Free space is a perennial problem on many iPhones — especially those saddled with just 16GB of storage. To help address the problem in the upcoming iOS 11, Apple has introduced a few new tools for managing user data, including the option to automatically delete the apps you never use.
On iOS 11 the feature is called Offload Unused Apps. You can read a detailed breakdown of how it works here, but the gist of it is this: when storage is running low, the Offload feature removes little-used apps, but keeps their documents and data on your device. The deleted apps appear as grayed-out icons on the home screen, and can be reinstalled with a tap. When activated (on the iPhone go to Settings > General > iPhone Storage) the feature works automatically in the background, but users can also choose to offload individual apps of their choosing.
As Tom Moss, co-founder of Android phone company Nextbit, pointed out on Twitter, this is the same idea his company implemented with its 2016 Robin smartphone. Right down to grayed-out icons marking gone-but-not-forgotten apps. However, it is worth pointing out that iOS 9 had a similar feature back in 2015 — although that was only for temporarily deleting apps while upgrading to a new operating system.
Thankfully, it’s not the only storage-saving feature Apple has introduced in iOS 11 either. Others, found in the same menu in Settings, are simply suggestions for clearing out recently deleted photos and moving data to iCloud, but there’s also a new “auto delete old conversations” feature that deletes data in the Messages app that’s more than a year old. You can also sort conversations by the amount of storage they take up, and delete them on an individual basis.
iOS 11 is currently available as a beta for developers, with a public beta due out at the end of the month, and a general release expected this autumn.