smartphone popup window with text "storage almost full"

How to Reclaim Storage Space on Your Smartphone

Even if you have unlimited data on your smartphone, nobody has unlimited space. Gone are the days when all manufacturers would include an SD card slot to allow you to expand your phone’s storage (though a couple still do). Many of us use cloud services to back up our photos, but we rarely remove them from our phones unless we have to. Every time I check, I’m surprised at how cluttered my folders are with memes and screenshots I only needed for a moment. Let’s not even start with all of the PDF documents that need to be downloaded before viewing. Digital clutter is just so easy to ignore until you get a warning that your storage space is low. Or worse, that awesome video you just took can’t be saved.

General Considerations

No matter which brand of smartphone you have, there are a few general suggestions that can help free up space.

  • Do you need all of the apps you have on your phone? If not, go ahead and uninstall them. If you only need an app occasionally, you can uninstall it and download it again later.
  • Are some of the apps you use available as a website? If so, you can bookmark them or add shortcuts to your phone that takes up a lot less space than an app.
  • If you regularly create screenshots or download memes to post, image files are a great place to find content that is easy to delete.
  • If there are files you need, but you don’t need them on your phone, consider transferring them to a computer or hard drive. Cloud storage is wonderful, but some of the platforms will delete a file from the cloud when it is deleted from your device, so it can be tricky.
  • Are any of your images or videos duplicated? I often have to resize things before sending, so my phone is full of duplicate copies. I save a ton of space by culling the extras.
  • Remember, any image or video you post on social media is saved there and can be downloaded in the future.
  • High-resolution images take up a LOT of space, and you rarely need an image with that sort of resolution unless you are a professional/hobbyist photographer whose images will go to print. Optimize your images to keep them on your device at a smaller size. See your phone’s section below for instructions.
  • Are you saving music on your phone? If you don’t like the idea of paying for streaming services, YouTube Music will let you upload up to 100,000 tracks from your computer that you can stream as long as you have an internet connection. Only things you need to hear when offline would need to be saved to your phone storage.
  • Old text messages and voicemails take up space, too. Delete anything you don’t need to free up additional space.
  • Like a browser, your phone has a cache that collects information and takes up more and more space over time. How-to for iOS | How-to for Android
  • Don’t forget to clear your browser cache.
  • Both app stores have apps that claim to clean up your phone for you. In general, it is a good practice to avoid these apps. At best, that’s giving an app a lot of control over data you care about. At worst, you could lose your data and your phone could be bricked.

Cleaning Up iPhone Storage

To do a deep dive into your iPhone’s storage, open Settings>General>iPhone storage. The color-coded bar chart shows file categories and how much space each file type is using. Under the chart, your iPhone will offer suggestions for cleanup. Below the suggestions, you can find detailed information about how much space each type of file is taking. The app section will allow you to delete apps with a single tap.

In the section above, I mentioned that high-resolution photos can take up more space than needed. Navigate to Settings > Photos, where you can enable the “Optimize iPhone storage” option to get those files under control.

You can also reclaim space by clearing your browser cache. For Safari, go to Settings > Safari > Clear History and Website Data. You can do this in other iPhone browsers, such as Chrome, too.

Cleaning Up Android Phone Storage

To do a deep dive into your Android’s storage, open Settings > Storage. If you have a Samsung Galaxy phone, you may find it under Settings > Battery and device care>Storage. Your storage usage is broken down by categories. Click on a category for details. As you drill down, you will find you can long-press on individual files to delete or tap an app name to uninstall it. If your phone has a “free up space” button, you can tap it to view a list of files that may be likely candidates.

To optimize your photos, open the Google Photos app and go to the settings. Select “free up space” to back up your photos to your Google account and free up space on your phone.

Android allows you to not only clear your browser histories, but also the cache and data from every app on your phone. To do this, go to Settings > Storage > Apps and tap an app name. I chose Adobe Acrobat for this example.

Screen shot showing the storage screen for Adobe Acrobat  with options to clear the storage and cache

Choose “clear cache” to delete temporary files and history.

Clear storage will remove all information, including account login, and return the app to a like-new state.

It won’t make or break your storage size, but regular maintenance will save some space and make your apps run more smoothly.


With a little effort, you can reclaim enough space on your phone to avoid storage warnings and tough file-saving choices without resorting to shady apps in your device’s app store. Do you have any additional space-saving strategies? Let us know about them in the comments.

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