How 'deleting' built-in Apple apps works in iOS 10

During the live episode of John Gruber's, The Talk Show at WWDC 2016, senior vice president of software engineering, Craig Federighi, explained how "deleting" Apple's built-in iPhone and iPad apps works in iOS 10.

How does 'deleting' built-in apps work in iOS 10?

Just like an App Store app, you begin the process by holding your finger down on the app you want to "delete". The apps then start to jiggle and an "X" button appears in the top corner. Tap the "X" button and the app is gone.

The difference is, when you delete a built-in app, you don't really delete it. You do remove the icon from the Home screen, the user data is flushed, and the hooks into the system for things like default links and Siri handling are remove. But, it doesn't delete the actual app binary.

There are two reasons for this:

  1. Apple's built-in apps are very, very small, taking up only 150 MB of storage. That's because they wrap a lot of core functionality and so don't introduce a lot of extraneous code or assets.
  2. When a version of iOS is released, Apple signs it so your iPhone or iPad can verify it's legitimate and hasn't been tampered with by a third party. That code signing covers the entirety of iOS, including built-in apps. If everyone had different apps, some present, some not, the current form of signing security wouldn't work.

How does 're-downloading' built-in apps work in iOS 10?

To "re-download" a built-in app, you go to the App Store and search for it like any other app. The difference is though, if you tap the "Get" button to re-download it, it doesn't actually have to download any data. Since the binary was never deleted, it just switches the icon back on, resumes saving data, and hooks back into the system.

The reason Apple is using the jiggly mode to hide, and the App Store to un-hide, is so customers have a consistent experience across all apps. What's actually happening is an implementation detail that no customer should ever worry about. All apps are simply added and removed in the same way, providing a consistent experience that matches expectations.

Does this mean Apple can update built-in apps via the App Store?

No. Since Apple isn't really moving the built-in apps to the app store, the company won't be able to update them through the App Store. They're still a required part of the entire, signed and secure, iOS system, and as such get updated as part of the entire iOS system through Software Update.

You simply don't have to look at them anymore if you don't want to.

Which built-in apps can be "deleted"?

Some apps are essential to iPhone or iPad working, so can't be "deleted". Most, however, can. Here are the apps you can hide from the home screen with iOS 10 on iPhone or iPad:

  • Calculator
  • Calendar
  • Compass
  • Contacts
  • FaceTime
  • Find My Friends
  • Home
  • iBooks
  • iCloud Drive
  • iTunes Store
  • Mail
  • Maps
  • Music
  • News
  • Notes
  • Podcasts
  • Reminders
  • Stocks
  • Tips
  • Videos
  • Voice Memos
  • Watch app
  • Weather

Will you be hiding Apple apps?

Nope. I use almost all of them all the time. For me, personally, they still provide the best and most coherent experience. And the ones I don't use, like Tips or Compass, are so innocuous that it's not worth the effort to hide them. I do like that Apple is giving people the option, though!

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Rene Ritchie

Rene Ritchie is one of the most respected Apple analysts in the business, reaching a combined audience of over 40 million readers a month. His YouTube channel, Vector, has over 90 thousand subscribers and 14 million views and his podcasts, including Debug, have been downloaded over 20 million times. He also regularly co-hosts MacBreak Weekly for the TWiT network and co-hosted CES Live! and Talk Mobile. Based in Montreal, Rene is a former director of product marketing, web developer, and graphic designer. He's authored several books and appeared on numerous television and radio segments to discuss Apple and the technology industry. When not working, he likes to cook, grapple, and spend time with his friends and family.

