Why we don't have a recycle Bin options in the mobile world.

Is that any specific reason for that ?

  • I'm honestly confused as to what you're asking about. Do you mean a trash can function?
    – UXerUIer
    Commented Sep 24, 2014 at 18:02
  • 2
    There was one, however, one of the developers accidentally dragged it into itself while putting it in his pocket. Since the restore option wasn't implemented yet, the recycle bin could not be restored. Commented Sep 24, 2014 at 19:59
  • lol @DannyVarod
    – Grapho
    Commented Sep 24, 2014 at 20:30
  • @Majo0od yes kind of trash and same use as in desktop and Note: Modern mobiles coming up with the high in build memory Commented Sep 25, 2014 at 6:27

5 Answers 5


While a mobile device does have an internal file system, the software hides this from the user. From a user point of view there is no file system. If there is no files system there are no files. Since there are no files you cannot delete a file. So a recycle bin would simply not have any function.

  • I don't know if I get your answer... You say, the user won't recognize a file system? What about a File Manager? It just visualize a file system...? And then, on a mobile device, there are no files? So the user can't delete a file? What exactly do you mean by that? Commented Sep 24, 2014 at 8:44
  • 3
    A File Manager (such as Windows Explorer or Mac Finder) is indeed a tool that visualizes the file system. Most Mobile systems however do not have such tools, or at least not by default. Therefor the file system remains hidden, unexposed to the user. I did not say there ARE no files on a mobile device. Of course there are files. They are just not exposed to the user. And therefor it would not make sense to expose a recycle bin. Commented Sep 24, 2014 at 9:31
  • There's not? Oh, okay, didn't thought that. Thanks for your reply! +1 Commented Sep 25, 2014 at 12:02

What would you like to put into it?

  • Apps normally have to be "uninstalled", so no use for a bin.
  • Most E-Mail clients already have the recycle bin feature.
  • A pretty large amount if images, videos and other media are synchronized with some web service (or at least the manufacturers want us to do so) so a local delete doesn't delete the backup.
  • It usually takes more "clear" steps to delete a file on mobile. First select it (long tap, check a box). Then choose the delete action from a list. Then confirm. If you can't confirm you have "undo" instead (at least thats how it should be). On desktop, this probalvy happens more accidently, since you normally press "Del" instead of selecting the action from a list (sorry, no source or proof for that)
  • Less storage available so unnecessary files would pollute the device

You see, if there is use for such a feature, the app itself will offer it (like the mail clients)

Fun fact: as far as I know apple devices do have a bin feature. If you delete something it will be put into a hidden "trashes" folder. Too bad there is no way to retrieve the files for an ordinary user.


I can think of 2 arguments not yet mentioned...

  1. The issue of apps being "sandboxed" for security makes it irrelevant.
  2. It's an outdated metaphor that no longer has meaning in the mobile ecosystem

First, sandboxing.

For security, each app runs in its own little world and only has access to what the system allows. You wouldn't want some social photo app having unfettered access to your banking app. Any saved/edited/deleted items are handled within the app itself, or shared between apps only within strict limitations/guidelines.

In this case, there's no need for a separate, external, system-wide container for deleted files. It would also break the desired separation and potentially make anything deleted from any app available to other apps.

It's also unnecessary at a system level because for the most part users have no access to operating system files, unlike on a desktop. You can't accidentally delete critical files from your iPhone like you can on a desktop/laptop. You can't accidentally lose (or duplicate) all your photos by dropping them into another "folder" - if an app needs them, it instead asks the system for access to the 1 secure copy.

Second, the metaphor.

The "file folder" and "trash can" idea is a product of the 1970s when actual filing cabinets, folders, desktops, and trashcans were the recognizable real-world analog for these digital metaphors. Those were the icons necessary to fit users' mental model of the work they were doing. What do you do with a file you don't need anymore? Throw it in the trash.

