The apps you download to your smartphone can be like your friends on social media. They’re fun and entertaining — until they’re not. And then it’s tough to figure out when it’s OK to kick them out of your digital life.
Fortunately, you can always opt out of seeing somebody’s posts on social media. There are many legitimate reasons to unfollow somebody. And you don’t owe it to anybody to keep following them despite their bad behavior. Similarly, you’re under no obligation to keep using an app that was fun and functional once, but no longer makes you feel productive.
In fact, there are just as many reasons to delete an app as there are reasons to unfollow people on your favorite social networks. Apps change. Sometimes that’s for the better. And sometimes it’s not. Developers add features that are annoying or unnecessary. Designers make interface changes that interfere with productivity. Updates sometimes stop coming, or they are too slow to keep up with the bugs and glitches that keep popping up.
We’re here to remind you that you can always delete an app that just isn’t working for you. Sure, it might feel a little sad to let an app go, particularly if it’s brought you lots of joy in the past. But the Google Play Store and the iOS App Store are full of great apps, which means if you delete an app that isn’t offering what you want, you can find another app that does. There are plenty of reasons to delete that app from your smartphone — and your life.
1. The app has stopped working reliably
Brian X. Chen reports for The New York Times that if you’ve been using an app for a while, it can be difficult to recognize the warning signs that indicate it’s time to move on. But one of the most obvious signs, he writes, is “when an app stops working reliably in a way that affects your life.”
Chen reports he “called it quits on Apple’s Calendar app when I was planning a dinner with friends last month and the software sent a calendar invite in Greenwich Mean Time rather than Pacific Standard Time.”
Other examples of deal-breaking glitches? A camera app that suddenly made it impossible to export high-resolution images. Or a news app that crashes every time you try to scroll through and read the headlines.
2. The app stops improving
Another sure sign it’s time to delete an app? You notice it stopped improving and lacks many of the new features its competitors have added. Not everybody needs every new feature. But think of it this way. Would you keep using a calendar app if it stayed pretty much the same but all of the alternatives in the app store had more fun features, better tools to manage your schedule, and better security? Probably not.
There might not be anything wrong with your original calendar app. But each day you spend using a lackluster app is one you could be getting more out of a newer, better app.
3. The app hasn’t been updated in a long time
Most developers who are on top of what’s going on with their operating system of choice make an effort to update their apps pretty regularly. Updates add new features. They also fix bugs. And they ensure the app is compatible with the latest version of the operating system.
If you’ve noticed an app’s improvements have stagnated, go to the app store and check the last time the app was updated. If it’s been months, or even years, that’s a pretty good signal the developer isn’t paying a lot of attention to the title anymore. It’s probably a good time to find a better app.
4. There isn’t anybody to talk to anymore
Chen points out another good sign it’s time to delete an app and move on: when you realize you have nobody to talk to in the app. And it’s not just forgotten social networks that can feel deserted.
“Many popular apps for tasks like note taking, photo management and word processing are connected to social networks, or people you can share data with,” Chen explains. So “if an app’s audience is a ghost town — like Yahoo’s photo-sharing app, Flickr, which sank in popularity after mobile photo-sharing services like Instagram emerged — then it’s probably time to leave.”
You don’t need a captive audience liking everything you post online. But apps with social features aren’t so fun if you have nobody to socialize with on the platform.
5. You’re only sticking around for your data
Chen notes that often “the hardest part of breaking up with an app is moving your data.” It’s always a good idea to have a backup of any data important to you. But it’s especially important when you’re replacing an old app with a new one.
“Some companies deliberately make exporting your data difficult because they want you to stick around,” Chen says.
Check out which formats you can use to export your data and which of those are compatible with the new app you want to use. If there isn’t an easy way to export your data from inside the app, search the web for solutions. Chances are good that other people have run into the same problem. And you might be able to find a script that will do the dirty work for you.
6. The app keeps costing you money
We all know developers spend huge amounts of time and money creating their apps and games. So we definitely don’t mind paying a few dollars for a great app. And on occasion, we’ll go for an in-app purchase that adds valuable functionality to an app we already love.
But one of the worst trends in apps is the rise of mobile games that are free to download but quickly become impossible to beat unless you shell out real money. That money buys you tools, upgrades, gold, etc. that help you win a level but are quickly depleted.
That means if you play the game regularly, you’re probably spending a lot more than you originally anticipated. The easiest fix is just to delete the app and pick something cheaper to play when you have an idle moment.
7. The app has moved to a subscription model
Another way developers sometimes monetize apps is with a subscription model. Instead of buying the app once and having access to all of its features thereafter, an app that operates on a subscription model will cost you a set number of dollars each month or year.
That might be worth it for powerful professional tools, such as Adobe Creative Suite. But that’s unlikely to be the case with an app you use on your smartphone or tablet. Add up what you’re paying for an app, and decide whether it’s worth it to you. If not, it’s time to delete the app (and cancel your subscription).
8. There are too many ads
Ads are another method for developers to monetize their apps. At least some of the free apps you’ve downloaded probably show a small number of ads somewhere in their interface.
But if an app suddenly takes a turn for the worse and its design is overwhelmed by ads, it might be time to move on. An overabundance of ads is, at best, annoying.
At its worst, having too many ads can make it impossible to scroll through the app or use it without accidentally tapping an ad. If an app becomes unusable because of ads, go ahead and delete it.
9. You’re unsure whether the app is doing anything
Unfortunately, many apps in the Play Store and the App Store are a total ripoff. That includes antivirus apps that don’t do a good job of detecting malware. Plus, there are many categories of apps that don’t work. (Think apps that promise to save battery life or defragment your phone’s storage.)
If you didn’t do your research when you downloaded the app, do a quick search now. If reviewers have concluded the app really doesn’t live up to its claims, feel free to delete it and move on.
10. The app isn’t compatible with other software
If you’ve been using an app for a few years, your workflow for specific tasks has probably changed during that time. The app you were using to track your workouts, for instance, might not communicate with Apple’s Health platform.
That’s probably not a big deal if you don’t rely on Health to track anything else. But if you use Health to track other kinds of activity or to keep tabs on your nutrition and sleep patterns, it’s probably a good idea to switch to another app that’s compatible with the other software you’re using.