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Easy ways to improve available device storage

Choosing a new smartphone is a seductive experience, with the latest handsets promising technologies and features your existing device can’t provide.

And amid the excitement about higher-quality camera lenses and bigger screens, it’s easy to take available device storage for granted.

A 32GB or 64GB hard drive sounds huge, so surely that will be sufficient?

After all, many media files aren’t that big. A 320kbps MP3 typically occupies between 5MB and 10MB.

Filled with false confidence, people spend hundreds of pounds on a brand-new handset. And within months, its available device storage is almost completely full.

In a moment, we’ll consider ways to tackle and improve this without needing to resort to instruction manuals or YouTube tutorials. But firstly, why do devices fill up so quickly?

Losing the space race

There are several contributory factors behind the phenomenon of the crowded smartphone.

To begin with, today’s handsets are powered by complex operating systems which consume several gigabytes.

Apple’s iOS 13 needs around 2.2GB of space to run, plus it requires almost 3GB of additional space available to install it. That’s 5GB gone straight away.

Manufacturer-specific bloatware is installed on phones whether we want it or not, and can’t be deleted – only disabled.

Samsung owners have to contend with shopping services, wearable apps (even if you don’t own any wearables), voice recorders, proprietary music tools and a Samsung Members app.

Promising the chance to “create, discuss and learn more about your Samsung products”, it’s of far more use to Samsung than it is to consumers. It takes up 56MB. And it can’t be deleted.

Next, consider how quickly temporary internet folders fill with cookies, downloaded PDFs and cached web pages as we browse and surf.

Every time you take a photo, it can occupy up to 10MB of space. Then it gets uploaded via WhatsApp or Instagram, which creates a copy on your device. More space eaten up.

A five-minute video clip can occupy 500MB all by itself. And before you know it, that ‘generous’ storage capacity is filled.

These are our suggestions for increasing available device storage. Some are device-specific, while others apply to any modern smartphone:

  • Upload information into the cloud. For a small fee, most manufacturers offer proprietary cloud-hosted storage, usually far in excess of anything available on the handset itself.
  • Transfer data onto removable device storage. If your handset supports a microSD card, make full use of it by instructing all apps to save media files to this location by default.
  • Run diagnostic apps. These vary by device. For instance, Android Oreo offers one-tap optimisation of available storage and memory – ideal even for technophobes.
  • Delete videos. Do you really need to keep a muffled ten-minute video of your favourite band playing in a dark club? Data-hungry video clips should be among the first to go.
  • Search for other media files. Voice recorders, podcast players, Adobe viewers and other content apps may have downloaded files, which can be erased without being missed.
  • Remove duplicates. Ensure your device isn’t storing copies of social media images. If it is, delete them all – you don’t need the same file stored in two (or three) locations.
  • Disable bloatware. Even if you can’t get rid of a pre-installed app, disabling it will prevent it downloading anything or auto-updating (usually expanding its footprint).
  • Uninstall unused apps. Diagnostic checks might highlight apps which haven’t been used for a while. There are probably apps on your phone you could easily live without.
  • Clear app caches. Even if you want to keep certain apps, ensure their caches aren’t full of irrelevant historic data. The Sky Sports app alone can hoard 1GB of unnecessary files.
  • Do the same with browser memory. Every site you visit saves cookies and cache files. Go to Clear History and Website Data on Safari, or Clear Images and Files on Android.
  • Stream media. In the past, we’ve suggested reducing mobile data use by downloading media to enjoy offline. But doing the opposite lessens the burden on available storage.
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