Recommendations are independently chosen by Reviewed’s editors. Purchases you make through our links may earn us a commission.
Have you deleted apps only to find that your Android phone's memory is still full? Does it lack a micro SD card expansion slot? Maybe it's chock full of photos and videos that you just don't want to delete.
These problems are common on all smartphones. But unlike iPhones and iPads, Android devices make it easy to free up space through tools built into the OS, as well as Google's free cloud services. This guide will explain all the ways you can de-clutter your Android phone or tablet and maximize your available storage.
NOTE: The following advice assumes you're using Android 4.4 KitKat or higher. Even in that case, there may be some inconsistencies with phones using heavily manufacturer-customized operating systems, like the Samsung Galaxy S6.
Check Your Usage
First and foremost, you'll want to check out your current storage situation to see what's using the most space. Simply go into Android's Settings menu and tap Storage. That will bring up a screen that breaks your local storage down into six categories: Apps, Pictures and Videos, Audio, Downloads, Cached Data, and Misc.
Inside the Storage menu, you can click on each category to go to the appropriate app for managing that particular type of data. Check out the following sections for tips on how to tackle the worst offenders.
Pictures and Video
If you're like most people, your smartphone is your go-to camera. That means there's a good chance pictures and video are some of the biggest storage hogs on your device. But don't worry: You don't have to permanently erase those memories in order to free up space.
Instead, you can back them up to any number of cloud photo storage services. While there are dozens to choose from, one of the best services Android users is the new Google Photos. What was once part of the Google+ social network is now an incredibly powerful, totally free standalone cloud solution for not only backing up your memories, but keeping them within easy reach.
Better still, thanks to Android's open and user-adjustable design, you can let Google Photos take the place of your default Gallery app, and even automatically upload your photos and videos as you take them. Viewing them at a later date is just as easy as browsing your local gallery, assuming you have a good cellular data or WiFi connection.
Of course, you'll still need to delete the copies in your local storage. Luckily, that's something Google Photos makes dead simple. Here's how:
- Tap the Menu button (in the upper left corner of the screen) and select Device folders.
- On next screen, select everything you want to delete.
- Tap on the three-dot symbol in the upper right corner to access the Delete device copy button.
The procedure is similar for other media, like movies and books. You can easily delete local copies while still making them available for streaming. Google Play Books and Movies both have Manage downloads pages in their settings menu, where you can delete local copies. If you prefer the Amazon Kindle app, you can do the same there.
Music and Audio
If you're really into music, you're probably using either Spotify or Google Play Music. Both of these services prioritize streaming, but also allow you to download local copies for offline listening. That's a great feature to have, but you can easily forget what you've downloaded and fill up your storage with music you haven't spun in months.
Luckily, it's easy to delete these downloaded copies. Like Play Books and Play Movies, Google Play Music also has a Manage downloads screen in its settings. For its part, Spotify simply has a Make available offline toggle. If you don't want to keep the music around anymore, just flick it to the off position on a case-by-case basis.
For other audio files on your device (like ringtones and voice recordings), tapping on the Audio category under Storage in Settings app will bring up a simple file manager, allowing you to easily get rid of any files you no longer need.
Apps, Cached Data, and Downloads
Before we go into dealing with apps themselves, we recommend you first see how much room you can make by deleting your cached data and downloads. This is the crud that builds up in your phone's memory during day-to-day use, and cleaning it out once in a while is simply a good policy.
If you tap on Cached data in the Storage settings menu, a prompt will appear asking you if you'd like to delete cached data for all apps on your Android device. If you've never done this before, it could end up freeing up a substantial amount of space. (On one well-used phone we managed to clear 2.78 GB.) The Downloads category works much like the Audio category described above, with a file manager where you can manually select what to dispose of.
Finally, there are the apps themselves. If you've moved all your media to the cloud, cleared your caches, and deleted extraneous downloads, but still need more space, it's time to start purging apps. Tapping on Apps in the Storage menu will bring up a list of all the apps on your device, sorted by how much storage space they use.
From there, you can tap on individual apps to do a few different things. First, you can (and should) Clear Cache, assuming you didn't already clear cached data for all apps. Then, if necessary, Clear Data. Keep in mind that this will get rid of login info, stored preferences, and other assets—in essence, it's like returning an app to its newly downloaded state. And if you want to get rid of the app entirely, you can simply tap Uninstall and follow the prompts.
Using these tips, you should be able to dramatically increase the amount of free space on your Android phone or tablet. But if you're in the market for a new phone, there are things you can do to avoid having to employ any of these methods.
If you're not comfortable surrendering your data to cloud services, we recommend that you look into getting an Android device with expandable storage. Google's focus on the cloud means fewer Android phones come with MicroSD card slots, but those that do can typically accept cards as large as 128 GB, giving you plenty of room to play with. It's an added expense, to be sure, but you'll be grateful for the room when you really have to get that shot.