3 storage tips to save space on your iOS devices

Don't get stuck without any space for new photos, music, or apps. We'll show you three space-saving tricks to get the most out of your iOS devices.

Storage space

We've all been there: A new version of iOS is released, but you're unable to upgrade because there's not enough free space on your device. Instead of hastily going through and trying to clear up storage for these upgrade events, we'll show you a holistic approach that will shave off used space and give you more room to install apps and updates, plus take photos and video. The best part is that these methods are easy to follow and can leave you with a few GB of extra storage.

1. Use Dropbox Camera Upload

The cameras on modern iOS devices are very good, allowing us to capture memories or important events whenever and wherever we're at; however, the results can eat up a ton of space on our devices. Fortunately, there are a few good ways to transfer your photos off of your device and onto another service for safe storage. My favorite online storage solution for this is Dropbox Camera Upload.

Using the Dropbox application for iOS, all your photos will be uploaded (in the background) from your Camera Roll directly into Dropbox as soon as you take the photos. Plus, Dropbox has a storage special where you get 500 MB of free storage for every 500 MB worth of photos you upload through the Dropbox Camera Upload feature, for a free storage total of up to 3 GB.

To enable Dropbox Camera Upload on your device, download and install the iOS version of Dropbox, and sign in with your Dropbox credentials. Next, follow these instructions:

  1. Tap the Settings tab
  2. Tap the Camera Upload item
  3. Enable the switches for Camera Upload and Background Uploading (Figure A)

Figure A

Figure A

After enabling Camera Upload, Dropbox will begin sending all of your photos to your Dropbox account.

That's it! Once you enable the Camera Upload, all photos and videos inside of your Camera Roll on your device will instantly be whisked away to Dropbox and placed inside of a new folder in Dropbox called Camera Uploads (Figure B). This process may take a while if you have a lot of photos.

Figure B

Figure B

You can see the status of the upload process in the Photos tab of the Dropbox iOS app. This also serves as easy access to your Camera Uploads folder.

Note: To enable Dropbox's Background Uploading feature, you may need to enable Location Services for the app, if prompted (instructions will be provided for your particular device).

After the upload process is completed, verify that the photos have been uploaded to your Dropbox folder on your computer, and then you can remove your photos stored in your Camera Roll to free up your local iOS storage.

2. Remove those iMessages

If you've ever noticed a large chunk of "Other" space being used when connecting your device to iTunes (Figure C), then you may have wondered where this space is being used. Typically this Other space consists of iMessages, Email, and other files used inside of iOS. iMessages, especially those with lots of photos or videos, can eat up a significant chunk of your device's storage. Fortunately, these are easy enough to get rid of.

Figure C

Figure C

Other space being used on your device can usually be attributed to emails and text messages.

Follow these steps to remove individual messages:

  1. Open the message detail view from the conversation view
  2. Tap and hold on any of the messages until the context menu appears
  3. Click More...
  4. Select the individual messages you wish to delete
  5. Tap the Delete icon in the toolbar (Figure D)

Figure D

Figure D

Remove individual messages that might contain large images or videos to keep your storage in check.

You can also remove an entire conversation with a single swipe from the right to the left on a message thread in the main Messages view. This will present a Delete button (Figure E), that — once tapped — will remove the entire conversation thread from your device.

Figure E

Figure E

Delete an entire conversation by swiping from right to left on the message thread.

3. Find space hungry apps and files

You can view the most space-hungry apps easily in the Settings application. To do this, open Settings | General | Usage.

After a bit of processing, iOS will display a list of your applications sorted based on the space that's being used for each of the applications and the documents that each of the apps contains (Figure F).

Figure F

Figure F

Applications are displayed so that ones occupying the most space are listed at the top.

Tapping any of the applications will give you a listing of the documents contained inside of the application. You can delete the documents (if you no longer want them on your device) right from this interface by swiping from right to left on the titles of the documents. You'll be presented with a delete button (Figure G). Applications that have been downloaded from the iTunes App Store can also be deleted in this view without having to visit the home screen and deal with the jiggling apps. Simply tap the Delete App button, if available.

Figure G

Figure G

Delete the files stored in the applications, or the app itself in the detail view.

With these tips, you can add extra space to your iOS device and keep it running smoother in the process.

What about you? Do you periodically clean up your app, document, and content storage, or do you have a different approach to storage management? Let us know in the comments, and share your experiences with mobile storage.


Cory Bohon is an indie developer specializing in iOS and OS X development. He runs a software company called Cocoa App and is also a developer at MartianCraft. He was introduced to technology at an early age and has been writing about his favorite te...

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