How to free up storage on your iPhone or iPad

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There’s no need to buy new storage space for your iPhone — just free up what you already have.
There’s no need to buy new storage space for your iPhone — just free up what you already have.
Photo: Charlie Sorrel/Cult of Mac

It’s happening again! You cheaped out and bought that 32GB iPhone or iPad a few years back, and it’s full up, again. But wait — before you go deleting your photos, or uninstalling apps at random until you recover enough space, take a look at this how-to. You might be able to recover tens of gigabytes from apps you’d totally forgotten about.

iOS has a great built-in storage manager. It’s inside the Settings app, and it not only shows you which apps and services are hogging all the space on your iPhone or iPad — it also lets you delete them right there. Let’s check it out.

iPhone and iPad Storage

Head to Settings > General > iPhone Storage, and wait while iOS measures your iPhone for you. It’ll show you a screen something like this:

This page lets you review iPhone storage, and delete apps and data.

The bar along the top gives a breakdown of how much space is used, and what is using it. It’s reminiscent of the usage bar in iTunes, from back in the day. The bar is color coded to show the space used by apps, photos, media, messages, and the mysterious “Other.” If Other is using up a lot of space, a quick restart of the iPhone or iPad often fixes it. If not, we have a how-to post about removing “Other” from your iPhone or iPad.

Recommendations

Below this bar is a sections called Recommendations. This suggests ways to quickly free up storage. On my iPad, this section suggests reviewing my iTunes Videos, which are videos sideloaded from iTunes on the Mac. If I tap this section, I’m taken to a list of all the movies on my iPad. I can swirl to delete any that I don’t want. I love that you can delete stuff from this section, rather than having to open up the Videos app to do it.

Then, you’ll see all your most space-hungry apps, in order of size. Tap on any of these to see a summary.

Infuse uses a lot of space, but it’s supposed to.
Infuse uses a lot of space, but it’s supposed to.
Photo: Cult of Mac

Here’s an entry for Infuse, the fantastic video library and player for iOS. As you can see, the screen shows both the size of the app insert, and the storage its using for its own files. In this case, Infuse is small — just over 60MB. Its documents and data, though, are using way more.

There are two options at the bottom of this screen. Offload App, and Delete App. Deleting the app does just that, immediately removing the app and its data, just like if you’d done it form the home screen. Offloading the app deletes the app itself, but keeps the data. This is handy if the app is huge, like GarageBand, which weighs in at 1.6GB for the app alone. You can temporarily remove the app, but keep the data, so it will still be there when you reinstall the app again.

Apple’s special options

iOS makes storage-saving suggestions.
iOS makes storage-saving suggestions.
Photo: Apple

Many of Apple’s apps let you dig inside and delete only some of their data. We saw above that the Videos app section lets you delete individual movies. That also goes for the Music app, and the Podcasts app.

Save space in future

Once you’ve slimmed down your on-device storage, you may consider some other space-saving options. You can switch on iCloud Photo Library, for example, to store your photos on iCloud instead of on your device. Or you can switch on the Offload Apps option to automatically offload apps that you haven’t used in a while.

Good luck! Between all these options, you should be able to reclaim quite a few wasted Gigabytes.