iPhone Storage

8 Unexpected Ways to Free Up Space on Your iPhone

By Patricia Rey Mallén iOS, Keep Things RunningNo Comments

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If there’s one thing travelers are used to, it’s trying to fit everything into the smallest possible space. Even the most hardcore carry-on lovers will agree, though, there’s one piece of travel gear where more room is always a good thing: our phones.

Few iPhone alerts are as annoying as the one that pops up while taking a photo to tell you there’s no more storage space available. Fear not — you may not need to get rid of all your apps and entertainment quite yet. Here are eight lesser-known ways of freeing up storage on your iPhone.

Delete and Reinstall Apps

Deleting unused apps is the first order of business to clear space on your device, but here’s the kicker: you should also try deleting apps you actively use.

When you delete an app, all the cached data stored in it will also disappear. When you reinstall it, though, it won’t come back. Obviously, this trick is only suitable for apps that store information you don’t need (and which don’t store their data in iCloud, since they’ll pull it all back down to your phone again).

Bonus tip: if you’re an active user of WhatsApp, you can also ask the app to not save the photos, videos and other stuff that other people send you. This is especially relevant if you belong to several groups where files are shared constantly — that’s a surefire way to clog up your phone without you noticing.

iPhone 5 iMessages

Delete Messages in Batches

Getting rid of old messages helps clear up some room, but if the thought of deleting them one by one is making you tired already, here’s a little present: you can delete them in bulk as well.

Just go to Messages in Settings, and go to “Keep Messages.” You will have a couple of options: forever (which is selected by default), 30 days and a year. Select either of the two last ones, and all your messages older than the deadline will disappear.

Remove Old Voicemails, Notes, Music and More

Just as you accumulate junk in your drawers or the bottom of your backpack without really realizing, you also absentmindedly let useless stuff pile up on your phone.

You’ve probably already looked through old photos and unused apps, but there may be other outdated files hanging around. Take the time to go through your old voicemails, notes, music and videos — chances are a bunch of them really aren’t that important to you any more..

Clear Cookies and Cache on Safari

Cookies and cached website files are annoying in your laptop’s browser, and even more so on your phone. Get rid of them periodically, by tapping on “Clear History and Website Data” in the Safari section of Settings.

Disable Photo Stream

Photo Stream is very useful if you want to make your photos accessible on several devices, but it’s also a great way to fill up your storage. Even though the pictures are low resolution, they still take up significant space, and it gets worse over time. If you can live without it, turn it off.

iPhone 6 Storage

Watch out for Bursts

When you’re taking photos, if you press the button for a while, the camera will take a series of quick shots, or “Bursts.” These bursts are pretty neat to look at, but since they are several images, they take up quite a bit of space.

Unfortunately, there’s no way to disable Bursts at the moment, so you should be careful when taking images to not go too trigger-happy on the shutter button. Alternatively, take photos using the volume buttons on the side of the phone, instead of the button on the screen. It’s easier to take single shots that way.

Save only HDR Photos

As it turns out, iPhones don’t trust their users’ photography skills, or the quality of their own cameras. By default, iPhones save two versions of a photo, the HDR one and the normal one.

HDR (which stands for High Dynamic Range), is actually a neat feature. It blends the best parts of three different photos to create a single, better image. However, the phone will automatically save all three of the original photos, alongside the HDR version.

In older iPhones, HDR was a little iffy due to the slower camera, so it made sense to keep the original photos as well. In newer models, though, the camera has matured enough that it can be trusted to make its own decisions. So, go ahead and disable the “Keep Normal Photo” in the Photos & Camera section of Settings, and reclaim that valuable storage space.

iPhone Storage

Fake-rent a Movie

Here’s a little-known fact about iTunes: it’s so desperate for you to buy something that it will do everything in its power to achieve that goal… and that includes freeing up space on your device for you. So, let’s take advantage of that.

It works like this. Say you’re trying to rent a movie that needs just a little more space than you have available. For example, the movie clocks in at 4GB, but you’ve only got 3.7GB available. Rather than telling you it’s not possible, iTunes will ask the device to clear some space without you noticing. Don’t worry, it won’t delete anything important, or that you’ve used recently.

To do this, choose a movie that’s a bit larger than the amount of room you’ve got, then try to rent it off iTunes. The little “busy” roll will whirl, which means your iPhone is cleaning up some space, and once it is done, it will ask for your iTunes password or TouchID. At that point, you can cancel the process (unless you do actually do want to watch the movie, of course!). It won’t download, and you won’t be charged for it, but the extra storage space will remain.

Again, make sure you’re only just a little shy of the needed space on your device. If you’re seriously short, iTunes will just pop up that obnoxious “low storage” alert instead.

Use an App to Clean Stuff Up

If everything else fails, or you don’t want to go through the painful cleanup process manually, you can just have an app do it for you instead.

Apps like PhoneClean (free, works on iPad too) or iMyFone Umate (free trial, US$19.95 for extra features) will scan your device  for extra files and apps, and lay them all out nice and neat for you to pick the ones you want to see the back of.

Got any other lesser-known cleanup tips for iPhones? We’d love to hear them!

Images via Gonzalo Baeza (iPhone perspective), Ian Lamont (Dropbox), Travel Manuel (message on screen), Eduardo Woo (iPhone 6), 

About the Author
Patricia Rey Mallén

Patricia Rey Mallén

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A roaming writer and tech enthusiast, Patricia has been wandering the globe for 10-odd years. A passionate Apple lover, she is familiar with Genius bars from Sydney to Reykjavík to Mexico City. She only vaguely remembers life before the Internet, but will forever long for the days in which mobile phone batteries lasted for over a week.

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