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3 quick ways to clear up storage space on your iPhone

Published Apr 13th, 2021 4:01PM EDT
iPhone Storage Full
Image: Apple

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Apple has historically been surprisingly stingy when it comes to storage on the iPhone. Even as recently as 2016, which saw the release of the iPhone 6s, entry-level iPhone models were still shipping with just 16GB of storage.

Since then, Apple has mercifully upped the amount of storage on entry-level iPhone models. Today, any new iPhone you pick up will have at least 64GB of storage. And while that’s a welcome increase from the days when many people had to make do with a paltry 16GB, the reality is that 64GB in today’s age simply isn’t enough. When you take into account storage-hungry apps, high-res photos, and 4K video, it’s remarkably easy to quickly push a 64GB device to the limit.

If you find yourself in that position — or even if you have a 512GB iPhone that’s nearly full — the good news is that there are few little tricks you can take advantage of to immediately clear up space on your iPhone.

Clean up the Messages app

Right of the bat, you’ll want to see how much room attachments sent to you via Messages take up. Especially if you’re prone to sending or receiving large video files or even photos to friends and family, Messages can easily eat into your storage capacity. I myself was shocked to see that the Messages app on my iPhone takes up more than 20GB of storage space.

To fix this problem, simply go to Settings > iPhone storage and then scroll down to the Messages app. Upon selecting it, you’ll see an option to Review Large Attachments along with an indication of how much storage said attachments are taking up. If you select this option, you can go through every attachment anyone has ever sent you via Messages and delete them on a file-by-file basis by swiping to the left on an attachment you want to delete.

And to keep messages from slowly but surely taking up space again in the future, you can toggle on a feature such that messages from older conversations are deleted after a year or 30 days. You can access this feature by going to Settings > Messages > Keep Messages. The default is set to “Forever” but can be changed with a simple tap.

Offload unused apps

This is a nifty feature whereby you can delete apps off of your iPhone and simply download them again at a later date. Note that any documents and data associated with the app will be saved so that you won’t lose any information whatsoever. This is a great solution if you’re in a bind and really need as much storage space as possible.

To take advantage of this, simply go to Settings > General > Storage and then Enable the “Offload Unused Apps” setting. If you’re prone to downloading a ton of apps and forgetting about them, there’s a good chance you have gigs of storage wasted on apps you don’t use or forgot about.

Permanently remove deleted photos and videos

When you delete photos or videos from the Photos app, they don’t automatically get removed from your device. On the contrary, they temporarily go into an album called Recently Deleted. The idea behind this is that Apple gives you 30 days to recover any photos or videos you may have accidentally deleted. That said, if you’re in a bind and need extra storage space ASAP, you can manually delete these files by opening up the Photos app, selecting albums, and scrolling down to the Recently deleted album. Once there, you can tap “Select” in the upper right-hand corner and then “Delete All” in the bottom left-hand corner.

Incidentally, there’s a rumor that Apple may offer a 1TB storage option on its iPhone 13 Pro models later this year.

Yoni Heisler Contributing Writer

Yoni Heisler has been writing about Apple and the tech industry at large with over 15 years of experience. A life long expert Mac user and Apple expert, his writing has appeared in Edible Apple, Network World, MacLife, Macworld UK, and TUAW.

When not analyzing the latest happenings with Apple, Yoni enjoys catching Improv shows in Chicago, playing soccer, and cultivating new TV show addictions.