First Click: How many default iPhone apps do you use?

June 10th, 2015


Are you an iPhone user? If so, there’s a good chance you’ve created a folder called “Apple” or “Junk” or “Stuff I can’t delete but really want to.” It’s the place you put all those default apps that come preinstalled on every iOS device since the original iPhone. It’s an annoyance, sure, but the fact that you’re not using them poses a threat to Apple’s ecosystem — a view shared by BuzzFeed’s Charlie Warzel.

The original iPhone came pre-installed with 16 apps. These have morphed and ballooned to 27 now: Messages, Calendar, Photos, Camera, Weather, Clock, Maps, Videos, Notes, Reminders, Stocks, Game Center, Newsstand, iTunes Store, App Store, iBooks, Health, Passbook, Settings, Phone, Mail, Safari, Music, Podcasts, Voice Memos, Tips, and Apple Watch.

Of these, I use just 12 regularly, the other 15 are tucked away in a folder called “Meh.” An informal survey of my Verge colleagues shows similar setups with most of Apple’s defaults tucked away on pages never viewed, or folders never opened.

On Monday, Apple’s Craig Federighi described the defaults as apps that “represent fundamental experiences to living on a mobile device.” That’s important because these are the same apps that will provide Apple with the fundamental dataset needed by the biggest advance in iOS 9 (and the biggest selling point for the next iPhone): Intelligence — on-device data mining that requires deep integration with default apps like Mail, Calendar, Notes, Music, Maps, Messages, Photos, Reminders, and Safari.

Apple’s own examples under the Intelligence section of the iOS 9 preview make this clear. For Siri to show you “videos I took at Iva’s birthday party” you’ll need to use Apple Photos, not Google Photos. For Siri to remind you later about a place you found you’ll have to use Apple Maps, not Google Maps. For iOS 9 to proactively open your favorite playlist when entering the gym you’ll have to use Apple Music, not Spotify. For it to automatically create calendar events you have to use Apple Mail and Calendar, not Microsoft Outlook. Some of this will be offset by the announcement of a Spotlight search API for deep linking inside third-party apps — though it’s too early to say how much (WWDC is still underway).

Nilay’s right, taken individually all of these default apps are just features used to sell iPhones. But the near-future features I’m most excited about require data mining and machine learning to turn my phone into a true personal data assistant, not just a dumb PDA. A device that knows what I need based upon access to my complete data profile built from all the apps and services I use. If Apple can’t provide that to me then surely Google can… on a Samsung phone.

So, what does your Apple app folder look like?

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