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Published: Nov 16, 2015 7 min read

Q: I need a new phone and I would like to get another iPhone but my last one kept running out of space, so I could never take photos. What are my options?

A: This is a common problem, believe it or believe it. It takes you about six months to completely load your phone up with pictures and videos, and then you're stuck with it for another year or two. Even moving to a new phone can cause the same issue if it's got the same amount of storage as your old phone: Transfer all those photos over and you're immediately out of space.

This is a relatively easy problem to fix, and there are a lot of ways to fix it. Some are expensive, some cheap, and some free. Let's take a look.

Option One: Buy a Higher-Capacity iPhone ($100-$200)

There are three tiers of each iPhone model (two models: the 6S and 6S Plus, for instance). Each tier differs by $100 and the only difference between each tier is the amount of storage you get. The lowest tier gets you 16 gigabytes of storage; spend another $100 and you get 64 gigabytes of storage; spend another $100 and you get 128 gigabytes of storage. This holds true for the iPhone 6S and iPhone 6 lines, but differs for the 5S and earlier lines.

If you're coming from a 16-gigabyte model, the jump to 64 gigabytes is quite a bit more storage, so consider ponying up an extra $100 to not have to worry about storage space as much. If you're feeling really ambitious, spend $200 over the base model to max out your storage. Aside from the money, this option presents the least amount of hassle.

Option Two: Clean Up Your Current iPhone (Free)

Whether you buy a new iPhone or not, it's good to keep your storage running lean. Videos take up huge amounts of storage compared to photos, so make sure to delete videos you don't need. Also, check your text message history and delete videos that your friends have sent to you. If you text a lot, you can probably free up a ton of storage just by going through your old texts and deleting videos. Do you really need a dozen videos of your friend's baby spitting up?

You can also save space by getting rid of big apps that you don't use. Go to Settings > General > Storage and iCloud Usage > Manage Storage. You'll see a list of your apps. If you don't use them much, uninstall the apps that are using a lot of space.

Option Three: Buy a Different Phone (Price Varies)

If you want to get more storage without spending more, you may be able to find an Android phone that comes standard with 32 gigabytes of storage over the iPhone's 16 gigabytes. There are makes and models available, but don't just buy them sight unseen. You're switching from a system you're used to, so swing by a carrier store first and try some Android phones out to see if you like any of them. Ask for a model with at least 32 gigabytes of storage, standard.

Also ask about models that feature microSD storage upgrade slots. You can buy a 128-gigabyte microSD card for around $50 (see a bunch here), which is great bang for the buck. Phones with expandable storage are becoming harder to come by nowadays since high-storage models present such a lucrative revenue stream for manufacturers, but there are still a handful with microSD slots.

Option Four: Photo Backup Apps (Free)

There are plenty of options when it comes to apps that will automatically back up your photos and videos as you take them. Some of them cost money, but I'll highlight some decent free ones that give you enough space to work with comfortably. Check out Google Photos (good if you already have a Google account), Flickr (tons of storage), and if you're an Amazon Prime member, Amazon Prime Photos (unlimited photo storage, so-so video storage).

You install one or more of these apps on your phone, and when you take photos, your phone will upload your snaps to these services. Once your photos are safely backed up, you can delete them from your phone's camera roll and access them from these apps and from your computer's web browser. If you don't quite trust the Cloud yet, you can install multiple apps to make sure your photos are doubly or triply backed up.

You can also manually back up photos and videos by using the cable that came with your phone to connect it to your computer. This method varies by manufacturer, so check your user guide for details. Once you get the hang of it, it's quick and easy—and doesn't rely on an Internet connection to work.

Option Five: Combine 'Em!

I personally use many of these methods: I have an Android phone with 32 gigabytes of storage, I clean it up regularly, and I have my photos and videos backed up to Google automatically. Then every six months or so, I hook my phone and my wife's phone up to our computer and transfer all the photos and video over, just in case. I then back them all up again onto an external hard drive. That may seem a bit extreme, but it's not all that much work aside from the manual backups. Good luck!

Doug Aamoth lives in Boston and has spent more than two decades in the technology industry, working for consumer electronics retailers, support centers, startups, cybersecurity providers, and media companies.

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