July 14, 2017

Cleaning Up Your Android Smartphone

Written by kevin-c

Tips & Tricks

“Cruft”. It’s a great word that I’m stealing from our programmers, meaning: anything left over, redundant, or getting in the way.

Your smartphone is, for all intents and purposes, a tiny computer. And like your desktop or laptop, cruft builds up and can make your spiffy smartphone chug along like a flip phone from 1999.

So periodically, it’s a good idea to take stock of your smartphone and clear out the cruft. Here’s some tips to keep your phone in top shape for the summer:

Uninstall Apps

Android App Manager Samsung S6

Application Manager on a Samsung S6

This is the first and most important step. We all download apps or games that we try out once or twice and then forget about. Apps and games you don’t use take up valuable space on your phone (and take up even more space when they download and apply updates), and depending on the app can connect to the internet without you knowing, potentially using your data plan if you’re not on wifi.

You can see a rundown of the apps on your device, along with how much space they’re taking up, in your device’s main Settings app. Open your Settings and tap on Application Manager (depending on the device, it might also be called Apps or App Manager), and then swipe over to the All section on that page. Tap on More in the top right-hand corner, and choose Sort By Size to see a list of all your apps and how much space they’re taking up on your phone. From there, you can tap on any of the apps you no longer need or want, and choose Uninstall.

Note that some apps are built-in to your phone’s software, so you may not have a choice to uninstall them. If you tap on an app from the Application Manager page and it has a Disable or Uninstall Updates button instead of Uninstall, you won’t be able to remove it, but you can uninstall the updates and disable it to stop it from updating and taking up space and resources on your phone.

Get Rid of Anti-Virus Apps

Anti-virus programs Android

Common anti-virus programs on Android

While anti-virus programs still serve a useful function on Windows desktops (and, in fact, Windows has it’s own built-in anti-virus software), they have dubious utility at best on Android. Everything downloaded via the Play Store is pre-scanned thoroughly for viruses and malware before it’s allowed to be sold, and by default your Android device can’t install programs from untrusted sources (i.e. not the Play Store). So, practically speaking, all the anti-virus app is doing is slowing down the overall operation of your phone.

While we’re at it, same goes for any “cache cleaning” app (you can clean the cache on your Android device simply by rebooting it), RAM boosters or apps that claim to improve your battery life. Deleting those apps will almost certainly improve the stability and performance of your Android device.

Take Your Pictures to the Cloud

Google Photos Select

The Select function in Google Photos

Your photos and screenshots on your phone can take up a surprising amount of space. (You can find out how much space is being used by photos on your device by going to your Settings app and tapping on Storage>Used Space.)

If you have an Android device running version 5 (aka Lollipop) or later, your photos, screenshots and downloaded images are being stored in your Photos app.

First step is to clear out any photos you don’t want or need on your phone: open your Photos app and go to one of your photo albums. From there, tap on the menu button in the top right-hand corner and choose Select. (See the picture above.) Then, tap on the photos you want to remove from your device, and tap the garbage-can icon at the top of the page to delete them.

The Photos app will also backup your pictures automatically to your Google account (assuming you’re logged into your Google account on your phone). You can clear photos easily off your device by opening the main menu in Photos and tapping on Free Up Space. That will automatically delete any picture in your Photos app that’s already been backed up to your Google Account.

With these tips, your phone will be leaner, faster and ready to take on the summer, cruft-free!