Re-Organizing My iPhone Home Screen

I use my iPhone every day, probably at least once every waking hour. I have about 100 applications installed on it presently, including all of the Apple default apps that are not removable1. With the addition of folders in iOS 4, having 6 home screens was no longer a necessity.

I made the decision sometime last year that I would shoot for 2 full home screens and have a third dedicated to apps I was evaluating. This worked perfectly well for a while, but iOS 5 broke this with the addition of Newsstand, Reminders and now split Music and Videos apps. This meant that all of my unused “stock” apps no longer fit in one folder, meaning a second folder was needed, and throwing my organizational scheme into a tizzy.

I embarked on a quest to come up with a new scheme that would keep me to fewer home screens without adding too much inconvenience. I started by evaluating frequency of app usage. I found there were very few apps that I launched from the home screens multiple times per day. With the addition of Notification Center, I found that apps like Mail, BeejiveIM, Facebook and iMessages were mostly opened in response to something, rather than to initiate something, and therefore could be launched from Notification Center.

I also discovered that many apps were launched just once a day, like Woot or Amazon Deals. Others were launched every other day, or in very specific situations, like Foursquare or IMDb. This led me to believe that I could easily get by with just the 4 apps in the Dock, plus the 16 apps on the first home screen, and everything else in folders.

Deciding on the 16 apps was much easier than I expected. Even months later, there are still some that I only launch once a day (but everyday), or less, and I don’t think the decision to move something off, if necessary, would be all that difficult. So when it’s all said and done, my first home screen looks like this:

IMG 0525

I use Settings everyday (more on this later) to toggle Wi-Fi, and often Bluetooth and Tethering as well. Maps has stayed on my first screen since my first iPhone, and I really don’t use it all that much but I like it close when I do. Safari is used almost daily, although most of the time it’s probably launched from another application. I don’t spend a ton of time on Facebook but I check out my News Feed once or twice a day usually. I spend a ton of time in Reeder, probably third most behind Tweetbot and iMessages. At the moment, Articles is my Wikipedia app de jour, but I am annoyed with how you can’t disable it re-loading the last article upon launch. I don’t use that app daily, but I prefer it close by, much like Maps. Elements is my writing app of choice on all iOS devices. Lately I only use it on my iPhone for jotting a quick note. Foursquare is there because I use it almost daily, although I am starting to wonder whether I am getting anything out of it and may dump it soon.

Calvetica is my calendar app of choice for viewing my calendar, which to be honest, I don’t do all that often. Instacast I use at least twice a day, and is the most used app from a pure “time running” perspective. Dialvetica has replaced Phone as my primary dialing app, although Buzz Contacts is giving Dialvetica a run for it’s money right now. Dialvetica is fast, and it learns who you call most and the search is so much easier than the stock app. The only downside is that you can’t access voicemail from there. Due is an amazing reminder app that nags you until you address it, so if you miss the reminder it won’t just go away. I use it almost every day for different things.

BeejiveIM is my primary IM client. I mostly use this to talk to my podcast partner Chris, who will hopefully have an iPhone soon, negating my regular need for this app. Launch Center is next, and a new app in the mix. It allows you to create shortcuts to different things that have a URL scheme built-in. For example, I can make a shortcut for Tweetbot that sends me directly to the “new tweet” screen. The coolest part is the ability to go directly to specific parts of the Settings screen, like Bluetooth or Wi-Fi. There are rumors that this is broken in the next iOS beta, so this might not work in the near future. If it does though, it could lead to me removing settings from my first screen. App Store is next. I am pretty compulsive about checking for updates multiple times per day, I really don’t know why. Quicklytics is the last app, and this is my Google Analytics choice of app. It’s not great, but I haven’t spent the time or money on something better. I try to check this once a day just to see if anything I wrote is blowing up.

The four apps in the Dock stay on all (two) of my home screens. OmniFocus is where I keep track of all the tasks I need to do. It’s in the Dock so it’s always reminding me of when things need to be done. Mail is there because I read and triage 85% of my email on my iPhone during the day when I have free moments. I launch this app a lot during the day, but often now it’s from Notification Center. Tweetbot is by far my most used app. If I had to take a guess, I launch this 15x-20x per day. That’s probably enough to say there. Messages is my primary form of communication with most people, and it’s always good to know when there are unread messages, so it makes sense in the Dock.

IMG 0527

My second home screen is compiled of three rows of folders. These are categorized as best as possible, and I really only have one rule, no folder can have more than 9 apps in it. This means that all the icons are visible so I never have to worry about forgetting what is in a particular folder. There are two exceptions to this rule. The first is Games, which I rarely play, and when I do it’s usually just whatever my game de jour is anyway. The other exception is the built-in Apple apps, which other than Music, I never use. The last row is for “probationary” apps. These are the most recent applications I have installed, and it’s unclear whether they will stay on my iPhone, and if they do, where they will end up. Launch Center lived here for a couple of weeks while I figured out what made sense. By only have four spots, it forces me to make a decision in a relatively timely manner.

I have enough open spaces in folders that this system should keep me going for a while, and there are apps in folders that I could live without if I found something better. The most used apps in folders are, the aforementioned, Woot and Amazon Deals, plus IMDb, the Xbox app, Weather Channel and QuickCal.

Overall, I love the system I have come up with. Having fewer home screens makes it much easier to find apps, even if they are in folders because after a while, the muscle memory is just there. It’s harder to have muscle memory with 7 home screens because you never know which home screen you will be on when you start. I doubt this will be the last tweak I make to my system, but I am sure that by the time iOS 6 comes out, I am sure Apple will create a new problem for me to solve.

  1. Unless you jailbreak []