How to find and open hidden apps on iPhone

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Because there’s an app for everything, you might have gone a little overboard one day and ended up with pages of apps that you don’t use all that frequently. Or maybe you wanted to hide apps on your iPhone because those fun games have been distracting lately. Alternatively, perhaps you want to be able to stow certain ones away for parental control reasons. Either way, when it’s time to find those pesky apps again, how do you do so? I’ll show you numerous ways to locate them, from using Siri to accessing the home screen.


How to locate secret apps iPhone hides from view

When you tap and hold an app and select Remove App, that app becomes hidden from your home screen, not deleted. When removed from your home screen, the app still exists on your phone, but only within your App Library. If you’re looking for a specific app and can’t locate it, you could try these basic methods before venturing further:

  • Use Spotlight Search: I find Spotlight Search by far the easiest method to find hidden apps on iPhone and for just about everything else. To use Spotlight Search, head over to your home screen and swipe down to make the search bar appear. Type in the app name that you’re looking for, and the icon will pop up.
  • Drag it out of a folder: If you’re anything like me, you’ll have used folders to keep your apps organized and easy to find. However, if you’ve got an overwhelming amount of apps, those general folders might seem like they have their own app collection on their own. For apps you commonly use and can’t find, press and hold the app and tap Edit Home Screen. Slowly drag the app outside of the folder onto your home screen.
  • Reset your Home Screen layout: In circumstances where you want to completely reorganize your home screen and can’t find an app, you can restore your home screen to its original state through Settings. The downside to this method is that you’ll lose all your own arrangements and folders that you’ve created. But if you’re ready to do an overhaul, go to Settings > General > Transfer or Reset iPhone > Reset > Reset Home Screen Layout.

Spotlight Search works wonders for situations where you’re looking for a specific app, while you might want to keep the Reset option for more dire situations. A pro tip from me (or not so pro)? Start officially deleting apps that you don’t use every once in a while. This will keep your home screen and app library a lot less cluttered and make it easier to locate what you need.

How to find hidden apps on the iPhone home screen

Whenever you install a new app, it’ll usually be automatically added to your home screen for the most part. Naturally, you’ll want to direct your attention there to search for hidden apps on iPhone. But what are the reasons why an app wouldn’t be visible on the home screen? 

As Apple introduced the option to hide home screen panels with iOS 14, an app or multiple apps might be missing because one of your panels was hidden by accident.

How does this feature work? Here’s how to hide and unhide home screen panels:

  1. Press and hold any blank space on the home screen.
  2. Tap the series of dots on the bottom of the screen.
  3. Click on a checkmark to hide a page (it will be grayed out, and the circle will be hollow), and click on a hollow circle to unhide it (you’ll see a checkmark again).
    checkmark to hide screen panels
  4. Tap Done.

This method is especially useful if there are a group of apps you want to hide and unhide frequently. If there’s a single app you want to hide using this method, drag it onto another page and hide the page using the same steps.

Find out which apps you can and can’t hide

When you purchase an iPhone, the operating system comes with a bunch of pre-installed apps. While many of these apps can be incredibly useful to the majority of people, those lesser-used ones might not feel useful to have on the home screen. 

Here’s how to hide apps on the iPhone home screen native to iOS:

  1. Tap and hold the app you want to hide from the home screen.
  2. Select Remove App from the menu.
  3. Tap Remove from Home Screen to preserve your data and the app, but remove it from your main page, or select Delete App to delete the app entirely.

    iPhone's app removal menu

New iPhones come with 38 pre-installed apps, and 27 of them can be hidden or deleted. Here they are for your reference: Books, Calculator, Calendar, Compass, Contacts, FaceTime, Files, Fitness, Home, iTunes Store, Magnifier, Mail, Maps, Measure, Music, News, Notes, Podcasts, Reminders, Shortcuts, Stocks, Tips, Translate, TV, Voice Memos, Watch, and Weather.

The rest of pre-installed apps are essential to the iPhone’s system and thus can’t be deleted. They are App Store, Camera, Clock, Find My, Health, Messages, Phone, Photos, Safari, Settings, and Wallet.

How to hide apps so they don't show up in search 

I’ve gone over a few ways on how to hide apps on an iPhone home screen – either by using folders, hiding a home screen panel, or removing it from your home screen entirely. But what if you want to bar people or yourself from easily searching for that app?

For iPhone users who need to take that privacy a step up, here’s how to hide apps on iPhone in Settings:

  1. Open the Settings app.
  2. Tap Siri & Search.
  3. Scroll down to find a list of all your apps and select the app you want to hide.
  4. Toggle off all options available.

    search app using Siri

If you try to search up the app name using Spotlight Search, there will be no indication that you have it downloaded on your iPhone.

How to access your hidden apps

Juggling every app and all the content you’ve got stored on every device can quickly become overwhelming. But as there are apps for everything, there’s an app that can keep your files safe and in check through automatic iOS backups. 

Regardless of which iOS devices you own, AnyTrans for iOS can act as the standup backup manager you need, allowing you to backup your files but also seamlessly transfer them between all your devices.

AnyTrans iOS manager

Upon opening the app, you can instantly back up your content on your iPhone or iPad, for example, in a click or two. Unlike with iCloud backups, AnyTrans won’t overwrite your backups and will have them readily accessible. With end-to-end encryption and automatic and wireless backup solutions, you’ll get the utmost peace of mind.

Now that you’re able to manage your files and other content with ease, Transloader can handle another issue that you might have trouble getting around – and that’s handling downloads on your Mac. I’ve frequently been in the position where I’ve browsed for a file on my iPhone, needed it on my Mac, and have resorted to using Airdrop to send that file across devices.

