It’s a state of affairs that manufacturers are happy to maintain, since many users will take an “out of space” message as a cue to upgrade their handsets. But your phone’s storage is like that in your wardrobe: you can clear things out and move them around for months or even years before finally giving up.
This is not always as easy as it sounds, however, because not all space is the same, especially on Android phones.
The confusion arises where “expandable” storage is concerned. This is the ability to insert a thumbnail-sized and cheaply upgradable Micro SD card into your phone, to increase its capacity from the advertised 16 or 32 gigabytes to potentially 256GB. But while this is useful for storing your music and videos, it’s not always available for use by apps – and it is those that are often the biggest space hogs.
The developers of some apps allow you to move them over to the SD card from within your phone’s system settings. But many more do not, and you can only really tell by examining the storage setting for each app in turn to see if the option is available. You will find it under “app info”, although the labels vary between phones. Really, you’d have thought there would be an app that could reliably scan them all and do the job for you automatically, but I’ve yet to find one.
iPhones are easier in the sense that they don’t accommodate SD cards in the first place, so the space your handset came with is all it’s ever going to have.
Nevertheless, there are many tricks you can use to reclaim space on any type of phone, and here is where “cleaning” apps come into their own. Google Files is the easiest to use on Android devices, seeking out items it thinks can safely be deleted and others which can reside on a cloud, rather than in your pocket.
It will also attempt to find duplicate files on your phone and remove those you don’t need.
Many similar apps are available but beware of hidden charges with some of them – to remove annoying adverts, for instance.
The first files to get rid of, if you have them, are videos, which are many times the size of other media types and can fill a phone in a few minutes flat if you let them get out of hand. If you want to keep them, transfer them to an SD card if you can – it not only makes room for other stuff but also makes them easily transportable to a new phone when you do eventually upgrade.
Videos, as well as pictures, are ideal for storing on a cloud service like Google Photos. Apart from being the easiest way to share them privately with your family and friends, it also makes them available to view from any of your online devices, not just your phone. And the Photos app includes a utility that finds and deletes local pictures that have already been backed up to the cloud.
Buying a new phone is of course the nuclear option for when the warning messages keep appearing, no matter how much you delete. The good news there is that the average capacity of even cheaper handsets has increased two or even four times over in the last few years. Huawei’s Honor 8S, which has 64GB of space and an SD card slot, is just under £100 on the high street. For around £80 more you can double that figure – and a couple of years down the line, you may be glad you did.
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