We’ve all been stopped in our tracks by messages on our screens warning us that our handset is nearly full, even when we’re convinced that we’ve only loaded it with the digital equivalent of a couple of jackets and a few pairs of socks.
Part of the problem is that many well-known apps take much more space than you thought. Some will have come preinstalled with the phone; others have come from developers who have now realised that unnecessary padding and spurious “features” are actually turning users away.
Facebook is a case in point. A standard installation now includes not only the main app but also a secondary one for the messaging and video calling service. Each can quite easily consume 100Mb of space - which, in phone terms, is the equivalent of a rail full of evening gowns.
But it’s often not appreciated that you don’t need either. Facebook has now made available a “lite” Android version of its Messenger app in the UK. Originally designed for the “emerging” markets of south Asia where mobile signals are fitful, Messenger Lite uses only a fraction as much space and data and makes fewer demands on your battery. It is stripped of features you probably didn’t even notice were there, and is as a result faster. You can still use it to make voice and video calls over the internet.
Facebook also makes a lite version of its main app. It’s not available officially in the UK but it’s quite easy to find and download nevertheless. However, if you use the service only casually you can go one better and not install an app at all. A shortcut on your home screen to the main Facebook website does more or less the same thing and makes no extra demands on your phone’s storage.
There are also lighter-weight versions of apps for Twitter, Kindle, YouTube and even Google’s own search engine, all made by the original developers and all capable of freeing up whole tracts of digital shelf space on compatible phones.
If you want to save even more, there are many other services to which you can take a stiff broom. Google’s own apps, which are among the most bloated on any Android phone, can’t be deleted but can be disabled if you don’t use them. The Books, Games and Movies apps can all be swept under the carpet in this way, if you want - and those Google services which remain can do away with the need for several third-party services whose functions they duplicate. For instance, the once-useful music recognition of apps like SoundHound and Shazam, which can tell you the name of a song playing in the background, is now covered within Google’s standard voice search.
Likewise, many simple file managers are more than capable of browsing remote files on services like Dropbox and OneDrive without the need for dedicated apps from either vendor.
Hoovering up these bloated originals takes only a few minutes and costs nothing - so before you tackle your real wardrobe in this year’s round of spring cleaning, try a digital Shake ’n’ Vac.