How to Maximize iPhone Storage Space

When you first power up your new iPhone, it doesn’t feel possible you’ll ever exceed its storage capacity. An iPhone 12 Pro Max, after all, has anywhere from 64 to 512 GB of storage available. Who could possibly use all 512 gigabytes?

The answer, as it turns out, is quite a lot of us. Data tends to accrue on a phone, as we snap photos, take long videos, download music and movies, and add app after app after app (many of which may only be used once). As an iPhone’s storage nears capacity, its performance begins to slow down. You may run out of room for photos and videos, new apps may not be able to download, and the phone may crash. Knowing how to get more storage on an iPhone helps prevent these problems while helping you organize and maximize your storage space.

(A quick word of caution before we get into how to clear iPhone storage. Backup your iPhone first, just in case you accidentally delete a file or photo you really wanted to keep). 

How to get more storage on your iPhone

You can’t physically add storage to an iPhone, but you can learn how to get the most out of the storage you have. Here are some tips for how to manage storage on your iPhone, so you always have room for your next video, movie, photo, or podcast. 

Use the iCloud for photos and videos

One of the best ways to manage storage on your iPhone is to regularly backup your data to the cloud and then delete what you don’t need on your phone. If your photo collection is on iCloud, for instance, you can upload images as you need them, and keep them safe without cluttering up your phone. Apple offers the first 5 GB of iCloud storage for free, after which you have to pay for additional gigabytes. 

After you delete unwanted photos and videos, you’ll want to empty the Recently Deleted folder, which stores deleted files for thirty days. To do so, open the Photos app, scroll down past Other Items and tap Recently Deleted. To empty the folder, tap Select then Delete All.

Delete Unused Apps and Games

Knowing how to free up storage on an iPhone often means knowing which apps you use, and which are just sitting in storage gathering cobwebs. You know the ones: the weather app that looked good but was too glitchy, the game app you played once, the genealogy app you never opened . . . the list goes on and on. 

Unwanted apps have no place in your iPhone’s storage, so get rid of them. To do so, go to Settings and open General>Usage>Manage Storage. Tap an app you want to remove and then tap Delete App. Repeat for every app you want to remove.

Auto delete apps

Don’t want the hassle of periodically reviewing and deleting unused apps? Offload Unused Apps is an iPhone option that will automatically delete apps that aren’t in regular use when you start to run out of storage. Any data in the app is saved, so you can restore an auto-deleted app simply by redownloading it. 

To activate Offload Unused Apps, go to Settings>iTunes and App Store. Tap Offload Unused Apps to toggle the feature on.

Purge your podcasts, music, and videos

Song files, downloaded movies, and old podcasts can quickly eat up a phone’s storage. Here's how to free up storage on your iPhone by deleting old audio and audiovisual files:

  • For music files, go to Settings>General>iPhone storage and scroll to Music. Tap Music, then swipe left on the artist, album, or song you want to delete. 
  • For movies and television shows, go to Settings>General>iPhone Storage, and scroll to TV. Tap TV, then tap Review Apple TV Downloads. Swipe left on the movie or show you want to delete. 
  • For podcasts, open the Apple Podcast app. Any podcasts you’ve already listened to are listed at the bottom of the podcast list. Select the podcasts you want to delete and swipe left. 

Automatically delete old messages

While they don’t take up as much room as audiovisual files individually, text messages tend to pile up over time, slowly consuming more and more storage space. You can set messages to auto-delete after a set time period by going to Settings>Messages, scrolling down to Message History, and tapping Keep Messages. You can choose to delete messages after thirty days or a year, depending on how long you need a record of your texting history. 

Turn off Photo Stream

If you have more than one Apple device, Photo Stream automatically syncs your last 1,000 photos between your iPhone and other iOS devices, which translates into approximately a gigabyte of storage. Unless you really need your photos synced, turn this feature off: you’ll save space on your other devices as well as your iPhone. 

To turn off Photo Stream, go to Settings and select your Apple ID account. Tap on iCloud, then select Photos. You’ll now be able to toggle off My Photo Stream. 

What does Other mean in iPhone Storage?

If you look in your iPhone’s storage you’ll see a section marked “Other.” This is a catch-all term that includes email files, voice messages, cache, preferences, and similar data. Generally speaking, you want to leave Other files alone.

As for how to clear other storage on an iPhone, your options are limited. Safari website history and data are classified as Other. You can clear website data by going to Settings>General>iPhone Storage>Safari>Website Data and tapping Remove all Website Data.

Occasionally Other data can become corrupted, taking up more space than the data usually needs. If this happens, your best solution is to backup your data and restore your phone settings. That’s an extreme solution, however, so unless your Other storage is completely out of control, it’s best to clear iPhone storage using the tips given above.

Meet the iPhone 12 Pro Max.