The Science of Organizing Your iPhone Apps

I have been an iPhone/iPod Touch user ever since the oringinal iPhone OS. Back then, there was no App Store and there were no app-cluttered pages. Now, we have a wonderful wealth of third-party apps providing endless functionality that enhances each of our lives.

With the great power of third-party apps comes the overwhelming burden of organizing them. I don't know about you, but I spend hours upon hours organizing and re-organizing my apps in an attempt to find the perfect layout. I read blog posts and articles on the subject; I constantly ask others if I can see their iPhones just to explore what apps they keep on the home page, how they set up folders, and which four (or sometimes less) apps they choose to prominently place in the dock. After my year of research, I have finally found a flow of logic by which I can effectively organize my apps and make my iPhone experience super efficient. I'd like to share it with you!

The Fundamentals

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There are two things that govern where an app ought to be positioned on my iPhone:

-How quickly do I need to be able to find the app?

-How frequently do I actually use the app?

As a general rule, whether the app is on a page or in the dock, I place my "need to use quickly" apps along the side of the phone and never within a folder. More specialized, I place my most used apps in the corners. This is mostly because it is much easier to find and tap on these app, particularly when using one hand and/or when I can only afford a brief glance at the screen.

Now that I have a very general rule for placing apps, lets take a look at the tools bestowed by Apple to sort apps. There are four tiers that we have: the dock, the home page, pages, and folders.

The Dock

The dock is my phone's command center. My dock has been through many iterations before landing on my current and best layout so far; Messages, Music, Settings, and Launch Center Pro. I like having Messages easily viewable from any page on my phone so that I don't miss a text. I also find that I use texting far more than calling. Hence, the Phone app was demoted to my home page. My iPhones have all been music players first, smartphones second. Because of this, the Music app wins a spot on the dock. I keep Settings in my dock reluctantly. Until Apple gives us a better way to toggle Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, Personal Hotspot, etc, Settings will sadly be one of my most accessed apps.

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The biggest problem that I run into with the dock is that it can only accommodate four apps. I used to work around this problem by putting a folder in the dock; but this is very dissatisfying. I find it aesthetically displeasing and defeating to the dock's quick-access purpose. My solution has now become an app called Launch Center Pro. This app is essentially a beefed up folder that's designed to create shortcuts to specific actions within other apps. I use this to do things like toggle my flashlight, jump to a specific camera, speed dial/message/social-netowrk certain contacts, quickly scan barcodes or look up a song, or add events and to-do's. It takes a bit of leg work to set up, but it really streamlines my common actions.

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The Home Page

My home page is reserved for apps that I use on a daily basis with one exception: Calendar. The Calendar app doesn't get much direct use from me (though it gets plenty of use from other connected apps). I keep it on the home page because it is the only live updating app icon and it's great for getting a quick look at the date.

I have a few aesthetic rules for the home page; no folders and no apps in the bottom row. I'll explain more about folder theory later. You can see my home page below:

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Pages and Folders

Pages and folders took me a long time to figure out. They serve a similar function, and I often notice that people use them interchangeably. Some people folder-ize pages, making each page themed (social page, gaming page, productivity page, etc.) Others page-ify folders, putting every app in a folder, on as few pages as possible.

For a long time, I used the folder-ized pages method. This is mostly because I couldn't organize using folders in a way that helped me. I would try categorizing apps into folders by "social," "money," "games," etc. This would help cut back on swiping through pages and pages of apps, but would equally slow me down when trying to find and use my "most-used" apps.

Really, folders are there to help de-clutter your pages of the many useful, but not-often-used apps. To me, this means you should only put an app in a folder when it is one that you don't use on a daily basis.

With the exception of games, I try my damnedest to use a verb-only naming structure for my folders. When you have "action folders," you find things quicker because you think in terms of actions, not app categories. I want to manage my bank account, not "financial" it. My brain and phone are more in sync when I use folder names like "share," "manage," "explore," etc. I do cheat on this a little bit. Some category folder names really do work better; namely "utilities." Also, some action verbs are too long and can be shortened, like "make music" becomes "music" and "take photo" becomes "photo." I also find it really helpful to put an emoji icon in each of my folder names.

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It's important that you don't go too crazy putting things in folders. Remember, if you use an app a lot, don't put it in a folder. For example, I have a "share" folder. The Facebook and Instagram apps would be a great fit for this folder; except, I use each of them every single day. Don't feel like making a folder means you must put all things of the folder's nature into it.

Pages serve a very broad organizational purpose on my iPhone. Having less pages really makes you more efficient when looking for an app. I recommend having only two or three pages in addition to your home page. Personally, I only need two additional pages and I organize them in the most general way possible; apps and games. Apps that I use frequently are not in folders, the rest are in "action folders." Likewise, games that I play frequently are not in folders, while the rest are in "game-type folders."

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Ultimately, organizing is about efficiency and aesthetics; everyone is going to have their own needs and preferences. I hope you find my app organizing logic and methods useful in your own organizational choices.