Jason Whittaker | Feb 27, 2017
Running out of space on an iPhone or iPad is frustrating. You can’t take new photos, some things don’t work, and iOS nags you about “managing” your storage. Thanks, Apple—we know our devices are nearly full, but clearing space isn’t necessarily easy!
What can you do? You have two options: delete apps and cull data from within apps. Before we start down those paths, let’s figure out where to focus.
Navigate to Settings > General > Storage & iCloud Usage. In the Storage section, tap Manage Storage. You see a screen that shows how much space you’ve used and how much is available, along with a list of apps and how much space they and their data occupy.
Tap any app to see more details about how much space it occupies, and, if it’s not a built-in Apple app, an option to delete it. If there are apps in this list that you never use, delete them. Start at the top of the list and work your way down. Remember, you can always redownload apps from the App Store app.
For Apple apps that can’t be deleted, and other apps you don’t want to delete, this list is useful for identifying where you can trim data quickly. The most likely culprits are video, audio, and photo apps, including Apple’s TV, Music, Podcasts, and Photos. Messages may also appear here, thanks to photos and videos in your conversations.
How you remove data from within an app varies widely, but here are pointers for common Apple apps:
For Apple’s Music, TV, and Podcasts apps (but not iBooks), you can delete data from within the Storage screen. Navigate into that app’s listing, and swipe left on any item to reveal a Delete button. iOS shows the data hierarchically, so in Music you can, for instance, delete All Songs, everything by an artist, a particular album, or just a specific song. (You can also delete data within each app, but it’s easier in the Storage screen.)
With Photos, what you can do depends on your setup:
If you aren’t using iCloud Photo Library, photos go in your Camera Roll album and can build up there. Sync them to Photos on your Mac via iTunes, and then delete them from the iOS device. You can sync an album of favorites back if you have space.
If you have subscribed to iCloud Photo Library, make sure to turn on Optimize iPhone/iPad Storage in Settings > Photos & Camera. That stores small thumbnails instead of full-sized images. If you’re low on space, Photos automatically uploads full-resolution originals to iCloud and then replaces them with smaller thumbnails on your device. Even thumbnails take up space, though, and there’s no way to reduce that space further.
In Messages, you have two choices. You can either delete a conversation wholesale (it’ll remain on your Mac) by swiping left on it in the message list, or you can navigate into a conversation, tap the i button, and scroll down to the list of images and attachments. Tap and hold briefly on an image or attachment to bring up buttons for Copy, Delete, and More. Tap Delete to remove just that file, or tap More to select multiple items (tap each one to give it a blue checkmark) and then tap the trash icon in the lower-right to delete them all.
Some apps may download a lot of media as you watch or listen but not delete it later or give you an interface for doing so. In such a case, your only option is to delete and reinstall the app, which recovers space but may result in the loss of some settings.
As a final note, when you’re ready to replace this iPhone or iPad, consider getting one with more storage!