You’re probably familiar with the Application Manager in Android. It’s one way (but not the only way) to uninstall an application if you’ve decided you no longer want to use it. But it’s more useful than that.
First, if you don’t already know how to access this tool, you can open it from within your phone’s Settings screen. The arrangement of Settings varies from brand to brand and version of Android, but generally you can swipe down on the status bar and tap the gear icon near the top right. On recent Samsung devices, choose the “More” tab, and then “Application manager.”
Again, the presentation of information will vary depending on the version of Android you have and manufacturer customizations. But regardless of the device, you’ll be presented with a list of the applications installed on your phone. On recent Samsung phones (see below), they’ll be divided into tabbed categories: Downloaded, SD Card, Running, All, and Turned Off. On other devices, you may have only one long list, or possibly only 2 or 3 categories. In any case, all the apps on your phone can be found in one of more of these groups.
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We generally focus on the Downloaded and All categories, but what follows applies to any category you choose.
What useful things can you do with the Application Manager? Quite a few things, it turns out. Choose an app you want to take action on, and open its App info by tapping on the app name. You’ll see a screen like the one below:
- One common complaint about Android devices is the amount of bloatware that carriers, and sometimes manufacturers, install on our phones. It is generally necessary to root your phone to get rid of all bloatware, but much of it can be prevented from running just by using the App Manager. On the App info screen, tap the button labeled “Turn off.” Unfortunately, this doesn’t work on all pre-installed software, but it does work on quite a bit of it. If you’ve downloaded updates to one of these apps, the button might say “Uninstall updates” instead of “Turn off.” After you uninstall updates, then the button will read “Turn off.” Just tap it again. One nice thing about this feature is that if you change your mind, or turn off something that turns out to be important, you can turn it back “on” again.
- It’s not unusual for an Android app to start acting up from time to time. It may seem frozen, or not act in the ways you expect. Often, simply stopping the app and restarting it will solve the problem, but many apps don’t have any way to exit or stop the app. In that case, the App Manager is the place to go. (Some apps can be killed from the multitasking screen, but many running apps, especially background processes and inactive apps, don’t show up there.) When looking at App info, you can stop any running app by tapping the Force Stop button. You’ll get a warning message, then you can tap OK to stop the app. Note, though, that unless an app is misbehaving, there’s generally little benefit to killing it.
- If that doesn’t work, the app’s cache may have become corrupted. Just go to the App manager and click the “Clear cache” button. The app will recreate the cache as needed, so there’s never any harm in doing this.
- Sometimes, clearing cache won’t do it, but clearing data will. Note, however, that for many apps doing this will wipe out your saved password and other stored preferences, game progress, etc. If an app stores it’s data on Google’s servers, or elsewhere in the cloud, that shouldn’t be an issue.
- You might like using an app, but not want to see its notifications, or have it’s notification icon taking up space on the status bar. Simply uncheck the notification box, and problem solved. The app will still run, it just won’t bug you with things you don’t want to know. (Here’s a trick: sometimes you don’t know which app is displaying a notification, so how do you know where to disable it? Easy. When a notification you want to eliminate shows up in the notification shade, just long press on that notification. Then tap the “App info” button which appears, and it will take you directly to that application, in the App manager.)
- View the permissions an app uses. Since Google changed how the Play Store shows permissions, this is more important than ever. Simply scroll down, and you’ll see all the permissions the app uses. Here’s where you can find out that flashlight app you just downloaded wants to access to your camera, contacts, location and the internet, for example, and uninstall it if that makes you uncomfortable.
- Finally, you might be able to move apps to the SD card to save memory. This won’t work for every device, every app, or every version of Android. If your device can do it, and the app can be moved, you’ll see an active “Move to SD card” button, with white type. Tap it, and the app will be moved to your external SD card, and most of the storage used by that app will be freed up. Note that this only frees up storage, not RAM. If you use the app, it will use as much RAM as ever. And apps stored on the SD card will load a bit more slowly than if stored in device ROM.
One last note: if you’ve turned an app off, and now want to reactivate it, you may be wondering where to do that. On some devices, these apps won’t show up in the “All” tab. If that’s the case, scroll sideways and find the “Turned Off” tab. Then just tap on the app you want to restart, tap “Turn On,” and you’re back in business.
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