Dear Apple: It would make me really happy if you made these two changes to Folders on iOS 8

The iPhone 6 Plus would really benefit by giving folders reachability view by default and providing an option to view more than nine apps per page

When it comes to arranging the application shortcuts on my phone's home screen, I'm a folders addict. I hate scrolling horizontally through pages and pages of apps. Occasionally I try and allow apps to spread out across more home screen panes, but eventually my OCD kicks in and I spend hours re-organizing everything until I'm down to fitting it all neatly on the default home screen view, with my most frequently-used apps at the bottom so they're easily within reach of my thumb. Accomplishing this typically means I need to use a lot of folders.

This isn't just an iPhone behavior for me. I seem to do the same thing whether I'm using an Android phone, BlackBerry or Windows Phone (though in the latter case I want to minimize vertical scrolling; thankfully Microsoft recently added support for Live Folders in Windows Phone 8.1 which has helped to further compress things). The power user and productivity monster in me needs to optimize the home screen layout so locating the apps I want to open is as efficient a process as possible, whether I'm holding the phone in one hand or two.

I Like Folders!

How Apple Ruined Folders For Me

In my opinion, Apple took a step backwards in iOS 7 when they reduced the number of viewable apps in a folder from 16 to nine. To give Apple credit, with this same update they did add pagination to folders — thus allowing a user to place up to 135 apps in a folder if he or she really wants to (15 pages x 9 apps per page). From my experience though, I've never found this functionality to be all that beneficial beyond serving as a graveyard of forgotten apps.

Once an app is on page 2 or more of a folder, I tend to forget I even have it installed. Out of sight, out of mind, right? And for apps I do remember and want to use that are tucked away deeper than the first page of a folder, I can typically get to them much faster by searching for the app name rather than swiping through page after page in a folder. Given the choice, I'd always prefer to have more apps viewable within the first page of a folder than less.

Unfortunately, despite the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus growing in size with their larger displays, for iOS 8 Apple has so far chosen to keep the number of viewable apps in a folder the same as in iOS 7. I know I'm not alone on thinking this is rather limiting.

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What makes the user experience even worse with the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus compared to the smaller iPhone 5, is given that the folder is vertically-centered on the now-larger iPhone 6 displays I have to use reachability mode nearly every time I open a folder when navigating my phone one-handed (especially the 6 Plus). It's an aggravating, almost comical experience, especially given that I'm a Folder junky and am tapping into folders regularly. For an often occurring situation such as opening a folder, having to use reachability on such a frequent basis seems like a band-aid solution, and not a very good one.

Folders Landscape

What I find perhaps even more frustrating is that Apple didn't completely overlook Folders on iOS 8. On the iPhone 6 Plus, if you hold the phone in landscape and navigate into a folder that has more than nine apps in it, you'll see a partial view of the second page of apps. It's a nice touch, but from my experience so far on the 6 Plus its one that I'll rarely use. When navigating the home screen, I am almost always using the phone in portrait.

Had Apple overlooked Folders completely in iOS 8, I maybe wouldn't even have been prompted to write this opinion editorial. However, when I saw they made the decision to improve the landscape layout of Folders but not address the usability of Folders in portrait, I just had to say something.

How Apple Can Make Folders Better Again

Turn on Reachability by Default!

From my perspective as a consumer and not one of guys or gals writing the code, the solution to my Folder woes seems very straight forward. Ideally, Apple should add a system setting for Folders where I can set preferences. One option should be to choose the vertical alignment of folders on the phone, either: middle (as it is today), top or bottom. We know bottom alignment is already baked into the OS, considering this is the view you get once you double tap the home button for reachability.

A second user preference I'd like to see on the Folders settings page would be an option for number of apps to display per page. Nine apps could remain the default, but an option to show 12 or even 15 apps would be awesome.

If Apple doesn't want to go the user-customization route, at a minimum I believe iPhone users would be better served by changing the default vertical alignment to be at the bottom of the screen and increasing the default number of apps to 12. The need to double tap to enable Reachability every time I open a folder would go away, and I'd actually have access to even more apps than there are today.

To me, it's a no-brainer that Apple do this. Agree? Disagree? Be sure to weigh in with your iOS Folder thoughts in the comments!

