Screen shot of camera roll on smart phone

How To Free Up Space on Your Phone

We’ve all been there. That moment of sheer panic when we realize we are witnessing something spectacular: the first step of a child, that perfect sunset, or the off chance meeting of a celebrity and NO! Our smart phone is full. No more storage left. No more images can be taken. We desperately try to delete an image or two to make space but how do we choose?

Our smart phones can be our life lines to everything: they are calendars, contacts, game centres, music hubs, social media connections, cameras, oh, and phones. As a result they hold a lot of information that can suck back all that precious storage you paid for when you bought the thing. To avoid the desperation described above, we need to keep our smartphones lean and mean with regular maintenance and cleaning house.

There are some basic steps for freeing up space on your phone:

Delete any downloaded music

I like to have a copy of my favourite playlists on my phone so I am not always using data to listen to music. However, tastes change and maybe there are lists you don’t listen to any more.

Get rid of all those apps you don't use or haven't used in months

The data stored with a lot of apps can take up a lot of storage. Be merciless. You probably only use about 10-20 apps on a daily basis anyway. On the iPhone there is an option to see how your storage is being used (Settings/General/Storage). You can offload apps – this keeps the app but deletes the data associated with the app, or you can just delete the app.

Clear out the Recently Deleted Album

Just because you have deleted a photo doesn’t make it go away. Apple, for example, gives you a 30-day grace to change your mind and stores the image in the Deleted Photos Album. If you need to free up space you have to go into the Album, select all the images and hit delete again.

Speaking of deleted photos, in this post, I talk about how necessary it is to regularly and ruthlessly edit your photos. This is the first step to good photo management and to avoiding the panic and frustration mentioned above. It is so easy now to take thousands of pictures but mixed in with the gems are some really lousy shots just cluttering up your phone. You need to separate the wheat from the chaff.

Whenever you are waiting in line, on the bus, or ignoring that annoying person who won’t stop talking, stop dredging through Facebook or Instagram and start deleting. To stay on top of all the images you take, you need to get rid of those useless extra images that you took by mistake in Burst mode, the video you shot when you meant to take a still, the out of focus shots, and the unflattering images where someone is talking, eating or stuck in that horrible half blink.

By getting rid of the images we don’t need we free up space for better images down the road. But another good practice of photo management is to make sure your images are being backed up to the Cloud through either Google Photos, iCloud or other providers.

These wonderful services can be set up to back up your images any time you are on wifi, without you having to think or worry about it. The fees for this vary with Google,  Apple and Amazon so you need to find the best option for you and your family. The fees change regularly but you can get an overview from this document to get a breakdown of what each provider offers.

If you do delete an image off one device, say your phone, it won’t delete it off the cloud so if you are getting rid of those bad images you will have to do it in both places. That’s why it’s a great practice to delete them off your phone BEFORE you back up to the cloud.

Final Step to Free Up Space

Both Google Photos and iCloud allow you to reduce the amount of space your images take up on your phone.

In Google Photos, it’s a setting called simply “Free Up Space” (In the app, click on the icon in upper right).

On an iPhone, Google will actually delete images in your Photos folder that are older than 30 days off your phone. The images remain in your Google Photos account and you can see them through the Google Photos app on your phone when you are online. The images themselves are moved to the Recently Deleted album in the Photos app. The images will stay in that folder for 30 days unless you delete them right away. If you really need to free up space immediately, you have to go into the Albums section and scroll down to the Recently Deleted album. Select all the images and delete them permanently off your phone. Of course, you wouldn’t want to do this until you are certain you have backed up all your photos to the cloud successfully.

With Apple Photos or iCloud Photos, there is an Optimize Storage setting (Settings / scroll down to Photos app) that converts images older than 30 days to a lower resolution format on your phone, reducing the amount of space they take up. This can help temporarily, but if you really have limited storage, you are going to run out of space again pretty soon. Make sure your images are backed up to icloud and delete them permanently off you phone.

So before things get scary, follow the Photo Management Best Practices
  1. Ruthlessly edit your images on a daily basis
  2. Back up to the cloud – whatever service suits your style and budget
  3. Back up your images to your computer or external hard drive. (Always good to have another backup option.)
  4. Select Free up space or Optimize Storage
  5. Delete any images you have saved to other places off your phone.

Yes, photo management takes time and thought. It all comes down to what you want to do with your images. If preserving memories is important to you, then you need to take steps to make sure your images are in a safe place. Carve off a little bit of time each week, put on a pot of coffee, cue up your favourite tunes and take care of your images