Transloader

Instead of going through that process every time you’re in that situation, Transloader can activate remote downloads from your iPad or iPhone to your Mac. All you need is the right URL, and the app will handle the rest.

How to use Siri to find hidden apps

Siri is a great way to instantly open hidden apps hands-free. This is provided you have Siri set up. If you haven’t, head over to your Settings app and tap Siri & Search to get it up and running. Once you’re ready, use the voice commands to open that app.

  1. Depending on what your settings look like, you can either press the side button or simply say “Hey Siri” or “Siri” to kickstart the voice assistant. 
  2. Say “Open [name of app],” and Siri will directly open the app for you. If you start the process with your iPhone locked, you’ll need to enter your passcode or use Face ID.

While Siri can instantly bring you to the app, it won’t exactly locate the app for you. After you’ve closed the app again, you’ll still need to use other methods to be able to find it. 

offload apps with Siri

If you try to open an app that happens to be offloaded from your phone, meaning it’s removed from your phone, but the data is kept safe, Siri will notify you and prompt you to Open iPhone Storage Settings. When offloaded apps are still visible on your home screen, you’ll see an icon of a cloud with an arrow next to their names.

How to view hidden purchases

If you’re on a Family Sharing plan with friends or family members, you might have wondered whether others on your plan can see the apps you’re downloading. Luckily, there’s a chance you’ve turned the Share My Purchases feature off. If you’re not sure, you go to your Settings app and click on Family, tap your name, go to Purchases, and check there. To turn the Share My Purchases button off, swipe to toggle off. This will hide your purchases made on the App Store, iTunes Store, and Apple Books.

If you don’t want to completely hide your purchases and want to only keep an app or two private, Apple makes that possible too:

  1. Open the App Store.
  2. Tap on your profile icon in the top right-hand corner.
  3. Select Purchased.
  4. Look for the app you want to hide.
  5. Swipe left on the app.

    app purchases

  6. Tap Hide.
  7. Tap Done in the top right-hand corner.

When it comes to finding all hidden apps again in the App Store, you’ll need to start by heading back to the App Store.

  1. Tap on your profile icon in the corner of your screen.
  2. Tap on your Apple ID name at the top.
  3. Scroll down and tap Hidden Purchases.
  4. Tap Unhide beside the app.

    Hidden app purchases

How to unhide apps in the App Library

The App Library is like your headquarters where you can find every single app that exists on your iPhone, no matter where they are. Even after you’ve removed an app from your home screen temporarily, it’ll still show up in the Library so you can put it back onto your main page in the future or open it up when needed.

Here’s how to unhide apps on iPhone through your App Library and add one to your home screen:

  1. Swipe left until you’ve gone one screen past your last home screen panel, and you’ll find your App Library.
  2. Tap the App Library search bar at the top.
  3. Type in the name of the app you’re searching for.
  4. Press and hold the app icon.
  5. Tap on Add to Home Screen from the drop-down menu.

    unhide apps on Home Screen

Find all iPhone apps hidden with Screen Time

Now, raise your hand those of you who spend most of your waking hours in front of some type of screen. (Me: raising my hand.) 

If you feel like your screen time is through the roof and decide to cut it down, the Screen Time app is a great place to start. While its primary purpose was to be used as a parental control feature, it quickly became a way for adults to keep track of their own phone habits. Eventually, it served to even hide apps on iPhone if they felt like they needed to set some personal boundaries.

It’s also possible to completely disable access to some of the iOS native apps like Mail, which can be useful if you’re on vacation and don’t want to be bombarded by email notifications. But once you’re back to your normal scheduling and want to get those apps back on your home screen again, what do you do?

Here’s how to hide an app on iPhone using Screen Time and how to unhide it afterward:

  1. Open the Settings app.
  2. Tap Screen Time.
  3. Tap Content & Privacy Restrictions.
  4. Toggle Content & Privacy Restrictions on.
  5. Tap Allowed Apps and toggle on/off the apps you want to hide or unhide.

    Allowed Apps to toggle on/off

Apart from restricting native apps, I find Screen Time most useful for setting limitations on app usage, where I can set a certain time limit per day for specific apps, categories, or even websites – like one total hour for game apps, for example. It helps you stay focused without having to switch your phone off.

Find hidden apps seamlessly

Perhaps you’re aiming to get a little less distracted by hiding apps, or maybe you need to view secret apps on your iPhone that you’ve previously hidden. Either way, you’ve got the tools of the trade to handle productivity and privacy with finesse.

When you’re managing multiple iOS devices, specialized tools like Anytrans for iOS and Transloader can help with content management and bridging the gap between devices. These two useful applications, as well as 240+ more, are all accessible in one place with Setapp. With a 7-day trial, you can get a taste of how these tools can transform work and play.

FAQ

Are hidden apps still active on iPhones?

Hidden apps might be hidden from view on your home screen, but they still exist and can be accessed on your phone. It’ll continue to function in the background as usual, which is different from deleting or offloading an app.

Can you lock certain apps on an iPhone?

While you can’t exactly “lock” apps, the Screen Time feature can restrict access and remove the app from your home screen. Through the Content & Privacy Restrictions tab in Screen Time, you can toggle on and off your Allowed Apps to set limits.

How to clean up Home Screen without hiding your apps?

If you don’t want to rely on the App Library’s hide feature but want to clean up your iPhone home screen, creating custom folders is a simple and highly customizable way to do so. To create a new folder, simply press and hold an app until it starts to wiggle, then drag and drop it onto another app you want to add to the same folder. You can then rename the folder and add other relevant apps to it.

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