84 Comments
  • If we're going to have preferences for folders, it would be nice to be able to give each folder a custom icon of its own. I never have folders on my home screen, precisely because they stand out as rather ugly amidst the other icons.
  • +6 ^ I never have folders on my first screen. Second screen only. Icons/Emojis for this would be awesome. Also think it should be 12 as default and 15 as option on Plus screens.
  • Agreed. Folders can get ugly. I think I'm going to go this route and relegate them all to page two for now. Page one will just be Social and IM apps for the most part.
  • Really? Not using folders because of the looks? Kind of 8th grade don't you think? Oh well, to each their own
  • Criticizing someones personal opinion on something pretty six grade don't you think Posted via the iMore App for Android
  • Agreed Sent from the iMore App
  • Agreed Sent from the iMore App
  • This is another thing I hate about folders. The icons are hideous. I don't need a preview of what is in the folder. I made the folders, I know exactly what is inside them. The only reason I still use the folders is because I hate having cluttered page after page full of app icons. Posted via iMore App
  • I would simply prefer to have subfolders in the folders. That way, scrolling to the 2nd page is avoided and people avoid having orphan applications.
  • Nova Launcher for Android has an excellent solution to this. You can assign an icon to a folder or use the first app in the folder. So upon click you can trigger the first app (if you chose the first app as your icon) or swipe up from that icon to revel the folder. It really works well and provides a cleaner screen. Also, if we could place icons anywhere within the grid, that would be great.
  • Nothing personal, but the most folks don't use folders in the 'over the top" way that you do for the very same reasons that you state, when you talk about how you don't like the new folder behaviour. I'm sure Apple has lots of studies that reinforce what is basically obvious (and what you yourself mention): "out of sight is out of mind." This is why very few people can even handle having all the group folders all over in the first place, because no one can really remember what's in them. That combined with the fact that unless you are a reporter, it's unlikely a user would have enough apps installed to make all the folder creation worthwhile in the first place. So, in reality, what you want is for Apple to add a bunch of preferences (something they rarely do), for a feature "problem" that only a small minority of users will even come across. I'd say this is really unlikely and almost the definition of "asking for the moon."
  • I don't disagree with what you're saying re: options, though the bigger point I was making here was: 1) Even with the current implementation of folders on iOS 7/iOS8, I can't reach the apps that are in them on the new iPhones. Sure, I have a bigger screen, but I also have a usability problem I didn't have on the previous generation hardware. Maybe on the 6 Plus that would be tolerable (a trade off with going big), but it's even a problem on the 6 compared to the 5 2) What's the point of going bigger on the screen if you can't also show me more stuff?! Nine apps in a folder is like... nothing. :)
  • I agree with your open letter entirely. I'm not a report but I have 450+ applications installed on my iphone5s and 375 so far put on the new iphone6+ (I had s bit of a clear out with the new phone). I have all of them organised across just 4 pages which are logically grouped (eg all games are on one page and each icon is in an alphabetically grouped folder), and I was delighted when iOS 7 introduced a much larger number of apps per folder. But similarly, I know I have to keep the apps I use most on the first page of a folder or else I'm liable to forget it's there eventually. I hadn't noticed the new preview of the 2nd page functionality, I think because I've opted for the zoom view and it seems to disable the rotation feature of the home screen. However... I also very much doubt Apple would consider adding any of the optional choices as that is anathema to the Apple ethos which is "find the RIGHT way to do something and then do it the best you can". Giving the user a choice is very Microsoft or Android. So, it really comes down to, can Apple provide for people like us who go to town with folders but also keep them very simple and easy for people who perhaps have one or two at most? Maybe the behaviour could smartly transition between different ways of presenting the folders based on how many things you put in them - up to 9, it has one layout, go beyond and it seamlessly switches to a 16 up layout, go to a 2nd page and it changes again etc. Certainly room for tweaks in the UX with the larger screen 6+ too. As for people saying they want icons for folders, I'm not fussed. I have very few icons on any page so the look of folders is what I take for granted as the norm and full icons are a rare exception, only really reserved for the key spaces on the bar at the bottom for the apps I want to be able to launch immediately from any screen.
  • "... small minority of users"? And who made you the expert on what's common among iPhone users? I'm not a reporter, and yet I have enough apps that make folder organization a necessity. I agree with Kevin's editorial, on pretty much every point.
  • Create more root folders so sub folders are not buried. Personally if more than a root folder is needed, its for archiving apps. A "power" user and a user that simply has bloat is not the same thing.
  • I just found a glitch on the folders. I don't know if is just me because I restored from a backup.
    When you open a folder. The folder re-adjusts the corners, making the corners more round. And right before closing it, it "grows" back up.
  • Holy sh!t, you're right! I totally see it on both the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus. Kinda sloppy. Now I can't stop seeing it. Weeeeiiiiirrrrd.
  • Talking about folders always reminds me that I have tons of bloat on my iPhone (still rocking a 5 at this point) that I don't really need or use, but every time I think about deleting them I convince myself I "should" have them on there just in case I need them or really want to play Angry Birds again. What to do? :) I agree with the comments in the article in general, especially positioning the folders at the bottom of the display for easier reachability. I would prefer up/down scrolling rather than side/side scrolling with no pages, just a continuous display of apps in the folder. Increasingly I just use search to find any apps that need to be launched, rendering folders kind of moot except for making my phone look organized. I also use Siri to launch apps occasionally. But the best thing I could probably do is just delete the 50% of apps I have on my phone that I never use. Maybe even 80%? :-|
