The Junk Drawer Problem

Buzzfeed’s John Paczkowski, writing last week about his interview with Tim Cook:

No, it’s about the iPhone’s junk drawer problem. Why are there apps on the iOS that I can’t delete even though I never use them? Why does Apple insist that I keep Tips and Stocks on my iPhone when I’d like nothing more than to delete them? For Cook the question seems a familiar one. “This is a more complex issue than it first appears,” he says. “There are some apps that are linked to something else on the iPhone. If they were to be removed they might cause issues elsewhere on the phone. There are other apps that aren’t like that. So over time, I think with the ones that aren’t like that, we’ll figure out a way [for you to remove them]. … It’s not that we want to suck up your real estate; we’re not motivated to do that. We want you to be happy. So I recognize that some people want to do this, and it’s something we’re looking at.”

Ever since Apple introduced folders in iOS 4, it’s been possible for users to hide away unused apps in a single location. But while people could just delete most apps, Apple builds in apps into iOS that can’t be deleted at all. And each year, with each iOS release, the number of unremovable apps increases.

It is nice to hear that Apple is working on it. But in a way, we might already be seeing what they’re going to do.

First, why hasn’t Apple done so already? Tim Cook answered that above.

There are some apps that are linked to something else on the iPhone.

This also explains why we can’t change certain default apps. If the Weather app suddenly disappeared, how would Siri answer requests for tomorrow’s forecast? What about setting a reminder, a calendar event, or opening a link? While other apps can do that, until they can be integrated with Apple’s native tools and Siri, we likely won’t see the ability to change default applications.

Even so, the lack of ability to set a default application also forces Apple to keep improving the apps they provide. And by keeping built in app quality high, it also helps new users to the iOS platform become accustomed to it.

Now, how will Apple handle this situation? Will we ever be able to remove unwanted apps?

I think so, and it’ll be in a way that we’ve recently come to see. Again, for a clue, let’s look at Tim’s words.

There are other apps that aren’t like that. So over time, I think with the ones that aren’t like that, we’ll figure out a way [for you to remove them]. … It’s not that we want to suck up your real estate; we’re not motivated to do that. What apps don’t have any integration with others? Let’s take a couple of examples: Calculator and Tips. Would Apple simply allow a way to delete them?

Remember, Apple wants everything to work well together. The reason we see Safari and other built in apps remain a part of iOS is because they can all be updated at once and will continue to work great with each other and the operating system in general.

Also, notice Tim Cook’s wording. “Real estate.” Note that he didn’t say device storage. It isn’t a matter of these apps using up a large amount of space. Rather, the goal is to remove their location on the home screen. And in the end, that is what people try to do: users dump unwanted Apple apps into a single folder (junk drawer) and hide it away.

iOS 9 gives us hope of a solution with a new app: iCloud Drive. Apple has built in a brand new app that lets users navigate their iCloud Drive storage and see the files they have stored there. You’ve seen it, right? ...no? Oh, then perhaps you should turn it on in your iCloud Drive settings.

That’s right. Turn on the app so that it is visible on the home screen. While disabled, the app isn’t seen on the home screen, shown in Spotlight search, or able to be launched by Siri. With one toggle, the app is essentially non-existent on your iOS 9 device.

I think such capability will be slowly added to other built in iOS apps. Are you an advanced user who finds the Tips app to be annoying? Just turn it off in settings. Oh, it’ll still be there. But for all intents and purposes, it’s removed from your device.

For apps that are essential to operations with other components, like Weather, perhaps Apple will tweak the settings to allow the app to respond to data requests but be invisible on the home screen. For that we’ll have to wait and see. But I wouldn’t be surprised if Apple starts testing other apps that can be removed from the home screen in iOS 10.

Source: BuzzFeed