Some of us get obsessed by reality TV. I’ll be the first to admit I was like that with Storage Wars, partly because of the cast of characters, partly out of amazement for the stuff people leave behind.
Did they or their loved ones lose track of what was in storage, or was it personal setbacks that prevented them from paying the storage fees?
Whatever the reason, their lockers end up on the auction block and sometimes this results in a windfall for the highest bid (think expensive antiques or collectible items), or results being a total bust when the contents don’t add up to the cost of the locker.
I’ve heard it said that the thriving business of storage locker facilities in the U.S. is a testimony to the overabundance and overconsumption of American society. I won’t argue that here, but unlike recovering shopaholics who must ask themselves if they really need something - another sweater, another pair of shoes, another anything, it’s not really necessary for us to ask the same thing when it comes down to installing another app, is it?
After all, what constitutes hoarding as it pertains to apps? Is it after we’ve exceeded a certain limit, is that limit two hundred or a thousand? Is it the fact that we keep accumulating apps we’ll never use?
If we’re the practical sort we’ll try an app out, and either keep it or uninstall it immediately. But, unlike storage facilities, there won’t ever be a case where physical space or real estate gets taken up with the apps we download.
Still, there are some things we might want to consider before doing that next digital download (more on this below) and taking one step closer to become an app hoarder.
How many apps?
When it comes to the number of apps that people keep on their smartphones, the reasons can be as individualistic as the personalities themselves. Some like to keep a bare minimum number of apps – only what they need and use.
Others like to keep apps around just in case they need them in the future, even if they’re not using them today.
It’s hard to ignore the enticement of apps since almost every known entity is making a mobile app or a mobile version of their web product now, whether it be social media (Facebook, Twitter), banking (Chase, Citi), travel (Expedia, Southwest, United), news (ABC, CNN) - the list goes on and on.
Brand entities know just how attached people are to their mobile devices, and if you can name it, there’s probably an app for it.
Although data collected by Nielsen indicates that social networking and search apps are still the most popular apps used by smartphone owners across the board.
What to consider before downloading your next app
Before you become an app hoarder, it’s worthwhile to do your due diligence even when it comes to the simple task of downloading an app:
1. Use Trusted Sources
Only download from a trusted source. After all, you don’t want to inadvertently install malware or spyware on your mobile device. The top 3 app sellers (Google, Apple, Microsoft) will examine apps for malicious behavior before they offer them in their app stores. On its support site, Google actually advises that in order to avoid harmful apps, Android users should only download from trusted sources like the Google Play Store.
2. Look at Reviews
It’s a good idea to look at the reviews that are out there for an app. You can look at user ratings and reviews at the point of purchase for the app on your device, or you can do an online search to find those reviews.
The fact that people love to complain online becomes a great benefit in the transparency of these apps, not only for opinions on whether it’s a good app or not but also to advise about one that could be potentially damaging or socially irresponsible (remember you can check their privacy policies). Additionally, you can do research on the developers themselves.
3. Beware of the Information You’re Allowing an App to Access
Some apps may only collect data on how you use the app, but many also ask permission to access other types of information.
Before you click ‘Yes’ to allow, consider the type of access you’ll be giving to personal information which could include:
- Phone and email contacts
- Call logs
- Internet data
- Calendar data
Depending on the app, some information collected is necessary to provide you with the best functionality. For example, a maps app will need your location data to provide you with directions. On the other hand, there’s no need for a photo editing app to access your contacts list.
4. Know the Limits of Your Data Plan
Consider the fact that some apps are data hogs by nature, and this includes apps for music and video streaming as well as online gaming.
Even downloading large apps when you’re not connected to Wi-Fi will eat up huge amounts of data. So after you’ve exceeded your monthly data allowance, that bill from your data carrier is not going to give you a warm, fuzzy, feeling when you receive it.
There are ways you can curtail the amount of data usage on your phone, but for those social apps that you absolutely must have, you’ll need to actually change the settings in the app itself to prevent the auto-play of videos, photos and music which contribute to high data usage.
If you’re gaming or streaming on even a bi-weekly basis your data plan should be in the GB range; anything that falls into the MB category with these activities will cause you to go over.
5. Be the Responsible Parent When it Comes to Apps and Your Kids
Smartphone spring cleaning
Yes, just like your personal space or home, there is such a thing as spring cleaning for your smartphone, which can mean deleting unwanted apps in order to avoid becoming an app hoarder.
People spring clean their phones for a number of different reasons – they don’t like recent upgrades to an app, the size of the app is taking up too much storage space on their device, or they no longer see a reason to have the app. There are also reasons like suspecting an app is invading your privacy or contains malware. In this case the recourse of action could mean installing another app such as Google’s Verify Apps, which will scan apps for malware even after you install them.
Even though both iOS and Android devices allow you to delete apps that are currently on your device you might also want to remove them from your personal list of acquired apps in the respective app stores. You’ll need to log into either iTunes or the Google Play store for this, and delete them there. Of course there’s one caveat with iTunes.
As of this writing, the app you just deleted from your device and from your iTunes library will still appear under the Purchased section (Apple doesn’t seem to want you to forget about any apps you regrettably downloaded).
If there isn’t an app now, I suspect there will be one that cleans up all of the other apps you haven’t used in a while. Part of its functionality will be to ask if you want to delete said apps from your mobile device. But even if there’s an app for that, wouldn’t you still ask yourself “Yes, but do I really need it?”
A side note on data in apps
A curious thing about data contained in apps, unlike tangible stuff such as a vehicle or the family heirloom, is that there isn’t (to date) a legal standing for transfer of ownership. Journal entries in a diary app or a password manager app containing all your passwords can't be inherited by your next of kin even if the device (e.g. a tablet) is part of the estate.
Perhaps this will change in the future as more legality evolves around the digital world. There might only be one remedy when you want to 'will' data contained in an app. Let’s say the data doesn’t only happen to be Grandpa Wilson’s award-winning marinade sauce, but it’s also groundbreaking formulas your bioscientist Aunt Susie was working on before she died. The remedy would be to make sure it’s an app which can be password-protected, and then leave the password with someone you ultimately trust.
Just don’t leave the password on a piece of paper in a storage facility - that’s just asking for it never to be found.
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