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A Mission To Optimize My Phone For Looks And Utility

6 minutes to read.

Hello, reader!

As you may have gathered from the title, I’m going to talk about organizing my iPhone.

I’ve recently re-organized my phone with a mission to make it both easier to find things and to just look nicer.

Before this renovation I had 155 apps with:

  • 4 folders on the home page
  • 8 apps on the home page
  • 4 apps in the dock
  • 12 folders on the second page

This article will be about how how I fixed this for myself and why I made the changes I did.

So first things first.

Here is what my home screen is set up looks like now.


Cutting Down The Number Of Apps

As you can see, I have all of my 87 left over apps on one page.

Starting out I knew that I wanted my home screen to fit a couple criteria.

I knew I wanted only 4 folders along the top, and I knew I only wanted 3 rows of apps and 3 apps in the dock.

This was the first decision I make for the “looks” in my overhaul of “looks and utility”.

These criteria also helped force me to delete unnecessary apps and allow me to root through less folders to find things.


When deleting apps, I started with games. I had a ton of games that I never played anymore.

So I deleted all of them, then allowed myself to re-download the ones I had the urge to play over the next week. Now, I only have 4 games on my phone.

After deleting games I went through every folder and deleted anything I…

  • never used
  • had another app already that did a similar enough thing
  • or that I forgot I had in the first place

Most of these apps were still cool, but just not useful so they had to go. (However I did allow myself to keep a couple apps just for the “cool” factor like Face Swap Live and Speech Jammer.)

Then, BAM. After deleting tons of games, photo editing apps, video editing apps, news apps, travel apps, and any of the other useless junk I had downloaded, I had 87 apps left.


Why are they organized that way?

The obvious answer is, anything I use a lot is outside of a folder, and anything I use less frequently goes into a folder.

I chose the folder names: Apps, Go, Info, and Play.

  • Apps – Apps is sort of a catch all. These are the apps I barley ever use at all, including all of the Apple apps I can’t delete.
  • Go – Go is used for any apps I use specifically on the go. So travel apps, home security, movie times, etc.
  • Info – Info is where I go when I need to know something. I put things like banking, notes, news, lists, health apps, etc. in this folder.
  • Play – And finally, Play is for time wasting/fun apps like social media, shopping, games, entertainment, etc.

Then the folders are organized with the most used on the right to the least used on the left.

If you are interested in what apps I have in there exactly, I have screen shots of all of these folders at the very end of the article.

What goes in these folders will be different for everyone, but the important part is: try to keep the apps on each page of the folder as similar as possible, with the first page being the most important and the last page being least important.

Also, try to keep these folders under 4 pages if possible. I have one folder at 4 and it’s definitely the hardest to find things in.

Home Screen Apps And Doc

Finally, here we are.

I’ve cut down my number of apps, put everything else in folders, and now I’m pulling out the 15 apps I feel are the most important to my day-to-day productivity and needs.

The 3 apps I use the absolute most most go in the dock.

Airmail, LaunchPad, and Messages.

I only have 3 apps here for no reason other than I just think it looks better than with 4.

The 4 apps I use the next most go in the bottom row since that is the next easiest place for my thumb to reach.

Safari, Fantastical, Spotify, Overcast.

The next 4 most used apps the row above that.

Alien Blue, Maps, Evernote, Duolingo. (Duolingo will be replaced eventually, but at the moment I use that every day.)

And finally…

Dark Sky, Clock, Mint, and Wallet


Now the tricky part…

I really want the colors of the apps to be balanced around the home screen, that is partially why all of the apps in the top app row at black.

But I also want the apps to make since where there are.

First I put similar apps next to each other

So I have things like Spotify and Overcast next to each other because they are both audio apps. Mint and Wallet go together because they are both money apps.

You get the idea.

Then I organized the apps in each row with the most important to the right and least important on the left. (Again, because the right side of the screens easier for my thumbed to reach.)

And finally, anything else I re-arranged based on color.

First column is blue, second is white-ish, third is green, and fourth has some piece of orange in it.

You might be thinking, “surely there are colors apps that would fit better in those columns.”

You would be right, but my first priority is the apps that go there, then second priority is the way the colors looks together. So I just did the best I could with the apps I chose.

And viola. I have my ideal single page layout.


Why This Works For Me

Now my phone is all set up on one page looking good. But why? What is different now than before? How does this new setup help me find things faster?

Well, there are less apps to go through, so that make it a lot easier right there.

But the biggest difference is now instead of having specific folders like I have before (eg. games, photo editing, social, finance, travel, entertainment, etc.) I’ve move to much more broad folder names.

So before when I needed an app like Yelp, that might fit in multiple folders and I would often look in “Travel” or “Entertainment”. But now it now only fits in “Go” because that is the folder for when I go out, so I go in the right folder the first time every time.

I also have more apps outside of folders than before. Before I tried to keep things clean by having 16 folders but only 12 apps outside of folders.

It made my first page look good, but my seconds page was just full of folders.

Now I have 15 of my most used apps outside of folders.

So I not only open less folders to find things, but I don’t have to go into a folder at all for 3 more apps.

And finally, I use Spotlight much more often to find things. Yes, I could have done this before, but I’ve been making much more of an effort lately while I’ve been on this mission to optimizing my phone.


Welp, that’s I all I have for now.

For more about how to keep your phone clean, I have an article on how to think about notifications on your phone to reduce distractions that you might be interested in.

If you got something out of this post I would really appreciate if you shared it anyway you’d like. I would also love to hear from you in the comments. How do you have your phone set up? Screenshots are welcome.


Thank you for reading!



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–Update 4.8.16–

I’ve recently updated my folder layout. See below.

Basically what I’ve done is rename all of the folders to just a bullet, and then made it so each folder only has a single app visible on the first page. And that app is what tells me the other kinds of apps that are in that folder.

I just think it looks cleaner, I got the idea from CGP Grey on the Cortex Podcast.

iphone layout


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