Since most iPhone users don’t stray from iOS they usually upgrade from an iPhone to a newer iPhone. When they do this, things like photos, app data, and a tons of other things are synced and then transferred directly to the new phone. Combine this with the fact that most users don’t upgrade their storage when buying their next iPhone and you can see how we have a pretty easy recipe for running out of space pretty quickly.
Luckily you can free up space on your iPhone with a few simple steps. Things like making sure you aren’t saving duplicate photos (Instagram is notorious for this), saving photos to the cloud automatically so you can delete old ones from the phone without fear of losing them forever, as well as cleaning up some app data and caches that are just taking up space for no good reason.
So let’s see how we can free up storage space on your iPhone and how we can put things in place to make it far less often you’ll need to do this purging.
How to Free Up Space on the iPhone
Check Storage and Find the Largest Cuplrits
First off, we shouldn’t go into this blindly, right? Let’s see what the biggest storage hogs are, then we can tackle this starting with the biggest culprits and move on.
Thankfully, iOS has a way to check this built it. Head to Settings > General > Storage & iCloud Usage > Manage Storage under Storage. From here you’ll see list sorted by the items with the largest size on top.
Now that we can see the biggest culprits eating away at our storage, let’s go through how we can free up the storage they are hogging and also see if we can stop them from taking up so much in the future.
After doing the check on the storage, chances are, you’ll most likely see Photos pretty close to the top. Since it is probably the biggest complaint I usually hear about and the one that usually takes up the most data by far, let’s tackle that one first.
Use Google Photos to Automatically Backup All Photos & Videos then Delete Old Ones
Now that we’ve cut down on the duplicates, let’s take care of the big one –your camera roll.
I did an article on this a while ago and named a bunch of ways to backup your photos and you can check that out, but my favorite way is using Google Photos. Essentially, we’re going to use Google Photos, with its free unlimited storage and auto-backup features, to backup all of the photos we have on the phone then delete the ones on the phone since Google Photos allows us to see all of our photos in the Google Photos app without them taking up space on the phone.
Don’t worry, it doesn’t show them to anyone or post them on Google Plus or anything weird like that, and as a bonus, it actually has some cool (slightly freaky?) search features you can then use to find photos once they’re in the app.
Here’s how to use it.
Backup your Photos
- Head to the App Store, search for and install Google Photos.
- Open it once installed and login/signup (it’s free).
- Then click the Settings icon and select to Automatically Backup photos (or select it when prompted during the setup process).
- Connect to a Wifi network at this point to speed up the process (and make sure it uploads your videos as well).
- Tap the menu icon at the top left and then tap on Assistant and make sure you see it backing up.
- Wait. A long time.
- Once it says it is done, head to photos.google.com and login with the same credentials you used for the app. Once you do, do a quick scroll through the photos to confirm they all seem to be there (maybe also do some other backup methods just in case as well).
Erase the Camera Roll Photos
Unfortunately, iOS doesn’t have a way of deleting apps in bulk very easily and would require you to delete them one by one, but thankfully, Google Photos just added the ability to delete them all from inside the app. Here’s how.
- Open Google Photos.
- Tap the menu icon at the top left then tap Settings.
- Under Free up device storage, tap Free Up Space and follow the prompts to finish the job.
From then on, you’ll have reclaimed a ton of storage and still have access to any photo you need from the past by going to the Google Photos app and finding it from there.
Also, from now on, the Google Photos app will always backup your photos and videos if you open the app once in a while while connected to Wifi (it is supposed to do it automatically without having to do that, but I find it doesn’t always so I open it once in a while and let it backup, just to be safe).
An app that you wouldn’t really think of hogging a lot of data, but is usually one I see on people’s phones at the top of the storage usage list, is your messages app.
Reason being is that iOS automatically saves all of the photos from your conversations as well as the conversations themselves indefinitely (by default, at least). And since you probably don’t need all of that, let’s change it from Forever to 30 days (the shortest amount it has).
- Head to Settings > Messages.
- Under Message History, tap Keep Messages and change it from Forever to 30 days
The next biggie for most people is their Music. This usually happens when you have your music actually saved on your phone, say through iTunes, but there’s a better way –streaming.
Use a Streaming Music Service
I swap phones so often that I can’t be bothered with putting my music on each one every time so I opted for a streaming service like Spotify instead. You don’t need your entire library on your phone at one time, so instead I save the songs offline from Spotify that I listen to the most often (or know I’m going to want to listen to this week) and then the rest I stream when I feel like I need to hear a specific song. You can download Spotify and pay for the Premium service to be able to do this yourself, or, if you’re engrained in iTunes, you can add iTunes Match to your iTunes to achieve something similar.
Using iTunes Match instead of regular iTunes allows you to keep all your music on your computer, or in the iTunes cloud, and then just download to the phone ones you want to have offline and stream the others like with Spotify. The benefit of this over Spotify is really for those that have their own downloaded music library and want to be able to access it instead of relying on Spotify’s audio library.
To Setup iTunes Match
- On the phone, head to Settings > Music > Subscribe to iTunes Match.
- Download and open iTunes on your computer and add your music to it so it can upload it to iCloud.
- Once done, head back to the phone and go to Settings > Music > Turn On iTunes Match
Extra Ways to Free Up Space
That probably covers the biggest ones, but there are a few other things to try and reclaim some more storage if you want.
Stop Saving Duplicate Photos
You might not know this, but your phone is saving duplicate photos.
The biggest offenders of this are your normal camera app and Instagram. Your regular camera app does this whenever you take a photo using HDR (which is a software for helping take low-light photos) and Instagram just infamously saves any photo you upload to Instagram as a photo in your camera roll for no reason.
Since neither of these is really very useful in my opinion – use your own judgement though, of course – let’s turn them both off.
- Head to Settings > Photos & Camera
- Scroll down and turn off Keep Normal Photo under HDR.
- Open the Instagram app.
- Tap on your profile then tap the Settings (gear) icon.
- Turn off Save Original Photos.
Delete Voicemail Messages
- Head to Phone > Voicemail.
- Swipe on each voicemail and tap delete until you delete them all.
Delete Old Podcasts
- Open the Podcast app.
- Swipe on each one and tap delete until you delete them all.
Delete Unused Apps
We all hate to see apps go, but as a last resort, it might be a good idea to check that manage storage list and see which apps use a lot of data that you simply don’t use that often (think video games, apps that do a particular thing you could just as easily do in the browser, or ones you just haven’t touched in forever).
There you go.