Maybe you just got back from a trip. Maybe you've been playing more games this summer. Or maybe you're just holding out for a fall smartphone upgrade. Whatever the reason, you're here, looking at an error message that tells you that storage on your phone is full. And now you have to get rid of something.
Where to begin?
The first thing you should do is take a quick look at what's eating up the phone's space. For iPhone users, the "Usage" menu is your best guide; it's in the "General" section of the settings menu. Android users' menus vary, though you can normally get a read on what's what in the storage menu of your general settings.
From there, you have to make some tougher decisions.
Here are three common things taking up space on your phone, some suggestions for how to quickly free up space, and tips for managing those problems in the long run.
Movies, music and podcasts
It's nice to have all of that fun stuff on hand, but it's not doing you any favors if you want more free space on your phone.
Quick fix: There are almost always things you can delete. Take a quick inventory of what keeps you entertained on your phone and decide what you can afford to download again.
Longer-term project: If there are no obvious things to delete right away, then there are some hard choices to be made about general entertainment management. Go after videos first, because they take up the most room. For podcasts, you can go into the settings of each individual show and decide how many episodes you want to keep and for how long.
If music is your issue, you may want to consider being a little more flexible about what comes into your daily playlist and limit it to a couple of favorite albums. Or you can opt for a streaming service such as iTunes Radio, Pandora or Spotify instead.
Photos take up a lot of room on your phone, and it's not always easy to decide which old memories have to go so that you can record the new ones.
Quick fix: In most cases, quickly weeding out the pictures that are obviously duplicates can at least free up enough space for you to take some more shots.
Longer-term project: To really fix this problem, you're going to have to plug your phone into your computer. But backing up your photos to your computer and then wiping them from your phone is the easiest way to keep things in check. If you want a physical copy of a phone photo, consider using services such as Fotobox, Kicksend or even the apps from Walgreens or CVS to print nice copies from your phone.
There are also several services to use if you want to back up your photos — in many cases, automatically, including Dropbox's Camera Upload. Going with a third-party service may mean you have to pay a subscription fee, but in most cases — such as with Google, Dropbox or Apple — you can find a free option.
No matter what you want to do, chances are there is an app for that — a modern convenience that can lead quickly to app overload.
Quick fix: Games are often the storage-hog culprit. If you have a couple that have been dormant for a while, target them as the first to go. Just keep in mind that deleting games can be painful because it often resets your progress.
Longer-term project: Take stock of the apps that you really, truly need — ones you use at least once per day or more — and keep those. Then move on to the ones you use weekly, or monthly. Organizing apps by purpose (work, play, planning, etc.) on your home screen is also a really good way to keep yourself in check.