It’s incredible to think that everything we do – and store – on our smartphones is recorded as zeroes and ones.
Binary code is the only language digital devices understand, but it takes a lot of zeroes and ones to save photos of our breakfast or Clash of Clans game files.
Everything we do nibbles away at integral phone storage capacity – even visiting webpages will generate cache memory and cookies, which need to be stored on the device.
Without pre-emptively taking action, the end result will be a sluggish handset incapable of storing any additional data.
As a result, good housekeeping is essential to ensure your phone doesn’t start displaying warning messages about a lack of space or limited system resources.
Six ways to avoid filling your phone storage
1. Buy a handset with a large internal hard drive. New handsets are usually marketed with their total storage capacity listed after the make and model name.
Some devices are only available in one configuration – you can have the Samsung Galaxy S8 in any size you want, as long as it’s 64GB.
On the other hand, the Nokia 8 is available with 64 or 128GB storage.
A selfie-obsessed gaming addict will have less long-term space issues with the larger model.
Bear in mind a device’s hard drive has to accommodate a complex operating system, so the actual useable space may be 10-15GB below the quoted capacity.
2. Buy a handset with expandable storage. Some manufacturers incorporate slots for removable microSD cards, which can store up to 512GB of data.
This is ideal for transferring files from one device to the next, without having to worry about backups or data loss.
Expandable handsets include the Samsung Galaxy S9, LG’s G7 ThinQ and the Razer phone.
3. Save files to the cloud, or transfer them offline. Cloud storage is hugely popular nowadays, courtesy of platforms like Dropbox, OneDrive and Google Photos.
It’s easy to configure a mobile device to automatically upload user-generated content to the cloud, so the originals can be deleted off the device.
You can also batch-upload photos quite easily, though this should always be done over WiFi rather than burning through 4G allowances.
Alternatively, you could go old school and use a USB cable to transfer media files off your Android device onto a Windows PC, dragging and dropping them into a dedicated folder.
Backups will be invaluable if the device is ever lost, stolen, broken or sold on.
4. Conduct regular housekeeping. In the same way digital photos quickly accumulate on a smartphone, so do other pieces of flotsam and jetsam.
Temporary data files, cookies, social media shares and cached data all eat into internal storage capacities.
There may be screen grabs you can delete, video clips you’re never going to watch again, or other irrelevant data whose removal won’t significantly affect your quality of life.
Some modern phones will make periodic recommendations about ways to free up capacity.
5. Regularly delete unused apps and programs. If we’re honest, most of us have apps on our smartphones which haven’t been used in a long time.
These typically include completed games, abandoned entertainment apps, long-forgotten utilities and programs downloaded for a specific situation but left installed “just in case”.
The Microsoft PowerPoint app occupies 250MB of space on an Android device, while the latest Snapchat app on iOS is 74 times larger than it was back in 2013.
Yet many apps offer less functionality (and run slower) than a mobile-optimised website.
Scroll through your list of installed programs, and think about how many of them are genuinely important or necessary.
6. Root the device and remove bloatware. This expands on the previous point, enabling you to tackle a pernicious phone storage issue.
Samsung Galaxy devices come with 14 Samsung-branded apps pre-installed, from Billing and Music to the more nebulous Print Service Plugin and Experience Service.
This rarely-used bloatware collectively occupies over two gigabytes of phone storage – a significant proportion on a 32GB handset.
However, smartphone operating systems prevent users from deleting pre-installed programs.
To do this, you’ll have to undertake a process known as rooting on Android phones, and as jailbreaking on iPhone handsets (which are also loaded with Apple-specific software).
Rooting or jailbreaking invalidates warranties, and increases the risk of contracting malware.
However, some users are keen to rid themselves of unwanted, unnecessary software that slows devices down by quietly running in the background and harvesting data.