  • Hmm, if they apps after OS install are still part of "the signed binary" and thus can't actually be removed, I wonder if that also means the couldn't actually deliver app updates via the AppStore. Bit of a shame if that was the case. While with iOS you don't have to worry that a system update (and thus app update) will get block by a carrier or device manufacturer it'd still be nice if updates for stock apps could be delivered without a full system update.
  • That's exactly the reason Google decoupled their apps from the Android operating system.
  • So sounds like we won't be able to assign a third party app in its place then for starting new emails etc, we are just going to get the message asking us to reinstall?
  • That's an interesting question. That would be a horrible implementation if that's the case, but otherwise it would mean Apple is allowing you to assign default apps. You'd have to check with someone who's using the developer beta
  • I'm using it at the minute but there is no option for third party, whether this arrives in a later release I can only hope
  • From what I've seen thus far: Apple still hasn't enabled reassigning default apps. Maybe it'll come later, but it currently doesn't exist. So for example: If you "delete" the built-in Mail app and then go into Safari and tap on a mailto: link, even if you have another email app installed, it'll ask you to search the App Store for an app that can complete the task. Very disappointing. Windows 10 Mobile doesn't allow changing default apps either, which is absolutely ridiculous. Sure, most consumers are fine with the built-in apps, but I still think all operating systems should give the user a choice as to what apps they want to carry out certain functions. Give the user the power to make the choice.
  • I agree 100% with you. But being an Apple user since the pre-Mac days, this is how they work. iOS11 will enable this feature. At that time, Apple will have a years worth of data on what happens when certain events are called without the stock apps installed. Sent from the iMore App
  • NOOOOOOO!!! I've searched long and hard for this very answer. ex. Delete Mail, Install Outlook, click "mailto:" link... what happens? In this case even with outlook installed it'll revert to asking me to re-download Apple Mail. I would've thought that with their position on allowing the deletion of default apps, they would allow reassigning. This is terrible. News (WSJ), Maps (Google Maps), Mail (Outlook), Calendar (Outlook), Notes (Google Keep), Music (Spotify), Safari (chrome) are just a few default apps I would delete and replace in a heartbeat and never look back Tim Cook:
    "This is a more complex issue than it first appears." "There are some apps that are linked to something else on the iPhone," Cook continued. "If they were to be removed they might cause issues elsewhere on the phone. There are other apps that aren't like that. So over time, I think with the ones that aren't like that, we'll figure out a way," he said.
  • Sounds like asking to reinstall the stock app is just a placeholder in the beta until they can figure out what they want to do. Letting the user set a third party app would be the ideal solution. They should just have an entry in Settings for "Hidden icons" and let you hide them. No real reason to limit it to system apps, either. That way, the stock apps can still be default if that's the way Apple wants to go. They're just hidden from the home screen. Which seems to be what people really want. They didn't get a 16GB iPhone because they wanted a lot of storage, so I don't buy that. 64GB or even 128GB, the space freed up by fully removing those stock apps (if it were even possible) would be negligible.
  • The space freed up is definitely negligible. You'd free up less space than the Facebook app uses on its own
  • You can already set a third party app as default on Android. Sent from the iMore App
  • I think that point has been beaten into the ground. Most of what Apple has released for the last few years can be done in some way shape or form on Android. I think Apples leg up is their implementation tends to be better.
  • Except this article isn't about Android, it's about iOS
  • Certainly very disappointing news. I was really hoping for more frequent updates of the stock apps through the App Store like it's on Android, and also the ability to change default apps. This is now basically just a half-assed way to let people hide the content of their "Apple junk" folder. Don't get me wrong, it's better than nothing, but not anything to celebrate very much either.
  • This is fine and will likely evolve a bit through the betas or at least into iOS 11. The disappointing part is that stock apps can't be updated separately, which means mail isn't going to get many new features any time soon (and it needs them). Sent from the iMore App
  • My question is, if I remove maps for example, will clicking a map link allow me to open google maps instead? Sent from the iMore App
  • Not at the minute, but we can only hope this comes in a future release!
  • Very disappointing. This 'bloatware' if you will could have been handled very similar to Samsung's process this year with my s7. All of the apps I personally consider bloat, including Rogers carrier apps came in with only an icon placeholder. Storage shows 0b each and if I choose to use them, I click and the app data downloads to the device to allow it to function. Several like Whatsapp still sit with 0b today and are hidden away by disabling. Granted never being there or full removal is ideal, but this is the next best thing.
  • It's not really bloatware, they're all incredibly optimised, and all of the system apps use less space than the Facebook app on its own. If you did clear them all, you'd get 150mb free. That's not really worth deleting
  • i consider bloatware any app I don't want on my phone, that I am forced to keep on my phone. At least I won't have see these apps nor have to have a junk folder on my ipad.
