It’s understood that the majority of smartphone users fall into the camp of not having enough space on their most used and most personal of devices. It’s also understood that most smartphone users and users of the web are uninformed and do not pay enough attention to securing their personal data on the Internet. Allow for me to raise the idea of removing apps from your phone to raise the security of your personal data and increasing the amount of free space on your smartphone and explain how this is so.

IPhone 6 & Iphone 6 Plus

By deleting apps from your smartphone and moving to web apps, apart from reducing clutter on your phone screen, you will reduce the amount of space occupied by redundant apps that offer no additional features over websites. Generally, retailers such as Target, Kroger, and Walmart are quick to push apps that are but downloaded versions of their site saved to your smartphone. These apps still have to reach out to the same website that you would be accessing from a browser. These apps are more flagrant with the use of your data by including trackers for your time in the app and the collection of data points for your shopping habits. This practice is no unlike tracking a person through a physical store using a camera system and taking note of what the shopping is placing in his cart and replacing on the shelf. These retailers, like all retailers in 2018 have mobile optimized websites that adapt perfectly to your smartphone’s web browser (an outlier being Amazon). You can also save bookmarks to your iOS or Android home screen for quick access which may increase clutter but will ease usage.

iPhone X

When you are on the web (app) version of Target or any retailer’s site you are on the latest version. Want to check for changes? Tap the Refresh button. You no longer have to download dozens or hundreds of megabyte updates for apps that have fully functional mobile web optimized versions. Saving time, bandwidth (especially with metered data plans), and frustration.

More transparency. On web apps in your browser you can see the web addresses for the sites you visit so if you get sent off to an outside site you will know what is happening and can adapt accordingly. Often times retailers will depend on third parties to conduct aspects of business involving the transfer of your data to someone else’s system. You should be alerted, it’s only polite to, but you may not be and for the more vigilant out there you may want to review the privacy policy regarding just what they can do with the data you’re entrusting them with. This allows you exert more control over your online experience by knowing where you are going. Apart from that, you can block trackers on web apps and websites running in a web browser (with plugins like AdBlock) unlike you can’t block tracking aspects baked into downloaded apps on your smartphone.

Google Play Store

I’m repeating myself. App downloads for retailers rarely do anything better than web apps. They pull from the web store inventory details, pictures, reviews and log you into their platform so that you can use your name, address, credit cards, and et cetera to make purchases and very often no more. Many times, users of online retailers are prompted with a message to download the app version without thinking of whether they really want to download and maintain an app taking up space on the smartphone’s limited storage. Most people just want the retailer’s icon available somewhere accessible by a quick tap. The needs of most people is not a 100-plus megabyte T-Mobile app that is the same as T-Mobile.com, the true desire is to have a bookmark to the web app on their smartphone’s screen. I recently came to the realization that my college loan servicing app (Nelnet) was just a bloating encapsulation of the website where essentially the app was a slow browser that has a sole purpose to open nelnet.com. Nelnet.com is already mobile optimized and the suggested app for smartphones delivers a worse experience than that of the web app.

Apart from improving your app experience by getting freedom from perpetual weekly updates for retailer apps and uninspired feature sets over the web app editions there are a few downsides to web apps. You will miss out on push notifications sent by downloaded apps, at least on iOS, which might be a good thing depending on how you look at it. You will not get alerts for websites and web apps about sales and promotions pushed to your phone and having them appear with text messages in your notifications list. You can still get those promo messages in the form of text messages or emails though. Personally, I turn off all notifications by retailers in the Settings on their respective websites so that I receive no text messages or emails about promotions and I also decline to allow this information to be shared with third parties. For you, you may want to get occasional promotional emails or texts when you forgo the retailer downloaded apps for the web apps.
This does not work for every app with an equivalent situation such as Google Voice which is mobile optimized and works well as a web app except for the Apple limitation of not allowing iOS to have push notifications for web apps. This is not a problem for web apps on OS X and macOS which got the feature a several years ago in Safari and recently in desktop versions of Chrome and Firefox something I will discuss in a later article.

In conclusion, save yourself the hassle and think about what apps you use, what they do, and how does the website’s experience fair. Then delete the apps and replace their icons with home screen bookmarks. Personally, I was able to remove Facebook, T-Mobile, Nelnet, TWC, TravelZoo, and all retailer apps including ShopStyle and was able to maintain a quality of life that I am comfortable with. I recommend everyone give it a try.