On Monday, Google launched a new auto-archiving feature, which removes more than 60% of an unused app’s data from an Android phone to save storage space on the device. This will expectedly reduce uninstall rate of apps, and will still allow users to quickly download apps when they’re needed.
In a post on the Android Developers Blog, Google said this feature won’t remove any user data and will mark the presence of the app with a cloud icon on the device.
Android users will see a prompt to use the auto-archiving feature when their device is running out of 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 disabling notifications. (Google started rolling out the ability to automatically revoke permissions from unused apps with Android 11.)
“Your device is out of storage, and you won’t be able to install this app. With app archiving turned on, your device will detect when you don’t have enough storage and automatically archive apps that you don’t use often. Your personal data will be saved in case you download the app again,” the prompt reads.
Google’s announcement noted the feature will be available only for apps where developers use the App Bundle to publish their apps — a format required for new apps since August 2021. The benefit for developers is that users will be less likely to see their apps surfaced in uninstall suggestions when the device needs to free up storage space. The search giant first previewed auto-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 typically shows the app in brackets like “Last opened more than 3 months ago” and “Last opened more than 6 months ago.” You can manually choose to remove these apps to free up some storage as well.
The feature will make Android devices more competitive with iOS, which for years has made suggestions about apps to unload. In 2017, Apple introduced personalized recommendations to remove unused apps in iOS 11. To enable the automatic removal of these apps, iPhone users can head to Settings > General > iPhone Storage and tap Enable on the Offload Unused apps toggle.