  • Agreed. Bloatware is very subjective to the needs and wants of the user. Many of the homegrown apps on every manufacturer are far too basic.
  • That's not bloatware. Bloatware is when someone other than the OS maker forks the OS or puts their own stuff on there. An example is any Samsung bloatware smartphone special out there for ***** buyers who enjoy bloat. Or a windows PC that isn't signature series or made by MS.
  • But all these apps, well, 80% of them, are part of the core functionality of the OS. Not tips granted, but most of them. It's not like the Rogers app you use as an example
  • Agree. I was mentioning bloatware in general but yes a few of the core samsung apps were also just place card icons that required a download to use.
  • You completely misuse the term "bloatware."
  • Why isn't Safari part of the apps you can remove in iOS 10? But hey at least I'll be able to use now use Google Maps by default now on iOS Sent from the iMore App
  • No, you won't be able to use Google Maps as default. You aren't reading. There is no way to set alternate default apps. The system just ends up crippled.
  • Not yet anyway. It's hard to imagine they'll leave it in this crippled state
  • I will be surprised if they open this up completely to all alternative apps. I would think that some loss of control of data /security would be lost.
  • I really need to be able to set a third party app by default especially email. When ever I try and submit a report through an app it opens up iOS mail which I never use.
  • This 'deleting' feature is only worthwhile, IF we'll eventually be allowed to set default third-party apps, for any that we 'delete'(hide).
    I presently just put unused apps into a folder on my third home screen, and I don't worry about them.
    If third-party defaults won't be allowed, then it'll be a pointless feature, if all that happens is us being directed to the App Store to unhide them again.
  • Which is why we will almost certainly get this functionality when iOS 10 is released. This is early beta stage.
  • Much ado about nothing.
  • Rene you love every apple app and we get that. But there are real people who aren't fanboys and want to use a better app and delete the sub par useless apple apps. For those people definitely this is disappointing and your reasoning/defending doesnt make much sense. Well at least one step at a time and we can hide them at least.
  • I thought his last little tidbit in the "Will you be hiding Apple apps" was cute. Lol. Did anyone really ask that question? Or was that just a forced attempt to tip his hat to Apple.
  • The Apple apps are pretty good, not always feature-filled, but have a nice design and are really quick to load, and you can be assured that they will always be updated with any new features in the OS
  • Everyone is entitled to their own opinion on apple vs 3rd party apps. Mine is that we should be able to select default apps in settings. I dislike how android does it but at least it's possible. I really only need it for Waze :) Sent from the iMore App
  • A (shorter) list of the few Apps that *can't* be hidden would be more useful than the list given of those that can. Also, I down voted everyone who misread (or didn't read at all) the article. So, pretty much 99% of all comments here at this time. :-/
  • OK by me to down vote. I only access mobile nations on mobile so I never see votes one way or the other.
  • Apple should move their apps to the app store so they can be updated more regularly. The mail app is one example of where it has really fallen behind in terms of features with other 3rd party apps.
  • Hmmm such a great idea..where have I seen this before? Posted from my Nexus 6P
  • I hid Apple Watch (until I get one), Stocks, Tips and Home. More so because I could eliminate a page in a folder, and I wanted to try it out
  • I'm indifferent about setting default apps, because the ones that matter the most to me, I already have a working system. Thanks for this, but I will still be hiding them for my peace of mind. That way, my extras folder will finally be actual extras that I use but don't need the app to be visible for.
  • So my question is this. Since for example we have certain app shortcuts in control center like calculator, if I delete the app icon from my homescreen will I still be able to access the calculator and functionality from control center? If I delete the find friends app would I still be able to see my wife's location through the messages app? If we delete clock will I still see time at the top of my iphone and on lock screen, etc? If all I'm doing is freeing up home screen realestate why not just give all the stock apps a show on homescreen toggle like icloud drive.
  • Calculator won't work and I think the control center icon disappears. Find My Friends I'm not sure.
  • lol the delete clock one made me laugh. I'm pretty sure no one wants a phone without any form of seeing the time
  • If you can't really delete them, this ability is pointless. People already "hide" the junk apps by burying them in folders. Even if it's only 150 MB, I want that space back. I want Apple to let me actually delete them.
  • Not exactly. Hiding them in folders is a solution...until you need to get something from that folder. To me, the idea of not seeing it is nice!
  • Why would you ever need to get anything from that folder? The folder ONLY holds the apps you want to hide. Your example is more reason to bury the apps, since the new way of hiding them would require going to the App Store and re-adding them to use them. Without meaning to, you just supported my argument about burying them. However I would prefer to just delete them all together and regain the wasted storage space.
  • I don't need to delete them. They are so small it's not worth it but I would like the option to hide them. They take up too much real estate on my home screen.