Declutter your phone for a cleaner, faster Android experience

You can spend less time swiping and searching for apps if you follow our guide for a more Zen-like setup.

simple home screen
Credit: Derek Walter

Decluttering is usually an exercise you go through at home to banish unnecessary decorations and excessive pieces of furniture. A clean place leads to a clean mind, or so the thinking goes. 

This mindset can also improve the smartphone experience. Without intending to, it’s easy to turn your phone's home screen into a mess of app icons, folders, and widgets that can make it really tough to find that new weather app you just downloaded.

We can help you embrace a more minimalist setup that might help alleviate some of the frustration of smartphone life. Swipe less to access your apps. Spend less time building a mosaic of folders. Perhaps you’ve always thought decluttering was a good idea, but just didn’t know what that would look like. Here are some strategies to get you going. 

Go minimal with your home screen

Android offers a lot of customization options for how you arrange your home screen. One way you can use that to your advantage is to break away from filling up your screen with an entire grid of apps and just go with what you really need. Consider the following example:

android home streamline

If you think about it, you really don’t need a ton of apps on your home screen.

I’ve just gone with the basics that I use the most. Five core apps at the bottom and then Google Cast for watching programming, Duo for video calls, and then Twitter. The rest of the items are neatly tucked away into the app drawer. I can then find them easily because, by default, most Android launchers put the apps into alphabetical order.

apps organized

One strength of the app drawer is that all the apps are listed in alphabetical order.

Some launchers, like TouchWiz (the default option on Samsung phones) allow you to put folders inside of the app drawer. I always found this to be cumbersome. The beauty of the app drawer is supposed to be that if you can’t find it on your home screen, you always know where it is in the drawer because of the alphabetical arrangement.

To fix this with TouchWiz, go into the app drawer and touch the A-Z label. It will then reorganize all of your apps into alphabetical order.


TouchWiz gives you some more choices for organization.

Unfortunately, you’ll have to do this every time you download a new app.

Going minimal on your home screen is pretty easy to do. But if you want to go a step further, you may need to get a better launcher.

Get a smart launcher

Android lets you put on a custom launcher, which is essentially what gives you control over the look and layout of your homescreens and app drawer.

My current favorite is Action Launcher 3. It sticks pretty closely to the design of the Google Now Launcher, but throws in a ton of customization that will help you create your own workflow. For example, you can program the launcher to perform specific actions based on a swipe. I like to have a vertical swipe down launch Google search and a swipe up take me to the app drawer.

Many of these same type of customizations can be found with other launchers like Nova Launcher. With such actions just a swipe away, it takes away the onus to build a complex set of home screens that are filled with apps and folders. 

But maybe you want a more hands-off approach where the phone does the thinking for you. In that case, Microsoft’s Arrow Launcher is an excellent choice.

arrow launcher

Arrow Launcher will perform a lot of organization for you.

The launcher analyzes your app usage and automatically puts key apps in a group on your home screen. The other screens show a collection of widgets that feature your recent conversations, Office documents, and contacts. You can also swipe up to get to the app drawer and perform a search...with Bing. Microsoft’s search engine isn’t bad, but I’ve always found Google to be vastly superior. Beyond that, Arrow Launcher is pretty good at giving you a clean experience without forcing you to make a million decisions.

Search, search, search

No matter your home screen, there’s another key strategy that underpins any recommendation: search. The search bar inside of the app drawer is a rapid-fire way to find the specific app that you’re looking for.

Even better, Google also retooled its search feature to investigate more deeply into your contacts, apps, and other pieces of data. You’ll see Search Phone at the bottom of the autosuggest list. Touch this and you may be able to find a relevant Keep note or Google Doc about what you’re after.

app search

Android has some built-in search tools to help you find apps or content inside of them.

By embracing these two capabilities you can swipe around your phone less and just find what you need by searching. The process isn’t as smooth as Spotlight on iOS, which automatically searches app names and other content that’s been catalogued by Spotlight on your device. But Google's search, of course, goes more deeply into your Google account and can always use Google for a web search.

No matter your method, there’s a better way than just going through grid of grid after apps. Picking a method is going to depend on preference, but you can find what you need and go for a sleeker look with rather minimal effort.

This story, "Declutter your phone for a cleaner, faster Android experience" was originally published by Greenbot.