Stop me if this sounds familiar: You’re about to install a new game or shoot more video on your smartphone, but then a message pops up on the screen that says something like “There is not enough available storage.” Sheesh.
If you haven’t yet run into this common problem, you likely will.
After all, smartphone storage typically starts at only 16 gigabytes (GB), while the gameInfinity Blade III takes up almost 2GB alone. Each high-def episode of The Flash is 1.46GB. You get the idea.
But there are a few things you can do to free up more storage on your phone (or tablet). Here’s a look at a half-dozen suggestions.
1. Delete what you don’t use.
From the “duh” department, go through your phone and uninstall apps, games and other media you no longer use.
If it’s been a while since you went through that country music stage, then there’s no reason why you should have Nashville’s Got Talent on your device. Ditto for apps you’ve downloaded but never opened (let alone used).
Keep in mind, if you bought the content from an app store then even if you delete it off your device, you can reinstall it at anytime at no charge.
For iPhone users, go to Settings > General > Storage > Manage Storage, and see what are some of the biggest culprits. Tap “Delete App” to uninstall it.
For Android, the process varies a bit, but you can go to Settings > Applications > Application Manager, and tap to uninstall what you like.
2. Memory cards
If your phone accepts them, you can purchase inexpensive microSD memory cards, which slide into the side or back of the phone (usually near the SIM card). This could double, triple or quadruple your phone’s storage for a loose change in your pocket (seriously, you can pick up a 16GB card for $7 these days).
If you’re running Android 6.0 (“Marshmallow”) then you can take advantage of “Adoptable Storage,” which means you can set up your external memory card as internal storage — and thus store applications, their data, and media on it. Simply insert a microSD card and the operating system will ask if you’d like to treat it as portable storage or as internal storage.
Previously, you could install media on a microSD card – like photos, videos, music, and documents – but not install applications.
3. Wireless storage
A new crop of USB thumbdrives and portable hard drives let you wirelessly access content on it, as if it were stored locally.
The SanDisk Connect Wireless Stick (from $27.99 for 16GB), for example, emits a Wi-Fi Direct signal, allowing up to three phones, tablets and laptops to access content off the thumb drive at the same time. After you load it up with files from your PC or Mac, unplug it and take it to go – now press the small button on the side and you can access everything wirelessly via the free SanDisk app. You can also wirelessly back up photos from your phone to the drive, and delete them off your device to make more room.
SanDisk also has a product called iXpand Flash Drive for iPhone, iPad, and computers. This $49.99 (32GB) doohickey lets you expand storage via its Lightning connector, so you’d plug it into your device, as well as easily move photos and videos between devices and laptops, as it also has a USB port on the other side. A 64GB version is available for $69.99 and 128GB version is $99.99.
Similar to the Wireless Connect Stick, Seagate has its Wireless Plus Portable Hard Drive ($129.99 for 1-terabyte), also with its own built-in Wi-Fi network – meaning you don’t need an existing Wi-Fi network to copy or stream content to a smartphone or other device.
4. Streaming services
Rather than download media, such as movies and music, it’ll help you save space to simply stream it – especially if you consider you likely have an Internet connection wherever you go.
Whether you’re on Wi-Fi or if you have a healthy data plan to use cellular connectivity, you’ve got no shortage of great services to access on-demand content, such as Netflix, Hulu Plus, Pandora, Google Play Music, Spotify, and so on. Some services are free, while others require a monthly subscription.
If you need to download content to store locally – perhaps you’re taking a flight and there’s no Wi-Fi available – then be selective about what you’re downloading.
5. The Cloud
You can use free cloud services to store your digital stuff, and simply access it when you need it – providing you’ve got an Internet connection of some kind.
Popular cloud providers include Dropbox, OneDrive, Google Drive, iCloud, Box, and Amazon Cloud Drive. You typically get between 2GB to 15GB of free storage, per account, but can add more for a fee.
If it’s movies, music and ebooks, most of these services let you access it in the cloud instead of having to download it first.
Most of these services are available for multiple mobile platforms – except iCloud, which is only available for Apple’s iOS devices.
Personally, my pick is Microsoft’s OneDrive for its easy-to-use interface, ample storage, and support for multiple devices.
6. Remote access
Services like Plex are becoming popular as you can access all of your media on all of your devices, anytime and anywhere. Along with smartphones, tablets and computers, this also includes video game systems, smart TVs, media boxes and sticks (like Roku and Chromecast). While Plex is free, a premium account ($4.99/month) adds many extra features.
Slingbox (from $149.99), on the other hand, is a small box you connect to your cable or satellite receiver and then lets you “sling” your local TV programming to you anywhere in the world, viewed on compatible devices, such as phones, tablets, computers. You can also remotely view and manage previously recorded shows, movies and sports.
Finally, another option is an Internet-connected hard drive (“Networked Attached Storage,” or “NAS”) you might keep on at home, but lets you access files on it as it were stored locally on your device. Consider it your own private cloud solution. Examples of these products include WD’s My Cloud (from $136.99 for 2TB) and Seagate’s Personal Cloud (from $139.99 for 3TB).