Why iOS offloads apps and how to reinstall them

Apps can be automatically or manually put into a kind of standby mode.

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Despite offering phones and tablets with ever-more onboard storage, Apple knows that people can still easily outpace available room as they download ever more apps and digital content for those apps. In iOS 11, Apple added an option to offload apps rather than just delete them as a compromise between apps you use and storage consumed.

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An offloaded app sports a cloud download icon.

When you delete an app from your iOS device, its icon disappears, the program bundle is removed, and any associated data gets deleted. But if you choose instead to offload an app, the icon remains in place and any app-related data is retained as well. Next to the app icon, you will see a special cloud download icon.

Apple offers two ways to offload apps:

Automatically. Visit Settings > General > iTunes & App Stores. Offload Unused Apps is enabled by default, although you can turn it off if you find this behavior confusing or inconvenient. iOS doesn’t warn you when it offloads apps to increase storage, so you may try to use an app you haven’t touched in a while, only to find that it’s been offloaded. This may be a problem if you don’t have affordable or sufficient bandwidth to download it on the spot.

Manually. Open Settings > General > iPhone/iPad Storage, and then swipe down to find apps you want to offload. Tap the app and then tap Offload App. iOS explains what that means, and you have to tap Offload App again in a pop-up menu.

The next time you want to use an app that’s been offloaded, you can simply tap it and it will be downloaded and reconnected to its cached data.

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iOS warns you about the need to re-download the offloaded app.

If you use Spotlight to find an app, iOS doesn’t show the cloud download icon in its app results list. Tap the icon to launch the app, and iOS alerts you that you’re trying to launch an app that has to download first. Unfortunately, iOS doesn’t tell you when the download is done. You either have to navigate to the app’s location on a home screen and wait for the visual indicator that shows it’s fully loaded, or you can keep tapping it at intervals in Spotlight until iOS stops telling you it’s still loading and actually launches the app.

This Mac 911 article is in response to a question submitted by Macworld reader Lynn.

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