How To

How to free up space on your iPhone

I'm Maria!

As a Certified Photo Manager and Digital Organizer, I ensure my client's files are safe and easy to find. Follow me for tips on how to get your digital life in order.

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When I worked at Apple, helping customers free up iPhone storage was something I did on a daily basis. Customers would be notified that their phone was running out of storage and needed to delete items to free up space. They would delete a few apps they didn’t care about and go about their business. Their phone would get the same message a few days or weeks later. In some extreme cases, the phone would start to run slowly or shut down. These customers would then be forced to take the time to come into the too-busy Apple Store and wait (sometimes hours) for someone to help them. Fortunately, you won’t have to worry about that because I will teach you how to free up space on your iPhone.

What’s the first thing you want to do to free up space on your iPhone? Well, it’s NOT deleting apps.

Most apps have a smaller file size, and deleting them doesn’t make much of a dent in clearing up space. If we were to use a closet analogy, deleting apps would be like throwing out individual pieces of paper in order to free up space in your walk-in closet. 

The exception to this rule is the Podcast App, the Music App, and the TV App. If you have downloaded many podcasts, songs, and videos, those could take up a significant portion of your iPhone storage. Take a look and delete anything you don’t need. Keep in mind that all of these apps allow you to stream content when you have an internet connection. You only really need to download media for plane trips to other places where you will be without Internet access.

To see what’s taking up the most space on your phone,

Go into settings> General> iPhone Storage. Here is where your iPhone will recommend items you could easily delete. What is taking up the most space on your phone? Remember that the apps are not very large, so deleting them won’t make much of a difference. The data stored inside the app takes up the most space. Deleting an app with 10 GB of data won’t necessarily delete that bulky data. You are still better off keeping the app and deleting the bulky data inside the app.

Understanding file sizes will help you decide on what to focus on deleting. Anything with a GB next to it is a big file. Anything with an MB is a smaller file. A 500 MB file is only about half of a GB. Anything with a KB next to it is the equivalent of a grain of sand and not worth your time.

If photos are taking up a ton of space on your iPhone, you could always spring for more iCloud storage space, but if you’re not up for that, you can always delete a few photos. I would start with videos, live photos, screenshots, and burst photos. These media types tend to take up too much space or in the case of screenshots, are of limited relevance and easy to batch delete. I often find several dozen accidental screenshots of my iPhone lock screen.

Another place to look is the messages App.

If you send or receive photos, the chances are good that they are taking up space on your phone. I once had a client whose messages app took up nearly 50 GB of her iPhone storage! The quickest way to clear up space in messages is to look at the message threads for the people you exchange pictures with the most. For me, it’s my mom and my sister. If you tap on their name at the top of your message thread, it will bring up a screen that gives you the option to share your location and see all the links and photos that have been shared. You can download the images you want to keep and then delete them from your message history.

Following this advice should buy you at least a few months of extra storage, but the next time you purchase an iPhone, be sure to get one with at LEAST 100 GB more storage than you need. Hard drives, like closets, don’t work as well when packed to the brim, and despite what Apple wants you to believe, iCloud storage can only do so much.

For more great tips, download my free guide!

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Maria Mesick

Personal Photo Managment for creative professionals.

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