Non-expandable storage on your iPhone is a precious commodity. This is why iOS is designed to unload applications whenever the free space becomes too low by design. It is therefore surprising that the opposite occurs: applications download automatically.
While it’s quite disturbing to see various apps appear on your iPhone’s home screen without you installing them in the first place, there is a simple reason why it does that. Let’s see what it is, then let’s review what you need to do to prevent your iPhone from downloading and installing apps by itself.
Why iPhone Automatically Download Apps
Your iPhone downloads apps by itself for one reason: automatic app downloads. When using multiple iOS devices, all new apps that you install on one device will also be installed on your other devices as long as the automatic app download feature is enabled.
Note: Only apps that you install for the first time will be downloaded to your other devices. Reinstalling old apps will not automatically start the app download feature.
And it’s not just limited to iOS devices. Suppose you are wearing an iPad running iPadOS – the new apps you install there will also be downloaded to your iPhone as long as iOS-specific versions of the apps are available. This also happens vice versa – the apps you install on the iPhone will appear on the iPad.
The availability of your applications on all your devices can be very useful. You can just pick up where you left off on any of your devices without any problems, provided the app also syncs your data and actions via the cloud. The apps install even when the devices are not in use, making the whole process extremely transparent.
But the automatic application download feature has its drawbacks. For example, your iPhone or iPad is running out of storage – automatically downloading apps will make the problem worse. Or maybe you don’t like the fact that cellular data is used for these downloads. You may not need the same app to be available on all of your devices.
Disable automatic app downloads
Fortunately, it is very easy to prevent your iPhone or iPad from automatically downloading applications. Open the Settings app on your iPhone or iPad, then tap the iTunes and App Store option. Now just turn off the switch next to the apps (located under the Automatic Downloads section). This should get rid of the automatic download functionality of the apps.
However, this setting does not apply to any of your other iOS or iPadOS devices. To also prevent apps from automatically downloading apps from them, you need to disable the feature manually on each device.
If you want to keep the automatic download functionality of apps but want to prevent it from consuming cellular data, turn off the switch next to Automatic downloads instead under the Cellular data section. The apps will only be downloaded by themselves once connected to Wi-Fi.
Point: You can also activate Low Data mode if you want to limit the unrestricted use of cellular data on your iPhone or iPad.
Security Tip – Compromised Apple ID
If you are not using any other iOS or iPadOS device, or if you are absolutely sure that you have not downloaded new apps on your other devices, your Apple ID could be compromised.
Someone else could have logged in with your Apple credentials to download free or paid apps, prompting the automatic app download feature to install them on your device or devices. Therefore, it is always wise to follow some precautionary measures.
Start by looking at the list of devices linked to your Apple ID – tap your Apple ID in the Settings app, then scroll down the Apple ID screen. If there are unknown devices in the list, delete them from your Apple ID.
You should change your Apple ID password as soon as possible. On the Apple ID screen of your iPhone, tap Password and security, and then tap Change password. Also configure your device with two-factor authentication to enhance security.
You should also verify any unauthorized app purchases made with your Apple ID. To do this, open the App Store, tap your profile portrait, then tap Purchased. If there are such purchases, you can request a refund from Apple as long as they have been made within the past 90 days.
Once you’ve done all of this, keep monitoring the list of Apple ID devices and shop regularly for any additional signs of unusual activity.
Convenience versus inconvenience
Downloading apps to the iPhone automatically can be helpful or annoying. If it’s the latter, disabling the feature is fairly easy. Disabling it also won’t reduce other features – such as syncing data between apps – on your iPhone, so you should be good.
Remember to do your due diligence if you’re not sure that it was you who started downloading the apps to your iPhone from another device. It’s always best to be on the safer side.
Accessing the Control Center via the lock screen of your iPad can be dangerous. Here is a useful guide for how to turn it off.
Last updated Jan 28, 2020