My iPhone is ridiculously overpopulated. Mostly it’s due to a lot of apps I’ve downloaded and then stopped using, or downloaded and ignored or downloaded and forgotten about. I’m reminded of this whenever I open the App Store and check for software updates and see the neglected apps, consuming bandwidth to apply new versions that I’ll never use.
Those apps also occupy the phone’s storage, competing for space with photos and videos. When people get to the point where their devices are filling up, it often feels like flying in a slowly deflating hot air balloon: Which things can be dumped overboard to prevent a disastrous crash?
Fortunately, there are ways to manage apps and storage on iPhone and iPad models to reduce the clutter and free up space.
Storage knowledge is power. To get a quick overview of your device’s storage, open the Settings app, tap General and then tap About. The Capacity and Available items list the total storage and what’s free, respectively. For more specific information, go back to the General screen and then tap iPhone (or iPad) Storage.
At the top of the screen is a bar graph that breaks out relative amounts of storage occupied by apps, photos, media and other categories of data. You may have to wait a minute for the device to add up everything.
When it’s done calculating, the screen lists all the installed apps, sorted by the amount of storage each one occupies, from most to least.
Note that these numbers include all the data associated with those apps, not just the apps themselves. A large app, such as Apple’s Photos, is likely to be near the top of the list because it’s including all the images and videos that appear in your library. Games often appear high in the list because they include lots of image and video assets in addition to the game’s app itself. Tap the app’s name and you’ll see listings for App Size and Documents & Data.
If it’s an app you want to remove, tap the Delete App button on that same screen. Remember, you can re-download nearly any of your apps from the App Store — except in some cases where an app is no longer available. However, deleting the app also deletes the data from the device; that could mean losing progress in a game or even zapping photos that aren’t backed up to a cloud service or other means.
In the list of apps, you can see the Last Used (or Never Used) dates of the apps to get an idea of which ones haven’t been touched in a while. Unfortunately, there’s no way to sort based on the Last Used dates, so you need to scroll through and look for old dates manually.
Still, if you find yourself with a few minutes of time and you don’t want to check Facebook or Twitter yet again, going to Settings > General > iPhone/iPad Storage is a good way to locate and remove apps you don’t use anymore.
Offload unused apps. One more option for dealing with apps can help free storage. Go to Settings > iTunes & App Store and turn on the Offload Unused Apps option.
When active, this feature removes the app from the device, but keeps its data intact. iOS automatically determines which apps to offload based on how old or unused they are. On the Home screen, the app’s icon is still visible, but it includes a small iCloud icon in the name.
Tapping an offloaded app re-downloads it, just as if it was always there.
When you’re viewing apps in the iPhone/iPad Storage screen, you may see the Offload App button that lets you activate this feature for specific apps, rather than letting iOS make the determination for you.
There are other strategies for freeing up device storage, such as turning on the Photos app option to Optimize iPhone/iPad Storage; images are removed as needed and replaced with low-resolution placeholders, and re-downloaded as needed when you view them.
But when it comes to apps, these techniques should help you make more space available on the device … so you can install more apps to forget later.
Jeff Carlson writes the Practical Mac column for Personal Technology and about technology in general for The Seattle Times and other publications. Send questions to firstname.lastname@example.org. More Practical Mac columns at st.news/practicalmac.