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Mobile Phones

How to free up space on iPhone and Android

Is your phone telling you that your storage space is full? Before you dash out and buy a new device, check out these tips for clearing space on Androids and iPhones.

storage screens on iphone and samsung phones

Credit: Foryoui3 (background), LVM (dials) – Shutterstock

Have you been dealt the dreaded "your phone's storage is full" alert? Tempted to upgrade to a phone with extra capacity? Stop right there.

Instead of buying a new device, try the tricks we've listed below.

Almost all of them are absolutely free. And, as they save you investing in all the resources and energy that goes into making a new phone, they'll help you reduce your carbon footprint too.

Get more storage on iPhone and Android

These are the best ways to free up space on your iPhone or Android:

  1. Move files to the cloud for free

    Google Photos app icon on screen

    Credit: Primakov – Shutterstock

    How much of your media do you actually view on a regular basis? And the tiny number of photos and videos you do access – how often are you doing it when you're already connected to the internet?

    Most of us always have access to the internet. So, there's no real reason not to store the vast majority of your photos and videos on the cloud.

    You'll already have access to (and may already be using) iCloud if you're an iPhone user. If not, check out this guide on Apple's website which explains how to set up iCloud Photos. Because your photos and videos will be backed up on iCloud automatically, you can delete them from your phone.

    Many Android users will already have Google Photos installed on their phones, but you can download it if not. Crucially, Google Photos is also available on iOS. Both versions of the app make it super easy to clear space on your phone.

    Simply go to the settings in the app and select 'Back up and sync'. Once the app has finished backing up your photos to Google Drive, return to the homepage. You'll see an option to delete a number of items from your device or free up X amount of GB. Press the button and the app will remove the files from your device.

    No matter what phone you have, we'd definitely recommend using Google Photos as it gives you 15GB of free storage, as opposed to the 5GB offered by iCloud.

    Both services have an option to pay more for extra storage. But, before you do, here are some other free cloud storage services:

    Transferring files to your computer

    Out of free space on the cloud? Or do you prefer doing things the old-fashioned way? Why not take advantage of the fact that your computer or student laptop probably has a lot more storage space than your phone?

    This approach takes a little more effort than backing up to the cloud, but not that much more. You may even be able to do it over the internet but, if not, you should definitely be able to via a USB cable.

    Either way, these guides for Android and iOS devices explain exactly what you need to do.

  2. Delete your unused files

    Head to your downloads folder and you'll realise just how many files you have on your phone that you never, ever use.

    PDFs are one of the biggest culprits here, whether it's a menu from your favourite restaurant or your energy bill from April last year.

    You'll be amazed at how many files are in your downloads, and how much space they're taking up. And, the truth is, there's next to no chance that you'll ever need to access these files again.

    Downloads aren't the only files hogging your storage space. In the previous point, we discussed moving photos and videos to the cloud. But if it's something you'll never look at again (like a meme you saved two years ago, or a photo you took by accident), why not delete it altogether?

    For Android users, we'd recommend downloading the Files app (some devices may already have it installed).

    Files will routinely notify you if you have a large number of unused files that take up space on your phone. It also makes it super easy to sort all of your media files from largest to smallest. This way, you can get rid of the worst offenders first.

    Got an iPhone? It's not quite as easy to locate all of your unused files, but it is pretty simple to see which are the biggest. Just head to Settings, then General > iPhone Storage > Review Large Attachments, and your files will be sorted from largest to smallest.

    Remember to check other media apps too. These may contain old downloads that aren't listed in your phone's downloads folder. This includes podcasts...

  3. Delete old podcasts

    Depending on its length, a single downloaded podcast could be as small as 20MB or as big as 100MB+. But even the 20MB episodes can cause issues. If you're a subscriber and every new podcast is automatically downloaded, it adds up.

    After you've listened to a podcast episode once, the chances are you'll never listen to it again. At least not for a while... And if you do, you can just as easily re-download it, freeing up phone storage in the meantime.

    Deleting old downloaded podcasts is super easy. It usually just involves locating the episode on your podcast app of choice and selecting the option to remove it. If you need some extra help, or find all of your downloaded episodes at once, your best bet is to ask Google or check out the 'Help' section of your app.

    With all the space you're saving, there's no reason not to give our student money podcast a listen too.
  4. Delete apps you never use

    pokemon go app on screen

    Credit: Matthew Corley – Shutterstock

    Again, Android users have it pretty easy here, as Files does all the work for you.

    This tool is able to analyse which apps are unused (be that ever, or recently – that means you, Pokemon GO). It then displays them together so you can choose which to uninstall, potentially freeing up multiple GBs of space on your phone. Check out this page for a step-by-step guide on how to do it.

    If you have an iPhone, you'll have to do some of the hard work yourself. As in point two, you'll need to go to Settings > General > iPhone Storage, where you'll see your apps sorted by size.

    Under each app's name, you'll be able to see when you last used it. Try to set yourself a limit for how recently you've used an app in order to justify keeping it (e.g. at least within the last three months). Then, simply delete any that don't meet the criteria. As you've not used them in such a long time, you shouldn't miss them anyway.

  5. Disable or delete pre-installed apps

    Most phones come with a few apps already installed. Some are useful, like the web browser or the contacts book. Others are less so, and these are known as 'bloatware'.

