I'm interested to know about the effectiveness of the search application on the iPhone home screen.

For example, I have 4 screens of apps and it takes me a few seconds to find an application that I don't use every day. And I know people who have a lot more apps. Some use folders to organize their apps, but manual search becomes longer due to the extra clicks and remember which apps are in which folders.

Are there any studies on this subject? How do other mobile OSs solve the issue of time to find an application on a multi-page home screen?

  • 3
    I am not sure I understand this question
    – Mervin
    Feb 15, 2013 at 21:29
  • 1
    A slightly related study: A Study on Icon Arrangement by Smartphone Users. It describes the strategies that people use to arrange their apps. 5 concepts are used to do so: usage, relatedness, usability, aesthetic, and other external concepts. The majority of participants used iOS, though. By the way, I think that your question is relevant and interesting. I don't understand the downvotes.
    – Pep López
    May 3, 2013 at 11:11
  • This really is a "could you google this research for me" question instead of one about trying to solve a problem. Jun 18, 2013 at 5:48
  • iOS 7 addresses that issue, now you can search apps from any of the screens .
    – Nash Vail
    Jul 18, 2013 at 7:59

2 Answers 2


For something to read regarding human information behavior, you can read a seminal article titled, "As we may think", in the information science field about search interfaces written by Vannevar Bush in 1945. Here is an animation video of the device he imagined folks would use to organize information at their desk.

In regards to more specific readings on organization of apps on a mobile device and mobile search behavior, you can take a look at Human-Computer Interaction (HCI) scholarly literature. Two databases to find these articles include HCI Bib http://hcibib.org/ and ACM Digital Library http://dl.acm.org/

Here are some citations:

  1. Matthias Böhmer and Antonio Krüger. 2013. A study on icon arrangement by smartphone users. In Proceedings of the SIGCHI Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems (CHI '13). ACM, New York, NY, USA, 2137-2146. DOI=10.1145/2470654.2481294 http://doi.acm.org/10.1145/2470654.2481294
  2. Ziefle, M., and Bay, S. Mental models of a cellular phone menu. comparing older and younger novice users mobile. In Proc. MobileHCI (2004).
  3. St. Amant, R., Horton, T. E., and Ritter, F. E. Model-based evaluation of cell phone menu interaction. In Proc. CHI (2004).
  4. Karen Church and Nuria Oliver. 2011. Understanding mobile web and mobile search use in today's dynamic mobile landscape. In Proceedings of the 13th International Conference on Human Computer Interaction with Mobile Devices and Services (MobileHCI '11). ACM, New York, NY, USA, 67-76. DOI=10.1145/2037373.2037385 http://doi.acm.org/10.1145/2037373.2037385

  5. Hendrik Müller, Jennifer Gove, and John Webb. 2012. Understanding tablet use: a multi-method exploration. In Proceedings of the 14th international conference on Human-computer interaction with mobile devices and services (MobileHCI '12). ACM, New York, NY, USA, 1-10. DOI=10.1145/2371574.2371576 http://doi.acm.org/10.1145/2371574.2371576


You asked how other OSs solve the problem of finding apps.

I will offer my experience of app finding whilst using an Android.

All Apps by install date

The stock OS home screen had an "All Apps" button that would list all my apps in the reverse order that they were installed, shown in pages which I could swipe through.

This was great for finding apps which I had recently installed (many of those were my favourites), but it was no help at all for finding apps which came installed by default, or which I had installed ages ago. Beyond the first page, apps were basically jumbled up in no useful order, as far as I was concerned.

I suspect most-recently-used order would have been more useful. Apps I never use would fade into history, and apps I sometimes use would only be a page or two away.

It was possible to change this screen to order apps alphabetically, but this option was hidden deep away in the home screen's settings. This ability to change grouping method might have been useful, if it had been available at the moment I needed it, directly from the All Apps screen.

Apps grouped by category

Some time later I installed Hola Launcher.

It had a very nice option to automatically file apps into categories (folders) on one of the pages on the home screen. After installing an app, it would pop up a message to tell you where it had put it. You could then move that app to a different folder if you wanted.

Hola Launcher categories page

This was a great way to find the app I wanted.

Moreover, if you were inside the wrong folder, and realised you needed a different folder, you did not have to go back out and then back in to the folder you needed. You could just swipe left or right through the different folders on that page. I think this was more convenient because the "back" button is a small thing to aim at and hit with your finger, compared to a swipe or two which you can do quite casually and naturally anywhere on the screen.

Hola Launcher swiping through folders

All Apps alphabetically

There was an alternative way to find an app. The "All Apps" screen in this launcher listed the apps alphabetically. On the right-hand side it had a scrollbar with letters on it. This made it very easy to reach apps starting with a "P". You could just click or drag the scrollbar, and skip right over the 50 irrelevant apps inbetween.

Hola Launcher's All Apps page

This screen also has the text search feature you are asking about. I think I only used it once or twice.

I'm sure it could be useful, if I have installed "Zappos Weather App" but I forget the vendor's name "Zappo". Since I can't hit the "Z" to get there quickly, I can at least type in "Weather", and the display will show only those apps matching my search.

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