Those metaphors are increasingly meaningless to newer users. A "floppy disk" icon means nothing to anybody born after 2000, but still means "save" to desktop users. No 14-yr-old has ever seen a "film strip" but that's still a typical icon for "video." The trash can, as discussed, is superfluous on mobile & can be a problematic relic on desktops.

With modern mobile devices the push has been to strip away these metaphors and symbols in favor of making users feel like they're manipulating the content/data directly (somewhere there's a Steve Jobs or Jony Ive quote about this, but I couldn't find it).

Your photos, for example, are entirely digital, live in a particular app on the same device you used to take them, and you can touch/edit/send them around the world with a few taps of your fingers. There are no negatives to catalog, no reason to care about naming conventions since metadata is automatic, no concerns about file structure or where the files are saved on disk. If you want to delete a photo (or 100), you do so within the relevant app.

  • What do you do with a file you don't need anymore? Throw it in the trash. Those metaphors are increasingly meaningless to newer users. - hmmm... I am not buying this. While there is some truth to it (floppy disk), it cannot be that simple really. For one - unlike floppy disks, trashcans are still in everyday use, just as they were back in 1970s, nothing has changed in this regard. Also, even in 1970s people didn't use hourglasses anymore, which didn't stop it from being picked as a useful and understandable metaphore. Commented Sep 30, 2014 at 22:23
  • I would agree that people do not need concrete metaphores as much as in the past, but this is not because the purpose of a trashcan or a file folder is any less clear today (because it isn't). It only stems from the fact that they are more used to digital abstractions these days and therefore don't need as many cognitive crutches. In other words: we threw most of these crutches away because we learned to walk, but not because they rusted. The obsoleteness of floppy disks is coincidental here. Commented Sep 30, 2014 at 22:34
  • I agree - that's pretty much what I said in the last part. I only mentioned floppies & folders because they, along w/"trashcans," evolved as part of the overall "desktop" GUI concept. Those symbols fit the mental model of the time. Those models, along with the technical aspects of how mobile apps function, have since changed. Getting rid of the trashcan is part of getting rid of the entire desktop metaphor.
    – mc01
    Commented Sep 30, 2014 at 23:52
  • +1 for the metaphor. Trash can make senses on desktop, but certainly not in a mobile world.
    – leMoisela
    Commented Oct 1, 2014 at 6:21


In desktop, when you delete a file it is not completely deleted from disk. In mobile, when you delete something, you instantly claim the memory back. ex; deleting photos, videos, songs, apps etc.

There are 'trash' or 'recycle bin' concept within apps ex: email which in turn stores the deleted emails, drafts in their servers and not actually on your phones

With iPhone6X one can go upto 128GB so maybe it's time to think about recycle bin/trash but also think about what to retain such as SMS, photos etc once again working with the storage limitations. Uninstalling an app is similar to uninstalling an application in desktop and is not something that is recoverable from recycle bin in desktop world either.


It comes down to what would need to be trashed, and more specifically about what would need to be retrieved. I would say that based on other responses about the lack of exposure to files and the ambiguity around what would need to be deleted and potentially retrieved that there doesn't seem to be a need for trash can functionality on a mobile device. The use of a trash can on a desktop is around getting rid of files, and also being able to retrieve those files if the trash can hasn't been emptied.

Even on a desktop, when you delete an email in Outlook for instance, you don't go to the OS trash can to get it back. The deleted email lives inside of the application.

As others have mentioned, inside of a native app, like an email app, there are already trash can features specific to the app so the question seems to be around deleting apps.

IF this questions is specifically around deleting apps, on iOS it's fairly easy to remove an app. It's also fairly easy to re-install an app, tap on App Store > Updates > Purchased > Download (Cloud Icon). It's not that intuitive on how to get to your purchased items (I wouldn't think to look in Updates). This might indicate that Apple wasn't concerned about the access to previously purchased apps, because potentially the re-install action isn't performed very often. The other path (and likely the primary) is that the user uses the search in the app store to find the app and re-install it. In essence, they are retrieving something that they deleted from their device. Essentially the cloud is acting as a trash can of things I don't currently want on my device.

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