Do you have more than two different Android devices?

Have you been using an Android device for more than 3 years?

Do you develop or test Android applications for your employer, websites, or your own enjoyment?

Did you answer yes to any or all of those questions? If so, then probably like me you have hundreds of apps in your Google Play library. And if you do have hundreds of apps in your library, you probably noticed that you can't get rid of them.

And that's a serious pain. Working for Motorola the last 4 1/2 years, I was reinstalling the device software on my primary phone or tablet at least once a month. I was also testing a new phone, tablet, or accessory about once every 3 months. Every time I did that I had to install all my favorite apps, register software and get everything right again. Sometimes I would forget about my favorite app from 2009 for weeks or months at a time because it was buried in the bottom of the Google Play library.

The Google Play web store is a great convenience and I appreciate it for being there, but I don't know why they arbitrarily chose to limit the number of apps displayed to 20 pages of 12 apps. This means I can only see 240 apps TOTAL. And it's not 240 of my choosing, it's 240 alphabetically (more or less). I could still keep and install those other apps, but I had to remember them by name.

As I was installing my Galaxy Nexus last week, the 240th app began with the letter G. If you extrapolate that, it comes to something around 800 apps. Most of them I don't care about or use any more. Many of them I don't even recall using even once, but there's a lot of water that's gone under the bridge since the first DROID came out and I've tested a lot of phones and apps.

A Welcome Change

Now I (and you) can do something about that nasty app library. All you need is an Android device running Android 4.0 (Ice Cream Sandwich) or 4.1 (Jelly Bean). This is not available on older versions of Android (that I'm aware of) and it's not available on the web store (yet). This has been reported on the Android Police web site and there were hacks, but I'm writing this here for friends and family who need a concise set of steps without wading through all the hacker stuff.

BTW, If you don't have an Android 4.x device and you still want to do this, consider borrowing one long enough to go through the steps. You can start with a fresh device, go through the steps, then delete everything with Settings>Privacy>Factory Data Reset when you're done.

OK, let's get started…

  • Go to Google Play on the Android Device and select Apps.
  • Along the top is a button that signifies My Apps. It's highlighted in this screenshot with the red rectangle.
  • You will be in your library of apps. If you are looking at your list of Installed apps, flick to the left to get to the list of All apps.
  • Locate an app that you want to remove from your library. Even though it might seem obvious (or not) this can't be an app that you currently have installed on the device you are using. Here is where a bit of trickery comes in. You may have to practice this a time or two to get it right. Don't worry, if you screw this up, all that happens is the app is taken out of your library but you really don't lose anything. If you want the app back, just download it from Google Play again.
  • Press and hold the app you want to remove from the library for about a second. You will see the action bar at the top change slightly and the app is now highlighted as shown below. In fact, you can even tap another app on the screen for multiple selections. Even better, you can swipe up and down to scroll and select dozens of apps. But let's start small at first.
  • The action bar has the word "Done" in the upper left and a circle with a slash through it in the upper right. If you click the "Done" button, nothing happens. If you click the button with the circle with the slash, you will see the word "Remove" appear".
  • Now you will be presented with a dialog box to confirm the removal. If you choose to remove the apps, the process takes only a few moments, depending on your connection speed.
  • Repeat as often as needed. You will notice the library shrinking and the client gets noticeably more responsive as you remove apps.
  • When you are satisfied with your work, occasionally go over to the web version of Google Play and refresh your library. You will also notice the rearrangement of the apps in there as well.

Right now, I couldn't be more pleased with this development. I'm down to around 220 apps in my library and I have a few more I can trim out if I decide to add some more in the future. I hope Google decides to give us a better way to manage the library on the web, but for now I'm happy with what I have.

I'm heading to the Big Android BBQ in Texas tomorrow and looking forward to seeing all the freaks there. This will be my third time there, but this will be my first time there as a "free man".

-E