  • I will continue to argue that Apple should adopt the Android-style App Drawer. Having all of your apps in front of you at once is far from ideal. This is apparent when you pick up another user's phone and try to find they've placed Settings. Apple should do this: Push the home button to be an onscreen button and make it the middle icon on the dock (assuming they can adapt Touch ID to work in the display). When at the homescreen, this will appear as an app drawer button and direct you to all of your apps in alphabetical order. That way, only the apps that matter the most to you will be accessible from the home screen. No more burying apps in pages within folders. TL;DR: iOS needs an App Drawer.
  • or just quickly slide down for spotlight and search the app your looking for ie. settings
  • As a fan of both platforms, I agree wholeheartedly. The concept of an all encompassing app drawer alphabetically sorted is very intuitive. Then a customized home screen with only frequently used apps. On android there are a few launchers that actually automatically update your home screen with most frequently used apps. This has been my nirvana which I miss having switched back to iOS for work.
  • I'm not sure if anyone else knows this or if the iphone 6 does it, but I have a 6 plus and when you are in a folder and move to landscape view it displays all the pages in that folder side by side. So really they did give u more options on the bigger screen. Let me know if the 6 does this.
  • I mentioned that in the article (see the photo of the 6 Plus in landscape). The 6 doesn't have that feature though.
  • Sorry my photos didn't load due to bad internet, and now I notice that the entire article wasn't there either. Didn't get to see this part.
  • Nnnno, they didn't really. That's not "more options," that's simply using that wide screen to give a different visual cue in the UI that there's another page. Options would mean you have control over whether or not that second page is displayed or not. Also, smooth move on not reading the article.
  • Thank you for adding nothing to this conversation. Keep up the good work. The world is a better place because of u.
  • I suspect the developers already maxed out on iOS 8. It's very "bloated" as is. It's over 460 MB larger in size than iOS 7. The two versions of iPhone 6 only have a meager 1 GB or RAM. Time will tell how this will play out with the power-users and those who multitask and play games with their devices.
  • Going against my better judgement here, but its early so... Thanks for choosing this conversation to interject precisely zero into the folder conversation and show that you just don't like Apple
  • Agree completely !
  • I feel sorry for your OCD, Kevin. Wish you the best of recovery, asshole! Don't lie on an article if you don't have to.
  • Mad? ಠ益ಠ
  • He's probably salty about the OCD comment because of all the people that are like "Oh no, this picture frame is crooked, it hurts my OCD!!" But of course, he doesn't know if Kevin actually lives with OCD, and he doesn't quite state himself that he has it, so honestly he's being quite the asshole. Posted via iMore App
  • Why not just pull another page from android while they're at it and make it possible to hide apps from the home screen completely? I hate all of the pre-installed crap that comes with ios and if I can't uninstall it, I want to really make it disappear from my home screens. The folder thing is more like a solution to a problem that apple created themselves by not allowing us to hide apps completely.
  • Dear Michaluk,
    I think you have brought up a great point in this article. I too find it cumbersome reaching for an app in folders. You have also made me think of something else. Why are all the apps organized by top left when most people use their thumbs at bottom right? I understand that if I have enough apps on my home page I can place the most used apps closer to the bottom but I don't think I should have to fill my screens just to reach apps or use reachability. Wouldn't it be nice to be able to adjust the locked placement of apps on screens through the settings? Users would be able to have apps start at any corner of the screen to fit their preferences. Now with the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus,  should start thinking about how the phones will be used and function in users hands and what can make the experience more enjoyable and convenient.  finally makes a phone bigger and the only real added function is landscape mode & reachability.  knew there were problems with bigger screens to begin with. That's why they held out for so long, so they could make it so "it just works", right?
  • I agree with the comment about placement of apps in folders and on any app screen I general. Why can't they be aligned in the bottom? Much more accessible for sure on larger screens and makes more sense to me ergonomically
  • Here's a solution: stop "using" so many apps. I'm fairly certain 90% of the apps you installed on your phone are seldom or never used. Lose the crap...
  • With a 128GB I'm pretty sure he'll install what ever he damn well pleases. Posted via iMore App
  • How is that a solution...? Hahaha this is great.
    Don't like something? Ehhh just get rid of everything so the problem "goes away". Why not just delete all those pesky contacts why you are at it and just remember all their phone numbers too.
  • I'm completely fine with the way folders work now and I only fill folders up 9 deep since I can see all the apps in there without even opening it up. The exception to the "9 is the folder limit" rule is my Apple folder where I put the official Apple apps that I don't use much. Sent from the iMore App
  • I love you Kevin! Posted via the iMore App for Android
  • *blushes* dawww, thanks Posted via iMore App
  • I just love my Lumia for this.. I have all my 150 something apps on my start screen and I am max two clicks away from any of them. Posted via the iMore App for Android
  • With the home page icons being 4x6, this just seems bizarre.
  • I got bored reading the article. Sounded a bit OCD to me. I have no problem with how folders are implemented in iOS. On my iPhone, I have the most frequently used apps on the home page (no folders). Apps on each succeeding page are organized according to frequency of use and by function. Folders are used to organize and tend to contain infrequently used apps. If need to have more than 9 apps for a function (like game apps), I just make another folder and number it 1, 2, 3, ... and so on. Wouldn't matter to me if Apple changed behavior of folders to contain more than 9 apps. I think I read that it is possible to have pages within a folder. Even if that were true, I wouldn't use it because that would essentially make the app "forgotten" (because can't see it in the folder icon).
  • Which iPhone do you have? An iPhone for ants? Posted via iMore App
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