Certain circles of the Internet boiled over with indignation when Apple revealed that the entry-level iPhone will, again this year, have just 16GB of storage. The reasons behind Apple’s decision are mostly financial, since the 16GB/64GB/128GB lineup is a lucrative one for Apple. A 64GB iPhone 6s costs $100 more than the 16GB iPhone 6s, which has many Apple fans and would-be upgraders wondering: Is a 16GB iPhone enough? Or is the 64GB model worth the extra money?
For many users, particularly those who use lots of apps or foresee taking many photos with Apple’s new Live Photos feature turned on, a 16GB iPhone probably doesn’t have enough storage. But if you’ve had a 16GB iPhone in the past and found it workable, or you’re on the fence about how much storage you really need, chances are good that you can survive with a 16GB iPhone. Getting by with the entry-level storage option is simply a matter of knowing the settings to tweak and the apps to configure.
1. Delete extraneous apps and data
It may seem obvious, but app-loving tech writers can’t be the only users with folders of unused apps taking up space on their iPhones. Whether you’re preparing to buy a new iPhone or simply cleaning up an existing one, evaluate which apps you really use — it’s probably fewer than you think. It’s OK to keep a few apps that you only use occasionally, such as when you’re traveling, but check your phone’s usage statistics and make sure that apps you never use aren’t hogging tons of storage space that you could put to better use elsewhere.
Open the Settings app, tap General, and then navigate to Usage to see what’s taking up the most storage space. Games you never play, apps that failed to live up to your high hopes for them, and apps you just don’t find that useful anymore are all great candidates for deletion. Even if a given app doesn’t use a huge amount of storage, delete a handful or a dozen of them and you’ve freed up a decent amount of space for data that’s more important.
It’s also worth clearing extra data saved by some storage-intensive apps you can’t delete. You can set the Messages app to automatically delete old correspondence, erase voicemails you don’t need, remove old podcasts and videos, clear the cache of data saved by social networking apps, stop saving two images from HDR shots, delete redundant images saved by photo-editing apps, and manage the amount of storage used by your favorite third-party apps. All of these options are available with a bit of digging through the Settings app.
2. Familiarize yourself with iOS 9’s features
iOS 9, the major new release of Apple’s mobile operating system for the iPhone and iPad, brings some smarter handling of storage — which is great news for anyone who owns or plans to own a 16GB iPhone. (So if you haven’t yet updated to the new operating system, you should do so now.) iOS 9 requires less storage than iOS 8, and Chris Smith reports for BGR that the new operating system needs just 1.5GB of space to run versus more than 4.5GB for iOS 8. That progress alone is a game changer and will free up a significant amount of storage space on a 16GB iPhone.
iOS 9 also adds an app thinning feature, which ensures that only the code an app needs to run on your device — not on every other iPhone that the developer has chosen to support — will be downloaded to your device. Just like the lower storage demands of the operating system, this change will help free up valuable storage space and make it easier to get by with a device with just 16GB of storage.
3. Decide if some features aren’t critical
While iOS 9 brings some storage-saving features, it also brings others that promise to hog huge amounts of storage — which 16GB iPhones don’t have to spare. Storage-hungry features include 4K video recording and the new Live Photos feature, which captures 1.5 seconds of video before and after you take a photo. Slow-motion video recording and HDR photos are other storage-intensive features.
If you regularly use any or all of these features, you’ll quickly use up the limited storage space available to you on a 16GB iPhone. Even regular photos taken by the iPhone 6s’s new 12MP rear-facing camera or the updated 5MP front-facing camera will take up more space than before. You can choose to disable — or to avoid using — some of those storage-intensive features, or simply back up and delete your photos and videos regularly.
4. Use Dropbox to back up and clear out your photos
A particularly useful option for clearing out photos and videos, which are a major space hog for many iPhone users, is Dropbox’s Carousel app. Online, Carousel offers a gallery of all of the photos and videos that you’ve backed up to Dropbox. But you can configure the Carousel app for iOS to automatically back up your photos and free up space on your iPhone. You can still view your photos and videos from your iPhone, but they take up much less local space than they would if you kept storing them in the local Photos app.
In addition to automatically backing up your photos and clearing them from your iPhone’s local storage, the app can also detect when your phone is low on storage and send you a notification asking if you’d like it to help free up more space. Alternately, you can use the iCloud Photo Library to easily upload photos to iCloud and then only keep lower-quality, thumbnail-resolution images in your phone’s local storage. (Go to the Settings app and tap Photos & Video to see your options.)
5. Stream music and videos instead of storing them
Rather than downloading extensive libraries of music and videos to your iPhone, take advantage of the explosion of streaming services to stream them instead of storing them locally. If storing some content on your device is non-negotiable, make sure that you periodically evaluate what’s taking up space. There’s no point in letting albums you never listen to or a movie you won’t ever watch hog the already-limited storage on a 16GB iPhone.
If you need lots of music, for instance, consider trading your locally-stored albums for a subscription to Spotify or Apple Music. (Or, if you’re a diehard iTunes fan, consider iTunes Match, which makes all of your iTunes tracks available to stream from the cloud. It costs $24.99 per year, but you’ll be able to play all of your music from any of your devices without worrying about it clogging up the limited storage on your iPhone.)
6. Expand your iCloud storage — and use it
If you don’t want to spend an extra $100 to upgrade from a 16GB iPhone to a 64GB one, then you might want to consider spending a smaller amount to upgrade your iCloud storage. You get 5GB for free with your Apple ID, but Apple recently cut prices for its monthly iCloud plans. You can now get 50GB of storage for $0.99 per month, 200GB for $2.99, and 1TB for $9.99.
If you don’t want to use iCloud, there are plenty of other options to offload data to other companies’ clouds, including options from Amazon, Google, and Microsoft. Alternately, if you don’t want to deal with cloud storage, you can always offload photos and videos to your Mac or PC on a regular basis to keep them from hogging the storage on your iPhone. To do so, connect your iPhone to your computer and copy over any files you don’t need, then delete them from your phone.