    If you can uninstall your bloatware, you absolutely should. Annoyingly, however, bloatware is often hardwired into your phone's operating system. This means it can't be deleted without 'rooting' or 'jailbreaking' your phone. Doing so usually voids your warranty and risks destabilising your device.

    Should you find that you're lumbered with bloatware, the next best thing you can do is to disable them. By doing this, you stop them from running in the background or updating. This also wipes the cache and any data they've built up in the past.

    It's actually easier to disable bloatware on iPhones than it is on Android. Just hold your finger on the icon of the app you want to disable and then press 'Delete'. Don't worry, you can always re-enable it by searching for it in the App Store later.

    The process is a teeny bit more complicated on Android, but still fairly simple. Check out this guide and follow the steps.

  6. Clear app caches

    In the previous point, we mentioned how disabling an app wipes the cache and clears the data linked with it. But you don't have to disable an app to free up this space. It's something you can do to any app on your phone.

    Before you do, it's worth noting that there is a difference between an app's data and an app's cache.

    The cache holds temporary files that aren't strictly necessary. This includes things like contact thumbnails in a social media app. These can be retrieved pretty easily, usually from the internet.

    An app's data, on the other hand, is pretty important information. We're talking about your login details, settings and even game saves. Clearing the data will essentially reset your app as if you've only just installed it.

    As such, it's probably best to clear caches only, unless you're confident that deleting the data won't be more trouble than it's worth. This can still be effective though. We've found that TikTok's cache alone can take up over 100 MB of space.

    Technically speaking, there's no way to specifically clear the apps' caches on iPhones. Instead, you'll have to 'offload' each app, as this walkthrough explains.

    Clearing app caches is an option on Android phones though – here's how to do it.

  7. Stop messaging apps saving media to your phone

    smartphone screen with social media

    You may have already changed this setting in your messaging apps. If so, you'll already know how much space it can save to not have every image or video in a chat saved to your gallery.

    For those of you that haven't, this isn't a trick to clear the files that are currently taking up storage on your phone. Instead, it's an incredibly effective way to free up space going forward.

    As with most of these tips, we should stress that the media from your chats won't be lost forever. It'll still be accessible in the chats, it just won't be clogging up your gallery.

    There are dozens of messaging apps out there, so we won't go through the process for all of them. But for those of you who use WhatsApp, here's how to do it on Android:

    • Stop saving media from all chats – Open WhatsApp > More options (the three dots) > Settings > Chats > turn off 'Media visibility'
    • Stop saving media from individual chats – Open the chat > More options (the three dots) > View contact (or 'Group info' if it's a group) > turn off 'Media visibility'.

    And here's how to do it on iPhone:

    • Stop saving media from all chats – Open WhatsApp > Settings > Chats > turn off 'Save to Camera Roll'
    • Stop saving media from individual chats – Open the chat > Group info > Save to Camera Roll > Never.
  8. Remove old messages

    Once you've stopped your messaging apps from automatically saving media to your phone, the next step to increasing your storage capacity is deleting old messages.

    Again, exactly how you delete old messages depends on the app you're using.

    The Messages app on iPhones has a feature that can automatically delete old messages after either 30 days or a year. To activate this, head to the Settings app, scroll down and tap on Messages. Under 'Messages History', press 'Keep Messages' and select either '30 Days', '1 Year' or 'Forever'.

    Of course, not everyone uses the Messages app. If it turns out that your messaging app doesn't have an auto-delete feature, you may have to do it manually.

    This can be a little tedious. But a good first step is to scroll to the bottom of your conversations and get rid of any old group chats, or messages with someone you're no longer in touch with. Yes, that includes the friends you made in freshers' week and never saw again.

  9. Stream your music rather than downloading it

    It wasn't too long ago that streaming content over data was a one-way ticket to rinsing your monthly allowance in just a few hours. But, thanks to big-data contracts getting cheaper and cheaper, it's now a perfectly reasonable option, even on a budget.

    Our list of the best SIM only deals features loads of cheap SIMs with generous data allowances. Most of them should easily be enough to handle a standard user's monthly music, podcast and video streaming.

    Make sure to read our guide to SIM only contracts before signing up for one. There are some important things to consider. This includes how much data you actually need, and whether your current contract is still in term and charges an early exit fee.

  10. Buy a micro SD card

    Although buying a micro SD Card makes for great advice, we've left this tip until last for two reasons.

    First of all, we're a money-saving website, so we'll usually do everything we can to stop you needlessly spending money.

    Secondly, not all phones have a micro SD card slot. iPhones never do, and some Android phones, particularly some newer models, don't either.

    Fortunately, checking if your phone has a micro SD slot is simple. Your first port of call should be to open up the SIM card slot, as that tends to be where the micro SD lives too. Failing that, simply Google '[your phone's make and model] micro SD slot'.

    If it does, you should be able to buy a micro SD card online for a few quid. For example, 128 GB cards can be picked up for less than £20. This could double your phone's storage capacity and is a hell of a lot cheaper than buying a new device.

If all these tips aren't enough to free up some storage, it may be time to buy a new phone. Here's how to sell your old mobile for the most money.

Tom Allingham

WRITTEN BY Tom Allingham

Tom joined Save the Student in 2017, initially heading up the editorial team before becoming Communications Director. He has appeared as a Student Finance expert on a range of TV and radio stations including the BBC, ITV and Sky, sharing his top tips for saving money and cutting student bills.
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