How to Optimize Your Android Phone's Storage

Stop the digital hoarding and reign things in with these tips.

Derek Walter

March 16, 2016

6 Min Read
How to Optimize Your Android Phone's Storage

Finding enough space on your phone can feel like a never-ending battle. Things are going along great, then all of a sudden there’s some cool new game you want that takes up 1.5GBs of space, but your phone only has 500MB to offer. Le sigh.

There’s hope. By employing some digital fat-trimming smarts, you’ll be able to save room for that next tower-defense game, or to take a few more videos of your kids wrestling with the cat. Stop the digital hoarding and reign things in with these tips.


So how much space do you actually have left on your phone? To find out, go to Settings > Storage & USB. You’ll see an overview of different sections broken down by apps, images, videos, and other categories.

One spot gives you a handy overview of everything saved on your device.

As you can see, there’s a lot to unpack here. I find this section is most useful to check for which apps are hogging up storage space. Touch Apps, and you’ll see see a list sorted by how much storage each one uses.

To get more details, touch an app’s name for an option to clear the data and cache for it. This will eliminate any files or other data that is stored on your device’s hard drive from this app. Along with freeing up some space, cleaning this off is a good practice if an app has started to act wonky.

If you want to banish this app forever, touch the i icon and then Uninstall.

If you head back to the Internal Storage screen there are a few other highlights to consider. Touch Cached data to wipe away space that other apps have used up. While this can free up a swath of storage at once, keep in mind that it will also delete cached data from apps that you might need later.


One of the biggest storage suckers is photos and videos. Now that everyone has a very good camera in their hand, it’s tempting to capture every moment.

But those add up. There’s no reason to keep all of that hanging out on your phone if you tap into cloud storage. My favorite is Google Photos (really, I’m not a Google shill) [Ed. note: You're not the only one to recommend it.]. I like it because it backs up all your photos and images and will clear them from your internal storage.

In the Google Photos app, head to settings and select Free up device storage.

Keep your photos, but get rid of the space they take up.

After you see the calculation for how much space will be opened up, go ahead and select Delete. The only downside is that you may have to wait on occasion to view a full image or video to load if you have a slow Internet connection, as only the preview that will be cached on your device.

You can employ a similar strategy by backing up your images to OneDrive, Dropbox, or another cloud provider. The bottom line is that keeping every picture you take on your phone usually isn’t worth the tradeoff you get, especially if things start to fill up.


This is one of those tips that sounds obvious but in practice it’s sometimes hard to do: from time to time it’s worth it to scroll through your app drawer and delete apps you’re not using anymore.

Head to the app drawer and banish those apps you don’t use anymore.

Android’s app drawer is a great place for keeping apps off your home screen so they don’t take up space a precious spot. But the downside is it’s easy to forget they’re there. Plus, going individually through your list in the app drawer might reveal apps that you didn’t see in the Storage & USB section but nonetheless should probably go.

If you see one that you no longer want, just tap and hold the icon and then drag it to the top of the screen where it says Uninstall. You can do this same procedure from the home screen as well. Along with freeing up hard drive space, this could save you some RAM if such apps are using a background process, or two, or twelve.


Music can be quite the space filler. But there’s a better way to listen to your favorite tunes without clogging up your phone.

There are plenty of good streaming services: Spotify, Google Play Music, Pandora, and even Apple Music (in beta for now). The advantage is that you can just search for and play what you want without the need to download it. This can significantly save you storage space.

Just download a playlist or album you want instead of keeping scores of albums you never listen to.

With Play Music, for example, you can download specific albums or playlists to keep for offline listening. Your purchased albums and songs are also available, but you don’t need to store any of them on your device. There’s no need to keep the entire Beatles playlist stored on your phone on the off chance you’re feeling melancholy and want to fire up Let it Be.

Of course this approach will depend upon your data plan, but the Big Four are getting more generous all the time with their data options.


If you can’t eliminate anything else, then you can always increase your storage if your phone or tablet has an SD card slot. This capability has undergone an interesting resurgence with the latest batch of phones because with Marshmallow, your Android device now treat an SD card as internal storage. In older versions of Android you had to manually move apps and other content between the internal storage and to the SD card, which was a huge pain.

Of course, if your phone doesn’t have Marshmallow then this won’t be an option (same goes if your phone is like mine, the Nexus 6P, and doesn’t include an SD card slot). But if this is an option for you, it’s a pretty cheap way to get extra space. You’ll want to check with your device manufacturer for additional details, but most have a pretty good help page, like this one from Motorola, that outlines if there are any particulars to know about.

The number of options you have for storage management is a classic example of the customization capabilities of Android. There are multiple angles to attack the problem, though it requires some extra legwork on your part. But in the end you’ll be able to squeeze every last gigabyte you can out of your trusty phone.

Read more about:

Alphabet Inc.

About the Author(s)

Derek Walter

Sign up for the ITPro Today newsletter
Stay on top of the IT universe with commentary, news analysis, how-to's, and tips delivered to your inbox daily.

You May Also Like