On Monday, Google launched a new auto-archive feature that removes more than 60% of an unused app’s data from an Android phone to save storage space on the device. This is expected to reduce the app removal rate, while still allowing users to quickly download apps when they are needed.
In a post on the Android Developers Blog, Google said this feature won’t delete any user data and will mark the app’s presence with a cloud icon on the device.
Android users will see a prompt to use the auto-archive feature when their device is running low on storage while trying to install a new app. They can then choose to activate the feature, which automatically archives their unused apps, while also removing things like permissions and temporary files and turning off notifications. (Google has started rolling out the ability to automatically revoke permissions from unused apps with Android 11.)
“Your device has run out of storage and you can’t install this app. With app archiving enabled, your device detects when you’re running out of storage and automatically archives apps you don’t use often. Your personal information is saved in case you download the app again,” the prompt reads.
Google’s announcement noted that the feature will only be available for apps where developers use the app bundle to publish their apps — a format required for new apps as of August 2021. The benefit to developers is that users can download their apps are less likely to see suggestions when uninstalling when the device needs to free up storage space. The search giant gave its first taste of automatic archiving in March 2022 by introducing a new app package format called Archived APKs.
Users can manually check for the unused app by going to Settings > Apps > Unused apps. The system usually shows the app in parentheses, such as “Last opened more than 3 months ago” and “Last opened more than 6 months ago”. You can manually choose to uninstall these apps to free up some storage space as well.
The feature will make Android devices more competitive with iOS, which has been suggesting apps to remove for years. In 2017, Apple introduced personalized recommendations to remove unused apps in iOS 11. To enable the automatic removal of these apps, iPhone users can go to Settings > General > iPhone Storage and tap Switch on the Offload unused apps switch.