps use, go to Settings > Cellular. To see which apps are seriously mooching off your battery, go to Settings > Battery.

If you’re on an Android, tap Settings > Digital Wellbeing & parental controls > Dashboard to view screen times for each app. To view data usage, go to Settings > Network & internet > Data usage. Check out the battery usage by going to Settings > Battery

Do this before you uninstall

Once you have identified the time, battery, and data-hogging culprits, you’re ready for the next step. No, you won’t be deleting anything quite yet. Many apps contain your personal information and that needs to be taken care of first.

Log in to each app and navigate to the page or menu that lets you deactivate or delete your account. Some services make this step more difficult by requiring you to access them from a desktop browser or even contact the company via email or phone to drop your account. If you can’t find a way to take this step, you may need to reach out anyway.

There are ways to make your disappearing act easier. Justdelete.me has links to the pages you need to remove yourself from a site or app. Tap or click here for steps on how to use this handy resource.

Now it’s time to clean house. 

On an iPhone:

  • Touch and hold an app, then tap Remove App > Delete App > Delete
  • You can also use the App Library, introduced in iOS 14, to get a curated list of your apps grouped by category. Swipe past the last page of your Home screen to access it. Tap and hold the app, then select Delete App > Delete

MORE IPHONE KNOW-HOW: Tap or click here for 10 of our favorite iOS 14 features.

On an Android:

  • Long-press an app, then tap App Info > Uninstall
  • Go to Settings > Apps & Notifications to see a list of your apps and delete them the same way. 
  • Or you can open the Google Play Store app and navigate to Menu > My apps & games. Tap on the app and hit Uninstall
  • Note: Samsung and OnePlus phones have an Uninstall option under the app shortcuts menu. 

Don’t forget to check permissions

Following the big cleanse, there’s one more thing you should do to protect your privacy even more. Each of your remaining apps has certain permissions, such as access to your contact list, location, camera, microphone and more. 

In some cases, these permissions are necessary for the app to function the way you want it to, but not always.  Does that table reservation app really need access to your microphone? Follow these steps take away that privilege.

RELATED: Tap or click here for more tips on cleaning your phone inside and out.

You can restrict privileges for each app you use.

On an iPhone:

  • Go to Settings > Privacy to see a list of permissions. Apps that request access will be added to each tab. Go through the permissions to toggle each app’s access on or off as you see fit. 

On an Android:

  • Navigate to Settings > Apps & notifications > App permissions for a list of permissions available on your smartphone.

A glut of unused apps leaves your phone cluttered and less secure. When in doubt, take it out!

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