Opinion: Arranging Your iPhone Apps Is A Waste Of Time

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When iTunes 9 came out, a lot of people (myself included) were delighted to see a new feature that allowed you to re-arrange the apps on your iPhone’s screens using your desktop computer.

Hooray, we cheered. No more tedious dragging of little wriggling icons from one screen to another. Now we can put our apps where we want them to be, and never have to worry about them again.

Wrong.

It turns out that using this feature in iTunes 9 is a complete waste of time, thanks to the way the iPhone OS works. Here’s why.

No matter how much re-arranging of apps you do, you’re still going to have to deal with a single rule that governs the way new apps are installed: when you install a new app, it will be placed in the first available empty slot on the first screen with any empty slots.

So if screens 1 and 2 are full, and there’s a slot on screen 3, the next new app will go there.

OK, fine: you move each new app to the screen where you want it to live. An example: you download a new game. If you’ve got all your games on screen 2, you put it there – except, oh wait, that screen’s full. So you’re going to have to put it somewhere else. Perhaps it could stay on screen 3, where you’ve got your photography apps. Or you could shift it to screen 5, where there’s a space at the end of your geo/location apps. Or you could create a new screen of games – but that requires a trip back to your Mac, plug into iTunes, do the re-arranging dance. Maybe it’s worth doing; maybe not.

I spent time carefully arranging my apps into genre-specific screens like this, and found within days that installing new apps ruined the effect. What I realized was, once you’ve started arranging your apps, you’re tied into constantly maintaining that arrangement.

I felt like I was farming my apps almost as much as I was using them; and frankly, life’s too short.

So, arrangement be damned. I’m embracing the Apple Way and simply letting apps go where they will. What I can’t find by flicking my fingers I shall find using the built-in Spotlight search.

That said, I’m lucky. I’m not in the position where I have more apps than my phone has space to display, unlike m’colleague Craig Grannell. The number and variety of iPhone expose mock-ups and suggestions that are doing the rounds these days suggests that this part of iPhone OS still needs work; I have a feeling that Apple is well aware of this, and is working on it.