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By Mike Gikas / Consumer Reports
November 2, 2015
Westend61—Getty Images

If you have had your smartphone for a while, you may be getting messages that say “not enough storage” or “storage almost full.” Smartphone storage can fill up fast with photos, videos, games and other apps, and song playlists, especially if you went for the 16GB “bargain” model iPhone or Android. Photos and videos shot with high-resolution cameras are the most notorious storage hogs. A single photo can eat up 5MB, and just 1 minute of a high-definition (HD) video may take up 500MB or even more.

But don’t panic. You have great options without having to shell out for a larger-capacity phone.

Get a Backup Plan

Apple and Google have cloud-based servers to back up your files. See the comparison table, below.

Apple’s iCloud Drive, available to any device that can access an iTunes account, provides 5GB of free storage. To maximize it, go to Settings, then iCloud, then Photos. Flip the switch for iCloud Photo Library, then Optimize Photo Storage. That stores photos on your phone at a lower resolution while they’re backed up on the cloud at full quality.

Google Drive, available for Android and iPhone, provides 15GB of free storage. All you need is a free Gmail account and the Google Drive app on your phone. Also consider downloading Google Photos, which lets you set up automatic photo and video backups, and provides a great interface for viewing, editing, and sharing photos.

Both services let you buy more storage (see table for prices). Tip: To conserve data usage, set the apps to perform backups only when your phone is connected to a Wi-Fi network you deem safe to use. To set that up on Google Photos, open Settings within the app. For iCloud Drive, open the app in Settings and switch off Use Cellular Data.

Add Storage

Many Android phones have slots that accept microSD, a memory card that can expand your smartphone storage up to 128GB. And the cards are cheap: about $25 for a microSD card with 64GB of storage. iPhones don’t offer that feature.

Clean Up Your Act

Once you have safely backed up your photos, videos, and other files, delete them from your phone to reclaim the smartphone storage space. Then open up a few more gigabytes by deleting apps and games you no longer use. Ditto for movies or music playlists you may have downloaded for some past road trip. Don’t worry: Amazon, Apple, and Google keep copies of the apps and media content you bought from them, so you can download them again anytime. And of course the files you copied onto your phone from your computer, using iTunes or a similar program, are still on your computer. Music lovers may want to skip storing music on their phones altogether and instead stream it from such services as Pandora, Rdio, and Spotify—but remember to use Wi-Fi as often as possible.


Free Storage

Lowest Price

Highest Price

Apple iCloud Drive 5GB


50GB at $1 per month 1 terabyte at $20 per month
Google Cloud




100GB at $2 per month 1 terabyte at $10 per month


Free Storage

Lowest Price

Highest Price




This article originally appeared in Consumer Reports.

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