5 fast, easy and unexpected tips to free up space on your smartphone for holiday photos

With all the pictures, apps and WhatsApp messages, space on a phone can soon fill up. Here are some tricks to maximise the storage space on your device

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 19 June, 2016, 4:02pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 03 July, 2018, 5:57pm

Are you constantly plagued by warnings that your phone is running out of storage?

Storage woes are common for smartphone owners, perhaps particularly during the summer when we’re snapping more pictures, playing more games and feeling generally more unwilling to take on big organisational projects.

Real storage management does take work – a permanent solution may require you to plug your phone into your computer and actually deal with some files at some point. But if you’re really hurting for space, try some of these quick tips to give yourself more room.

Take stock

The best thing to do when trying to figure out how to make more space on your phone is to actually look at what’s filling up your storage.

You can do that on the iPhone by heading to Settings > General > Storage and iCloud Usage > Manage Storage. On Android phones, head to Settings > Storage and you should see a breakdown of how your phone’s storage is being used.

This can be revealing in a couple of ways, but I often find it’s most instructive in seeing what media can be removed from your phone.

The weird trick

There is a genuinely strange trick you can try to free up space on your iPhone. As first documented on Reddit, users can download a really big file – such as a rental of Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers. You have to be sure that you’re attempting to download a sufficiently enormous film, so you don’t get charged for it. The aim is to get an error message that tells you that the rental you want is too big to fit. (You can find the size of a film in the “Information” section of its product page; you want something that is ridiculously larger than the available space you have on your phone.)

Yes, you want the error message. You want this rental to fail, because somehow failing to rent an enormous file gains you more storage space. It’s not completely clear why this works – the governing theory is that your phone clears out some of the caches and other extraneous information from other apps to try to make room for the download. Apple declined to comment on the trick, but hasn’t debunked the popular theory.

The Android version of this is more straightforward (because Android lets you control your phone’s internals far more than Apple does). You can just go into your settings and clear the cache. That frees up quite a bit of space, although you may have to log in to some apps again. It’s a small price to pay every once in a while.

Let go of old messages

Yes, obviously save the sweet messages you got from your parents, friends or significant other. Messages with a short shelf life should go.

Before a big purge, save or make a screenshot of the messages that matter, then hit “select all”, followed by “delete”.

The same holds true for messaging logs from other apps. WhatsApp, for example, stores information such as photos and videos from conversations on your phone; Instagram has an option that lets you save the original photos to your camera roll that may eat up space. If you don’t need them, get rid of them.

This applies to e-mail, too. Clearing out email attachments from the “Documents” folder on my Android phone brought me back 1 GB of space; that’s nothing to sneeze at. And even if you’re a digital pack rat, you can use archiving features to get things off of your phone, but still in easy reach.

Use the cloud

Speaking of archiving, remember that the cloud is your friend. Sure, it can add a few seconds of extra time when you need to download a document or a picture, but if storage is a problem, this is your best option. Use whatever floats your boat, and for your media of choice – Google Photos, iCloud, OneDrive, Dropbox, Box, Evernote – but find a cloud service that works for you at the price (often free) you want.

Embrace streaming services when possible. If you’re somewhere with Wi-fi, using Pandora, Spotify and Apple Music on your phone rather than relying on your own tracks can really free up space – certainly enough for a play list or two for your offline lunchtime jog. And if you really can’t bear to be without your music, there’s no shame in investing in a dedicated music player.

Delete apps

This sounds like it should be pretty obvious, but it’s really not an easy thing to remember to do. It’s much easier to accumulate apps and to hold on to them just in case you need them for whatever specific purpose prompted you to download them in the first place.

But pruning out apps is really the best way to keep your storage in check. When looking at your apps, think about how you really use them. You may surprise yourself.

Obviously, there is no one-size-fits-all solution for managing storage on your phone – maybe you’d rather cut off your hand than be separated from your shopping apps. And that’s great: smartphones, perhaps more than any other device, are really personal, and the things you decide to keep on your phone should reflect your priorities.

But using some or all of these tips should help you take stock of those priorities and make room for all those summer selfies with ice cream, swimming pools and cookouts – in other words, the truly important things.