5 easy ways to fight mobile app fatigue

If the majority of mobile apps have lost their luster, have no fear, you're not alone. These five strategies can help you overcome app fatigue and declutter your devices just in time for the new year.

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You know the drill: Someone suggests you download such-and-such app. Automagically, your eyes roll. You let out a sigh. You already have a dozen screens full of apps on your smartphone. Do you really want more?

If that sounds familiar, you have yourself a case of app fatigue. So do I. A bad case. And we’re not alone.

In 2016, there have been some doom-and-gloom headlines about declining app usage, including Recode.net's declaration that "the app boom is over." There's some truth to that. Way too many apps exist these days, with about 2.2 million in the Google Play Store and about 2 million in Apple's App Store.

The novelty of apps has also worn off. When you get your first smartphone or tablet, you can't wait to fill it up with apps. However, the smartphone and tablet markets are pretty well saturated these days, so there's consequently less demand for new apps. BusinessInsider.com recently reported that the U.S. premium smartphone market declined 11 percent in fiscal 2016. And CIO.com sibling company IDC predicts global tablet shipments will drop 12 percent in 2016, though a minor rebound is expected in 2018.

Other than never downloading another app again, how can you deal with app fatigue? Here are five effective strategies.

1. Determine how many apps you have

First, you should figure out exactly how many apps you have on your smartphone or tablet. On iOS, go to Settings > General > About and scroll down to Applications. (I have 206 apps installed on my iPhone 7 Plus.) Android users can go to the Google dashboard, enter their Google account password, and scroll to the Play Store section, where there's a list of the total number of apps installed.

google play apps Google

In either case, if the number feels too high, it probably is.

2. Purge, baby, purge

Now it's time to purge. Why? Because absence makes the heart grow fonder. Getting rid of a ton of apps, almost to the point of pain, may spark your interest in discovering new ones. Plus, you'll free up storage space on your device.

Cleaning out apps is like purging your closet. If you haven't worn a shirt in a year or two, it's time to say goodbye. In smartphone and tablet terms, if you haven't used an app in two or three months, delete it.

You might also want to follow Marie Kondo's advice. Kondo is the author of the surprise bestseller, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing. From Kondo: "If a possession no longer gives you joy, get rid of it." If an app no longer gives you joy — or makes your life easier in a measurable way — kick it to the curb.

3. Delete duplicates

Chances are, you have more than one app installed that does roughly the same thing as another one. Do you truly need six weather apps? Look for duplicate apps across your device. Choose one. Delete the others.

app overload James A. Martin

4. Don't forget the mobile web

Google pushes website owners to make their sites "mobile-friendly," so smartphone and tablet users see better mobile web experiences. Many brands and publishers have heeded Google's advice and made their websites easy to navigate and use on small screens.

A lot of ecommerce sites have also adopted mobile payments, such as Apple Pay, making it even easier to buy via the mobile web than a mobile app. So it's a good idea to visit a brand's mobile website first before you decide to download its mobile app.

5. Ask yourself some hard questions

Before you download another app, ask yourself:

  • What will the app enable me to do that I can't do as easily on the mobile web?
  • Does the app offer features or benefits that its mobile website doesn't?
  • If so, how important to me are those features and benefits?
  • Do I already have a similar app that I like and regularly use?
  • How likely am I to use the app every week, or every day?

Show no mercy

We're about to start a brand new year, so now's a good time to take stock of your apps. When you do, be merciless in weeding out the unused and unwanted. Remember: You've got app fatigue. Only you can cure it.

And if you find you truly miss a deleted app, it's easy enough to download it again.

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