If you are running short of online storage space on iCloud, these top tips show what to do on your iPhone to free up space, reduce backups and online usage.

iPhone and iPad owners have access to Apple iCloud online storage and it has many uses, but you may find yourself running short of space. Here’s how to get more online storage space for free.

Apple provides 5GB of online storage space for everyone with an Apple account, but when your iPhone or iPad is 32GB or more, it simply isn’t enough. The cost of upgrading to 50GB is so small that it is really a no-brainer. Go ahead, you won’t even notice the monthly fee at £0.79 a month here in the UK or $0.99 in the US.

However, the storage capacity of iPhones and iPads is rising and they contain an ever increasing number of large files, including photos, music, documents and more. It is quite easy to run out of space on the 50GB plan if you have both an iPhone and an iPad.

What can you do to reduce the amount of storage used on iCloud? Can you free up space online? Let’s see how to get more from your storage.

Check iCloud storage usage

There are a couple of ways to access iCloud storage settings and you could tap Settings > General > Storage & iCloud Usage. This gives a brief overview of the total storage and the available space.

iPhone settings showing iCloud usage

A better way to view the usage is to tap your name at the top of Settings and then press iCloud. There is a nice display at the top of the screen showing the amount used and more importantly, how it is used. The coloured areas show photos, backups, documents, email and so on.

iCloud storage usage in iPhone Settings

This shows you exactly where you need to focus your attention when freeing up space. I keep my iPhone fairly clean and optimised, and your own usage could be very different.

Below the usage bar is a list of apps that use iCloud and tweaking the settings can result in some space savings.

Use Google Photos

If you have sufficient storage space then Photos should be turned on so that all photographs are stored online. If you do not have enough online storage space, the Google Photos App for iOS will store an unlimited number of photos online for free.

Switching to Google Photos to store your snapshots and turning off Apple Photos could save many gigabytes of iCloud storage space. It might even save you enough space to stay with the free 5GB iCloud storage plan.

Like iCloud/Photos, Google Photos can clear the phone’s storage of photos and just keep your snapshots online. You get more free space on your iPhone and less iCloud usage for free.

Google Photos on the iPhone - delete uploaded photos

Related: Google photos beats Apple Photos on the iPhone
Related: How to share Google Photos libraries with a partner you trust

Manage iPhone backups

There is an iCloud Backup item further down the screen, but this is just an on/off switch. To customise iCloud Backup with a view to saving space, press the usage bar at the top of the screen and then press Manage Storage.

 Manage iCloud storage in iPhone Settings Customise the backup options on the iPhone in Settings

iOS backups are shown on this screen and you can see I have an iPhone and iPad backup in the left screenshot above. Each of these can be configured to use less iCloud storage space.

Press the iPhone backup. The screenshot on the right above shows the last backup date and size. Below this is CHOOSE DATA TO BACK UP. Only a small number of apps are listed and the full list is displayed by tapping Show All Apps below.

On/off switches enable you to choose which apps are backed up.

Don’t backup things that are easily replaced or things you don’t care about. For example, Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter can all be backed up. They are not using a lot of space, but turning them off does no harm and shrinks the backup size. These apps store everything online anyway in your social accounts, so there is nothing important that iCloud is backing up.

Go through the full list of apps and turn off as many items as you can to reduce the backup size. Repeat this with any other iOS devices you have, such as an iPad. (You can delete iPad backups on an iPhone, but you must use the iPad to configure which apps are backed up.)

Just off the bottom of the screen - swipe up to see it - is Delete backup. After shrinking the size of the backup, you might want to delete the current backup to recover iCloud storage. A new smaller backup will be created the next time you plug in the iPhone or iPad charger.