How to spring clean your smartphone

May 31, 2017

It’s spring – finally! – which means we all have a natural inclination to sort out our lives. Clear our wardrobes. Declutter that pile of books and magazines overflowing on the bedside table. Pick up a copy of Spark Joy to unleash our inner Marie Kondos. Start practicing mindfulness – even with our phones.

This desire to clean and refresh our lives extends to our tried-and-trusted tech, too. Our phones have become horrific, space-starved, messy rooms filled with apps, photos and music we don’t need or want. Like the three separate photo-book apps we downloaded after seeing our friend’s beautifully displayed series of family albums. Number of times any of those apps has been used? Zero. Total number of gorgeous photo-book albums created? Also zero.

In the spirit of spring cleaning and getting our lives organised for the summer ahead, we’ve put together a guide on how to spring clean your smartphone (inside and out). And we’ve got some expert tips from Tanya Goodin, digital entrepreneur, author and founder of digital detox movement Time To Log Off.

Sort out those apps

Visual clutter on your phone can be as unpleasant and stressful to deal with as visual clutter in actual life. What’s worse, all of those extra apps can be hindering your phone’s performance and decreasing much-needed storage space.

“Move all non-essential and hardly used apps into a separate folder and move them OFF your phone home screen, so they aren’t as visible and tempting,” says Goodin.

“With the average smartphone user having nearly 30 apps installed but using only five of them frequently, there’s a lot of clutter on the average smartphone screen to distract you.” For a complete spring clean, Goodin advises deleting all rarely used apps. Settings > General > Storage and iCloud Usage > Manage Storage lets you see how much space apps are taking up and delete from there.

Just beware: some apps are harder to delete than others. If you’ve decided to upgrade to a personal chauffeur and delete your beloved Uber app from your account, for example, deleting the app from your phone will rid you of visual clutter but won’t actually deactivate your account (to do that, go to Delete my Uber account on Uber’s support site, log into your account, tick the reasons why you’d like to abolish your account and then click Submit).

Mute your notifications

“Be ruthless about which apps need to demand immediate attention. Do you HAVE to be alerted any time one of your tweets is retweeted? Review notifications app by app and cut down on banners, badges and sound alerts to minimise distraction,” advises Goodin.

Her ultimate power tip? Turn off ALL notifications across ALL apps and only check your phone when YOU choose to. This can be a bit of a shock if you’re used to your phone lighting up like a Christmas tree, and it may give rise to a bit of FOMO, but remember you can turn them on again at any time.

Delete texts, music and pictures

You’d be surprised at how quickly your phone can accumulate texts and pictures, which don’t take up much space on their own… but when you’ve got around 15,000 of them, can quickly become a time-waster and power-drainer.

The good news is, you can set your iPhone to delete messages after a certain time period: go to Settings > Messages > Message History > Keep Messages, then select 30 days to ensure they’re deleted once a month.

And be careful with your WhatsApp messages: unless you change your settings, you’ll automatically be saving every WhatsApp image that comes through from all of your chats. Now you know what kind of pics accumulate on your WhatsApp chat, so you know this is something you want to avoid. Go to WhatsApp > Settings > Chats and toggle off Save to Camera Roll.

Music buffs, FYI: downloading every song uses up lots of memory. Try streaming songs instead.

Declutter your social screens

Fun/scary/not-at-all surprising fact time: Social media apps are in the top five most-used on a majority of our phones. Goodin suggests reducing the number of pages you like and reviewing the people and brands you follow.

“Research shows that spending just a week off Facebook can significantly increase feelings of wellbeing and happiness. Pruning your social feeds to ensure you’re only following and interacting with those who are genuinely adding value to your life could well make your smartphone a more pleasant place to be,” Goodin says.

She also advises actively de-friending and unfollowing those people on social media who no longer have a place in your life. “Spring-clean social relationships that no longer serve you and leave space for new ones to develop,” she adds.

Clear your cache

Wiping your cached data (your phone’s recollection of everything you’ve done on it) will help you clear some memory space when you need it. Clear it by going to Settings > Safari, then scroll down to Clear History and Website Data.

Clean the phone

We don’t really want to tell you what researchers have found on the average smartphone. But you really need to know. 92% of phones have bacteria on them, and a smartphone has around 25,000 germs on it per square inch. That is indeed dirtier than that public toilet you won’t deign to use. So, while you’re purging your phone of its internal clutter, give it a clean. Turn it off, and, with a dry microfibre cloth and gentle circular motions, wipe the dirt and germs off the phone screen.

Check your drawers

While you’re busy spring cleaning the rest of your pad, be sure to check through any drawers for old phones that are wedged between dead batteries, old bits of gum and chargers for gadgets you haven’t used since 2007. If you happen to find an old phone or two – and 57% of people will – we’ve got loads of lovely new homes for them through our Reconnected scheme. We’ve partnered with charities The Hyde Group and Good Things Foundation to donate those unused devices to digitally disconnected and disenfranchised people in the community, who could use those phones as a lifeline to finding a new job. Or, better yet, a new start.

Another thing you can do with your old smartphone? Trade it in. You can swap your old device for a gift card so you can get a shiny new one via Three (either online or in store).