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Storage woes are common for smartphone owners, so we went in search of (relatively) quick ways to free up space on your phones.

There are lots of apps and settings that make big promises, but in the end it's mostly back-to-basics tried-and-true methods that work.

1. Take stock

The best thing to do when trying to figure out how to make more space on your phone is to actually look at what's taking up space.

You can do that on the iPhone by heading to Settings > General > Storage and iCloud Usage > Manage Storage. On Android phones, head to Settings > Storage and you should see a breakdown of how your phone's storage is being used.

This can be revealing in a couple of ways, but often find it's most instructive in seeing what media can be removed from your phone. 

2. The weird trick

There is a genuinely strange trick you can try to free up space on your iPhone by downloading a really big file - such as a movie rental. You have to be sure that you're attempting to download a sufficiently enormous movie, so you don't get charged for it. The aim is to get an error message that tells you that the rental you want is too big to fit.

Yes, you want the error message. You want this rental to fail, because somehow failing to rent an enormous file gains you more storage space. It's not completely clear why this works - the governing theory is that your phone clears out some of the caches and other extraneous information from other apps to try to make room for the download.

The Android version of this is more straightforward: You can just go in your settings and clear the cache. That frees up quite a bit of space as well, although you may have to log in to some apps again.

3. Let go of old messages

Yes, obviously save the sweet messages you got from your children, friends or significant other.

But, it's likely the bulk of messages on your phone are actually messages with a short shelf life - verifying log-ins at the bank, going back and forth with friends about when and where to meet, etc.

Before a big purge, save or screenshot the messages that matter, and then hit that "select all" and "delete". It will feel good, and a few photos will take up much less space than a year's worth of texts.

The same holds true for messaging logs from other apps and e-mail, too.

4. Use the cloud

Remember that the cloud is your friend. Sure, it can add a few seconds of extra time when you need to download a document or a picture, but if storage is a problem for you, this is your best option.

Use whatever floats your boat, and for your media of choice - Google Photos, iCloud, OneDrive, Dropbox, Box, Evernote - but find a cloud service that works for you at the price (often free) you want.

Take advantage of settings on your phone as well. If photos are a problem for you, for example, try using the iCloud Photo Library, which lets you "optimise iPhone storage".

This option will upload full-resolution copies of your photos to the cloud, although you can download them again fairly easily. On Android devices, Google Photos also lets you delete device copies of photos while keeping them in the cloud.

Embrace streaming services when possible, too. If you're somewhere with wi-fi, using Pandora, Spotify, Apple Music, etc, on your phone rather than relying on your own tracks can really free up space.

5. Delete apps

OK, this sounds like it should be pretty obvious, but it's really not an easy thing to remember to do. It's much easier to accumulate apps and to hold on to them just in case you need them for whatever specific purpose prompted you to download them in the first place.

But pruning out apps is really the best way to keep your storage in check. Google is reportedly testing a feature that actually suggests which apps should get the boot when you try to download a new one, based on how frequently you use them. The firm also is working on a way to to let you instantly download just the part of an app you need to use, then get rid of it just as quickly.

When looking at your apps, think about how you really use them. You may surprise yourself.

Airline apps aren't worth keeping on your phone unless you're on a trip. Shopping apps, too, often serve functions that could as easily be accomplished on the mobile web.

Obviously, there is no one-size fits all solution for managing storage on your phone. Smartphones, perhaps more than any other device, are really personal, and the things you decide to keep on your phone should reflect your priorities.

But using some or all of these tips should help you take stock of those priorities and, one could hope, make room for the important things.

Have you ever had problems with smartphone storage space?

Written by Hayley Tsukayama. First appeared on