It is becoming common for top-end phones to have 32MB of storage and lots of memory, but Apple is different and has stuck with 16GB in the iPhone for years. Here’s what to do when you run short space.
Let’s face it, 16GB is nothing these days. Many people have music, photo and video libraries that are much bigger than this – individually, never mind combined onto one phone and squeezed into a tiny space. Even if you have double the space, some people still fill it and 32GB is starting to look difficult to live with.
What can you do when you run out of storage on your iPhone? It does not accept memory cards and the case is sealed so there is no physical way to add more storage space. You just have to work with what you have.
Fortunately, there are ways to get around the limited storage space on iPhones. Buying one with bigger storage is not an option for many people because it significantly pushes up the price. Somehow you have to make everything fit into what you have.
Check the space
See how bad the storage situation is by going to Settings, General, Storage & iCloud Usage. At the top is the Used and Available figures. You should be worried if there is less than 1 GB available.
Press Manage Storage to see a list of apps that are sorted by the amount of storage space they use. The biggest are at the top.
On my phone (you will have different apps), you can see that Google Play Music is using 1.6 GB of storage space. This is a streaming music app and to reduce the amount of data streamed, it saves music you play to the iPhone’s storage.
If you use Apple Music or some other music service, you will probably find that it does the same thing. Music apps use the most storage even if you have no music on your phone and stream everything. Rather than sending a music track twice, it is streamed once and saved, then the saved copy can be played instead of streaming it.
Unlike Android, the iPhone provides few facilities for clearing caches and temporary data stored by apps. For many apps there is no way of recovering the storage they are using, but a few apps do provide facilities.
Google Play Music does, for example. Open the app, tap the hamburger menu in the top left corner and select Settings. Scroll down the settings page and there is a Streaming & downloading section. Press Clear cache. In my case I got back around 1.5 GB of storage space!
Many iPhone users will have Apple Music and this does indeed provide facilities to clear the storage it is using. Find Music in the list of apps under Settings, General, Storage & iCloud Usage and press it. It displays the storage used and below this is a list of artists. These are tracks and albums stored on the phone. Slide an artist left and a red Delete button appears on the right, which enables you to delete all the tracks.
Press the artist and a list of tracks is displayed and you can slide left over them to remove them. This will not prevent you from listening to them again. It just means that they will have to be downloaded again instead of playing from storage.
Some other apps may also provide facilities to clear the caches and temporary storage they are using. Check in Settings for the app and check within the app itself. An option to clear storage could be anywhere or nowhere. You just don’t know without looking.
Stop sharing photos
You could be wasting storage by sharing photos. Go to Settings, Photos & Camera and see if My Photo Stream is turned on. If it is, then photos taken on one device with iCloud are copied to all devices with iCloud. This means that photos taken on the iPad are synced to iPhone and iPhone photos are synced to the iPad.
The photos require storage and you can turn off My Photo Stream and save the space used. If you want to know how much space is being used, go to Settings, General, Storage & iCloud Usage, Manage Storage, Photos & Camera.
Down at the bottom of Photos & Camera is Keep Normal Photo. When a photo is taken with the HDR (high dynamic range) setting turned on, it is saved twice. Once as a normal photo and once as an HDR photo. Switch off Keep Normal Photo and you will save space for all photos you take in the future.
Monitor the battery
There are many battery monitoring apps for the iPhone and it is tempting to use them. However, adding another app will add to the amount of power draining from the battery and it will use up valuable storage space. It is best to remove apps, not to add them. Delete your battery monitor and free up the space.
The iPhone already monitors the power used by apps and you can see a reports for the last 24 hours and the last week by going to Settings, Battery. There is more here than you might think and if you tap any app, it displays the time an app was on the screen and the time it was running in the background. With this information you can see if apps are running behind the scenes and using all the battery power.
Do you need a battery saver? No. Delete it and free up the storage space. Go to Settings, Battery and turn on the switch, Low Power Mode.
Get the weather
Weather apps are popular, but they use storage space and when you are running short, you might want to consider deleting them. The iPhone comes with a Weather app and while it may not be spectacular, it is adequate.
Open the weather app and an hour-by-hour forecast is displayed for the next 24 hours, with mini forecasts for the next seven days below. Swipe up and there is more information, such as sunrise and sunset, the percentage chance of rain, humidity, wind speed and more.
Delete other weather forecast apps to free up the space and use the one bundled with the iPhone.
Don’t store your photos
Photos will fill an iPhone’s storage in a very short time and to free up space you need to get rid of them. Of course you want to keep them, but does it matter where you keep them? Store them online and not on the phone.
Apple offers iCloud Photo Library, but the space is very limited – 5 GB, which isn’t much when you are taking lots of photos. You need to pay to store more.
If you do pay for a storage plan, go to Settings, iCloud, Photos, and turn on iCloud Photo Library. New options appear and selecting Optimise iPhone Storage reduces space used by the photos on the device.
Another option is to use Google Photos. This provides unlimited free online storage for your photos in your free Google account. The app has some great features and among them is the option to delete photos from the phone that have been uploaded and stored online. This frees up storage space on the phone. You can still access your photos from the Google Photos app, it just means they aren’t wasting storage space.
Monitor the data usage
Do you have an app to monitor the amount of mobile data used on your phone? Do you really need it? It takes just a couple of taps to find out how much data has been used.
Go to Settings, Mobile Data (may be called Cellular on your phone). The mobile data usage for the current period is displayed. The ‘period’ is simply the date and time it was last reset. On the first of each month, or whatever day you prefer, scroll down to the bottom of this screen and press Reset Statistics. It zeroes the data usage and starts counting again.
There is a list of apps and under each one is the amount of data used. Look down the list and you can quickly see which apps use the most data.
Do you need a data monitor app? No. Delete is and free up the space.
Delete more apps
We see a great app in the App Store, we download it and use it for a while, and a month later, or even less, the app is abandoned and is never used again. Take a close look at the apps on your phone and think when you last used them. Is there an app you have not used for a month? Delete it, you won’t miss it.
Games apps are huge, so when you have finished playing them, delete them to free up the space they occupy. You can’t play a dozen or more games, so just keep a couple of your current favourites and get rid of the rest.
- Written by Roland Waddilove
- Published: 17 April 2016