The Secret Lives of Phones

Posted on 27/10/2013


Our phones know a lot about who we are. Beyond our contacts, message history and the location data that flows from them every second, there’s another layer of meaning. I’m talking about how we organise our home screens.

Part of the Google Squared course I’m doing asked me to audit my digital footprint. I put the following together – it’s not the prettiest, but it’s a simple DITLOC-like overview of the key apps and devices I use.

Google Squared digital footprint

(You can see the full set of digital footprints here)

Strangely enough, I ended up talking about this with friends. It turned out one of them had hidden their Tinder app within the “utilities” folder on their iPhone.

Whether they saw it as a “utility” or were just shy about their dating habits, it got us talking about how our homescreens are set up.  They show a lot about who we are:


Like behaviour traits, we all share the same basic apps. But with app stores bulging at the seams with new additions, they also reveal what we like doing and how we like to do it.


Homescreens separate the chaotic from the OCD in terms of organisation. But how you group activities and information (what apps do), also reflects how you think.


How into your phone are you? More apps downloaded, probably means you’re in more in love with technology.

On Android where you have the option to swipe left and right, you can even tell whether someone is right or left-handed (I’m right-handed so my screens extend to the right of the centre as it’s easier to swipe left).

So there you have it. Like our handwriting, phones are just another way to unpick our characters and behaviour traits. And it’s even becoming a form of self-expression, like What’s In My Bag. The question is, how personal is this information and who should have access to it? Like a lot of evolving technology, it’s only when people start using this data commercially or publicly that we’ll really have that debate.