Spring Cleaning Your Smartphone

October 5, 2016

by Heather S., GCI Social Media Manager

Spring has finally hit Alaska and spring cleaning is in full swing. While you’re dusting away the cobwebs and putting a sparkle on your home’s windows, why not do the same for your smartphone or tablet? With just a little effort, you’ll find yourself with a faster, easier-to-use device, which will help you get the maximum enjoyment from your investment.

Back up your data

Before you do anything else, make sure your irreplaceable files and data are safely backed up.

If you’re using an iPhone or iPad, you can use iCloud or iTunes to back up your phone’s content.
Apple offers a great tutorial at http://support.apple.com/kb/ht1766.

Android users can take advantage of Google’s app integration by having their contacts, photos, music, and more automatically sync to Google’s servers.

  1. Open up your phone’s Settings and select Accounts > Google.
  2. Select the account you’d like to use for your backup and you’ll see a list of items.
    • Make sure that everything you want to sync is checked. If you’re checking an item that wasn’t previously selected, press “Sync now” to make sure that the data associated with that selection gets synched right away.
  3. If you’d like to back up your Wi-Fi passwords and other device settings from your Android device, select Settings > Backup & reset, then select Back up my data.
    • If you’re planning to get a new Android device and would like to transfer this information to your new phone or tablet, select Automatic restore and your settings will automatically synch when you log in to your new device.

Both Android and iPhone users can also look into apps like IFTTT (If This, Then That – www.ifttt.com) to back up their data, images, and more. IFTTT can seem a bit overwhelming at first, so try searching for “back up” to get you started.


Remove old or unused apps, music, and images

Once you’ve backed up your data, you can delete items you no longer want on your phone. You could do this before you back up your data to prevent backing up items you don’t want, but I recommend backing up first to make sure you can retrieve anything you delete by accident. This also lets you save copies of photos, videos and other files that you still want to keep, but that don’t need to be taking up space on your phone.

If you haven’t used an app in the past few months, delete it! You can always reinstall it later. Or, if you would have used the app if only you’d remembered its existence, consider moving it to a folder or (for Android) to a home screen where you can find it more easily.


Clean up emails and text messages

The more emails and text messages cluttering your inbox, the harder it is to find the messages you need. Plus, each file takes up valuable storage space. Go through your old messages and delete what’s no longer needed. Leave your email inbox only for messages that you need to take action on. If you’re only saving an email for posterity or for future reference, move it to a subfolder.


Clear out old contacts

Once you’ve cleaned up your inbox, open up your contact list and delete contacts you’ll never use again. Did you switch doctors? You probably don’t need your old doctor’s number anymore. And that email address from the vendor that kept bugging you at your previous job? Get rid of it!


Organize icons and folders and create shortcuts

If your app screen is one, long, scrolling list of all the apps on your phone, clean it up! Create themed folders to make it easier to find the app you need.

If you’re using iOS, creating a folder is as simple as long-pressing one app icon until it starts shaking, then dragging it on top of the icon of another app you’d like in the same folder. When you let go, iOS will create a new folder complete with suggested title—but you can edit the title if you have something else in mind. From there, you can drag additional app icons into your new folder.

Android users can create a new folder:

  1. Open the Apps screen
  2. Select the menu, and then selecting Create Folder.
  3. Enter a name for your folder, select OK, and start dragging icons into the folder.
  4. To drag an icon into a pre-existing folder,
    • Select the menu and press Edit.
    • Drag the app icon into the desired folder.
    • Once you’re done, press the Back button.

Android also lets you create custom home screens to feature your most commonly-used apps. To create a shortcut to an app, open your app screen and long press on the app icon.


Check for app updates

This is an easy one. Open the Play Store or the App Store and check to see if there are any updates for your apps. You may wish to check the version notes to see what’s changed from the previous version of the app to the updated one, but most updates are helpful. If the updates fix any bugs or security issues or provide better app performance, you’ll most likely want to update.


Empty browser cache

Your device’s web browser cache stores information about web sites you’ve visited to help the pages load more quickly the next time you visit those sites. But if the cache gets too full, it can have the opposite effect, slowing down your browser. Each browser is slightly different, so your menu selections may vary somewhat, but poke around the settings menu and you’ll find the option for emptying your cache.

  • iOS: With Safari completely shut down, select the Settings icon, then select Safari > Clear Cache.
  • On Android: For most stock web browsers, open your browser’s menu and select Settings
    • (this option might be hiding under “more options”) > Privacy & security > clear cache.
    • If you’re running Chrome on your Android, select Settings (Advanced) Privacy > Clear browsing data.


Give your phone or tablet a fresh look

Now that your device’s software is all clean and tidy, give it a fresh look by changing the background and ringtone. You can select from any of the preinstalled options, use one of your own photos, or download a new theme or ringtone from one of countless apps available for Android or iOS.


Spruce up the exterior

Now that you’ve taken care of the way your phone or tablet runs, make sure the exterior is just as clean! Using a clean, soft, lint-free cloth, wipe down your phone’s surface and screen, paying special attention to the areas around any physical buttons or switches. If you use a phone case, inspect it to make sure it’s still in good condition. You may even want to buy a new one in fun, spring color. While you’re at it, peel off that old screen protector with the curling edges and trapped food particles and install a fresh one to keep your phone looking great.