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January 31, 2019

iPhone Storage: How Much You Need and How to Manage It

iphone storage

Once you’ve decided which iPhone is the perfect fit for you, there’s one more question to ask: how much storage should you buy? The amount of storage you have will affect how you’re able to use your phone, as well as the cost of your device (i.e., extra storage for iPhones comes at an additional cost). Here’s how to determine your iPhone storage needs so you can choose an option that’s right for you.

What is storage?

Storage is your phone’s capacity to physically store data. It’s measured in gigabytes (GBs) — the more gigs your phone has, the more room it has for things to “live” on it. Your phone’s storage is different from your iCloud storage, which is data stored online. For example, if you put your phone into Airplane mode and turn off your WiFi, you can still access everything that is stored on your phone, including pictures, music, videos, text messages, documents, and some apps, while you won’t have access to anything stored on the iCloud.

How much storage do I need?

The general rule of thumb with technology is to buy the best you can afford. Tech changes quickly, and this is the easiest way to stay somewhat ahead of the curve. Older model iPhones came with as little as 8 GB or 16 GB of storage — small by today’s standards. The lowest level of storage Apple now offers is 32 GB on the iPhone 7 and earlier models. The newer phones (iPhone 8, 8 Plus, and X) start at 64 GB. Here’s a look at the minimum and maximum storage capacities for each model (as of August 2018):

iPhone Model Storage Capacity
X 64/256
8/8 Plus 64/256
7/7Plus 32/128

For older models, you can buy up to four times more storage (32 GB to 128 GB). On the newer models, buying additional storage will get you up to 256 GB of storage.

How can I get more storage?

If you mainly use your phone for phone calls, text messages, Web surfing, and a few apps, 32 GB or 64 GB will be enough for you. If you take a lot of photos and videos and/or have a large iTunes library, you can still get away with the lower storage tier by signing up for Apple’s iCloud storage service.

This service manages your phone’s storage and only stores the photos and music your phone has room for — the rest are stored in the cloud. The standard for cloud storage is 5 GB of space. Upgrade to 50 GB, 200 GB, or 2 terabytes if you plan on sharing iCloud storage with your whole family.

If you download and use a lot of apps (especially graphic-intensive games), or if you want to store photos, music, videos, and movies on your phone to access when you’re offline, go for more storage. After all, one HD movie can use up to 6 GB of storage space.

Another reason to go for the 128/256 GB tier is if you plan to shoot 4K video on your phone. Although you can store 4K video on iCloud, you can’t shoot directly to the cloud and it will need to live on your phone until it’s uploaded.

How can I check storage on the iPhone?

To check storage on your iPhone, go to: Settings > General > Storage. A bar graph will show you what is taking up the most space on your phone. You can also see this by connecting your phone to iTunes on a computer.

If your iPhone storage is full, you should clear up some memory. One of the first things to do is delete what you’re not using. The Storage screen will offer suggestions to increase your available storage based on usage, including a list of apps that are taking up the most storage space. If your iPhone storage is full, delete or remove any unused apps that are taking up storage, such as older podcasts in the Podcasts app.

More tips for managing and clearing iPhone storage

  • You can’t upgrade your storage or add more iPhone memory later. Some Android phones have SD slots that allow you to add storage with SD cards, but iPhones don’t offer this capability.
  • Your iPhone will work to optimize your storage for you. When your storage is low, it will push what it can to the cloud to make room to download new apps, update to the new iOS, or record a video. This is a relatively new feature on iPhones, so if you’ve had problems with low storage in the past, you might find this to be less of an issue with newer phones.
  • If you are often without WiFi access or live in an area with a poor Internet/cell connection, you may not have access to your videos, photos, or music stored in the cloud. The phone needs a strong connection to retrieve these items, so if you work or live in an area with poor service, get a phone with the most local data storage possible.

As you research your phone and storage options, consider how you plan to use your phone. Storage needs can vary, and weighing the pros and cons of each tier can help you make an informed decision based on your budget.